men

owen and jim are absorbed in whatever

jim’s working for like,

an insurance company?

and he’s getting annoyed at his boss asking him to order his groceries for him.

 

jim has the body of a man when he wants it.

when he’s playing dungeons and dragons

you believe he would really use a sword to kill.

when he’s just being himself

you doubt whether he’d know which end to hold.

for such a big dude

with such a well-kept beard

he’s rather immature

when he can afford to be.

 

i couldn’t tell jim this stuff. he wouldn’t get it.

he’d be too awkward

and then run off.

freckles and wrinkles

They hate their imperfections, those which I have always wanted. i wanted my normal brown hair, a bushy sheet like untamed wool, to curl, to frizz, to turn burnt orange or a pithy black.

i wanted my face to look like spilled paprika. i wanted my shoulders to pucker and pink in the sun. i wanted my eyes to be twinkling peridots, ringed with lines like cracked mud, crinkling up like a shriveling leaf with every laugh.

i like that smiles, too, scar you. i’ve always liked scars. i’ve always liked asking where they came from. oh, these cracks by my eyes? i smiled too hard, too long, too often.

i want my face to look lived in. i am tired of looking young, which may be naive to say, but it is how i feel. i wish to look old. i wish to look like an adult. i want people to see how much i smile but looking at my temples. i want to be scarred by joy, a monument of laughter.

blackheads pepper my nose where my freckles should be. wrinkles choose to appear between my eyebrows and across my forehead instead of at the corners of my eyes. i become a memorial of sadness.

things i never told you

Basically, here’s a little tip about blogging–we don’t do it every day.

Haha, right?

I used to, back in the golden days, but now I write ten blog posts at once and schedule them a month in advance. I’m writing this on June 22 and it goes up July 15.

I don’t know why I’m breaking the glass for you like this. I have learned that sometimes it is best not to see the man behind the curtain. Sometimes it is best to not research clouds and flowers. Some things are better left a mystery.

Whatever.

By the time you read this, I have come home from Ireland, a trip I haven’t written about here at all, and have started teaching summer school, something else I haven’t written about. I’m a summer school teacher now. I’m home from Ireland, now.

What will things be like when this gets published, in 23 days? My life, once again, will have completely changed. It does that a lot, nowadays. Perhaps, though, I am due for some consistency. I have been offered a job: to long-term substitute an English class while a teacher is on maternity leave.

I’m so excited. I’m so terrified.

Before I have time to be scared of that, though, I have to be scared of teaching summer school…but, by the time you read this, I will have already taught half a week, so. Maybe it’s not so bad after all. I mean, I’ve already done it.

 

I want Ireland to change me like Norway did. Norway healed me in ways I didn’t know I could be healed. I want Ireland to not just help me heal, but help me thrive. I want to be able to fill my lungs with Irish air and fill my stomach with Irish beer and feel a sense of comfort and adventure and peace.

Why is it when I most want peace, I throw myself into a maelstrom?

self portrait

I feel like the sort of person who would have gotten much help out of this blog, in the old days. It was so cheery and positive. So helpful. Conversation Starters and Short-Fic Fridays. I’ll let them stay published. I can’t say the same for this 2018 drivel.

I wonder how long I’ll be in this rut. I feel as if I am watching my life from behind stained glass. I can sense things, but vaguely, distant. I hear things as if from a dream. I see things as if through a cloud. I feel things as if under a heavy winter coat. Pressure, no sensation.

I’m exaggerating. I’ve said before, I think, that this blog has become nothing but the glorified diary of a depressed person trying to accept the fact that 22 is a harder year than was promised. I’m exaggerating. I have bad moments and good moments. Both come on like nausea, sudden and unavoidable.

Sometimes I feel bright and rosy. I like watching the teenage lovebirds in class, drawing on each other’s arms in permanent marker, making each other laugh with silly noises and light bops on the nose. I love how they look at each other. At least I still have love.

That’s the thing. My love life is in order, it has been for years. It’s my everything else that’s gone awry. My career and my future, my emotions, my novel, my living situation. Living at home again is like willfully locking myself back in a prison. And then leaving, and then locking myself back up at night. I have freedom, but it’s a privilege, it’s temporary, and the prison hangs over my head, the way Monday taints Sunday night.

I really got to erase all of my name off this blog. It becomes more and more of a diary every day.

religion

I grew up Catholic, then met a boy two years older who was smart and tall and loved me like I was his last breath. He was an atheist, but he called me his angel.

I have to give him credit, because I never questioned things before him. He made me skeptical. Later, cynical. I questioned the anxiety I felt at home, and why my family injected into my heart more fear than love. I questioned my future in “some sort of science” and realized my hands couldn’t stand to spend their energy with numbers and figures but chose art instead. I questioned even that: my writing was so frivolous and childish compared to his–his made me feel emotions I never thought about when writing my silly science fiction and high-octane adventure. Eventually, I even questioned our relationship. We broke it off after maybe half a year or so.

I was an atheist. Then an agnostic. I used science and logic above all else, and when others touted faith I labelled them as ignorant.

That lasted awhile. It’s hard to be an atheist when you’re afraid of ghosts. Not necessarily that I believe in ghosts, but long hallways and creaks in the night do frighten me more than they ever would an atheist. Perhaps an atheist would be afraid of these sounds but first think of burglars, you argue. True, I say. But I don’t think of burglars, I think of ghosts.

Spirits, maybe. Spirits would probably be more politically correct.

Thanks to that first love of mine, I also stopped performing so much of my life. I had told him it would be hard for him to meet my friends, as I acted so differently around him than I did them. I told him everything, you see. He knew me better than I did, myself. He found this confusing.

Aren’t you yourself, with me?

Yes.

Then why aren’t you yourself with them?

Again, it was something I had never questioned before.

With this loss of performance, I stopped performing atheism as well. There are mysteries in the world we can’t explain, I said to myself but never out loud. I was afraid to out myself as a faltering academic to my scientific friends. They’d say I was going off the rails. Drama kids and their yoga bullshit. They’re getting to her, they’d say. Or not. I was so worried about what they’d say.

In any case, I was a secret agnostic, hiding both from my religious family and vehemently anti-regilious friends. And I stayed that way for quite some time.

Then I graduated college.

They say God comes to you in times of need. I turned instead to Wicca. Don’t people always? I feel like Wicca wouldn’t still exist if not for college kids experiencing some sort of crisis.

I put off job applications to learn tarot cards. I swept off the top of a bookcase to make my little alter and burned candles at midnight. I meditated with crystals clutched deep in the pit of my palms.

I don’t really believe in it. But what it has been doing is calming my anxiety–ah, did you notice the tense change? I’m still in this phase of life.

The thing about Wicca is it’s kind of silly, but isn’t all religion? What’s the difference, between praying on your knees or meditating in a lotus position? Eating Jesus’s bread and body versus lighting a handful of candles? Eh. Maybe it’s because Catholicism is so pagan, honestly. So many crazy traditions ripped from local religions. Maybe it’s me getting back to my roots after all, but roots that extend deeper than just the Christian ones.

It’s silly. It’s silly, and I know it’s a phase. And I don’t believe in the gods, and the goddesses, and that the elements are blessing me, or whatever…but I do believe in the calming power of meditation. And sitting in front of a candle with some pretty stones and plants and dried roses is like sitting before a gorgeous altar in a church. It makes things feel sacred and calm. It makes things feel right.

I need some ritual in my life of turbulence. It’s been so insane. I disappeared into the mountains to teach ski lessons after graduation, then decided to teach high school English and get my masters, and now I’m in limbo waiting for someone to give ol’underqualified me a job. Of course I turn to something for certainty.

Bottom line is that I don’t know why I’m doing this, or anything else. And you, metaphorical “you” who still reads this blog: you know I only come back to this place when I’m depressed. Maybe it’s manifested itself in strange customs and rituals this time instead of slicing open my thighs with a pocket knife. So this is probably healthier.

All I know is, it’s making me less anxious. And I’m not scared of creaks in the hallway at night any more. So. Who knows. Whatever.

sunk cost fallacy and control

I painted my nails this awful color that’s normally purple but shines green in the light. It’s mainly a sickly grey, like raw chicken or old beef, but it took ages to put on so I’m leaving it, resigned to my fate.

Sunk cost fallacy.

That’s what’s locking my friend into a relationship he’ll certainly be leaving in a month or so. It’s what locked me into college when I grew to hate it by first spring. It’s what draws me to buy thing after thing after I buy the first damn thing.

You needn’t worry about me, you metaphorical “you.” I am fine. Writing like this makes me feel better. It’s good practice, too. It’s fun to write again, not just edit in tedium. It’s so annoying to edit. I love it. I hate it. C’est la vie.

This classroom is ringed in colored curtains, shielding the class from the new building going up next door. I am bathed in pink and blue. Jackhammers buzz out the window, men shout, hammers drive. Again I wonder what the school thinks, if it could. How it would sigh if it could breathe, how it would gaze longingly at the new brick, the fresh paint. I imagine buildings as trees, often enough. The way trees likely enjoy a fresh rain and endure, dutifully, a harsh winter, so does this school, standing for three quarters of a century in the spot of its birth, sinking ever lower in the swamps of this state, housing generation after generation of accent-laced townies. How many coffees have been drunk up by this stained carpet, colored like burgundy television static? Pixelated, undistracting, unstaining.

Tonight I am hosting Dungeons and Dragons, structured play-pretend. The more things change, they say, the more they stay the same. I play several different characters while my friends play one. I am in charge. I pull the strings. It is wonderful to have control over something, even if it is just pretend. I think that’s why I liked writing so much as a child. A blank page, on which I can do whatever I want. Sullen dolls who can look as I like, say what I want, do what I command. Letters that form at my will like a magician might control cards or string. Control.

Control and power, one in the same, no? I’ve always shrunken from it, but I suppose I’ve always hungered for it.

Substitute teaching is like spying. None of the students pay me any mind, but I can’t help but overhear them. Now they are talking about first kisses, joking over one boy who hasn’t kissed anyone at sixteen. Who cares? I would have, at that age.

“At that age.” Eight years ago. Oh, how adult I like to think myself to be.

Substitute Teaching in my Old High School

It’s the end of the year for the kids in high school. I’m a substitute teacher now, living the high life, nearly exactly where I was when I sat in these very rooms.

My old high school is preparing itself for destruction, its replacement soaring lines of brick and mortar right over the old soccer field. This poor old building must feel like it’s being cheated on, abused by those who once loved it, those who use it without care, those who slam the doors and scratch the walls because, hey, we’re getting a new school after next year.

The kids are and always have been rather free in this school. A public school that trusts its children? Who could imagine.

This teacher has two teal staplers and one roll of transparent tape. Her desktop is otherwise blank, as well as her classroom, besides the elephant in the room in the form of a judge’s bench. It’s the legal systems classroom, where kids come to learn about laws that don’t yet apply to them. They learn about the ramifications of drinking and driving before they are legally able to do either. There’s not a single poster on the cinder blocks, only tears in the paint. An ancient chalkboard, black and empty, hangs beside a whiteboard, streaked in blue, and a Smartboard, the dirty placid feel of printed paper.

The girls’ hair falls in pin-straight strands over their shoulders, or pinned up in a bun on the top of their head, or frizzing out of a ponytail. The lone boy stares at his phone. The door might as well be revolving, but I don’t bother to close it. It is, after all, the last day of classes.

They figure their next year schedule on their cell phones. A friend comes in, smiles at me, and sits on the top of a desk. A girl juggles a slinky, drops it against the legs of her desk with the sound of cymbals.

Hobbies begun

I know, I know. Another post after months and months just to talk about how I’m posting?

Nah.

I’m gonna talk about other hobbies I’ve left to die. Like sewing, with which I mend all the pants and pockets in the world. Which is good. I’ve made a handful of dolls and one skirt, and cut out all the pieces for a dress. And haven’t touched a needle this year.

Cooking. Of course, I cook almost every day. It’s the cook book I’ve left unopened on my desktop, wherein we were meant to cook the national dish of every country we could find. That, unfortunately, has come to a halt.

I can’t even begin to list the amount of novels I’ve started to write but gave up on, three or two or half a draft in. The amount of books I’ve read a chapter of and stopped, the television series I saw a pilot or a season or even three then grew bored of.

I’m acting like this is something special, and of course it isn’t. And I’m neglecting the fact that every hobby I grew out of has given me something in return. I can sew, now, and could get back into it if I wished. I have the rudimentary beginnings of knitting, and embroidery. I could start up those novels or cookbooks or whatever.

I don’t really know what else to say, other than it makes me sad to see my bedroom as a sort of graveyard, to see these totems of lost hobbies–my pottery, my paintings, my old awards and costumes and my Wicca books and American Sign Language worksheets and yoga mat and ukulele and cello and German Rosetta Stone and stacks of paper I’ll probably never read.

And you, reader, if you have read any of my years-old posts, will remember my excitement at some of these things, and tell me that it wasn’t a waste, and these projects aren’t graves but memory figurines fit for a china cabinet. And I’ll say that’s probably a more optimistic way of looking at it, and so I will try.

Leaving

That’s it. The next intern is officially trained, and by this time tomorrow I’ll be officially out of here.

The nostalgia is real. I’ll not only miss the job and the people, but the color of the cubicles. The corn muffins for breakfast. The Liberty Mutual letter opener. The Sharknado poster. There are so many little things around here that I’ll miss. I’m never going to reenter this building again after Friday.

Yikes. I mean, I’ve already left several places before. Three schools, for instance. Five jobs. After each “last day” there were things and people I’ve never seen again. Even old friends’ houses, though with less warning. There was a time when I left their house for the last time, but I didn’t know it.

I can’t help getting emotionally attached to places. I’m introverted; I spend more time paying attention to inanimate objects than animate ones. My keyboard! I’ll have to leave my work keyboard tomorrow, the very keyboard I’m typing this post on. My computer, my crappy old Dell computer. My phone, with the blinking voicemail. The maps and lists and tips and tricks on my walls. The guidebook that was my bible for the first month or so.

Soon they’ll even take my email from me. Gosh! I like this job, though. I wish I could stay longer. I’m still learning. I just learned where the second bathroom is, the same day I finished training my replacement.

Leaving is rough. Leaving is hard. But I have to just keep on reminding myself that it’s a good thing.

Sure, I won’t get to be a Boston Globe reporter anymore, and I won’t see my friends anymore, and I won’t be able to be in this building anymore. But I also won’t have to drive an hour and a half twice a day in rush hour. I won’t have to do all those tedious intern duties. I’ll be able to freelance. I’ll be able to go on to the next big adventure.

It’s good to look on the bright side of bittersweet.

Stages

Obviously, there are life stages. Teen years, puberty, middle age, and so on. However, I submit to the jury that there are several smaller stages that fit arbitrarily within these stages, regardless of age. Perhaps most prominent and widespread is the stage where you wore black and listened to metal and were mad that your mother wouldn’t let you dye your hair.

In my experience, many people go through an “atheist” stage. It makes sense to question one’s beliefs now and then, but that’s not what I mean. I’m not talking about a healthy time spent in philosophical thought, I’m talking about those three or four months when people turn into super atheists.

I went through it, as did many of my friends. Thankfully, I grew out of it, and even retracted many of my atheistic ideas, settling on a firm stance of “I don’t know.” Now, I like to learn about and explore all types of religion, but in my atheist stage I couldn’t stand it.

There’s also, for the younger generation especially, the Social Justice stage. This one has always been around, but it’s especially spread with the advent of social media. Whether they’re called social justice warriors or tumblerinas or whatever, many people go through a time where political correctness and open mindedness are their top priority.

Are people who are like this bad? No. Can these things be stages? Absolutely. I went through both. The best part about these stages is that you tend to get highly invested in them, and then they fade away, leaving only a small mark on you. I’m glad my stages happened, because now I have a wider lens with which to look at the world.

They’re not bad things at all. I had a healthy eating stage, and a reality tv stage. I had a Buddhism stage, an anti-Kindle stage followed by an e-book stage, an all-natural stage, a gym rat stage, a musical stage, and numerous stages where I questioned my political standing, sexuality, job goals, relationships, and general future. And all of these stages, these short-lived obsessions, affected me positively afterward in one way or another.

I love when I can recognize someone in a stage that I had already passed through. Oh, you’re in the stage where you think any song released after 1970 is crap. Been there. And look, that’s the stage where wearing sweatpants every day didn’t feel gross. I…kind of wish I was still in that one.

It’s sometimes said that people can’t change. How wrong that is. Stages are proof that people change. We try on different hats to see which fits best. We get to choose different facets of our personality and change how we are seen by the world. That’s amazing!

It’s hard, when you’re in a stage, to tell if it’s a stage or not. Is blogging a stage, for me? Is sign language, is biking? I suppose any new interest could be a stage. Alternately, it could become a permanent part of you. The best part of life is its uncertainty. Embrace uncertainty, and embrace your stages with reckless enthusiasm.

Better to have several hats you don’t wear anymore than no hats at all.