Dollhouse

I am in the business of erasure. Folding, smoothing, and sizing to make the store look as perfect as possible, like the Dollhouse of someone who’s long since given up playing with toys. It’s my job to make everything pristine and untouched, to disillusion you into thinking nothing has been handled or tried on by another human being. It’s my job to erase your presence from the store, to make it seem like you never came. 

For the most part, I do it happily. Restocking and arranging makes me feel like I am contributing. I like to smooth everything over, make it appear neat and new, stately and orderly. But as I rearrange the hangers so they are equally spaced, I look over to a customer who is still shopping. Her hands roam over the shirts she is looking at, and a sudden shiver runs through me somewhere beyond my physical form. Is it her work that I’m fixing? We all leave an impact on the world.  I look back down at the rack and straighten a shirt. I am in the business of erasure.

But I don’t like to be erased.

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New Phone

I have to do a factory reset of my phone which means there are many things I can back up.

But text conversations are not one of them. Sure I can screenshot moments of caring and laughter, but most of my text conversations are being deleted. It feels like I’m deleting parts of my life, moments I remember starkly and moments I remember fondly. The anxiety about deleting these is thrumming beneath my skin, a low level, a sign of just how much I’ve improved emotionally, but it’s still there. I like to remember and my memory is sadly faulty.

Something new

I haven’t really talked to her in so long, but I’ve wanted to. Ever since I read her writings, I’ve been eager to reconnect. She slides into the booth on the same side as me. Unexpectedly it’s not awkward or uncomfortable. Instead as she angles her body toward me, I feel a little happy at our closeness. As she talks, her hair falls in front of her face. The light glints off her glasses. Her smile is like green tea in the summer. It strikes me how much we’ve both changed since we were younger. When we were younger our relationship was filled with competitive glances and ambitious plans. Our plans have grown with our age, but now instead of a stubborn compatibility we exchange soft smiles. She’s less headstrong, less inconsiderate. I’m more tolerant and understanding of the world and much less likely to pick a fight.

She’s grown up beautifully, and I hate that I notice. I hate that I know that she fits my type perfectly: bookish and interested in learning, ambitious and with an old soul. She’s politically active. She’s passionate with a love for people and a drive to change the world. Even in appearance she fits my type: from her round glasses to her short mousy brown hair. I always have had an attraction to the type of artsy person who wears scarves and Mom jeans, and she is no exception. I find myself averting my eyes more than usual, not just out of nervousness but also out of a sense of self consciousness. She’s my friend, and I definitely shouldn’t be thinking about what it would be like if we were together. 

It feels odd because childhood me definitely was not into childhood her. I was very different then, and so was she. But suddenly the petals of memory feel wilted. Every hug, every time sharing a bed, everything done in the most innocent of intentions now makes me feel odd and unsettled.

I think of what my Mom would think if in some alternate universe we ended up dating. I’m not out to my Mom, and I don’t think she would be okay with it initially, but if I came home with my friend who my Mom considers an extension of the family; if I came home with a girl that she holds in such high esteem, I don’t see how she couldn’t come to respect it expediently. But it’s an inane thought anyhow. As far as I know, she’s straight or at least thinks she’s straight, so it’s not even a possibility. And I don’t have feelings for her. I just feel like if I met her now, and I was a tad bit bolder, I might have asked her out for a cup of coffee. But as it is, we have too much history. 

The thing is, she’s the only person who could actually find this blog post if she looked. I worry a little bit that she might. But this is who I am. And if she finds this blog I have a bit more to worry about than this post.

Strawberries and the Sky: a mother-daughter story

There’s a story my mom recounts to me whenever I happen upon a new ambition. When I was younger, my family went monthly to a local art therapy studio with the goal of helping my autistic brother to socialize. This particular day we were instructed to paint a picture using leaf prints. After drawing some branches and printing some fall leaves, I went to grab a pallete of blue paint. When I came back I started to draw.

 “What are you doing?!” My mom exclaimed. “Just trust me alright! I know what I’m doing,” I replied in the aggravated tone that only comes with a youthful arrogance. The instructor shot me a disapproving look from the corner where she stood. I painted on. When I was finished, there was a blue sky framing my Autumn scene. My Mom looked on in baffled awe. When we got home, she hung it on the basement wall.

While at college I send her pictures of sunrises because I know how much she likes them. “You always teach me to appreciate the beauty in life,” she says. I smile. I like that she sees me like that.

We’re very different people, but I think we’re the same in a lot of ways too.

Today we are picking strawberries under the heat of the sun. Our hands part a sea of leaves searching for the ripest fruit. It occurs to me that I should have brought my sun hat. Children’s voices provide a warm ambiance that I haven’t felt in a while. My mom confesses that she probably stifled my creativity too much as a child. I apologized for avoiding responsibilities when I was younger.

Our relationship has improved a lot since I’ve headed off to college. Her overbearing nature that made me feel stifled and spiteful in high school has softened. And my emotional turbulence has steadied into a mature acknowledgement of imperfection. Now that I’m older I recognize just how much my parents’ financial support of my passions has shaped my life. 

No mother-daughter relationship is perfect: she still can be judgemental, and I still wait too long to complete tasks she asks me to do, but as we sit in the straw picking strawberries in the morning heat, I can’t help but think I like what I’ve got.

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?