Want

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In this room, the reader should know: crawling love letters, silent words, a clay feather, pictures of a dead grandfather. In this room, the reader should know: a table that cannot be moved until Sunday. Kept in place, belongings seek to be tossed away. Dumpster waits patiently to be filled. She did not think she could stand more waiting. He stood on the bed, soon in Texas they will be robed. There is the fold-away desk and the notebook that asks for more. The notebook is drunk on ink, her shoes tile the floor.

 

What the reader should not know: want.

 

She smells like herself today, the weather is so nice, etc. This was before the cream tasted like coffee, and cigarettes ashed themselves to sleep. She did not think she could stand more waiting. How long will the want last? The reader should know this. There is the coffee mug full of ash that piles itself awake. She has another month to wait. On the floor, his clothes. On the floor, a cigarette butt. On the floor, want waiting for Texas. A notion of a pool. The weather is so nice, etc.

 

There is sweat that drips from her knees. The reader needs to see this. Unlocked, the doors swell with wind. What the movers forgot to do. Unwait patiently—or—wait dispatiently. What she must not do. In this room: mess of missing, the over-used image of sunlight streaking in, bursting bins. The other rooms are full of empty.

 

The reader should know: are you from here? He said (fingers unfurling) you smell like you today. The moonlight swam around his silhouette, etc.

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Summer in January, Minneapolis Style

On the ground, my legs make the
          earth plural.
The multiple selves standing—
         I provide the space of proving
         the fact of more space needing to be provided.

As where one foot plants in the self-assured
         knowledge of
                  yes,
                  this is me.

As where another foot hovers,
         unsure of which earth
         on which to stand.

Because this is me standing,
         And this is me unshivering.
         And this is me,
         the plurality of
                 yes.

*

As where I sit outside,
         global warming providing me warmth
         with just a hoodie.
         Summer in January.

*

And I remember the sound of
         her voice in her whetted eyes.
And there was the hard conversation
         as where I held my knees up to my chest.
And the leather furniture clenched our bodies.
And our eyes took hold of the feel of
         hearts beating in rhythm,
         the cyclicity of our melodic conversing,
         skin stretching, closing in on the space inhaling
         between our bodies.
And I hear the late January sun striking her eyes.
Because there we were.
Because here we are.
And because this is the hard wooden floors
          that keeps us steady.
As where steady is a word that
         sinks into our bellies.
Because this is the space we need.
As where here I wait on a metal bench,
         the January cold not evident.
And I wait.
And I pause for her.
And I smoke.
And I write.
As where this feels right.
As where it has always felt ripe,
         the idea of her skin moving closer to mine.
As where the silver wisps
         of smoke and breath
         integrate into the air.
Because I wait,
         always.
And I love.

My feet planted on the ground.

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Re: 3am

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December 31st, 6pm

 

In six hours, the year will renew itself. In six hours, I will be in bed, tossing the blankets over my head to muffle the sound of the city celebrating. I will wake with knots in my hair and bags under my eyes to the sound of dogs howling. They will be confused, like the birds in the trees—animals lost in the yawps of the world exploding. I will not be exploding, will not shout out that yes, I made it through another year. Because it is just another day, a marker we have made. But if I were to look back at this year, turn my eyes back in my mind to see what I have seen this year, I would be looking at a wandering, sometimes lonely soul finding itself wonderfully trapped in unbelievably amazing circumstances. A renewed writing career, a meeting of a new friend, a job finally quit, vacations with the purpose of writing, a move to a new city, the accumulation of day jobs, the feeling of reading another email in which the sender informs me of an accepted essay, the quitting of day jobs and the preparation to begin another real job, the continued writing through all of this, and the constant realization that yes, this is home.

 

 

December 31st, 7pm

 

This year I learned to light candles. I have learned to sit and watch the snow pour down, to see the world as it lives outside of me. And when I look out, look up from my notebook, I feel that world inside of me. This year, I learned to follow the rhythm of my body, to wake up in the early hours to a mind that is constantly writing. I have learned to let that be the case, to know that it is true to myself, this pattern of waking, writing, breathing, living.

 

 

December 31st, 8pm

 

On this final night of the year, I watch the sky confuse itself with the earth. Outside, the world has turned white as the snow whorls around bare tree limbs. Inside, my candle is lit while my eye lids begin to droop. I would force myself to stay up and watch the year tick over, but that is not what is important to me. Instead, I will follow the rhythms of my body, lie down with my heavy breath, and wake to the still white of the world in my favorite 3am hour. Because it is those early morning hours which I treasure the most, the morning meditation of words and writing that lifts my heart up to the new day. And tomorrow, I will rise at 3am like I have risen every morning this year, and I will celebrate the continuation of a practice, this life.

 

*

 

January 1st, 3am

 

And so it begins, and so it continues. It is the first day of a new year, a first day of this year in which I wake up early to write. It is a morning like every other morning. I did not wake a few hours ago to the sound of dogs howling at the world exploding, but only momentarily opened my eyes to the ding of my phone as it beeped in Happy New Year text messages from friends who do not live here. On this morning, I sit in the large comfy brown leather chair in the living room, my notebook in my lap, the window cracked open next to me, and a sharp wind juts in through the screen, winter finally making an announcement, briefly rustling the pages of my words, the first ones written in this new year.

 

Things that are the same in this new year: the lit candle, the blue pen, the spiral notebook, the phone keeping time, this first set in a series of ten minutes I will use to awaken my brain.

 

But there is something in me that says something should feel different. This happens every January 1st, this pressure to feel different and renewed. God knows where this pressure comes from. Society, probably, like most things that make me feel pressured. But nothing actually feels new or changed right now, on this morning, on this first day of 2012. The only difference I feel will be to remember to write 2012 for the date. And that feels odd, foreign, new. But I will adjust, like I always adjust to the new. Like I did to the newness of waking up at 3am to write for that first time just over a year ago. Like I did to the realization I had this past year that this body is mine, is something in which I can claim as my home.

 

These are my first moments in my new home for the first time in this new year. And it is a home I have always felt somewhere inside of me. The hard wood floors, the walls of books, the dogs’ nails that clatter on the floor, the chair in which to curl up and write, the writer friend just down the hall, the body as it continues to find comfort in this home.

 

I sense this new year will bring me to a newer sense of home. I have been progressing to that concept this past year. And on this first day of a new year, I find myself in my home, breathing with a refreshed breath that, yes, I am here.

 

Happy New Year, New Day, The Everyday.

 

 

 

 

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Handle with Care

fragile

I think what bothers me is that my dad’s ashes are still in a little baggy in a box under my mother’s basement stairs.

I am learning how to let go, release. I was not entirely ready for him to not be anymore. Unless this is a lie. Unless I remember to stop and consider how after one of the many times when he was drunk and crying and suicidal and I was sick of hearing about it, again, and so I challenged him to die. It was then when I was first ready to have him not be anymore. Skip ahead seven years from that moment, and he dies one week after his fifty-fourth birthday. Skip ahead another seven years and I am in my bed writing this after I hear a song playing on the radio about possibly falling in love at a coffee shop.

It is entirely possible that tonight while at a coffee shop I fell in love with my father, remembering him seven years after his death. But it is also just as possible that tonight I am so detached from him, from the drunk man who took seven years to finally die after I finally realized I wanted him to, that my love is more for the idea of him. For my ideas of him, of how we would possibly connect now.

I want to connect. I want to write him a love letter. But my father can no longer see. He is dead. So he will instead have to read it from his heart. And I will have to write it from mine. A letter from my heart to a speck of ash that used to be a heart that is still in a baggy in a box underneath my mother’s basement stairs.

This is what it would say:

Dear Dad,

I want you to be set free. Released.

Love,

Chelsey

Because “release” is the word I felt when I learned my father died. I sat in my parked truck, the world pouring rain around me, and I released my anger by pounding my clenched fist into the cushion of the passenger’s side seat, screaming, “How could you do this to mom?”

And I didn’t necessarily mean the fact of your dying. Perhaps I meant you. How could you do you to mom? Because you represents dishonesty. You were dishonest. You were a lie. But some of us, like my sister, praises you because you told her the lies, the specific lie that said “don’t worry.”

But the lie that was you, the lie that said “all will be okay,” is the lie I saw through. Still see through. Not because I didn’t or don’t have faith, but because I could see you forcing your faith into the world, fighting for it to be. You told yourself you were released, when in fact you had a fist clenched around your bottle of vodka, chugging it because it did not taste like the good shit, did not taste like how you wanted the fact of the drink to taste, to taste something like good, to feel good. I know this because after your funeral I bought myself a bottle of your kind of vodka from the liquor store near your house, the house you died in even before your heart stopped beating. I thought it would be a funny little way of honoring you—drinking your vodka after your death. What wasn’t funny was that I did have to chug that bottle to get past the awful taste of it. And it didn’t feel good. And I passed out, like you. But I woke up alive.

The awful taste of you still lingers in my spine.

But this is about me, about the me in the now, about how I slouch further into my bed, realizing I have slipped into the “you” from the original “him.” I also slouch and remember I was going to smoke a cigarette while writing this, because he smoked. Because I am trying to remember to honor him.

Funny the things we forget.

Like how I forgot about when I was little I loved Jim Croce, because my dad did. How we would sing “Bad, bad, Leroy Brown” in the car just to drive my sister crazy. Because it was our thing, and my sister hated it. How we laughed. How it was a release to feel my dad and I laugh together. How young I was. I don’t remember how young I was, but I was young enough to not know what it is like to try to talk your drunk dad out of suicide, and then finally giving up on the conversation. Giving in to what he was saying.

Release.

It also bothers me to think about the fact that I think of the spirit of my father also thinking about the fact that his ashes are still in a little baggy in a box underneath my mother’s basement stairs. He’s probably pissed. But he also probably finds it kind of funny. I do. This drives my sister crazy. I think my mom forgets he’s down there. I wonder what she labeled the box. Most likely, it says “Jeff’s Things.”

Which makes me wonder if he can really claim his ashes as his own. He never took responsibility for anything he did when he was alive, so I doubt in death he feels like he should be responsible for what he left behind.

What he left behind is a daughter who can’t tell if tonight at a coffee shop she fell in love with her dead father, or fell deeper into that anger that made her jab at the passenger’s side seat with her balled up fist seven years ago.

I now smoke a cigarette while writing these things because I don’t forget. I fear I will forget. So I ball my heart up around memories of my father as I need to remember him. Flex that heart muscle as necessary, condition myself into remembering. Into honoring. Squeeze so I can connect.

What I remember most is how he would pick at the skin around his thumbs. I do this now. I remember how he would tap a beat on the steering wheel. Whenever I drive, I remember this, and tap along with him.

And now I will speak to him:

Dad, what I remember most is when you came up to my room in Round Rock, because you heard me playing your old Beatles album on your record player from high school. This memory has played so many revolutions in my head, I feel as if everyone knows the story. But they don’t. They don’t know how we sat in the soft light, sat singing and humming along to an entire side of “Revolver,” sat connecting over what we did not say. What we never discussed was the fact that we had a lack of words. We sat in silence, connecting over the fact that we could never connect. We sat in silence, connected. And then the album finished. And then you left.

And then you left.

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Sit. Stay.

 

Writing is about community, even if you write alone. – Natalie Goldberg

I read her words and feel as if I am looking through my skin. Her words are published, but they are not final words. The words are never done with themselves. Even while I read her book, as I crawl through my identification with Madness, I can feel the words expanding, growing, breathing.

They live in me. I hear them, sense the scenes of her mania rising in my blood. I read and I write about my own mania, about how the words make me feel a bit manic. I am not alone. She, the author, is with me, talking to me, pushing me to consider, to go on, to live.

I am not alone in this reading, in this writing.

It is two years after I have finally finished Madness, have gotten through my own considerations of the madness in my life, madness I used to never want to deal with, but am dealing with now, because of those words, because I have written about them in my journal and have started to talk about them with my therapist, words that inspired me to live and breathe through healing actions that help to restore me to sanity. My friend in Chicago reads the memoir. She has depression, and alcoholism is prevalent in her family. She reads Madness and she calls me. It’s like I’m feeling her words inside of me. Her writing matches what she is saying. What she is saying is that, “Here’s the hell of it: madness doesn’t announce itself. There isn’t time to prepare for its coming. It shows up without calling and sits in your kitchen ashing in your plant. You ask how long it plans to stay; it shrugs its shoulders, gets up, and starts digging through the fridge” (225). And while her words are not an unwanted house guest, they do sit, they do stay, they do become a part of me, a part of my mind, a part of my body. My friend feels this, too.

The words announce themselves in my bones, sit down, and stay.

Two years after I have finished Madness, I write an essay about living as a woman with bipolar disorder. It is an essay about healing and finding my way through life, through life that is lived with the effects of a mental illness. What I am doing is taking my graduate thesis and turning it into a five page essay. Madness was a part of that thesis, proof to my thoughts on how the body performs mental illness.

To write this essay, to get into the voice of a woman considering her mental illness, I re-read through sections of Madness. I sink into the words, let each one of them trot back down into my bones. I begin to feel where these words live inside of me, how they have encouraged me to write my own story. They enter. They stay. I write.

My essay is accepted into an anthology, and I can immediately feel a footnote being written that thanks her for being brave in getting all of those lived words onto the page.

The words live on the page. Words that expand in my body.

Writing is about community, even when you write alone. – Natalie Goldberg

At 3am, I write alone. At 3am, I am actually not alone in my writing. I live with an author, with a woman who has put life into her words. She has lived these words, and so she brings them to life in her writing. At 3am, I am not alone in my writing. My roommate and I wake up around the same time, our bodies like dogs who can sense when it is feeding time. Bodies that have formed the habit of writing at 3am, and so they become bodies that naturally wake up in the dark morning hours to feed the habit, to quench our desire to describe, get our inward selves out onto the page.

At 3am I sit alone in my room and write, sit alone but am not alone when I write.

I am never alone when I write. I take the words I have read, words in every book my eyes have ever soaked in, and I bring these words with me, bring them to the page. Sometimes they take the form of vocabulary– “crepuscular” learned from reading Orlandoand sometimes the form and structure of each sentence is reflected on my page, (parenthesis that swell with simple, precise descriptions seen in Funeral for a Dog).

At 3am, I light my candle (peach). It is during this crepuscular hour that I write myself alive. I take the words I have read, thoughts and images and the specific formation of letters found within books, and I begin to write.

At 3am, I can feel it. I can hear my roommate down the hall typing out her own experience. And I can sense the experiences of others, the community of words that live within my skin and rise up into my fingers, the words inspiring my hands to delve into the words of my own experience. I dig. I write. I am never alone.

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Feel of the Mind, Part 1: Emptiness

An idea came to me last night. Write an essay that describes how the body responds to the different symptoms of a mentally ill mind. To take the brain chemistry into the body and see what happens when symptoms are lived, described. I want to explore the feelings in the body of the words that declare what an ill mind is. Words like grandiosity, irritability, detatchment, inability to feel desire, rapid thinking, paranoia, anxiety, and the like.

First up (because I was depressed last week and this is how I was feeling…no worries, though, I’m feeling awesome now!): Emptiness.

 

  

Emptiness

 

Sometimes, it grows. Sometimes, it deepens.

 

Emptiness is when you are lying in bed, your back numb on the brown sheets, numb from being a back lying in bed for so long. With this numb back on this brown colored bed, you lie with the emptiness. It pushes through your skin, nestles in the spaces behind your eyes, under your retina, the hollows of your bones, the layer of blood slowly slinking through the veins of your stagnant back. The skin, confused as to what creature it covers.

 

Emptiness has crept in, has seeped in through the pores in your skin of your tired toes. Perhaps it started earlier in the day, in the week. Perhaps its creeping, its growing, its multiplying in your body started awhile ago. You were at work when your feet began to detach, when your body began to hollow. You were at dinner with your friend when your legs began to mist. Your friend sat talking, curling Pad Thai around her fork, bits of egg tangling in sticky brown noodles while the emptiness, the void hit your kneecaps.

 

That was a few days ago, or maybe yesterday. Time slows down in emptiness. Its meaning has nowhere to go.

 

And as the creeping continues, as the shift shifts through your body, the emptiness yawps. You lie down in the face of this spreading, barking gape, because there is nothing else to do. You have plenty you have to do, your lists dusting from the days they have been lying around, waiting for your impetus to do, to tick off.

 

Lie on bed. Check.

 

This is not on the list, but it should be. So you lie. In your supine position, you see the white ceiling, the spot where it meets your tan walls, where the paint has crossed over, white penetrating the vertical brown. The top streaming down. A violation of when things should stop. Where lines should be drawn, it instead turns downward, seeps, weeps.

 

And now it has been awhile. And now it still continues. You return from the coffee shop in which you tried to live out in the world, to prove that you were a being who was doing, and as you sat in the black cushioned booth, you felt the mist traversing through your cells, the legs gaining weight with nothing. Your body needed to lie down against the oppression. And so you return home, return to your room that now feels more like a cave, and you lie, unable to resist, to change the way the emptiness has crashed into your bones, pressed on the inside of your skin.

 

It’s there, has found its home in telling you what not to do, in helping you to not do. Your ears ring with the silence of its home, with the sound of nothing. Emptiness. And so as your back numbs into the mattress, your eyes unfocus on the spot where white crosses into tan, and your head begins to fade.

 

The emptiness takes over, squats in the home that should be your body, should be a body living, doing.

 

Friends become past ideas. Spirituality, an illusion. In emptiness, you no longer exist.

 

You wait. Your body does not sleep, but continues to numb. It is too gone to sleep, too far away to function properly. You wait. You wait with your body stiff for the emptiness to become bored, for it to realize it fills a space that no longer responds, resists. You wait for it to realize the control it has is no longer fun. You hope the emptiness will become impatient, as you become bored with yourself and time begins to tire.

 

You wait.

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Waking Up at Bob’s

“In the middle of the world, make one positive step. In the center of chaos, make one definitive act. Just write. Say yes, stay alive, be awake. Just write….There is a great sense of autonomy and security to know we can write anyplace. If you want to write, finally you’ll find a way no matter what.” –Natalie Goldberg

I write in anyplace I am. In the same way my body is with me at all times, the writing is also with me. Words forming into lines in my head. I feel the writing life within me, the thoughts that eventually and always lean into the page.

I am outside of Bob’s Java Hut, again. The sun has made its appearance, and is starting to warm my ears. I sip at my americano and I think of the amount of time I have spent writing, of the life I have created living in this writing space.

I am also thinking and dreaming about the feeling of settledness–of sinking into the body, and letting the body be itself, grow into itself. My eyes, the lids still sleeping. Even with the early morning breeze dirting into my ears, caressing the lobes and shifting its way around my shoulders, the eyelids are still believing they are closed, in another space–the space of dreaming.

I have taken the day off of work, given myself the time and space in which to feel I am alive. Breathing into me and motioning my fingers toward making movements of love and compassion. I type and write to heal. I knit to feel settled and bend into the notion of focused. A vague sense of concentration drifts through my body, claiming its space and concept in the cozy home of myself.

The glass ashtray on the white picnic table sits serenly. It is patient and waiting, ready to hold the ash I leave behind–the past parts of me that will eventually swirl into the fall air. The sun continues on its trajectory upwards, forever travelling on its own circular path of home. It welcomes its sense of growth, as it cannot avoid the fact of growing and moving self. It blazes in the joy of being alive. As the sun is always with itself, in itself, practicing its calm and steady zen-like movements, my eyelids, as well, slowly continue their trajectory upwards.

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