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.)

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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.

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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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Health benefits of coffee

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I’m on a new health kick.  I get these, goddamnit-I’m-restarting-my-life-tomorrow epiphanies some nights, usually after a binge-like indulgence, (“pumpkin spice late cupcakes anyone?!?”) and decide that’s it, that’s the last time and tomorrow I will be perfect and eat my weight in kale and have a hot body for the rest of my life.

And then I gaze at my french press and I grieve, because all those hoyty toyty health nuts wag their fingers at me and tell me to nix the caffeine.  They tell me all my energy and pooping should come naturally, by the power of the sun god, positive earth vibes and kale, or something.

I’ve given up coffee off and on for the past six years and you know what?  My re-begun life tomorrow involves java.  I have bigger fish to fry than my soft-core caffeine addiction.  Plus, there are some schools of thought that tote coffee as a health elixir (ish) and I’m choosing to side with them.  They’re probably more fun anyway.

In case you were curious, here’s my favorite health benefits of coffee;

1. It may protect against Parkinson’s, liver cancer and Type 2 diabetes.

(These actually aren’t my favorite benefits, they’re just the most serious.  In reality they’re a bit abstract, as I’m this normal, healthy, 21-year old.)

2. It may lower your risk of depression, if you’re a woman.  And if you’re me.  Kid you not, the day I went back to drinking coffee I was struck by periodic urges to dance around my house and found Kira’s weird behavior hilarious, as opposed to mildly annoying.  Coffee, friends, coffee makes you happy. 100_1180

3. This drink boosts brainpower.  Dear college students, stop freaking out about “needing” a cup of coffee before working on homework or during an exam.  If you’re me, that cup of coffee calms you down a bit and happens to sharpen your memory and keep you alert.  Shots shots shots!!!

4. Coffee shops are great places to meet up and chat.  I just met up and chatted with someone at a coffee shop last weekend, actually.  We’ve talked about this; forming close, personal and authentic relationships with people is one of the healthiest things a person can be intentional about.  Life is hard, remember, and we need each other. Loneliness is actually the worst; it can shorten your life by weakening your immune system and making you less motivated to seek help when you’re feeling ill.  Depression and hopelessness are side affects of being lonely, which is a byproduct of not putting yourself out there and into deeper friendships.  So quit being wussy and love people, and be loved by them.

coffeeNot quite a health benefit, but you can put french vanilla and caramel flavors in your coffee!!!! Until it becomes a french vanilla drink with a splash of coffee.  Like Cheetah used to do.  Crazy kid.

5. It makes you poop! Who doesn’t love pooping?!?

6. When you wake up and smell coffee, it reminds you of your childhood, of growing up with an early-rising, coffee-loving daddy who thought you were amazing, and who’s love you were never insecure about or shy around.  This smell reminds you of being small, of being beautiful, of a life’s potential and, mostly, of peace.

shoulders

7. And finally, dude, if it makes you stressed and self-critical to try and quit drinking coffee, lighten up and stop trying to quit.  Stress is worse than the potential high blood pressure and jittery nerves.   It makes you stupid happy to drink coffee, so stop worrying about it.  We’ve got other things to worry about.

Feel free to add more in the comments!  I’ll probably post-edit later.

Go camping.

Sometimes, you’ve just got to get out.  You’ve got to grab your best girls and re-discover your Australia backpack (it was in the closet, under the unneeded Tupperware and winter clothes) and toss it and your dog into the car.  Go north, young women.

There is some craziness afoot, some family dramas and some instability with regards to next August, (Peru?!? WWOOF America?!? University?) and some times, and you know this, you’ve just got to say screw it and go camping.

We eventually wound up at Lake Mary in Flagstaff and spent our time vacillating between supreme goofiness and contented quiet.  We three are introverts (the fourth had to go home early for work) and perfectly happy spending our hours together, but in our own heads.  Wine was shared, confessions spilled, and fires made.

It served to remind me how important friends are, how beautiful it is to be spiritually and emotionally bound to others.  There’s that line in a Rich Mullins song “there’s a love that is fiercer than the love between friends”.  It is regarding Christ and the wild, passionate way He keeps us, but I love it for the unchallenged assessment that the love between friends is a fierce love.  Leaving one’s family is a weird break; you love them and they’re the best love you know, but you can’t be with them anymore.  You can’t live in the same roof and you don’t necessarily want their lifestyle.  You ache with longing for your little sister but are wary of “regressing” to live under the same roof as she.  Its almost the same kind of survivor’s guilt I feel over my friend Cheetah; its not fair that I, who was just as much of a potential train wreck as she, got out alive and she spiraled out of control.  Its not fair that I escaped to Arizona and have my brothers while my baby sister absorbs the turmoil of home-life alone.

Survivor’s guilt and helplessness.  It makes me physically ill.  And makes me need my friends.

I didn’t mean to digress into family stuff.  I only meant to tell you that you’ve gotta have friends, you’ve gotta go camping, and you’ve gotta love them intentionally.  Life is really hard.  We need each other.  We need to be reminded of our humanity, of our shared human experience.  We’re not going through all this alone.  And we need to step back sometimes and get away from the daily grind; it is good to take sabbaticals, of sorts, to rest and reevaluate.

I know you’re reading this.  Pretend I’m talking to you.  So go camping and reevaluate some things.

 

The myth of missing out

Last night a boy I really like asked me out.  In fact, I’ve liked this particular boy for a couple years, off and on and basically whenever we were in the same room.  I’ll spare you all the gushy details and get to the important part, but know that I was one happy little camper last night meandering around Tempe.

And then…it happened.

IT.

I was lying in bed (after more gushing with my roommates) and started seeing my independence, my wildness and freedom, slip-sliding away.  I started seeing faces of every boy ever and panicking; oh my god, I am off the market!  I can’t fantasize! I can’t even wonder!  Don’t fence me in!!!!!!!

Missing out.  I think, thanks to instagram, travel blogs, pinterest, and every other social media out there, my generation has a serious problem with feeling like we’re missing out.  By “my generation”, I mean “myself”.  I am terrified of missing something, something better than what I’ve got, so I keep my options open.  I don’t know what I want to do as a career, so I change majors every few minutes and do mediocre in school.  I don’t know where I want to be in six months, so I’m wary of signing leases.  (Until this last one, which I was thrilled about.)   I especially don’t want to miss out on McDreamy, so I ward off any advances and stay blissfully single.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being single.  I love being completely selfish with my time and energy and not having to answer to anyone.  And I like flirting.

After Australia though (where I missed out on my God son’s first birthday, his parent’s vow renewal, my friends’ lives rolling forward) I’ve lightened up considerably and am learning to be content with whatever I’m doing, whatever I’ve got, and wherever I am.

Here’s my advice to you, fellow commitaphobes;

Note the good around you.  Take stock of what’s awesome about your current situation. Is your house in a cool area?  Is there a pretty tree outside the gate?  Is your dog healthy?  Do your roommates consistently crack you up and encourage you?  Ok cool.  Stop dreaming about moving to Portland, India, or downtown Phoenix and just like the place you’re living at.

Appreciate what it took to get there.  Have you spent three very tiring years not signing leases?  Doesn’t that make it all the more restful to have signed a lease?  Have you been single for two years and, while you’re fine with it, look forward to sharing life a bit more intentionally with someone?  Doesn’t that make a dating relationship all the more exciting and freeing?  Haven’t you “been there, done that” with the single thing?   Think about all those life choices you’ve made, the good and the bad, to get you to where you are, and appreciate them.  Remember its about the journey, not the destination.

Realize you’re not missing out.  This one’s tricky, because sure you potentially could be missing out on a great house, a great boyfriend/girlfriend, a better job.  But you also probably aren’t.  The people I’m most drawn to are the ones who are sold out for their own lives, the ones who do their thing and are satisfied with it.  Realize the only thing you’re missing out on is being content and enjoying the present.  If we all thought we were missing out, we’d all be stagnate, too anxious to make a move or decide on anything.  The what-ifs will kill you, so let them go.

Stop stressin’ about the future.  The future is coming anyway, and you’re not going to notice its arrival; its going to feel just like the present.  With this track record, what makes you think you’ll be any happier or any more likely to commit to things once you’re “there”?  Lighten up and enjoy the ride.  Even if you move, even if your dog dies, even if you break up and you’re torn up about it, its not going to be all that detrimental to things in the long-run.  Also, you could die in a car accident next week and what then, huh, huh?

Anyway, if you have more advice on getting over this irrational fear of missing out, comment your little hearts out.  Also, lets toast to my formerself-preservative singleness.  We had a good run.  Now we’re moving on.

In other fun news, we met the Lumineers the other night and scored three free tickets to their show (two via raffle, one because the band just couldn’t stand to see one of us not get in.) 

And I went hiking with good friends and caught a snake.

   Boom.  Felt like a kid again.

mad to live

I don’t know how to write this story. I’ve tried several times, and the words are all wrong.  This doesn’t translate.

I’m just going to tell you the story, ok? It ends very sadly.  She dies at the end.

When I was in eighth grade I made a friend, or rather, a friendship made me.  My friend was Leah Tschida, Cheetah to all of us.  She was wild.  Have you ever read On the Road? Cheetah was the Dean Moriarty in my life, a youth tremendously excited by life.  In seventh grade we’d been wary of each other, she with her cropped hair cut, guitar and her soccer team.  I don’t even know how it started but eventually the two of us realized the other was the greatest ever, and we were inseparable.  We fueled each other, egging each other on to be absolutely absurd.  I think we fascinated the other.  We were tremendously interested in the other’s quirks, and we completed each other like a soppy love story.  (It is a love story.)  I was the head and she was the feet, both propelling the other to new ideas and distances.  You know how it is in eighth grade; its that teen hood hyper-awareness, the boiling potential energy, your skin crawling with all this frenzied yearning.

The two of us found in the other a soul mate, and the rest of the world slid into the foreground, scratching its head and occasionally trying to keep up.  We had other friends, some who sat at our lunch table and had pledged to abide by our Ten Commandments, and they orbited our world.  My world was Cheetah and her world was me.

Our teachers adored us, even while they couldn’t keep us in line.  After math class we had lunch, and Cheetah and I would buy our slice of pizza and run (we were always running) back to Mr. Sager’s class to pester him and torture his following class of seventh graders.  More than a few times we’d dash across the hall into Mrs. Daugherty’s class, snatch her soda off her desk and book it outside again, dying of laughter.   She eventually caught on and used to screech “block that door!!” to the hapless student nearest it.  But she loved it.  She loved us.

We were in love with Steven Tyler, the idea of road trips (“one day when we can drive!!”) and we couldn’t have cared less what other students thought of us.

When she slept over, she would elbow me in the ribs to keep me from falling asleep, because she had so damn much to say.  I stopped going to high school (was too busy doing things like riding horses every day) and she used to take the bus to my house to go swimming and play music.  She was so fun.

We took a hit when I was deemed a “bad influence” and our friendship was banned.  But that’s what it was, a hit.  We took that punch and came back swinging, enraged by the injustice of it all.  We rallied the orbiting friends and taught them to lie.  “Eh, Cheetah’s at my house all weekend.  Yes, me, Tayleranne.  Not Jess…”

I drafted letter after letter to her mother, some begging, some furious, because I was not a bad influence.  In fact, when Dad and I would sit around with coffee or wine and talk about it all, when we analyzed Cheetah’s act-now, think later (if ever) ways, we knew she was going to self-destruct.  We knew she had to be around us. I was the thinker, she was the actor, and we balanced each other out.

All my best stories involve Cheetah.  Remember spilling the milk shake all over the floor in Rubios and running like crazy out of there?  Remember sneaking into Mr. Sager’s classroom pantry when he was on lunch and jumping out mid-class and scaring the shit out of him?  Remember when we went skinny-dipping at night and that drowning lizard scared us so bad we ran, naked and shrieking, all the way upstairs to my room?  Remember when we were hiking that night and a monsoon storm hit, and we ran (good god, we were seriously always running!) down the mountain, legs flailing, hearts pounding, laughter echoing because we were invincible?  Remember the Mexico mission trip, running from the rooftops of the connected orphanage buildings, playing “spider man”?  Remember how people sometimes mocked us, sometimes wanted to be included in us, but how no one could deny us?

Still somehow, because somehow it always does, things started to unravel.  My family spiraled out of control, but I could control what I ate, and I lost twenty pounds.  Cheetah had all this energy and no place to go, and she almost died of alcohol poisoning.  Our balance was off; I disappeared into my head, and she acted out.  We would regroup after some months, skinnier and hung-over, and we would pick up right where we left off, desperate for each other and helpless without our drivers’ licenses.  We became jaded, self-destructing without each other in our own special ways.  She drove me crazy with her bad choices.  My troubled friend grasping for affection and acceptance everywhere she turned.  I drove her crazy with my depression and hopelessness.  But man, when the two of us were together, it was like none of that outside stuff, that orbiting stuff, was real.  We were troubled, sure, but together we did just fine.  We used to sit on my roof and plan our future family’s, our road trips, our dream jobs.  Or we’d talk about the people in our lives and rage against our mothers.  We were going to save each other.

I don’t know how to write this story.

When she first told me about him, I was compassionate and tried to be understanding.  Daddy issues or something, and yeah, he was the same age as our middle-school heartthrob Steven Tyler…but it was different when it was real life, wasn’t it?  But I was just sixteen; I didn’t know how to stop her.  No one did.  She was crazy about this man, and I was consumed with my broken family and my helplessness.  I was an anorexic high school dropout; I was too depressed to save her.

When her family found out about him, he was arrested and she was shipped off to her father in Minnesota for six months.  I’d heard it through the grapevine.  I grieved.

When she came home, we were each of us harder, but we fell seamlessly back in love with each other.

And then out.

Its that simple, really; friends fall apart sometimes.  People grow up.  She kept breaking my heart, and I grieved for our lost innocence.  Soon I was eighteen and had new friends, and my family fell apart and retreated with its broken tail between its legs back to California.  I flipped them and my sadness the bird and stayed in Arizona, with my new life.  Every few months Cheetah and I would regroup and it was wonderful, childlike love.  Who needs the world when you’ve got your best friend?  We’d spend weeks inseparable again, as if we hadn’t changed.  She kept bringing calamity down upon herself though, and I was so frustrated.  Why couldn’t she get it together?  She kept breaking my heart.  Every time we fell into our closer than skin friendship, my vulnerable heart was broken.  Dare to love this crazy kid and it would be the best of your life, but it was also the riskiest thing you could do, because she lived too fast and was going to hurt herself, and you, in the process.

So we’d lose touch.

And so on, and so forth.  I went to lunch with her before leaving for Australia.  She had a tattoo and was in a wheel chair.  She’d gotten back together with him, and since losing his wife and family (women don’t like it when their husbands of thirty years start screwing around with teenagers) he’d become a violent alcoholic.  He’d crashed her car, shattering her legs, ribs and collar bone.  It was miraculous she lived.

It was too much to handle.  I couldn’t bear her burdens along with mine anymore.  I went to Australia.  She messaged me while I was over there and I was too busy to respond.

We went out for her 21st in June.  This past June.  She was in a cast, so needed frequent breaks in between dancing with me.  She overwhelmed me; this was my past mixing with my present, my post-Australia present, at that, and I couldn’t handle the helplessness. I was tired, I guess, of her neediness.  I was tired of watching her self-destruct and being afraid for her safety.  I was an adult now.  I’d put childish things behind me.

And I couldn’t fight her demons anymore.  I was tired.

I was at work last Wednesday night when her mother texted me that she had terrible news, and I knew.  Except I didn’t know how.  I begged her to tell me Cheetah was alright, and was apologized to; she’d gotten back together with him, and he had taken her life.

Apparently he realized at least a fraction of what he’d done, because he then slit his wrists, wrote a partially illegible suicide note, and cut open his throat.

I’m not sorry to be graphic; my friend’s death was graphic.

I remember asking for a fifteen minute break and winding up helpless, defeated, wailing and clutching my bones on the concrete outside.

That’s the best word for it, really, is defeat.  My adolescent hopes and naivety have been defeated.  My illusion that the two of us were going to wind up ok, with or without the other, is defeated.

The other words that come to mind are survivor’s guilt.  Don’t you dare parrot that cliché about it not being my fault, that I couldn’t have saved her, etc.  I am not an idiot.  I know that.  I also know that I could have called her, I could have taken another hit for her.   I became so hard toward her.  My heart had been either elated because of her or broken for years, and I just became hard.

Last night was the worst it’s been, because I finally sat down to write about her.  I was meaning to tell you how ever since Friday, when I emailed our old friends and told them the news, I’d been fine.  I was in control and I was at peace and I wasn’t about to start questioning why I wasn’t a wreck.  I met with her  mother and step-father, I told her father I was sorry for his loss, I went about my normal life.  I’d already grieved for her years ago, right?  I was numb, maybe, or in shock, or preoccupied…because last night, trying to tell you about her, I became undone.  I slowly unraveled and friends, I am broken.

I can see her, I can feel her, and I remember everything.   I am defeated.

People I don’t know have been messaging me on facebook, because they’ve heard about me and because they want to reassure me that she loved me, spoke highly of me, and that it’s not my fault.  It’s like everyone knows.  Her father told me he was sorry for my loss.

My loss is youth.  My loss is innocence.  My loss is a friendship unequaled by any previous and any since.  My loss is confidence, and my confidant.  Last night I read my old journals for just a hint of Cheetah’s life spark.  She was too much to be gone.  I went on MySpace (remember MySpace??) and found pictures of the two of us, plus some blog posts I’d written about her.  Friends, I was crazy about her.  And I am so, so sorry.

My dad says it is apt that I bear this sorrow, because it means that our love was a real love and because the two of us were special and everyone knew it.  Everyone knew they were players in our game back then.  Everyone knew that we were the world and they were our moons.  My week of shock, numbness, and survival mode has dissipated.  The calm is over.  If my heart was broken for her before, now it is burning.

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If life is a book of anecdotes, I don’t know how to write this story.