All tie-dye everything.

I just re-interviewed and was re-hired as the Ranch and Garden Coordinator at that summer camp I escaped to last year.  I AM SO EXCITED.

I almost wasn’t going to go back on account of how ridiculous everything got toward the end there, but along with all that weirdness came really beautiful moments and this letter from one of my boys;

camp-4

And as anyone who’s ever worked at a summer camp  knows (or in youth ministry, or with kids in any capacity really) there’s a kind of addictive allure to how incredibly crazy it all is.  The mental and physical exhaustion, the inability to hide anything from anyone, the affirmation from a dozen little kids thinking you’re the absolute coolest thing ever (even if they secretly think you’re also insane), etc.

I want to fast-forward the next three months (except for my Austin trip…don’t fast-forward me through that) and get back to the absurd camp-counselor lifestyle.

In lieu of this news, here’s my list of goals for camp this year.

1. Keep my room tidy.  (seriously, my bedroom was a fire hazard.)

2. Incorporate more garden-to-table cooking with my campers.

3. Make better friendship bracelets, i.e be a better friend. camp-7

4. Write a quick update/ keep you posted on ridiculous anecdotes every week.

5. Be awesome at harmonica by then and jam on that amazing dining hall porch.

6. Don’t get totally side-tracked by cute Israeli boys. camp-matan

7. Learn how to dive dive off the actual diving board.  (gulp)

8. Get up in front of all those campers during Fire Circle and lead a camp song (ohmyGOD gulp)

9. Uphold counselor traditions like the drive-less drive-in on the field, and starfish pins, etc. as well as begin a new one involving cooking and eating together without those pesky kids around.

camp-2

All tie-dye, everything.

camp-1

10. Spend time with my little California sister on the weekends.  (seriously, future Jess, LEAVE CAMP ON THE WEEKENDS.  FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, LEAVE CAMP ON THE WEEKENDS.)

(…9 and 10 seem incompatible, so sacrifices will have to be made in some areas.)

11. Get better at Finger-Jousting, Thumbs, Birdman, Darts, Ninja, Tonga, Elbows, Bones…all those campy games.

12. Most importantly, uphold the Weirdness of Ranch. camp-6

In all seriousness, I’m grateful to be wanted back at camp.  It feels validating to be asked to return, to have the camp director’s trust that I’ll do a good job and that I’m not too shabby of a person to be leading a bunch of kids.  I really do believe in all this gardening-as-healing stuff and hope to inspire compassion and a sense of camaraderie among my campers.

Also I want another letter to frame.

currently obsessed

I don’t know how to jump back into writing, so I’m just going to start with little snapshots of things I’m obsessed with lately.  It’s like a happy medium between writing and…not.

Currently obsessed with these new friends; currently-obsessed-friends

Currently obsessed with hanging around the farm; currently-obsessed-porch

with red nails, springtime and baby chicks; currently-obsessed-chick

Currently obsessed with this piece of art;

currently-obsessed-garden-girl (visit the whole gallery here)

and dancing; currently-obsessed-dancing (This was at my brother’s going away party.  Kid’s now in Chicago for school.  Its back to myself being the only one of my family still making a home out of Arizona.)

and inspiring artists who wail on the harmonica currently-obsessed-harmonica (brb trying)

(…and crying, because its so frustrating to be terrible at something you love.)

Currently obsessed with this song; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOIF5R78NnA     “…mercy me, oh god, oh ecstasy, oh yeah, right there…”

Currently obsessed with this food; yeast

and, always, green smoothies in recycled jars; currently-obsessed-smoothie

Currently unemployed, getting ready for SXSW next month, half-way through the Mindy Project, twenty-three years old and playing house the best I know how.  Happy New Year, friends.  Hope you’re rocking the universe.

 

drying out

Lately I’m reevaluating.  I’m trying to do the right thing.  I even squeeze my toothpaste from the bottom of the tube.cold

The end of the year is coming up, and two years ago I began doing Guillebeau’s year-end-review.  (Er, I did it two years ago and meant to last year, but things got weird.)

2013 has been an absolute clusterfuck of a year.  I’m not gonna write it a letter and I’m not going to pretend I’m cool with all the things that went on.  I do, however, want to pen this kind of open letter to my drinking buddies.

Not even my drinking buddies really, but my lifestyle this last little bit.

See, in the last month or so I’ve been doing this thing where I try to go out like normal with my friends, and mid-way through the night I get all claustrophobic and detached.  I start feeling hopeless, trapped, and isolated from my peers inches away from me.  This happens and I call a cab and go home.

This habit of “yeah lets go out!” and then “psyche! I’ma go home” is getting pricey and I’m sure all my friends are tired of my flakiness.  I want to explain.  It’s not you, drinking buddies, it’s me.

I’ve been half-assing two lifestyles for a while now, and it’s getting exhausting.  I’ve halfway done church and I’ve sort’ve done night life.  I’ve played with spirituality the way I’ve played with alcoholism.  I smoke cigarettes like I hear scripture; I don’t take it all in.  I don’t totally inhale every time.

I’m just tired and bored with it all lately.  I can’t handle the dissonance. I’m anxious and unhappy.

Last night at Lost Leaf I was with a friend of mine and two guys we’re buds with.  The boys were talking, doing their own thing, and my friend and I talked about how we’re over this lifestyle.  How its not healthy, how its opposed to who we want to be and what we want to do (she wants to go drive around the country, slack-line everywhere, etc. and I want to travel, invest in community, grow food, etc.).  She, like me, wants something other, and we admitted that first we want to wallow.  We just looked at each other, knowing the way we were doing things was self-destructive and not worth it.

~

I wish I could articulate what it’s like to want self-destruction.  I don’t know if it’s because we want to be rescued, or if it’s just because we don’t like ourselves, or we’re scared of moving forward.  It’s probably all of the above.  We hate the way we’re living but change is terrifying.  We know it’ll be worth it to get better, but do we even want to get better?  We’ll lose friends if we get better.

~

I don’t read the bible anymore, but I remember hearing a pastor talk about that time Jesus sees the man at the well who’d been ill his entire life.  Jesus sees this guy lying there and asks him, “Do you want to get well?”  Which seems like a dick question at first because no shit, Jesus, of course sick people want to get better.  The pastor though, emphasized that the man had been ill forever, had gotten used to it and probably wasn’t expecting much else.  And isn’t that so how you and I live sometimes?  We’re just used to being unwell, of being less than what we could be, and when presented with the opportunity to get well we’re like deer in the headlights.  “Wait…now?  You want me to get well now?  Can I sleep on it?”

That always stuck with me and I think about it whenever friends talk about hating their lifestyles and wanting to be mentally “healthy” again.  Do you really want that?  Do you really want to get well?

For me the hardest part of “getting healthy” is that I never want anyone to think I’m rejecting them. I would hate to seem exclusive.  I’m no better than anyone; I don’t deserve better.  And it’s not even necessarily “better” that I want; it’s just something different.  I can see their scoffing at this, as if I’m a sell-out.  As if I chickened out of this vampire lifestyle.

I guess I am chickening out.  Maybe I was bluffing the whole time.

I’m just so uncomfortable in my own skin.  Half-assing two lifestyles means you’re not in any group.  You don’t belong with any sub-culture and you’re just watching them, lonely.  I keep calling Lyft and leaving my drink with a friend after looking around me and realizing I don’t want this anymore.

You don’t understand, do you, that this is actually very hard for me. It’s actually heart-wrenching, because I’ve had some good times.  There has been camaraderie and support and affection.  I’ve learned some great things and loved some lovely people.  And checking out of this lifestyle really just feels like losing a friend.

I don’t handle loss well.

But I just can’t keep doing this.  It isn’t what I really want.  I don’t want the grime anymore.  There was a time I did, but I’m over it.  I can’t keep seeking their jaded approval; I can’t keep trying to show that I’m not that reprehensible clean middle class.

I wanna be ok in my skin again.  I wanna have friends who love me.  I can’t live up to my own reputation anymore.  I can’t be funny or pretty or fucked up or whatever I was trying to be before.  There is nothing romantic about living a life you’ve gotta settle for.  I don’t want to hook up with that hot guy over there; I want to be in love.  I don’t want to buy another pack of cigarettes; I want to buy a plane ticket to Peru.  I don’t want to be sad anymore.sunflower-at-hope-house

I’m so over 2013.

Why I’m glad my sister’s on Tumblr

I’m so glad my little sister is on Tumblr.

That sentence reads sarcastically, but it’s not meant to.  I’m totally genuine here.

The girl had been telling me to get on Tumblr and create a “blog” for about a year, and I resisted.  I wasn’t into it because A. that is not a blog, kiddo. B. because I waste my time all the time with other things.  I finally relented because if you’re not going to compromise for your family, who are you going to compromise for??  <insert Breaking Bad gif>

Anyway, I got on Tumblr and followed my little sister, and immediately renounced the whole thing as “the worst ever”, a waste of time and totally dumb.  She was offended at my insistence that her virtual friends were not her friends, and that all this tumblr  stuff was inferior to real life.   She whatever-ed me and carried on, and I checked in on her “blog” every couple of days.

Here’s the thing, my sister and I are totally different people.  When I was a kid my hair was straight and blonde.  Hers was curly and brunette.  When she was thirteen she was collecting Schleich pieces.  When I was fourteen I was lying about my age to a nineteen-year-old cowboy at the ranch next door.

I am a fairly morose bastard, but my baby sister takes introversion to another level.  Maybe the seven years I’ve got on her just had me in a different culture, and allowed me to express myself a little louder than she was able to.  (Our upbringing is a bit skewed in my favor, in that I had all my siblings and both parents at home, and she’s been toted around without her brothers and I since our parents split up.  The ground’s always been shifting under her.)

She’s a trip to get to know as she gets older, as she’s the most perceptive person I’ve ever met.  Nothing gets passed her.

She’s also one of the most non-judgmental, understanding people I’ve ever met, at least when it comes to her inner circle.  (I’m in that inner circle.)  I remember once crawling into bed beside her after a, erm,  pg 13 evening with a boy, and her wrapping her little arms around me.  She smiled at my alcohol breath when I whispered, “I’m sorry I’m not a good role model right now,” and then she said, “that’s ok.  You’re young.”

She’s quietly watched my family unravel.  She was playing with her toys in the corner while our mother raged at our father, while our father became a shell of the hero he’d been.  She’s watched my little brother abuse drugs, watched our older brother go haywire and hitch-hike around the country, saw me get all skeletal in high school.  She’s curled up beside me and my alcohol breath when she’s come to visit me.

Most importantly, she has her own demons.shine-on<circa 2007, AKA shittiest year of life.

These days the fifteen-year-old attends a performing arts school in downtown Los Angeles and she’s got this little Tumblr blog going.  The more I started watching what she’s reblogged, the more insight I get into the things she cares about.

You know what she’s into?  The underdog.  She loves the misunderstood, the mis-represented.  Between the fandoms and memes my baby sister reblogs suicide prevention posts.  She advocates for equal marriage rights and against rape culture.  In the virtual world, my baby sister can be vulnerable about her loneliness and her social anxiety.  She can speak up for those who’ve been shut up, and people can speak up for her when she’s too nervous to defend herself.  She’s got allies in her followers and a sense of camaraderie with those who share the same Sherlock fantasies.   Those friends are real friends.

I write a lot about seeking community, and I’m learning that everyone is grasping for it in different places and in different ways.  I shamble into Lost Leaf and she turns on her computer.  We’ve got imperfect ways of finding these communities, sure, but we’re finding them.

I admire that girl/woman for her resilience.  Kid’s been through some shit.   I’m more than proud of her; I’m learning from her.  She’s naturally compassionate and I’m naturally an asshole.

You’ll never see my sister mock someone for their beliefs, for their sadness, for their lifestyle.  She wants people to love and be loved and derive humor from our shared experience of being human.   She’s a badass.silhouette

So yeah girl.  Express yourself.  Reblog the shit out of every Supernatural gif.  Flip the bird at body-shaming, slut-shaming, gender roles and being cool.  Promote marriage equality, hilarious ANYTHING, Disney weirdness and suicide prevention.  I love seeing what you’re into.  I love learning about your heart through what you post.  You’re so friggin’ cool.

Definitely the best of all four of us.

(*brb getting emotional in a coffee shop)

Let’s talk about shame, baby.

I’ve been thinking a lot about shame.  More specifically, I’ve been thinking about why certain people feel shame about things that other people don’t think twice about.

Shame and guilt are different psychological phenomena, by the way.  They can arise at the same time, but they’re not the same.  Guilt is more of an awareness of having done wrong, while shame is more of an externally driven awareness of how we look to others, as well as how we seem to ourselves.  Like, I want to impress my vegan friends, so I feel shame when I eat free cookies at work.  I also feel guilt because I know all the facts about milk and egg factories and it is completely atrocious.

What I want to talk about today is why we feel shame and guilt.  I want this, actually, to be more of an open thread than anything.  Why do some of us feel shame about eating, but not sexual escapades?  And vice versa.  Why are some of us convicted about our spending habits but not drug and alcohol abuse?  (Cigarettes and coffee count as drugs, mmkay?)  It’s an interesting topic, for sure, and I’m just wrestling with the annoying ways my convictions fall short of who I actually want to be,  Like, yeah its all good and dandy I feel convicted about wasting time online, but why don’t I feel convicted about being an asshole sometimes?  I’ve always heard you can tell a person’s beliefs from their lifestyle, but I believe so many things.  And apparently what I believe in most in indulgence.  I’m frustrated at myself for holding convictions, up until I’m presented with an opportunity not to.

Some shame is founded and some (most) is not.  So what do you, reader, feel shame about, and why?  And also do you feel like your shame is founded, or is it irrational?  Please comment! Let’s dialogue this beezy.

Happy Tuesday, friends.

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.

Things I’m not ashamed of.

An interesting thing happened last week.  So interesting I’ve basically told all the people closest to me, and I’m going to tell you now.

Here it is.  Ready?

A nice boy asked me out.

Whhhhaaaaatt???!?11?!

Jokes aside, this sort of thing doesn’t happen to me often (i.e. ever).   I’m not the “nice boy” type.  (I told my brother this once, a sort’ve smirking, “Christian boys don’t like me”, and he said, “Jess, you don’t want them to like you.”)

Anyway, this friend of a friend recognized me at work, asked where I’d been (not at church, Nice Boy…) and then added me on Facebook.  I was like “HOW DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM” but I also was super giddy.

He asked me to drinks this past Friday night, and leading up to it I had this weird experience where I kept thinking of all the things I want to defend about myself and then realizing I’m not actually sorry for them.  I just wanted to clean up a little, make myself and my lifestyle more presentable, and then evoke someone’s curiosity.  Here I am though, this totally messy person with incomplete ideals and questionable coping methods.

I was reading the label of a Nawgan bottle the other day and became totally infuriated by its claim that they “ditched the calories” so you can drink it without guilt.   Excuse me, Nawgan, but are you implying that we ought to feel guilt when we do consume calories?  What?  I wanted to die as a teenager when I ate more than six hundred calories a day, and its been too long and difficult of a road healing from all that for me to ever support a business that embraces this food/guilt association.  I threw the bottle away, brewed coffee instead, and realized that no, I do not feel shame when I eat.  I started thinking of all the other things I wanted to defend besides my body, and realized they don’t need my defense either.

That I never had braces I’m not going to apologize for, because it never needs a defense.

And for the things in my life that do require a defense, I’m simply not qualified to give it.

I’m not unapologetic because I don’t care.  Quite the contrary.  Its not that I’m excusing it all. I just know I’m not even capable of pardoning my behavior, my broken heart, or anything.

When Christians talk about resting in the idea that God’s already taken the weight of a person’s sin upon Himself, I don’t imagine it as the kind of rest you skip into.  Its more like when you’re exhausted from working all day, having gone out drinking the night before, and you come home to your tiny studio apartment and the only thing your blurry eyes can make out is your bed.  Its the kind of rest where you’re so tired you don’t even wipe off your mascara, or take off your bra; you just collapse into bed and pull the covers over your ears. Its the only option you’ve got; you’d fall asleep at the bar if you went out again.

That sleep, that empty-handed, totally desperate sleep, is more along the lines of what resting in God’s hands feels like.

I just know I can’t defend it; its not in my hands to defend what needs defending.  And what doesn’t need defending, I’m not going to bother with anymore.

eatmorekale <Not sorry about being vegan.

train-wreck <Not ashamed of being a train wreck.

desolation-aint-so-bad <Not ashamed of resonating with Jack Kerouac.

japhy-and-toes< Not ashamed of loving a rat, or of my broken toe nail.  (Flip flopped feet don’t belong in the horse arena, kids.)

Grace is a good thing.  Our God is a good one.  This life is drawing us closer to Him, by whatever nerve-wracking and heart-wrenching means necessary.

P.S. the date went well.

So. Damn. Local.

I hadn’t realized what living locally and seasonally would mean until tonight.  I’ve always seen those bumper stickers or signs that say “live local, shop local” and the like, and have always found that a nice sentiment.  Yeah, live off what’s near you.  Carbon footprints and all that jazz.

When sentiment becomes necessity, however, its an entirely different game.

Let’s take my life in downtown Phoenix.  I bike to work, to the farm, to the Duce, to the market, etc.  I could take a bus somewhere but Phoenix is a total newb when it comes to public transport.  Things are not awesome on busses.  I have a sweet bicycle though and it gets me everywhere I need to go.

Except not really.  The nearest Safeway is three miles away, and have you ever carried your week’s worth of groceries on a road bike for three miles?  Its not impossible, but its a pain.

This is fine though; I get half off at my restaurant.  (I keep wanting to leave the serving industry…but my god, how will I eat food?!?)  The problem is my work doesn’t offer kale smoothies, and I am secretly a diva in rags who needs her kale.

Actually, this all brings to reality an interesting form of class-ism.  My friend’s Facebook status today mentioned this actual quote from an actual food blog; “If eating healthy is important to you, it’s simple – you’ll just make it a priority”.

Excuse me?  My friend, and the rest of us, were more than a little peeved.  Whoever this ignoramus is obviously has never lived in a food desert like downtown Phoenix, worked some unglamorous minimal wage gig, whilst supporting family and maybe friends. Tell a downtown Phoenix mother she ought to feed her kids more organic veggies and you deserve the raised eyebrows and pursed lips you’ll receive in response.  The problem isn’t a lack of knowledge, the problem is a lack of accessibility.  And why buy a head of lettuce for a dollar when you can buy a more filling, and ready to eat burger for less?  We could change this too, if the US stopped subsidizing the hormone-injected meat industry and turned their wallets toward the vegetable farmers.  (God I should be president. Obvs.)

-end rant-

(…for the time being…)

Today I deposited my second paycheck from this new job, noted I could officially pay my bills for the month, and booked it for the nearby market.  All the local! All the organic! All the seasonal!

Here’s where the implications of eating locally hit.  This tiny market had a ridiculous plethora of kale, but no celery.  All out of spinach, too.  And no chard?  Frick.

Two separate kales in hand, I headed home, determined to still be my greeny old self and make this all work.  I’d bought (for $15) kale, more kale, four apples, three lemons, two broccoli florets, an onion, a carrot and a zucchini.  I came home and made a green smoothie, then butter-knife sliced my veggies and sauteed them in olive oil.

local3local2locallocalfridge

I texted a friend to let her know what a badass I am.

“I’m so freaking local and organic.  Also I cut this meal with a butter knife.”

I really was gleaming a bit.  I think its going to be a challenge to live within my means, especially my location boundaries.  I don’t have a cuisine art set to slice and dice my food, so I’m going to have to get creative.  (I may or may not have bitten little pieces of apple to toss into my smoothie…because what else are these fangs for?)  I am going to learn whats really in season, based on what my local growers bring to this market. More than anything this is exciting.

One tongue-in-cheek funny about the food desert that is Downtown Phoenix (and cities like it), to end this: What the hell am I supposed to feed my rat, Japhy?  There isn’t a pet store anywhere near me.  You wanna know what this punk’s been eating?

Organic, locally grown broccoli, organic quinoa, and house-made trail mix from my work.

organicjaphy

Sometimes things are ridiculous.

Love it or Leave it.

It’s been exactly one month since my last post.  I apologize for that.  I’m going to get on a disciplined writing schedule (tomorrow…or next week) and actually post things of value.  Right now though, let me tell you about this season.

I’ve moved into a studio apartment in downtown Phoenix, I’ve got a new job, I’m writing for CST again, there’s cool stuff happening at Hope House Farms.  I haven’t danced at the Duce yet, but that’ll come.

I’ve been in this apartment for sixteen days.  I have a new baby pet rat named Japhy and I signed this lease all on my own.

japhy

You know how I like fresh starts.  I like this one especially.

I showed up at the farm last Saturday and Johnny grinned.  “You finally made it downtown.  Welcome to the neighborhood.”

Downtown Phoenix has a crooked smile and dirt under its fingernails.  You can see its rib cage and it needs a haircut.

But its slitted eyes are bright with hope.  Phoenix plays guitar and paints murals and eats locally grown produce.  It speaks Spanish.

 Phoenix seems to hold up its arms with a smirk.  Yeah, we’ve got a messy past, and yeah, it gets real hot.  What of it?  Love me or leave me.

A lot of us love it.

I love this little tongue-in-cheek city for its inhabitants and their gritty camaraderie.  I love that it’s not as frat-y as Tempe feels, not as phony as Scottsdale or as ‘merican as Cave Creek.  I like our murals, are locally brewed coffee, our defiant little patio gardens.  I like that we’re a city built on a grid, and then comes Grand Avenue slicing through the whole thing because fuck you, that’s why.   There’s a little desolation, and there’s a little hope.  The place buzzes with potential energy.  I like the sirens, the grime, the farmers markets everywhere, the food trucks, the Spanish music from across the street, the bold colors against the dilapidated brick and pavement.  There are palm trees everywhere, which seems like a joke.  It’s an island paradise, get it guys?  Get it?

I’ve wanted to live downtown since my friend Meg brought me to Nami to recover from my 21st birthday initiation.  I felt the energy, nodded acknowledgement at strangers, and fell under this place’s spell.

Arizona is the kind of desert that gets under your skin and seeps into your bones.  Arizona has an attitude; we don’t care about daylight savings time, we’re super arrogant about our sunsets (they are the best ever in all the world) and we walk around with weapons just ‘cuz.  This is the wild west, kiddo, and downtown puts a twist on this state of mind with a more progressive lifestyle.

It’s just a little city and there are others with more to offer, I’m sure.  But this is my city.  This is my home and my desert, and I love it, so I’m not leaving it.  I just got here, anyway.

aint-life-grand2

Scars to kiss.

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

jess16

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.