“I do wanna hit up the forest…”

Today was good.  Today was so good.

You gotta savor days like today, when three close friends are able to spur-of-the-moment peace out to Flagstaff for some coffee and tree-therapy with you.

(Before we move on, know that Ric took a frickin’ instagram video of our drive up there and its mostly me talking to no one in particular about the cool forest, the good coffee, and “the outdoor gear store…awesome”.  At one point I’m like, “I’m cool with whatever.  I do wanna hit up the forest at some point.”

God, when did I start speaking like that?  I wanna hit up the forest?  wtf.)

Flagstaff 4

I found out I had Saturday off and mass-texted the Neighborhood crew, but only Bryan has the kind of car that can safely get us all the way to Flagstaff.  Becca, Ricardo, my puppy Maroussi and I hopped in Bryan’s truck early this morning and fled this concrete jungle for bluer skies.  We listened to NPR and took selfies and talked about racial tensions in the United States, and how our lives are different from our parents’.  Thank god.

It was a really sweet drive, and I mean that in the taste sense.  It was sweet like the honey we harvest at Hope House or the way my puppy’s fur smells when I bury my face in his neck after he’s been playing in freshly mowed grass. Just…sweet.

It was sweet because we’re four friends who volunteer/work at a nonprofit that seeks justice in very tangible ways down here on the ground, and it gets a little discouraging sometimes.  Sometimes we really need a break.

Case in point; yesterday was real bad.  So bad, that when some homeless lady walked by my apartment while I was outside with Maroussi and asked for spare change, I flippantly told her I had none.  She asked if I had cigarettes.

“Nope.  I got nothing.”

“Well how about a bite to eat then?”

“I have nothing.”

“What about inside your house?”

“Seriously? I literally have no food inside my house.”

“Really?”  She was incredulous.  “You have no food inside your house?”

I literally have no food inside my house! I have nothing, ok?  Fuck.”  I really did, truly and literally, have no food in my house.  That’s been a problem.  We’ll get to that.

“Ok, well,” she continued, now almost as furious as I was.  “I’m homeless and you’re not, so-”

“Jesus fucking Christ I have nothing to give you, ok?! God!”

“What about dog food?  I’ll take dog food.”

“GO AWAY! WHAT THE FUCK!”

etc.

I wanted to punch a hole in my wall (impossible; they’re brick) and fall face down on my bed (er, futon from Meg) and scream and cry because I am an asshole.  A real and total asshole.  I wanted to burn my apartment down because it smells weird and I wanted to rip up all my clothes because they’re old and don’t fit, and I wanted to not have mirrors anymore because I’m sick of seeing my tired asshole face.

Instead I hung out with friends and talked about the movie Filth and how much I love it.  It was great.

Then I texted everyone about desperately wanting to go to Flagstaff and lo, fifteen hours later I was there.

Everyone who’s ever written about the forest is right.  Get up and out there.  Thank that ole diety you used to be enamored with for forgiving you for being a depressed asshole all the time, and goof off with your friends up there.  We went to Macy’s for coffee, and all the “awesome” outdoor gear stores, and everyone loved Maroussi all over town.  We drove to the lake and smoked cigarettes by the water, and walked through the trees way out into the forest and giggled at the deer carcasses hung by the legs at some hunters’ campsite.  We enjoyed each others’ company and laughed at my adorable little puppy.

Ric said something cool in the truck.  It’s stuck with me all day and I guess it will forever and it should.  We were talking about our affection for each other, the work we all do and the things we believe in.  And where we came from.  The four of us are, respectively, Puerto Rican, Mexican, and Irish (with some Italian and whatever else splashed in for me.)  Our ancestors may not have been friends.  Hell, even our parents probably wouldn’t know how to relate to each other!

But we love each other.  We do life together.  We take random trips to Flagstaff together and make food for each others’ parties and lean against the same walls at church.

So Ric said, “we’re living reconciliation.”

I like that so much.

Flagstaff 7Flagstaff 5Flagstaff  6Flagstaff 8

Reconciliation is a messy mosaic kind of process and there isn’t actually a rule book, or if there is none of us received it.  Sometimes its beautiful and perfect and there’s pretty trees and things, and other times its wretched and you snap at a frustrated homeless woman for no reason other than you’re tired of all the sad broken things.  Somehow this is all part of the same painting.

Actually…you know, that makes sense.  Have you met artists?  They’re crazy mothafuckas.

Anyway, I’m thankful for today, and all the shitty days too, and I’m all crazy sorts of thankful for my friends who continuously save the day.

Also I’m thankful these ones humored me and blasted the entire Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack all the way home.  I’m gonna be hoarse for a week.

Lately

Lately Phoenix has been breaking my heart.

I feel like we’re not fighting a losing battle anymore; we’re fighting a lost one.  I feel like Monsanto won, gentrification won, racism and sexism and all the isms I rage against have won.

And we’re going to be a failed ghost town in a matter of years anyway.

Phoenix Lately

Last night at Ric’s birthday party I sat at a big table outside with many of the people I love most in the world and we talked about it all.  How the elections went, how the Grand Avenue Festival made us sad, how we don’t know how to reconcile our lives.

Two days ago was the Grand Avenue Festival and man, was it a sight.  Grand Ave, you remember, is the Fuck You street that slices through downtown at an angle.  It always screws up Phoenix newbies.

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The festival featured artists, food, crafts, etc.  A street littered with fanfare.  I was working my new hiptastic coffee shop, slinging lattes and bagels all day, while my buddy Raquel wandered the festival with my new puppy.  (We’ll talk about him.)  She said it made her heart ache to see the white-washed charade all over our avenue.  She said she kept hearing heart-breaking snippets of conversation.  People saying they were so glad Phoenix is being cleaned up, how its getting safer, how there’s getting to be some “culture”.

Its the same well-meaning but ignorant rhetoric I hear all the time.  Restaurants keep opening and failing on Grand Avenue and every business owner seems obsessed with “bringing people downtown”, as if there aren’t thousands of people here already, who have been here for years.

My heart is breaking because, oh man, there is already “culture” down here, its just not one of which you speak the language.   You say you wanna grow Phoenix up but what you mean is “fix” it.  We don’t need to be fixed.

It’s the same with the do-gooders who “just want to serve” at my downtown church.  Y’all come down here with your lofty ideas of what it means to “reach out” to a group of people.  You think you’re “bringing Jesus” to a place where he’s been for literally ever.  You wanna be a light?  Well you’re fluorescent and you’re giving us a headache.

Stop making service projects out of my friends.

Phoenix lately 2

Last night we laughed about it.

“I’m always like…yeah,that’s cool, awesome…hey this is random; have you heard of the book, When Helping Hurts?”

Like, how do you subtly tell someone they’re ruining everything?

Johnny’s outside from sun-up to sun-down working in the garden, fixing fences, taking care of animals, dealing with plumbing and cleaning and planting and sowing and everything, and when we get a group of garden volunteers they spend two hours dicking around on the farm and taking water breaks every half hour.

Johnny says if nothing else, he tries to make sure everyone gets fed and that he’s not an asshole.

I’m trying to adopt that mentality.  We all are.  All of us who’ve made our homes and lives down here on the ground are just trying to not hate the ones who are “reaching out” to us.  We’re all just trying to reconcile growth with preservation.  Johnny says we need leaders who know how to nurture. We wanna be part of the community that’s already here.  We want racial reconciliation, we want to be heard, we wanna hear, we love your hipster cupcake shops but we need you to vote for our candidates, yo.  We are making friends, falling in love, dealing with our addictions and our hopes and each other, and no one here is a service project for each other.

So Phoenix is breaking my heart, because the well-meaning do-gooders are fucking it up and because the soil is polluted, the air is polluted, the food is poison, my friends are disillusioned and everything sucks and I’ve been sick with chemical allergies or something since I came back from Summer Camp.  I’m trying to regain some sense of hope.  I’m trying to remember why we’re fighting, why we’re still breathing this poisoned air.  And I think of that Andrea Gibson poem, where in it she says,

anyone who has ever sat in lotus for more than a few seconds
knows it takes a hell of a lot more muscle to stay than to go.

So I’m flexing.  I’m staying.  I’m a mess and I’m trying.  I’m in love with the stubborn resiliency of this community and the way their incarnate love seeps into every hang-out.

But man its hard for a lotus to grow in depleted soil, ya dig?

PS this is my new puppy, Maroussi.

Maroussi phoenix lately

One of the girls at Garden Club told me about her brother’s pitbull having puppies, so I went to “look” at them.  That was five weeks ago.  I fell in love with this baby and now he’s mine and hangs out with me at the coffee shop every day.   I live a pretty charmed life sometimes.

Less like Billy, more like Jean; Pt. 3

Ah we’re here, part three! We get to sum it all up now.  (Go read part one and two if you haven’t and you’d like to.)

This will be short.  All I want to share is that the more life experience I wrack up, the more I want to be less like Billy and more like Jean.

All of you who actually know me are chuckling to yourselves because you know I am nothing like Jean.  I’m way more Billy Jack than Jean Roberts.

You know how I know this?  When someone dismissed my assertion of Jean’s heroism on Facebook I was like “FIGHT ME IN REAL LIFE!!!1!“.

*face palm*

This is the kind of thing I want to change.  I want to learn to care about things without loosing my mind when no one around me does.  I want to be a consistent in the things I say and the way I behave. I don’t want to be offended by people who don’t share my values.  I want to not be so damned defensive when someone disagrees with my lifestyle.

Because man, when I’m confronted with things I don’t like (say, misogyny or racism or someone telling me cigarettes are for dummies) I get totally rattled and burn bridges with people.  I talk more than I listen, and I dismiss more than I encourage.

I don’t want to be like that.  My favorite thing about Jean Roberts is the way she lets the politicians in town explore the school, and then invites them to see an improv skit the students put on.  She’s inviting and compassionate with the people who need it the most.  I want to be like that.

It’s not that Billy’s bad.  Billy’s awesome. He has a really good heart and he believes in the same things as Jean.  He cares about people, cares about causes, thinks of the big picture and has been through more than he can really share, but he’s impulsive and reactionary.  He gets caught up in the moment, has a grandiose self-image, and like myself, burns bridges.  He is justice while Jean is mercy.

Justice is great, but the causes I find myself fighting for are blatantly self-serving more often than not.  I’m not an activist if I’m only engaging in self-preservation.  And frankly, I’m too often a jerk about things.

I want to be a person who’s safe to be around.

I’m not saying I want to be a pushover.  Jean’s not a pushover.  (In one scene you learn she was marching along with Martin Luther King jr, and she’s the one negotiating a fair trial for Billy as well as bargaining for the school’s safety in exchange for his surrender.  Jean’s a boss ass bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch…)

I’m not going to shy away from the hard issues, but I have plenty of inspiring, tender-heated friends and I’ve choked on enough humble pie to know I need to be softer.  I want to be softer.  I want to be empathetic, and I want to learn how to pray for the redemption of people I view as problematic.

So I guess that’s it, the three-part Billy Jack shindig.  I don’t know how to become more like Jean (and really, Jean reminds me a lot of that one guy from scripture) other than prayer and the practice of extending grace, and while those are two virtues I’m absolutely,undeniably wretched at, I think its worth a try.

coyote

PS Staff Orientation starts in a week. (letsgetweirdletsgetweirdletsgetweird)

Less like Billy, more like Jean; Pt 2

I introduced Billy and Jean to you in the previous post and also gave you a trigger warning, so we’re going to jump right into the heart-wrenching parts of the film now.

Billy enters the film protecting the wild mustangs from Bernard Posner’s father and co.  (nothing more villainous than big men with guns hunting helpless animals, amirite?) and then moves on to Barbara, the fifteen-year-old pregnant runaway who’s brought to Jean’s Freedom School after Barb’s father beats her up.

While there is general mistrust when it comes to Jean’s school and her hapkido fighting friend Billy, this is the conflict that brings out the catastrophic events in the film.

Hiding Barbara at the Freedom School puts Jean and Billy in jeopardy, and then there’s that ice cream shop scene (if you don’t want to watch the video, basically what happens is the shop owner won’t serve the Native American kids and Bernard, piece of shit, takes it upon himself to pour flour down all the native kids’ faces to turn them white.  Billy shows up, tries to stay calm, and then kicks the shit out of Bernard and his friends.)

Billy Jack ice cream shop 2

There’s a lot more to it all then this, but I’m trying to sum it up so I can tell you more about Jean.  In brief, there are bad bad guys in town and Billy gets into fights, while Jean tries to calm him down for the good of all her students.  A Native boy gets murdered, Barbara miscarries her baby, and here’s the kicker; Bernard rapes Jean at knife-point.

At this point in the movie, you’re aching for Billy Jack to wreck havoc upon Bernard’s life.  You want the rapist dead, and you want his friends dead too.  You hate Barbara’s father, you hate the corrupt politicians in town, and you desperately want a happy ending.

I don’t want to give the entire plot away (because you need to go see this movie; its awesome) but here’s why Jean’s the hero.  I know it, you know it, and most importantly, Billy knows it too.

After the rape, one of the students finds and unties Jean, and cradles the woman in her arms while the two weep. This scene’s raw heartbreak is sickening and powerful.  The student has gritted teeth, spewing hatred against Bernard and calling for vengeance, and Jean tells her to stop it.   Jean, battered and vulnerable, hurt and defeated, strokes her student’s hair and softly cries, begging the girl not to tell Billy about it.  She explains through shaky breathes that if Billy found out, he’d kill Bernard without a second thought, and the Sheriff would then have more leverage to shut down the school.  If the school is closed, Jean says, everything she’s worked toward and fought for will be for nothing.  She reminds her trembling rescuer that the students have nowhere else to go.

“Don’t rob me of this opportunity to turn the other cheek,” Jean weeps.

Jean from Billy Jack

See, Jean is a woman who believes in something greater than herself.  She values her mission over her well-being.  Her love for her students outweighs her need for vengeance.  Jean has her eyes set on the greater good and the future of her loved ones and, honestly, racial reconciliation in general.  Bernard’s crime is a hate crime and she looks at it as so, and begs her friend not to fight fire with fire.

Jean is, as I said, a badass.

I watched this movie with a bunch of my women friends the last time and two had to leave the room while the rest of us just wept.  Sexual violence is something every woman deals with in some way or another.  I’m not saying men and boys aren’t raped as well, I’m just saying its more prevalent for the ladies.  There is a special hatred reserved for women and there seems to always have been.  In Billy Jack, its not even that Bernard is attracted to Jean; he’s angry with her for her activism, for the fact that she’s a pillar of inspiration to the counter-culture kids, and because she’s a friend of Bernard’s primary enemy, Billy Jack.  Rape is a war tactic.

Moving on.

Billy, of course, finds out about it all and does indeed kill that rapist some of a bitch, and like Jean predicted this unleashes a full-on war between Billy and the townspeople, culminating with Billy wounded and defiant inside a church and surrounded by police and news crews.

Jean is there and the cops let her go inside to try and convince him to surrender a couple of times.  These scenes are pivotal, and showcase their two characters so perfectly.  Billy is sweating, bleeding, waxing poetic about Indians not being afraid to die, and how he and Jean’s souls are so different from each other’s.

And Jean, resident badass of the film, calls bullshit and tells him why.  She tells him how she hates just as fiercely as he does, and reminds him that she was the one brutally raped, not him, and that she’s the one living with that memory.  She tells him she’s killed Bernard a million times a million ways in her mind, every night.  She explains through gritted teeth how easy it is for him to die a martyr while she’s got to keep trying.  Billy’s shoulders slump and Jean reminds him that she’s in it for the long-haul, and that those children worship the ground he walks on, and he has no right to take himself from them.

Billy Jack Jean 2

Jean destroys the ridiculous misconception that pacifists don’t get angry.  She’s furious, she’s hurt, but she’s made a choice to do the right thing no matter the cost.

Jean is the band’s roadie.  She’s the sound guy.  She’s the tech person.  She’s behind the scenes.  She’s the parent working doubles at a shitty job so the kids can go to college.  She’s the unassuming stronghold behind the heart-stealing antihero with the sexy motorcycle.

Billy is the swashbuckling warrior and Jean is the actual agent of peace.  She believes in something and she’s not only willing to die for it; she’s willing to live for it.

Is Billy?  That’s his challenge.  Is he willing to be handcuffed and put in prison, or will he go out in a blaze of glory?

Find the movie.  Watch it.  Its seriously so good and you won’t be able to get those first flute notes from One Tin Soldier out of your head for weeks.

Open Letter to the Haters

Oh hai.

(Forewarning; if you’re not a Christian or at least have some semblance of faith in your life, a lot of this may not make any sense.  Feel free to skip this post and read, here, about hangovers instead.)

(Also forewarning; this is me at my least gracious.  This is my Ugly.  This is my heart on Anger.)

cigarette

This, friends, is a mildly immature way I’m deciding to express myself regarding an interaction I had this week.  Back story; I used to know this one friend really well.  We didn’t get along at first, and in fact had a frank conversation once in which we told each other, “I do not like you and do not want to be your friend”.  We became buds again later, and then she got married and moved away and I did My Life sort of things around here.  We are very different people.  She has always wanted to get married and have babies and I have always wanted to road trip and travel and walk around cities at night.  Neither of us is doing life incorrectly; we’re just different.

However, this long-distance friend of mine decided it was her place to tell me she’s concerned for my lifestyle and thinks it’s in my best interest to do things different than I am (specifically, to not go to camp and instead take on this unpaid internship role here…a role I would have to Missionary-style raise support for) (There is nothing wrong with missionaries raising support, its just not something I’m comfortable with for myself at this point in my life.)   We got into a somewhat heated talk the other night where admittedly, I became more offended than I should have.

What offended me the most was when she had the audacity to tell me she wants me “to actually know Jesus”.  Actually.

~

Once upon a time I was hanging out in the forest with a few thousand hippies (as you do) and this one Charismatic Christian boy was skipping around looking at flowers and pulling demons out of people’s eyes.  I kid you not, he was putting his two fingers and thumb against people’s eyelids and pulling out invisible demons like strings.

I wouldn’t let him touch me.  I was like, ‘nah brah, I’m cool. Exorcise someone else.”

He asked if I would please help him with the demons in his own eyes, and I told him I wasn’t qualified to give him that kind of help.  He asked why not, so I went all sola scriptura on his ass and refused to play Exorcism with him.

He knelt real close to my face, squinting at each of my eyes, and then said this:

“I don’t see the Holy Spirit in you.”

A lot of my problem with the Charismatic church stems from this experience.  I shrugged off his stupidity then, but reflecting on it later, (when I noticed a friend of mine slipping into the touchy-feely uber spiritual realm that poses as Pentecost-inspired faith) I realized I was furious at the church for allowing that kind of false-prophet spirituality.  We just allow it because, hey, every family has their crazies, right? 

I digress, but yeah, let’s talk about the harmful aspects of the Charismatic church sometime. 

~

Just as that wanna-be-prophet in the forest had no right (and no true ground to stand on) in telling me I didn’t have the Holy Spirit in me, my friend the other night had no right to “speak truth into my life”, which is Christianeze for “tell you what to do”. 

She is not a part of my life.  She sees my social media posts and maybe gets a quick summary of what things are like over here.  She doesn’t have the right to say how I should be doing things; she isn’t here.

So dear Haters,

You charismatic piece of shit in the forest, and you uptight conservative, you do not have the right to speak into my life.  It is not your place.  You do not know my relationship with Christ, you do not know my faith.  You are part of a very American notion of Christianity; you with your dread locks and crystals, and you with your matching dishware.  You do not know what its like to do life down here on the ground with the artists, the undocumented immigrants, the homeless and the activists.  You don’t know how I pray.  You don’t know what I read.  Just because I’m not posting “how-to-Christian” articles on Facebook every other day, does not mean I do not fall on my knees in adoration and dependence on my savior to redeem my tiny existence and my broken heart.  I cannot hear your pro-life rant over the sound of you not adopting any of these hungry kids I see every day.  I cannot hear your admonishment that life is sacred over the sound of you supporting factory farming, which wrecks this world you believe God created for His pleasure, and destroys the creatures you believe He made up as an expression of Himself. 

You are loud.  You do not listen.  You are insecure enough to need so badly to be right that you are blind to your ignorance.  I don’t care, dreadlocked hippie in the forest, that you think you can prophesy; you didn’t help me carry that kitchen tent up the hill out of the forest when our week at Rainbow was up.  I cannot hear your profession of love for Christ when you make fun of that girl on acid who can’t find her way back to her tent.  I cannot understand you anyway, since you’ve misinterpreted the bible and think you’re actually speaking in tongues.

Hater, you do not know my life.  You do not know that on that very night we talked and you “spoke truth” about how damaging my lifestyle is, that I was hit up by three different men to go “hang out” and I chose instead to Skype with my little sister.  My lifestyle?  You do not know my lifestyle.  You have no place to say shit about my lifestyle.  You are unwelcome here.

Had you been walking with me through the last two years of my life, your words would carry more weight.  As it stands, they weigh nothing.  They do not count if you are not in the here and now with me, just like I cannot tell you how to raise your baby or how you should treat the people in your life.

I do life in a very organic way with five women who have got the “speaking truth” thing covered.  They hold me accountable.  I have friends to tell me when I’m out of line.  I have friends to tell me they love me, to go on bike rides with me, to pray with me, to drink coffee and bake cookies with me.  How about instead of taking it upon your holier-than-though self to preach at me, you ask me what I’m reading these days.  How about you ask why I love the things I love and why I hate the things I hate?  How about you ask how the grieving of my murdered best friend is going?  How about you ask how my heart is doing after that particularly awful break up?  How about you send me something funny to make me laugh, to ease past these walls, instead of trying to barge in with you bible and your super clean way of viewing the world?  Do not tell me you care about me.  If you care about it, it is an an abstract memory of a past friendship.  You do not know me now.

I know you are reading this too.  I hope my anger translates.  I hope you stop following this blog, my instagram, and get off my facebook.  I was told by one mentor to block you.  She was appalled at your completely out-of-line reprimanding and your condescending tone (“I say this out of looooooove”).

Just like that ridiculous kid in the forest, your words bare no weight, carry no truth, and have been dismissed.  I know Jesus.  I know service.  I know dependence. I know anger toward those with their loud prayers and their beautiful robes.  My faith walks and talks a little differently than yours, but it is a faith grounded in Scripture.

You want me to actually know Jesus?  Puh-lease.  Get up out of my grill, yo.

This, on repeat.

P.S. another mentor was like, “she needs grace right now! She’ll get less shitty as time goes on!” but I’m blatantly ignoring that mentor right now.  I’ll probably delete this later, gator, but right now this is just going to be a thing.

I still want to howl.

The first time I read Warsan Shire’s poem, “For Women who are Difficult to Love”, my stomach churned with recognition.

Yes, I thought.  That’s exactly what this is like.

Last night I told my brother, “I’m scared I’m gonna fuck this up.”

See, I’ve been seeing the previously mentioned Nice Boy pretty consistently ever since our first date a week or so ago.   I like him.  I’m pretty sure he likes me.  And I’m scared I’m gonna fuck this up.

I told my brother that I could feel myself trying to be less while I was around this Nice Boy.  Matt asked what I meant, and I tried to explain. 

“I don’t know, I’m just trying to be less…offensive.  I’m less vulgar.”

He nodded and I think he really knew what I meant.  He knows because he’s the same as me.  He feels like the bad one, too.  He knows what it’s like to feel dirty in a room of nice people.  He’s “too intense”, too.    He knows I wasn’t talking about bad words. 

He reminded me that we’re on equal playing fields, we Jesus freaks.  “We’re all died-for.  Grace alone.”

Yeah.  I know.   And yet…

I still feel myself trying to be less than what I am around him.  Look how soft I am.  Look how pretty.

Melancholy is an inoperable tumor, and even when dormant it’s still in the back of my head.  I can still taste it on the back of my tongue.  I’m constantly shifty-eyed, swallowing, knowing it could seep out at any moment.  I don’t trust emotional health, like a cancer patient doesn’t trust remission.  I remember hitting my walls in anger at seventeen, and I remember screaming with my car windows rolled up this summer. I’m still reeling from this past year, and I’m still mourning innocence.  I’m still infuriated that people are raped, that friends die, that I’ve done reprehensible things, that there are children not being adopted, that animals are tortured, that people are mean.

I still want to howl.

I’m trying to be less angry, less sad, less opinionated, less cynical, less doubtful, less restless.

But I am angry.  I’m sad, I’m opinionated, I’m cynical and I’m doubtful.  I’m so restless.  I believe in offensive things.  I’m tired of saying things like, “I’m not ugly”, and “I’m not stupid.”

Fuck it.

I’m beautiful.  I’m intelligent.

And I still want to howl.

Scars to kiss.

The day before my sixteenth birthday I crashed my brother’s longboard into a ditch.

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I’d gotten going faster than I knew how to handle, flying down this winding street, until the speed wobbles became unbearable.  I realized I couldn’t recover, panicked, and in typical Jess fashion, bailed.  I tried to hit the pavement running and wound up a limb-flailing wreck, longboard in the bushes across the street.

My brother showed uncharacteristic concern, collecting the board, helping me to the car, and asking, gently, if I really needed to be that contorted in the back seat.  Once he realized I wasn’t going to cry or anything, he told me I’d looked like a “flopping wet dog.”

I spent my sweet sixteen moping in my bed, on painkillers and wrapped in bandages.  The only time I remember leaving my bedroom was to open presents in the morning.  I have no idea what I got save for a beautiful tear-shaped opal from my father, and with it a letter.  I’ve since lost the jewelry, but I have that letter.

Dad had written that I was more opal-ly than diamond-y, and why.  It was a beautiful and life-affirming note any sixteen-year-old girl would weep over.

I didn’t cry over it, though.  I had these sore, stiff muscles and bandaids all over my body, and my head was fuzzy from painkillers.  I was in physical pain and totally discouraged by my flopping crash the day before, and when I crept back upstairs I lay down to cry about that.

Dad came up to see what was wrong.

“Dad,” I whined.  “I’m going to have the worst scars.”

I showed him the blood-soaked band-aids on my left elbow, my knees, my shredded palms, and my hip bone.  I covered my face and cried.  He said something Dad-ish about scars adding character, how they’re a testimony to a life well-lived (clumsily, Dad.  You mean clumsily.).

Finally he said, “Jessie Bear, someday someone’s going to kiss those scars.”

I probably did something teenagery and rolled my eyes, but I never forgot that.

I’ve got a lot of scars.  I’ve got the bad ones from the long-board fiasco, and minor ones from minor trips.  I have two small burns on my right hand from baking falafels one midnight.  I’ve got a stripe on my left thumb from a panicked dog who’d gotten his foot stuck in a fence, and bit me when I tried to help.  I’ve even got a scar on my right foot from (I think) a shoe that was too tight.

The thing about these scars is I’m the cause of them.  Its not like someone swung a skateboard at my shins while I was sleeping.  I’m not a bystander or a victim in regards to any of my scars.  I’m the one who decides to bake falafels in the middle of the night.  I decided to learn how to longboard when I was fifteen.  These scars are my fault; they’re mine. I own them.

But that crash still hurt.  And I’ve got these discolored marks on my knees, elbow and hipbone to show for it.

I was thinking about this tonight because I was realizing I’m such a mess lately, and I kind’ve wanna pull a high-school me and just hole up in bed with the covers up to my chin until the scabs fall off.  I’ve got survivor’s guilt scars, I’ve got financial mistakes, I’ve got distorted eating and drinking scars, and I’ve got a heart so contorted in ambivalent affections it can’t seem to get its rhythm back.

And then I hear my daddy’s voice; someone’s going to kiss those scars.

I’m encouraged when I think about my sixteenth birthday, the pain and defeat I felt waking up with bruised ribs.  I think about that multifaceted stone the most important man in my life gave me.  I know my scars bear witness to a life full of (sometimes misguided) attempts, and that they’re kissable.

Do you wanna know how I lost the opal off that ring?  I lost it when my fingers somehow got caught in part of the gate on Camelback mountain.  I have no idea how that happened; I must’ve been barreling down faster than I could handle, and as I fell I reached out for something steady.  Ring gone and knees bloodied, I spent the next few minutes crawling around with a search party of hiking strangers.  All the while I explained, “its just a rock.  It doesn’t really mean anything.  Its just a symbol of subtle, multifaceted beauty, you know?  Like, how life is all different colors and they’re all beautiful and unique in different ways? You know? Its just a metaphor.”

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Its just a metaphor.

Characters

“The only people for me are the mad ones.”

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The problem with reading lots of books, and writing lots of stories, is you begin to see people around you as characters.  By you I mean I.  This thing happens to me every once in a while, where I become totally fascinated by individuals or subcultures and shamble after them, hungry to observe.  I like their facial expressions and I read between the lines.  I can create my own stories around their quirks, and leave them at the end of the day anticipating the next plot twist.

The struggle is to get out of observer mode and join them.

I’ve run into this here at camp.  There’s a handful of characters here who I just want to follow around all the time.  I couldn’t put my finger on why I was so drawn to them until the other day, when another counselor and I were talking about our experiences with them.  We realized they were genuine, and comfortable with themselves.  They know themselves.

They’ve all been a part of camp for years and have the most ridiculous stories (i.e. the skunk fiasco, raw egg-eating, that year everyone got swine flu, etc.).  They have this easy comfort with each other that’s hard to find.  I love them the way I love all my old quirky coworkers.

Anyway, last night, while other camp counselors were out getting cray for the fourth, we packed a Trader Joes-y picnic and hiked up a mountain to see fireworks.

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I like people like this.  They’re all so unique and awesome.  Stephanie runs the nature center at camp, and all the way up the mountain was pointing out plants and bugs and telling us their names and uses.  Erica knows every story ever, and tells them in first person.  They’re all ridiculous and hilarious and pointless.

We play these ridiculous games at camp, like “elbows”  where you try to lick people’s elbows without them noticing, or “faces”, where you make this ridiculous face at a person and if your eyes meet the other person has to lay on their backs and “reveal their belly meat”.  Last night, before this hike, Logan “noodled” Eden for like twenty minutes for no reason other than to get Eden to say “I give up”.  (Noodling is when you press up against someone and wiggle your entire body against theirs.  Its so dumb.  And awesome.)

I can’t tell you how relieving it is to find people like this.  Their love of life and lack of dignity, or attention to social norms, makes me feel like less of a sore thumb sticking out of everyone else’s pretty hand.

I’ve realized that I want to make people feel accepted and valued, because I desperately need to feel accepted valued.  “Life is really hard,” my old pastor said.  “And we need each other.”  You’ve gotta figure out who you are, and find your people, and watch fireworks with them.

Its not like camp is restful by any means.  I get about six hours of sleep a night, if I’m lucky, and I’m constantly on my feet, running around, creating lesson plans, answering kids’ questions, trying to motivate them to care about food, dealing with escaping goats and co-counselor dramas, etc.  But rest is what this feels like.  Maybe renewal is more accurate.

All these characters.  And I’m just one of them.

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Right things

Once upon a time I used to think that life would stop being weird, that things would start making sense, and that I’d feel settled.  I assumed I’d grow up and do good things and would be normal.

And settled.

And maybe someday I will be, yeah?  Maybe someday it does actually start to make sense.  Maybe I’m premature in my conclusion that this is actually it, that this is actually the way grown-up life just is.  We’re all just kind’ve acting like we know what we’re doing, or at least what we’d like to be doing.

I just got back from California, which was a week of soul-searchy, chocolate-eaty, Sherlock-watchy rest.  How did I get a week off of work, you ask?  Well friends, I quit.  Why did I leave such a cool-cat job, you ask?  Well friends, that’s personal.  And where was Kira while I was couch-sitting in California?  *gulp* She actually now belongs to my wonderful friend Megan (who is by far the best person I know) and her boys.

meg-and-collin^My favorite of Meg and the Bird, from years ago when I first met them.

The above paragraph brings me to the topic of Doing Right Things.  For example, the rightness of giving my “home”, my one constant of the last five years, my quirky little canine to a friend.  That was a right decision.  It felt like a shitty decision, and the weight of my dog’s absence hasn’t quite hit home just yet, but I know it was a right thing.  Meg and her husband can provide the stability I can’t, and her sons the energy I don’t have any more.  My love for my cat-killer was selfish and prideful and benefited me, not the dog.

And now?  She’s got this shady spot to survey her massive Phoenix backyard, and Little Bird and Ziggy (my godbaby!) to be belly-rubbed by.

ziggy-and-kiraGood God, he’s cute.

I spent California getting grounded in who I am, and what I’m doing here.  And now there are projects afoot that I want you to be apart of.   There’s a potential USA WWOOF project in the works, as well as a Youtube channel and a re-vamping of what this blog is.  Shit’s about to get fancy.  We’re growing up, over here.  We’re trying to Do Right Things and be a bit more proactive and intentional about things.

Here’s some awesomes;

One of my best friend’s got married recently, and I got to see old faces, drink great wine, and act da fool trying to keep this spoon on my nose.

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And then play with sparklers.

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I smooched my sister (who’s definitely a teenager.  I know this because her current heartthrobs are none other than the Jackass boys.)

The girl

I got me a fancy shmancy iPhone 5.  (#instagramcrazyohmygoshthisisthebestIlovehashtags)

I now officially have my associate’s degree.

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This new buddy and I hang out at the farm I’m always telling you about, getting our hands dirty playing with worms.

Sully and the worms

Spaghetti-Swing Tuesdays are getting fancier as we go.

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We’re going back to Fossil Creek tomorrow.

And this book came in the mail.

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Settled?  No.  I’ve got the same wandering eyes and itchy feet as ever.  But these days we’re going to make something of it.  And see?  Life is really lovely, and its hard and confusing and weird, but look at how beautiful it all is!  Let’s do things!

Bear with me, ok?  I’m still growing.  Things have been weird, and things will probably continue to be weird, but in a better way.

via pinterest, because of course I pinterest.

Go tell your friends you love them, and get some dirt under your fingernails.

It does wonders for your soul.

New friends and dead friends

Or, why I’m not sleeping anymore and bought a car.

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It started a couple weeks ago when a brand sparkling new friend invited me to his going away party.  Actually, that’s just a point of reference, because I have absolutely no idea when or why or how or anything about it starting.  I just know that for his last week in Arizona, this poor guy was bombarded with my panic-stricken Getting-To-Know-Him.  I went all sorts of crazy, totally fascinated by this relative stranger so many of my friends already knew and loved, whom I felt I’d missed out on knowing.  I was also reading Kerouac and Novakov’s Lolita, which may have influenced me more than I realized.  Either way, I became obsessed with the nuances of this person’s character.  I wanted to know more, be in his presence more, somehow make up for the eight years he lived in Arizona and I didn’t know him.

This was the start of not sleeping, because I was going crazy reading Dharma Bums (Kerouac always makes me crazy) and because there just weren’t enough days in his last week; I had to use up the nights, too.   did things like swing dancing, waffle-housing, poker playing, football-game-watching, etc.  I eventually just had him over one night to talk into the wee hours of the morning.  Everything was exciting, new, and fun!  I was on pins and needles, on the edge of my seat for what would happen next.  Not just with him but with everyone and everything that week.  Everything was exclamatory and who eats food when you’ve got Kerouac and new friends?

He took off to another state on a Sunday, and I (having left his apartment around one-thirty, give or take) drove home weeping for lost friends.  I’m not exaggerating.  I was legit weeping.  I wept all day Sunday, too, even dragging my older brother into my sorrow.

I realized I was a wreck because this guy has all these close friends, has lived in the same apartment with the same roommates for five years, is totally invested in his friends, his life, his surroundings, and I’m just not.  I wrapped myself in self-pity, yearning for the same ancient circle of friends he had.  I told my brother I’ll never be a part of a close-knit community, because I’m so drawn to a transient, no-commitment, vulnerability-free existence.  He was great and just brewed me tea and let me cry.   Maybe I was just exhausted from lack of sleep and poor nutrition (woman cannot live on red wine and cliff bars alone), but the week after he left I was a mess.  They even let me leave work on Monday because I was so haggard and depressing.

Then I started reeling over the loss of Cheetah.  Maybe that’s why I felt so panicked and urgent to understand and know this new friend; I’d become stagnant in my friendship with Cheetah and lost the urgency to love her.  I took for granted that she was always there, that we’d regroup again sometime later and everything would be normal.  We’d fall about the place laughing at our lives and feel young forever.

One night in particular it felt like my skin was absolutely burning up from the loss of her touch, forever.  My oldest friend, the heart and soul and movement of my adolescence, is gone forever.  I started to panic; who will help me tell our stories?  They’re so funny, but how can I be expected to deliver the punch lines she always did?  The things I tell my friends and counselors now, she was in.  I didn’t have to tell her because she just saw it all.  Then I was angry, because she was never really there for me.  I remember when my pet  died and she’d been shipped, sans cell phone, up to Minnesota, a family’s desperate attempt to keep her from drugs and the bad man.  I remember clenching my fists in anger, because how dare she go and screw up so badly they had to hide her in another state, where she couldn’t mourn with me?  And I felt the same here and now; how dare she go and get herself murdered and leave me to grieve her all alone?

Plus, as mentioned, I’m reading goddamn Kerouac and every word is dripping with memories of my dead buddy.  Take this; “He was simply a youth tremendously excited with life, and though he was a con-man, he was only conning because he wanted so much to live and to get involved with people who would otherwise pay no attention to him. He was conning me and I knew it… and he knew I knew … but I didn’t care and we got along fine.”

Oh heart!

And really, how it feels to be all of the sudden without my heartbreaking friend?

I was suddenly left with nothing in my hands but a handful of crazy stars.”

So I clutched my stars and couldn’t sleep.

I realized (at my brothers’, and my fathers’, insistence) that I just needed to bite the bullet and do something crazy; call a friend and invite her over.  I gulped, called Ginny, and we hung out like normal one night.  And two days later I bought a car.

eat-more-kale

Now, this flies in the face of my travel goals, my simplicity idealisms, my tattoo aspirations, and my loathing for all things big and bulky and owned.  However, given my last couple weeks of mad elation and then depression, and the desire to have real friends who really love me and who I really love back, I decided I needed to be less of a burden to everyone and stop being such a transportation-less hermit all the time.  Its been three days since buying said vehicle and I’ve already taken myself swing dancing and to a job interview at a vegan restaurant.

I want to get behind my life, believe in what I do and who I spend my hours with.  I want to be able to sleep.Its funny, because I started this blog assuming and planning on starting a vagabond journey all over the globe for a number of years, before coming back to the states (maybe) exhausted with a heart full of people, places and things.  I even self-professed my lifestyle as transient.

Things have taken a turn, as they tend to do when we plan, and these days all I really want is to love and be loved by true, earnest friends.  I will travel (or not) later.  Right now I’m aching for connection.

Hence the car, and the potential job at the vegan place, and the soon-to-start-up volunteering at the farm downtown.

More on all this, and my baby brother, soon.  For now, blogosphere, I wanted you to know that its important to feel urgent for your friends, and to love them and your family fiercely.  Not just when they’re about to leave the state, but every day.  Don’t get jaded.  Do get vulnerable.

Anyway, I think I’m ok now, but the non-sleeping habit has been formed and its pretty annoying.

On another note, I baked a cake for a friend as ransom this week (he has my camera) but my roommates and I slowly ate the entirety of it in spoonfuls here and there.  Lolz all over.

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