Oh, summer.

Summer is pacing in the hallways waiting for her entrance.  She is waiting to turn the breeze into a damp hand against your sweaty face and warm the ocean to a bathtub.  But she’s not here yet.  Night still has a cool dryness that brings us to the porch to wind ourselves around the chair arms and kiss like it might mean something.  But she’s already waiting inside.  In the closed-up bedroom, she makes us peel off clothes until our sex lingers in the sweaty sheets.  She veers around the corner this year, dragging a dangerous man who I can still smell in my dresses.  What will summer and I do with you, boy?

Too much love

It might be possible to have too much love.  Or at least to be shocked by the amount of it that’s really there.  It’s so easy to pass the days picking up scraps and cherishing the pieces like that’s all there is.  So easy that eventually I started believing that was it, and I made it enough.  I let the moments buoy me.  I had enough to strengthen my reserve and I gave to get back when I didn’t.  Especially lately, after the months of focus on work and little else, it’s been so easy to feel guilty and believe that everyone harbors a resentment for the neglect.  So I have been cordoning myself off until I’m full enough to make the necessary amends.

That’s why the faces in the backyard all staring at me were too much to bear.  They were all there for ME.  And Imani, she’s just TOO MUCH love for me to believe.  She secretly planned that for weeks, coordinating the players and the timing and the whole shebang.  And all the while spending time with me as though nothing were happening.  Because she loves me.  Because they have all already forgiven me, if they ever felt there was something to forgive.  Because they just wanted to give something to me.  And that is still blowing my mind.

There’s a voice that helps me keep people at arm’s length.  It tells me not to trust.  It reminds me that people leave, so I shouldn’t believe anyone will really stay for too long.  It says I need to be all I need because that’s all you can ever really count on in this life.  It says I’ve grown weak, fat, and ugly and soon enough they’ll all see through the facade.  It says to take love when it’s handed to you because it’s fleeting, but never expect it to be there.

Well, a house full of smiling faces just stared that down and said, “Are you sure?”  And I couldn’t even take it in, because it was too much.  It was so much light shining through the cracks that I might break open on the spot.  And I’m still not strong enough to break.  Yet.

Grieving

Imani being the friend she is, she gave me a quota for discussions about the people I’ve vowed to let go in January.  “This is your last bitch about this topic for the year.  I’ll give you 4 bonus bitch sessions in January, but that’s it.  Let it go.”

And since I know she’s right, why do I spend my days vascillating between sadness and anger?  It finally struck me on Christmas Eve: I’m grieving.  I’m grieving the loss of these friendships.  I’m grieving from the realization that some of these people I’ve known for 18 years have changed and aren’t real anymore.  I’m grieving for the loss of what was once my community.  It hurts.

These people I’ve vowed to stop spending energy on, emotionally or otherwise, won’t notice that I’ve stopped.  That’s how I know I’m making the right choice.  So they have no idea that they’ve broken my heart a little.  But that’s just the way life goes.  I know this too.  I’m just more conscious of myself these days.  This year somehow made me both strong enough and vulnerable enough to see the energy when it’s directed at me, my notorious blind spot. 

So here I am, entering the new year with my anger, sadness, and blessings.  Blessings for Imani and Christina.  They have come into my life to give me insight and strength.  And the ones who are still more true than ever – Dawn, Bill.  I couldn’t ask for better friends.  Without them I’d be so lonely I couldn’t do it.  But they give me strength.

Not enough strength to really be open to someone like Paul or Aaron.  But I’m doing the best I can, being utterly honest with them, and trying to accept what they have to give.  They are patient and kind so far.  They’re just what I need, but they want more than I can give in this moment.  We’ll see where they are when I’m through this.

 In the meantime, I just want to cry with the pounding rain outside my window.  I’ve been dreaming of hurting the people who have hurt me.  So I know I’m dangerous and still a bit lost if I have no compassion.  How to find that again?  What would I want from someone who I had taken for granted and ignored too long?  Forgiveness. 

But if I ignored someone too long, there would be a reason.  I don’t just avoid people unless they’re asking for more than I can give, or if they’re taking too much without giving anything back.  Or if they talk incessantly, or try to control everything I do.  Or are manic or constantly drunk.  What of these things am I? 

Or they are all ego, no heart.  A weakness of mine still.  Because my ego has never been strong, I can get wrapped up in people who boost mine.  I try to be conscious and step away and get back to my heart, but they have a sure allure.  But it hurts to know how little respect for my heart and soul these people really have.  Matt, Sean.  Especially Matt.  I grieve most for the loss of him, who I once thought would always be there like a solid brother.  I thought it was my ego that was wounded when I realized I no longer hold a special place in his heart.  And it was, at first.  But this one cuts deeper.  I thought he held me in that special place because he respected all that I am.  Now I’ve learned that he just sees me as a sex object, uses me to fuel his lust.  If this were about ego, that would feed it.  Instead, it breaks my heart.

What’s worse is I know I’m doing this to other people too.  I’m ignoring people who are true and want to be real friends.  But I don’t have room.  I hold Sara away because of Fritz and his weird lust for me.  He’s my Grandpa’s friend! He told Shaun I was his girlfriend!? My answer, “awkward,” didn’t begin to describe it.  His lust is… disgusting.  The thought alone creeps me out. Not to mention he’s married to Sara.  She has to know?

I need my strength back and I’m not doing the right things to feed it.  I need to go back to kickboxing but I avoid it because Natalie is there, and Cheyenne and Eddie and Noreen.  Where is this version of me hiding today?

Image

Pump up the anonymity

I used to think it was weakness that this writing is meant to be read by no one, weakness that I cannot share my inner truths with the people who know my outer ones.

I offered someone the privilege once.  She only cared when I wrote about her.  I’m glad she’s forgotten so I can go back to telling my whole story without regard for her feelings.  She’s not who I thought she was anyway.

But there is strength in this anonymity.  It’s the only way I can be truly free of outside influences.  “Pump Up the Volume” came on TV last night and made me glad that I grew up when I did.  Cockrings, the Pixies, Concrete Blonde and Sonic Youth.  Rebellion through an anonymous voice without the end game of fame.  Honest shouting that comes from the part we don’t associate with our good name.

Will this social media generation understand there is a whole world of subtle things left unsaid?  Will they even have a part of themselves they save for someone who really cares to know, for a quiet vulnerable moment when the connection is real? 

A moment away

The sand sparkles iridescent red
and the wheels begin again on a new topic in my head
Red like copper?
Pollution wounding this Bay harbor?

No, just the brown tint of my sunglasses making me see what isn’t there.

Banish these thoughts
     stop this mind for a moment.
Find quiet.  
Be here now to see what truly is.

I draw back to the gentle lapping of the Bay,
such tiny undulations against the spongy sand the mangroves love.

And then farther back to the late morning sun against the water
so bright it strobes the surface like a techno club on rave night.

Only there is heart and soul here in this light.
Not manufactured for the people who are there to forget and pretend and appear to be something.
Real, natural light,
gifted by the sun and the ocean to me in this moment.

I am the only one here and this is for me.
This is my home.  This is my life.  This is being here now.

And here, now, I am hiding.

Hiding from work to be done.
Hiding from bomb-dropped realization
that nothing has changed,
that they sold me another bill of goods
and I bought it.  

Only not really, and I’ve been looking for a way out.

Hiding this cigarette,
this ode to my self-destructive nature.

Hiding my feelings
that have come back again unbidden.
This mind still churning on the ones who occupy my thoughts.
Why do I let them burn my pathways
when they do not call to me,
when they would not understand this moment?

There are some who would.

I hold them at bay,
like I held this Bay in my first polluted glance.

Fucking lust

I promised myself to spend the effort in any struggle to understand what winning would be, and then put my energy there.  I expend too much effort battling the thing I don’t want.  I need to remember that I can nurture what needs to die by focusing on it too hard.

And yet, my mind is spinning around the ones who I want to love me but can’t.  They can’t because they are too guarded to consider love at all, and so they can’t give what they won’t accept.  They can’t because they never learned how.  They can’t because they don’t understand how to take someone else into consideration.  My life is full of these beautiful, brilliant narcissists.  I draw them in because they are desperate for love and I am a fountain.  Regardless of how little we have to give, we all live our lives to get some.  Getting some can take warped forms depending on the strategies we’ve learned.  I was raised by big-hearted, give-too-much people so I learned that if I give, I get.  But I’ve been bruising myself against the limitation of that lesson.  It’s only true in a community of other givers.  And now I’m becoming a taker, employing bad strategies to fill me up when the people I’ve been supporting can’t.  

I used to think I just need too much.  After all, that’s what I’ve been told by the people who think I should need nothing.  I always start off needing nothing.  So when my need arises, it’s some dirty trap I’ve suddenly sprung and they find me unrecognizable, different, untrustworthy, changed.  Natalie, Matt, both Joshs.  They have nothing for me now.  I need to stop loving them so hard.

Jules.  He really tried.  For a time, he could.  He convinced me he was the real deal, love and lust.  But only when he’s drunk enough to numb his own fears.  Matt’s brilliant insight was that Jules only ever wanted to fuck me and said whatever it took, but I know that wasn’t true.  I still can feel the difference.  I know he wanted it for real and got scared.  But I can’t give him enough to steady him.  And I will never try to save another alcoholic, despite my life lessons making me so very good at it.

Dan, Paul, Aaron.  They want to offer me something real.  They want to love me.  But they want to fuck me too and I’m not attracted.  Am I so afraid of love that I am turned off completely when it’s offered?  No, I don’t think so.  That chemical sizzle that engages my imagination until I want my hard nipples pressed against your chest, your strong hands lifting me, the full weight of my need physically expressed; it’s just not there.  The men who want to love me don’t turn me on.  I want Sean who would use me to feed his ego but nothing more.  What is my compulsion for empty lust?  Is physical love, intimacy, so terrifying that I’ll turn away from the hint of its possibility?

Or am I still convinced that no one will really love me if they want me?  Dawn, Imani… they are my safety net, my sanctity, my support.  Please don’t want me.  I will ignore the way you kissed my neck when you were drunk on Friday night.  I will ignore that you remembered when I said it was my favorite spot.  I will ignore that you remembered the rest of that conversation too, so you pressed your thumb into my nape and ran it down my spine and reveled in the knowledge it would make me arch and wet.  I will ignore that you saw me snapping a shot of the hilarious plastic wine glass so you walked out and dropped your towel when I clicked. And then when I said the plastic wine glass shot was meant for Matt, you simply covered your nipples with your hands, hid your smooth V behind the counter and posed, daring me to think of him and not you.  I will ignore that you got up and did yoga in nothing but a thong, and then when I wasn’t watching, said you could teach me.  

Please don’t love me like that.  Please just love me like I need you to, like the friend I lean on and can trust.  I need you to teach me many things: yoga, cooking with love, guitar.  I need you to leave the lust out of it though.  I can love you clearly without it.  I need your clarity, your lack of strings and cerebral static.  Let me leave my heart in and my body out of it.  Please.

This is what li…

This is what life does. It lets you walk up to
the store to buy breakfast and the paper, on a
stiff knee. It lets you choose the way you have
your eggs, your coffee. Then it sits a fisherman
down beside you at the counter who says, Last night,
the channel was full of starfish. And you wonder,
is this a message, finally, or just another day?

Life lets you take the dog for a walk down to the
pond, where whole generations of biological
processes are boiling beneath the mud. Reeds
speak to you of the natural world: they whisper,
they sing. And herons pass by. Are you old
enough to appreciate the moment? Too old?
There is movement beneath the water, but it
may be nothing. There may be nothing going on.

And then life suggests that you remember the
years you ran around, the years you developed
a shocking lifestyle, advocated careless abandon,
owned a chilly heart. Upon reflection, you are
genuinely surprised to find how quiet you have
become. And then life lets you go home to think
about all this. Which you do, for quite a long time.

Later, you wake up beside your old love, the one
who never had any conditions, the one who waited
you out. This is life’s way of letting you know that
you are lucky. (It won’t give you smart or brave,
so you’ll have to settle for lucky.) Because you
were born at a good time. Because you were able
to listen when people spoke to you. Because you
stopped when you should have and started again.

So life lets you have a sandwich, and pie for your
late night dessert. (Pie for the dog, as well.) And
then life sends you back to bed, to dreamland,
while outside, the starfish drift through the channel,
with smiles on their starry faces as they head
out to deep water, to the far and boundless sea.

Starfish by Eleanor Lerman

In my quiet hours

We cracked a door that was best left closed
I understand the status quo
I don’t want more now than I did before
I understand the lives we chose

But in my quiet hours
I wish we lived it differently
In my quiet hours
I would open the door and see
Because in my quiet hours
You fit me brilliantly

Trapped on the balcony
with too many drinks and your guitar in hand
You said all the things
I pretended not to understand

You watched her family drama through the glass door
And reached out to me because you wanted more
But wanting and living are two different things
And we both knew it couldn’t begin

But in my quiet hours
I wish we lived it differently
In my quiet hours
I would open the door and see
Because in my quiet hours
You wrote a song for me

You came home resolved to push the envelope
Said no more crap you don’t need
Set down your boundaries in hope
That she’d push away and you’d be freed
But there’s never a clean way out
And she chose the life you lead

But in my quiet hours
I wish you lived it differently
In my quiet hours
I would open the door and see
Because in my quiet hours
You spend your nights with me

Now you feel like a possibility
Though my mind knows better
We deleted the conversation
But not the want for that other life together

But in my quiet hours
I wish we lived it differently
In my quiet hours
I place your hand upon my knee
Because in my quiet hours
I want to know what we can be

You invade my sensibility
So I ignore you to pretend
we’re just two people in the same room
But now I’ve lost you as a friend

So in my quiet hours
Since we can’t live it differently
In my quiet hours
I shut the door completely
Because in my quiet hours
I forfeit this fantasy

Never enough

The one person I am always enough for
Is asleep in his chair
Dizzy, drunk with vertigo

The water runs cold over my head
Cold enough the tears feel warm
Not even that pounding solitude
Will take me home

No peace
Because there is no answer
Life,
The inevitable cycle

This one and only one
Always strong enough for me to lean on
The rest of the world needs me
And I need him

On the outside,
I am good, He is good
“An inspiration!”
I just feel the hole growing

There are days when they are right:
His good days,
When he and I forget
That he’s forgetting

When I block out the shadow
That creeps around his doorjamb
When he rattles loud enough
To block out Fox News

Callous days I can forget
That soon it will be time
When there will be no more time,
And what I have not learned
Will go with him

I cannot get it,
Not enough of it,
Because he is more than I am
Has always been more than I am,
Something strong that lifts me
As I reach for it

Above the noise
From everyone who wants more

Tailored bespoke

You came in the night
Took me apart
Bled out my loneliness
Stitched open my heart

Wrapped in your arms
You deftly began the unraveling

I wanted to see myself
Through your love lens
To make you a seamstress
Prepared with your pins

To tack me together
And sew closed these fears like a dressing

But you can't stitch together
What my mind rips apart
The cacophony deafens
The plea from my heart

Until it's too loud
For your fingers to stretch my tight seaming

If you unbutton my soul
You'll see my coarse fabric
I'm just silk on the outside
A colorful tunic

Of gossamer thread
The illusion of Emperor's clothing

But hidden beneath
A steel overcoat
These abandonments cinched
A scarf at my throat

Knotted too tightly
When my heart needs armored defending

There's holes in the lining
Where my love falls out
Pennies of kindness
Along the safe route

You found a few coins
Not enough to buy my pretending

You tried to make due
With my illegal tender
Until you gave up
Signed your surrender

Because deep inside
You found too much patchwork for mending