Acorns (To Laughter)

For our friend, Mason. x

Learning you left was a helpless kind of pain -- 
a fresh-out-of-the-shower in December,
hair-dripping-down-my-back, I 
forgot my towel in the other room, so
I guess I’ll just stand here in a puddle
on the icy tiles as goosebumps itch across
my skin, painful. It immobilized.

But it was warm; it was September.
The leaves were barely gold. You lived
so much too quick, you left October crooked.
What could we do with all the you 
we still carried?

In a treehouse those two meticulous
hands of yours helped build, on the torn
edge of a river you once swam, a 
Sunday sunset shivered orange across
the sky, and the horizon 
rained acorns.

The first, kicked from the floorboards.
The second, flicked off a railing, and
grief found its playful side. Between
the rafters of branches arced acorns, right beside
sworn dares and regrets and promises
no one thought we’d have to make for decades still--

Still.
We swore. We held. Acorns dropped.
All of us, there and not.
You, there and not.
And somehow -- impossibly -- we remembered
that even the worst returns to laughter.

Practicing gratitude

Every year around Thanksgiving, I am always more mindful of the things I have to be grateful for. This year, the list is the longest it's ever been. And though I've said it many times before, it bears repeating: I never thought I even had the right to ask for a life this good, and I will make damn sure I cherish the time I have, with the people I have, now.

I'm grateful for my family, and that they are working on taking the time to care for themselves. I'm grateful to have a job that is fulfilling and helps me pay my bills and put food on the table. I'm grateful to have a car to take me places, and gas to fill up that car -- and I'm grateful that I have places to go to in that car for adventures. I'm grateful I had the opportunity to see the Pacific Ocean, to fly above the Grand Canyon, to swim and boat (and jet ski!) in lakes and oceans and rivers this summer.

Friends. I'm most grateful to those who have given me room in their hearts. I'm grateful for my adopted families, my "work moms" who look after me and friends who are so close I feel like I've known them for years.

I am grateful that I am able to take the time and energy to work on my anxiety. I am grateful that I found someone to talk to that has been helping me work through the tough times.

Peter -- I'm grateful to have his time, patience, support, and love every single day.

I'm grateful for the bed I sleep in, the books I read, the strangers who smile back. I'm grateful for the dogs I see walking down the street outside the window of the wonderful house I live in. I am grateful to have people around me who challenge me and make me want to be a better person.

A skill I'm working on currently is practicing gratitude. I think I do a pretty good job of showing that I am thankful for the way my life has unfolded, but I can always do better -- I can always be more consistent in recognizing the luck I've been given and the hard work I've done that is paying off in a number of ways. I can be more vocal in my recognition. On days I let my frustration or anxiety win, I try to sit and quiet the noise of my head and remember all that I have and let that fill me up, instead. Because, like I said, my list is the longest it's ever been, and it's still growing.


The probelm with Icarus

As a young girl growing up I learned a story of 
a boy drowned from heavy, melting wax wings. 
His father gathered feathers and tacked them together
with a warning (or a lesson) for his son:
 don't stray too high, don't fall too low. 
The ocean has as much power to sink you as the sun.

But the trouble with flying is that warnings
made on the ground shrink and are forgotten when
surrounded by clouds and wind and birds
and other impossibilities.

Icarus flew. He skimmed the water and 
kissed the edge of dawn with his waxy feathers.
On the wings his father gave him, 
he touched the corners of our atmosphere.
He nearly held the sun.

Inevitably came the fall. 
The weeping wax, downing an almost angel;
the icy ocean, dragging him home.
Hubris is often accused as the siren who
called Icarus to Heaven, but his father warned
him twice: don't stray high, don't fall low.
The ocean has as much power to sink you--

The problem with Icarus wasn't that he flew too close to the sun,
but that his wings were constructed of wax and feathers.
The problem with Icarus wasn't that he flew too close to the sun,
but that he flew too near to the ground and dampened those feathers.
The problem with Icarus 
was that his wet wings needed the warm closeness of the sun to dry.
The problem with Icarus 
was that he never questioned if the wings his father gave him were the wings he needed.
The problem with Icarus
is that we remember the lesson he died for wrong.
The problem with Icarus
is our own fear of flying.

Tough, but good

Where I am in my life right now is someplace really, really good. I am in a place -- financially, emotionally, physically -- that I never knew I would have the privilege or right to experience, and I am grateful every single day to have made it as far as I have. It took a lot of work, and it took a lot of convincing myself that what I've done to get here is a big accomplishment. It's difficult to see it that way at times when I have this tendency to compare myself to others around me. But that's not fair. It's not about how I measure up to others, but how I measure up to who I was before. I am, and will continue to be, a work in progress, and that's okay. I have to remember that.

The good, and bad, thing about being in such a good place right now is that my brain decided, "Oh, okay, you're safe and happy right now, so this would be the perfect time to go through all those boxes up here you shoved aside when you had other shit to deal with." Cool. You know that quote by John F. Kennedy? "The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining." Well, the sun is shining, and I'm out on the roof.

Essentially, I spent a lot of my time growing up living in what I consider "survival mode." I got through each day, sometimes by hanging on by the tips of my fingers. I fought just to get through my weeks. So when something bad came up -- something that threatened to pry those fingers off the ledge -- I would push it aside to deal with later. I had to recover from this problem/threat first, and then I could handle that one.  I repressed, sometimes in the moment, so I could survive. But because I was always in this instinct of protect, survive, move on, I ended up collecting a lot of these problems, cluttering the back of my mind. When you're always in survival mode, there's no time to deal with anything but surviving. There's no time to deal with problem number two (or three, or four, or five...).

The Void, I've called it before. I put the problems in boxes and shoved them deep, deep down. And now they're resurfacing. Which is tough, but good. Tough to deal with -- but a good sign, because it means I'm safe. It means my brain thinks I'm capable of opening everything up now. One box at a time.

But it's hard, when there are so many boxes that I don't know where to begin. Or I don't always remember what's in those boxes. And that part scares me most of all, I think. I'm not sure how many boxes of trauma I've stowed away, and I have no idea what's going to happen when I open them up. What will I find?

One of those boxes sprung open this morning. I had the same nightmare, three or four times in a row. But it didn't feel the same as a regular nightmare. It was vivid in the same way that my nightmares tied to memories are. And it was exactly the same, each time it played out. I woke up in a panic, realizing this was not just a bad dream, but rather something from my past I was remembering. The details at the end of the scene I had to watch on repeat this morning are a little fuzzy still, but my brain is slowly trying to untangle it for me, in a way that I will be able to manage. Again: tough, but good.

I will take it one memory at a time. It's nice that I have someone who is always there to remind me that no matter what I find, no matter what I remember, I am in a better place now. I am safe, I am happy, I am so much stronger. This past Saturday I got my fourth tattoo to remind me of this. It's a little sprig of lavender blooms. It reminds me of growth, of fragility. Of grace, silence, and calm hope. I will carry it with me, always.


Tiptoes

On my tiptoes to kiss you,
our hearts nearly side by side.
Hand on your cheek, 
I feel the start of your smile.
This is more than I
had any right to ask for.

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