The shoot that pierces the heart and grows

I don’t remember meeting you. I remember dropping papers in front of you and embarrassment at your kindness as you picked them up. I remember playing cards and walking in the woods. I remember you.

I remember us. I remember you telling me you liked me at 3 a.m. over text. I remember feeling so complete, a tightening in my heart and a smile grazing my face even though I was alone in the room.

It didn’t last long. I wasn’t mature enough, and to be fair, neither were you. I ended whatever we had 3 months in. I don’t like uncertainty. I remember giving you the letter, the nervous feeling that you would open it before I bolted. I didn’t want to write a letter. But I really didn’t have the time to talk. I was off being a person, learning and growing. But I never knew what you felt during the whole ordeal. After a brief time we settled back into the easy pattern of friendship we had before.

Years later I questioned that it had even happened. We’d remained quite good friends. And I still had feelings for you. But I never knew how you felt.

I’m more assertive now. “I’ve been curious, ” I start. My mind is calm and clear. “Are you aromantic?” I pause for the answer. “Yes.”

A strange calm fills me. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about moving forward and moving backwards. It’s never been clearer that the way to go is forward.

It’s not that I’m not hurt to know that he never liked me the way I liked him. A part of me mourns the years I’ve spent considering a possibility that was never a possibility. A part of me feels like a comfortable loving future has been ripped from me. He made me question if I felt love. He made me feel like I could. I pictured us discussing politics over the morning paper and watching movies under the light of the fireplace. I pictured a life where I wasn’t alone. My future now feels uncertain. I may be forever alone.

But another part of me is blossoming, shoots growing through my heart. A growth of clarity, of direction. I’m no longer bound by a future. His words watered my roots giving me room to grow. I’m limitless.

(From February 2017)

Under the microscope: my fear of failure

Under the microscope, the Scud organism looks somewhat calm. Still for the past 30 seconds of observation, curled up tight, it’s tail arching towards its head. Calm. Still. In a moment the Scud stirs and darts along the edge of the Petri dish, curling and uncurling frantically. A deep strain of familiarity settles beneath my bones, somewhere intercostal and limitless.

What does a debilitating fear of failure look like? 

Is it 7 p.m. when I’m pacing rapidly, hands flying, jerky movements, shaking, clawing? 

Or the moments in between, curled up as tightly as the Scud, lights off, sensory input rejected as I lie in a state of calm cold panic.

It’s an honors college paragraph this time: literary analysis, a prompt that has always served me well in affirmation. But I can’t focus. My mind is cluttered with ideas of maximizing my success. If I can’t write my best, what’s the point?

A ringing in my breastbone sends me out of my chair in a moment, feet guiding me towards the silence of the chapel where, if I’m quiet enough, I can pace, gesticulate, tear, and scratch to my heart’s content without bothering another soul. 

Not enough rings by and by, a fluttery weight in the veins of my arms. Blood feels heavy and slow to glide along the tips of my fingers. There is time for work yet, but my mind has forsaken it, clothed in uncertainty and self doubt. In picking up the sword of the written word, I have dropped it straightaway as if the sword in the stone, when pulled from the rock, held too much weight to jab and swing and dived back into the mud, a rejection of your call to authority. Instead I carve my words into the mud, knowing their effect is so easily washed away, while my enemy lays unslain, the danger of a low grade marching toward my horizon. 

What is a fear of failure? 

Is it fearing a lack of accountability to the standards of others, or are you your own prison guard, glaring at yourself through prison bars, pulling yourself up before you have the constitution to stand?