Muscle Memory

You know the way your hands remember how to tie a shoe?

The way your legs remember how to ride a bike?

The way your fingers remember how to find the letters on a keyboard

Or the notes on a piano?

Sometimes my wrist remembers where I used to slice it open.

My body feels empty but my wrist

My wrist starts stinging–

A sharp reminder that I don’t have to do this anymore.

Muscle memory

Sometimes I wonder if organs remember trauma.

If cells store memories like a bank, passing them on like inheritance from one generation to the next

A family story passed down over the years.

But like all stories, dis tor ted over time.

A game of telephone with your own life.

It happened this way.

It happened this way.

It happened this way.

Memories refracted and reflected as you wade through the ocean of trauma, pacifically.

I’m afraid of healing. Afraid of feeling. Because healing means feeling and I’ve been numb for so long.

Numb is safe. Once I felt too much and tried to numb the pain with pills

Testing gravity to see if

F

A

L

L

I

N

G

Was the only way down

I’m afraid that if I kept telling my story,

people will stop listening, walking the l i n e between “too much brokenness” to be comfortable and “too much healing” to be exciting.

All I ever wanted was to be

Heard

I whisper. So I don’t have to apologize for stepping on cracks.

Muscle memory

The way my brain attaches on to a thought and doesn’t let it go

The way I always manage to find my way home

Despite getting lost in my thoughts and using a map that ends with trees

Muscle memory

The way I remember to say I want to live despite a part of me screaming out

No you don’t.

Muscle memory.

The way I remember to breathe

Calm my

Racingthoughtsmyracingheart

The way I remember to exist in a world where I’ve tried to be invisible for so long.

Muscle memory.

my cells have passed down my trauma over the years. My brain reacts when there’s nothing to react to

Red alert when there’s no danger present

A Bomb shelter in the midst of peace

Muscle memory.

One day they’ll pass down the story of healing

How

I’ve made it this far.

Your body wants to keep you alive. Skin regrows. Blood cells attack. Bones heal.

Memories fade.

muscles can be retrained.

Waiting for me to say:

It happened this way.

Yeah. But it didn’t end that way.

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7-1-3; it’s me

It’ll only hurt for a minute, they said. Only a minute and then you’ll be used to it.

It’s been ten years, and I’m still not used to how it feels. I’ve been numb for so long, letting my mind leave my body every time I started to

F e e l anything

My mind’s way of protecting itself from the pain

D I S T A N C I N G itself from the broken/ness.

In order to work through the trauma, you’ll have to feel it. Feel it all. Let it be.

Exist in the moment

(But first I have to survive the moment)

Ice cube

Distracting

Go for a run

How do you deal with the feelings you’ve spent years running from?

You can’t do this alone.

I know I’m opening a door but here’s my number

Text when the feelings drown out hope

Text when the voices in your head cause you to forget all you’ve learned

Text when you forget how to breathe. How to survive

Internal debate: a noun where you decide if you’re worth the text. Bother him at home?

Maybe his job;

Is his job.

Got a phone call at midnight on July 3rd. 4th of July party at church. A young woman on the brink. Talked her off the ledge.

Sometimes that’s me

Walking the ledge

Teetering the line

Dealing with pain myself

Fighting the lion smelling like antelope.

You have to feel to deal to heal.

You deserve to be here, and I’m not gonna let you tread water by yourself. I’ll be your life preserver.

Ice cube

Distract yourself

Opposite action.

For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.

For every emotion, there’s an equal and opposite emotion.

Death. Life.

Sorrow. Joy.

Panic. Peace.

I’m leaving these skill cards here because this is my safe place in this building.

Safe place

Safety

Working through tough things- t r a u m a t i c things hea/rt/break/ing things means safety net

Emotionally

Skillfully

I need to feel things in order to move past this. In order to put my past in my rearview mirror.

Sadness. Anger. Depression. Panic. Suicidal. Joy.

On a scale from 0-5, how high is the panic, the emptiness, the loneliness?

5

5 means suicidal

5 means crisis

5 means alone in a room full of people.

I have to remove the skill cards because you don’t want them there.

They look nice on my books.

If this place stops feeling like a safe place, we’ll start banging heads together.

Together.family.strength.healing.

Feelings intensely pounding like waves.

Waves

Come; g o

E b b; flow

Life. Composed of moments.

Learning to survive each one.

It’ll only hurt for a minute, they said.

A minute. A moment. It eventually passes.

I believe them now.

It’ll only hurt for a moment.

It only hurts for a moment.

Cutting yourself open when you want to be dead but will settle for feeling instead

hurts for only a moment.

Letting the feelings in when you’re trading your ghostly figure for a skeleton?

Hurts for a moment. Kills for a moment.

But in the moment between life and death,

Reach for the phone.

7-1-3, it’s me.

I know you’re shocked. I am too. But you see

Here I am

And I’m ready

Ready to take the plunge

D

I

V

E

In and feel

To heal

Remember the ice cube.

They look nice on his books.

One mindfully be present

I’m glad you reached out.

Inhale. Exhale.

I am too

Afraid in Love

When I was in first grade, I was told that if a guy was mean to me, he liked me. I would go tell the teacher that Billy stole the ball I was playing with, and he wouldn’t give it back.

“Kaleigh,” I was told, “He likes you.”

“Sam pulled my hair.”

“He likes you.”

7 years later, I’m lying on a school bathroom floor, and I’m wondering if these guys are showing me they love me. And now I’m walking on egg shells around every guy I meet, not wanting to be loved again, because if this is how a guy tells a girl he loves her, I’d much rather be single forever.

I was taught in school how to protect myself from rape. Don’t walk alone. Don’t walk alone at night. Don’t go out at night. Keep your body hidden. Don’t give them a reason.

If the reason was turning him down when he asked me out, because he was a jerk, then yes, I gave him a reason.  Maybe I gave him a reason because I was too quiet all the time, and too loud at the wrong times. And apparently, his friends decided I was the worst and decided to punish me too. And now I’m stuck keeping it a secret because I don’t want the blaming questions.

“Why were you alone?”

“What were you wearing?”

It’s been 8 years, and I’m still getting told by some people to praise God I don’t remember it all. Let me tell you, I remember it enough to know I don’t want to remember it all.

It’s been 8 years, and sometimes unexpected contact is still the worse, and sometimes it burns as if I’m holding the sun in my hands.

It’s been 8 years, and sometimes I still have to defend myself against judging glances. Because, apparently, as someone who has been blessed with two x chromosomes, instead of one, the only job I have in life is to not let myself get raped.

Hold up, let me tell you something.

My job as a female is to do whatever the heck I want to do. I am not part of the “weaker sex.” And I may not be able to bench press as much as you men, but I know how to be strong. I may have wider hips, but I have a fighter’s stance.

And I don’t want to hear these excuses about men having a voracious appetite for sex. The word appetite should only be used when talking about food. I am not food.

Sometimes my thoughts threaten to eat me alive.

But, I will not be silenced. I am a statistic, but that doesn’t define me.

Because one day in my first week of college, somebody said, “If someone hates himself so much they want to die, they’re better off dead.” And then,  “If someone gets raped, they probably deserved it.” So I told my story, and then he had the audacity to defend the other guys’ actions.

I’m pretty sure the “Bros Before Hoes,” part of the Bro Code does not apply in this situation. Because he wasn’t justified, and I didn’t provoke. I was in the wrong place in the wrong time surrounded by the wrong people. And their touch is woven into the deepest part of my skin, and 8 years later, I still get shivers down my spine. I was told no one would love me, and I believed them, until I realized I have the most amazing friends.

I was told not to get raped. They were not told how not to rape.

Guys tell one another, “You throw like a girl!” Since when is being a girl an insult? Some of the strongest people I know are women. Being a girl is not an insult.

I am not an insult. You are not an insult. I will tell my daughter she is not an insult.

I may be a girl, but I know how to fight. And so will my daughters. My sons will learn the meaning of “no.”

“No” is not “maybe.” “No” is not “convince me.”

And I will teach them both the two best things I’ve ever learned: How to love myself, despite everything. And how to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start again.

Because repetition forms habits.

I’ve found my voice again. So yes, I may be ‘beautiful’ or whatever, but I am so much more.

I am woman.

I am a fighter.

I am a survivor.

And I will teach my children to be the same.

I will teach my Children what love is, and what it’s not. Because you shouldn’t be afraid of love.

I’m not afraid anymore.

How To TipToe Around Depression

 

  1. Pick out your clothes the night before because mornings take too much effort. Change your mind two or three times while lying in bed, waiting for sleep to come. The next morning, try on every outfit you own that fits the occasion. Be happy with none of them. Wear the last outfit you try on because you are now running late.
  2. Set more alarms than is necessary for the morning: one which is the ideal time to get up, and one which is the last possible minute needed to get ready and just make it out the door in time. Hit snooze on all of them. Because, once again, mornings take too much effort.
  3. Decide one morning you don’t need to wear make-up because you’re beautiful anyway. Take a selfie to document the occasion. Freak out because your nose looks bigger than you remember it being. Contemplate getting a nose job. Talk yourself out of it because it’s permanent, and the finality of using a sticker is enough to stress you out.
  4. Breathe in. Hold it. Count to five. Breathe out, trying to slow your racing heart, which is only outpaced by your racing thoughts.
  5. Get bangs that cover your eyebrows. There are more important things to be worried about (i.e., everything) than doing your eyebrows.
  6. Write down everything that happens on anything you can find: receipts in your wallet, iPhone notes, random scraps of paper found in the deepest recesses of your over-sized purse. Remember what it’s like to feel on your darkest days. Live to feel these things again.
  7. Take pictures of every beautiful thing you see: sunrises and sunsets; flowers and gardens; fields and clouds; coffee and food. Don’t let anybody take away your joy by reducing you to a stereotype—you are anything but.
  8. Wake up in the middle of the night needing to pee. Put it off until you can’t hold it any longer. You stumble half-asleep down the hall, past the stairs, avoiding looking down. You’re not scared of the dark. You’ve come to accept it; it’s the unknown human-like shadows that freak you out. When you wash your hands, avoid looking in the mirror above the sink. You don’t necessarily believe those ghost stories, but you’d rather not find out. At 3 am, when you’re not fully awake, you look like a ghost of yourself anyway.
  9. Walk through your local cemetery. Take note of the gravestones: the startings and the endings; the oldests and the youngests; the epitaphs and the ones that say nothing. Wonder what yours will say—not in a macabre way, but in a “will I have accomplished what I wanted to accomplish” way. Make up stories of those buried there (it’s a different form of people-watching, something you love to do). Your grandfather’s been dead for 10 and a half years. He’s been buried for a few months less than that. You haven’t yet visited his grave—you don’t handle death well.
  10. Eat freely. Love deeply. Remember what it was like when you deprived yourself of food and love.
  11. Dream big. Don’t be afraid to fail. Being a Bills’ fan has helped you learn how to deal with disappointment.
  12. Become an English major. Worry that you ruined your life because “it’s not a practical degree.” Tell people you’re not a practical person. You follow your heart and not your head. You see the world in shades of grey, not black and white.
  13. Lie in bed at night thinking about every possible outcome to every possible scenario so you’re not surprised when they happen. Write dialogue for possible conversations in your head. That way, when you do work up the courage to speak, you don’t make a fool of yourself.
  14. Remember words are your most powerful tool and weapon.
  15. Give names to your intrusive thoughts. Call them out when they fill your head with stupid ideas: “No, Fred. I will NOT drive headfirst into this tree.” “Shut up, Gertrude. I know there are about 20 Advil in my hand right now, but I only need two.” You are too busy trying to live to listen to those that drag you down.
  16. Remember you are not a walking billboard for depression. You are so much more than one word. You are smart, funny, kind, musical, and children and animals seem to like you. So, in the grand scheme of things, you can’t be that bad.
  17. Sleep with headphones playing nothing in. The crickets outside your window have been extra noisy lately. Depression needs silence to sleep. You’ve discovered that after so many years of co-habitation, you do too.
  18. Set your alarm for the quietest setting you can. You are a light sleeper. Maybe if you can get ready and leave the house quickly and quietly, depression will stay sleeping. If it wakes up, it will chase you. It’s like a dog, but unlike a dog, there’s nothing cute about any of this.
  19. When you are struggling, call it out. Give it a name. Say, “Yes. I have Depression. But I am not Depression. I am a human who is living with it. I am strong. I am a fighter. I will not give up.”
  20. If all this fails, try again tomorrow.

Rape Joke

“Hey, did you hear the one about the girl who got raped?”

The punchline is that she was 13 years old.

The punchline is that he slammed her locker shut every day because he liked her.

The punchline is that when he asked her out, she said, “No.”

The punchline is that he decided to take matters into his own hands, along with the hands of four of his closest friends, to show her what she would be missing.

After it was over, the punchline tried not to make eye contact with her reflection in the bathroom mirror. She tried to clean herself off and hide the bruises shaped like hands and teeth as best as she could. She exited the bathroom, walked down the hall of the deserted middle school, opened her locker (half expecting it to be slammed shut immediately, and when it wasn’t, breathed a sigh of relief). She exited the building, lonely footsteps echoing behind her, got into her dad’s car, and pretended it didn’t happen—everything was fine.

The rape joke is that he sat behind her in English class. His breath on her neck was the only thing she could focus on, making it very hard to concentrate on whatever work of art they read that last month of class, especially that first one: that poem by Emily Dickinson, “My life is like a loaded gun.” 7 years later, she thought it would be fun to take an Emily Dickinson class. She’d be fine. And she was, until that poem when she found herself transported back to that moment.

The rape joke is that her professor asked her what she thought it was a metaphor for. She didn’t know how to say she thought about all the memories this poem brought back, how it could be a metaphor for all of that. “I think it’s just about a loaded gun,” she said.

The rape joke is the way he didn’t threaten her, at least not really. He just said, “no one will believe you.”

The rape joke is that earlier that year, she was taught in Health class how to not get raped. Fat lot of good that lesson did her: she wasn’t drunk; she wasn’t wearing revealing clothes; she wasn’t outside, at night, alone.

The rape joke is that his locker was right next to hers because life likes cruel irony and alphabetical order is the most convenient way to organize everybody (a terrible thing really), and he still slammed her locker shut every day.

The rape joke is that on the last day of school, when they both opened their lockers at the same time, he didn’t slam hers shut. Instead, he whispered in her ear, “At least I didn’t get you pregnant.” And then he dared to smirk: an insult to injury, really. Maybe if you had, people would believe me when I’m ready to tell, when I’m ready to stop pretending this didn’t happen, she thought to herself. Which is a terrible thing to think, but when you’re 13, you sometimes think terrible things.

The rape joke is that the first time she told somebody who wasn’t a close friend or family, they responded, “Don’t feel bad. It could’ve happened to anybody.” Translation: Lucky her; close call, everyone else who’s last name is similar.

The rape joke is that a few years later, she had to break up with her boyfriend because of this joke. Because every time he put his arm around her, she was transported back to that bathroom. And even though he knew what had happened, he didn’t understand she needed space. But she blamed herself really for believing she could be loved in the first place.

For the longest time, she thought she was going crazy. And she was.

No offense.

No offense (that it happened to her).

No offense (that she buried the pain so deep, it took cutting her skin open to feel anything).

No offense (that the words said would echo in her mind for years to come: Bitch. Slut. You’ll never be loved. You don’t have to cut hard enough to leave a scar in order to draw blood).

No offense (that she went crazy, that it took her years to find her voice again but eventually she found it when she started writing about monsters and darkness, caves and loneliness).

No offense (it took a long time for her to forgive).

No offense (it’s just a joke).

The punchline is that she’s not the only one this has happened to. Among her acquaintance group, she knows of at least six others. That number grows every year, standing in solidarity, alone together.

The punchline is that she knows guys this has happened to. Nobody believes them, either.

The punchline is that we have to feel pain to become stronger, but does it have to hurt this bad?

The punchline is that our past doesn’t define us, but it does help make us who we are today.

But no offense.

The rape joke is funny because the punchline is me.

The punchline is at least I was pretty enough for it happen to me, but then how come sometimes it makes me feel so ugly?

The punchline is that this joke doesn’t define who I am.

“Come on. Lighten up. It was just a joke.”

If it’s just a joke, shouldn’t I be laughing?

It took me years to really truly laugh again.

I’m finally laughing again.

But not at this because nothing about this is funny, especially when it happens to you.

 So, yeah. I’ve heard the one about the Girl who got raped.

Have you? 

I am Not a Punchline

Yesterday, I was told a rape joke by an acquaintance who knows my story.

He then got mad when I didn’t find it funny.

“I thought you were over it,” he said.

Firstly, I never said I got over it.

Forgiven, yes.

Trying to move on, yes.

Over it, no.

I don’t know how you get over something like that:

He slammed my locker shut every day. He teased me relentlessly. He asked me out. I said “no.” That’s not the way I wanted to be treated.

To him, a simple ‘no’ was the end of the world. He decided I needed to be punished. He got his friends and they raped me in the school bathroom.

As soon as they finished, they left as quickly as they came. And I was left to pick up the pieces. The shattered pieces of my dignity fit in the palm of my hand. I washed off the traces of their crime. I covered up the developing bruises, and I went on my way.

I told no one.

They told me no one would ever love me, and I was eager to prove them wrong. So when my best friend asked me out too soon after, I eagerly said yes. I needed to prove them wrong, but I tried too soon.

We were too young. I was a mess, and I didn’t know how to help myself. But I kept my secret for over a year.

I didn’t want anyone to know. I didn’t want to be blamed.

I started cutting and starving to erase their memory from my mind. My parents wondered why their showers were always cold.

(I was trying to burn away their touch from my skin)

We’re out of razors already?

(I was trying to carve a new person from my hollowed out soul)

I was a broken-down frame of a burned out house, and I needed to rebuild myself again.

And I needed to do it from the ground up. I needed to figure out who I was as a person; who did I want to be?

We needed to break up; it was a long time coming.

And almost seven years later, I’m standing on the other side of this inferno. Like a phoenix, I’ve risen from the ashes. I’m standing on a mountaintop, surveying the demolished parts of me, which serve as a reminder for who I was.

I’ve forgiven. I’ve rebuilt. I’ve stopped cutting, started eating. And I have pretty much healed.

But I don’t know how I will ever “get over this.”

I’ve stopped being a victim. I’ve started living. I focus on how far I’ve come, how much I’ve learned, where I want to go.

Firstly, I don’t know if I will ever get over this.

Secondly, I am not a punchline.

There’s nothing funny about any of this.

It’s a cliché that shouldn’t have to be repeated, and yet, here we are.

We have to teach this old dog new tricks because I’m tired of wearing this old hat.

I can’t let you laugh this off.

There’s no punchline in being a statistic.

I refuse to be the victim, and I will fight you tooth and nail if you try to pin this on me:

Capital S for “Slut.”

My name is not “Bitch.”

I refuse to be somebody’s unwanted leftovers.

Out of the broken-down frames of a burned-out house, I have built myself again.

Like a phoenix, I rise from the ashes.

I am Everest.

I am stronger now than I was before.

But I refuse to be a punchline.

I am not a punchline.

Recovery- A Sonnet Sequence

  1. When in the mirror I myself do see,

The face is not one I recognize look-

ing back. It looks almost maybe like me,

at times. If not, my confidence is shook.

Pinpointing events like candles in wind.

On, off, flickering, blowing, out they go,

Innocence lost when they against me sinned:

My white to black to red is what I know.

My red to black to white turns back again.

A plague upon my soul has fallen now.

My skin has scars pinpointing where I’ve been.

My past defineith not my fate, I vow.

The sky is dark; the sun begins to frown.

As flowing water,redemption comes down.

  1.  As flowing water, redemption comes down,

and washing fears and tears away and make-

ing me as new. I desire that you take

away this weight. I don’t want to drown.

I want to live on earth and see it’s brown

and green. This universe has claimed some stake

in existence. I have to be awake.

So life can live, and I can claim my crown.

My past defineith not my fate, I vow.

A fire burned and turned me into dust.

The rain it came and brought me back to life.

A garden grew as I, despite the strife.

I choose to live and living well I must,

My past defineith not my fate I vow.

  1. My past defineith not my fate, I vow.

I shalt not give up even when the go-

ing toughens up. The wind may blow this bough,

I, however, will falleth not. I grow

and grow and grow for now. I cannot fail.

I shall not fail. I have to be awake.

My strength is growing. Faith will now prevail.

Believing gravity is, for my sake,

the only way my legs won’t fail me when

I wake. Because now’s not the time for drop-

ping, testing, fighting. Three stars out of ten.

My life has dealt this card. I have to stop

pinpointing events like candles in wind,

innocence lost when they against me sinned.

  1. Innocence lost when they against me sinned.

I tried to test gravity once. Instead,

I sproured wings and flew. Sometimes I bled

and bled. The scars my skin bears, like the wind,

remind my present where I’ve been. I sinned

against my body when I tried to shred

this skin given me. Sometimes words unsaid

can devour me alive. How unkind.

Somehow, despite everything tried by me,

I still will rise every morning, noon,

and night. It matters not I swear. How can

this be? I seem to have up there a fan:

alive despite all. I will smile soon

when in the mirror I mysef do see.

Flash Flood Warning- A Poem

It’s 4:30 am, and my alarm goes off—

A cruel irony, really.

I haven’t yet slept.

I watched the clock turn Midnight, then 1,2,3,4.

And with each minute that passed, my mind raced faster and faster—

A mile a minute;

A thousand thoughts a second—

A race against time with no clear winner.

“If I fall asleep now, I can get 5 hours of sleep…

5…4…3…2…1…

It’s raining.

Lightning.”

It’s been raining all night, and I’ve been awake to hear it.

You’d think after all this time, the tear ducts of Heaven would be all dried up.

(fantasy is often better than reality.)

My God is so big, so strong, and so mighty. . .

. . . there’s nothing my God cannot do.  

Apparently, God is so big that his tear ducts draw from a never-ending well.

Well, well,well…

It’s raining; it’s pouring, the Old Man is snoring…

Wait, nope. That’s just my Dad.

It’s been raining so long and so hard a flash flood warning was issued early this morning while the world was sleeping.

I was awake and read the warning along with the 15 text messages from Twitter.

It’s 4:30 am, and I didn’t need my alarm today.

I watched the numbers on my clock change, counting down the minutes until I need to get out of bed, their faces glowing red as if laughing.

My life isn’t a Cosmic joke.

I only get one [life], and I don’t want to screw it up,

But I’m afraid I already have.

There are no do-overs, no re-runs; I sure could use one.

I don’t know how God is running things up there,

But it seems kind of Laissez-faire.

Divine intervention would be nice right about now—

The future is big, and I’m rather small,

And this whole “I don’t know what I’m doing in life” is getting kind of old.

There was a flash flood warning, and I’m right in the way.

They always tell you:

“In case of a flood, find high ground.

Low places will probably be the hardest hit.”

I’m in a low place right now, and the flood waters are coming.

At least I know how to swim.

Of course, my swimming skills will be about as helpful as the levees of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.

It’s a nice thought, but practically, it leaves a lot to be desired.

At least it’s the thought that counts.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m a 7. . .

. . . microwaves (which weigh less than 7 elephants).

I’ll take what I can get.

And yet, somehow, despite this weight on my chest, I’m still standing tall.

Right now, I feel as though my world is collapsing around me.

I won’t always feel this way.

Depression is like a Great Flood:

It happens slowly and then all at once.

(They disappear the same way).

It’s 4:30 am; it’s raining, and I haven’t slept.

Sleep makes you feel better when you get it and worse when you don’t.

(it’s kind of like rain that way.)

Last night, when I couldn’t sleep, my thoughts were racing a mile a minute.

“What if…”

“Why…”

“How about…”

When the darkness creeps in, that’s when the enemy line starts firing.

Under cover of darkness, it’s easy to be a brave coward.

Last night I was having deep existential thoughts about life and happiness.

The first thought that entered my mind when I got out of the shower this morning was

“Should I do my hair today, or not?

The rain’s just going to ruin it.” (I did; it might’ve.)

But like, the state of my hair is what I should be concerned with…

NOT…

Superficiality is only skin-deep; and I want to change the world.

It’s raining here.

There are wildfires out west.

So, tell me how life is fair.  

And there’s no peace in the Middle East.

I don’t know how to change the world, but I think love is a good place to start.

Love your enemies, those who disagree with you, those from an opposing political party.

Love your neighbors, those who come into this country to find a better life. We all want a better life in a way.

Love those who are different from you, those whose way of life you may not agree with.

Love them anyway.

Love yourself anyway.

Sometimes you can love too much, and sometimes love is not enough.

But between war and peace, I’ll take my chances with love.

Love makes the world go round in the circle of life,

Everything has a cycle, including water.

Hence, the rain.

I love the rain because it begets life,

And it can make you clean if you just let it.

We could all use a clean slate once in a while.

There was a flash flood warning, and it’s still running, and I’m doing my best to keep smiling.

My Lit Teacher asked the class to list things that die.

I started, “People, animals, plants, hopes, and dreams.”

It’s easy to die.

It’s not always easy to live.

I learned that once.

Because one time I tried to set myself on fire (figuratively, but literally with pills)—

I was a metaphorical Girl on Fire, trying to make myself someone new.

Out of the ashes and with the rain came beauty.

That’s all I wanted, and I’m trying my best not to screw up, to make the most of this second chance at life even when the going gets tough.

There was a flash flood warning.

Warning:

Beware:

Caution:

This flood won’t stop me.

Because it’s all too easy to drown in an ocean of tears, and sometimes we forget we can float in salt water.

People Watching

I sit at my table in the library, the same spot everyday (give or take). I think I have OCD. No, wait. I know I have at least a mild case of OCD.

I tried studying in a study room, once. The library’s always so loud, which is ironic because libraries scream quiet, and sometimes silence is the loudest scream of all.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, right. The room in which I studied once. Just once. Because, apparently, my mind needs distractions in order to be productive, which seems contrary to function. I’ve never been normal; it’s boring, anway.

So I sit at my table in the library, and I’m not so maladjusted that I can’t be flexible. Just as long as it’s a table, and I can sit facing the door. I people watch to think. Sometimes too much I think. But people are fascinating creatures, and sometimes I wonder if people notice the same things I do.

For instance,

1. Everyone has their own unique walk.

2. The way the computers get filled up is an interesting study on human behavior. No one likes making eye contact with someone they don’t know, which is why of the 4 computers in the campus library that you can stand at to use, people use the two where their backs are to the door first. And at the computers where you sit down, four to a table, people never sit directly next to or across from someone. They always sit diagonal. Unless the other user is a friend, in which case, all rules go out the window.

3. You can tell a lot about a person from their eyes. Eyes are the windows to the soul, which is why nobody sits directly across from someone they don’t know. Nobody wants to admit the truth: we’re all hurting.

4. The way the same person acts around different people is fascinating. And terrifying. Which is real? Can the person be trusted?

5. Every person has their own unique walk.

My friend has a purposeful gait, not like a horse’s. She walks deliberately: long strides, with confidence, as if she owns the place. Head up. Shoulders tall.

I do not. My posture is meager at best, as if the weight of the world is on my shoulders, and sometimes I don’t know if I can do it all.

But then I see the people working around me: I realize we’re all the same.

There’s the girl over there who is clearly hungry trying to convince herself she is not.

There’s the guy over there trying to put on a macho face when he’s clearly falling apart inside.

I wonder if she knows she’s beautiful, if she’s heard it today?

I wonder if he knows he’ll be ok, if he believes that today?

The hardest thing about being a poet is that I see all these things about people. And I haven’t figured out how to say, “Hey. I don’t know if you know this, but there’s something about the way your eyes light up and meet your dimples when you solve a tough problem that reminds me there’s hope” without sounding like a creeper.

So, I people watch, and I wonder what people would say about me if it were socially acceptable to say such things.

So, I people watch.

Because sometimes I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, and in order to distract myself from this feeling in my chest of impending doom, I make up stories about the people around me.

I’m not crazy. I have problems to solve and things to figure out, and I find the best of me in other people, and also the worst. And sometimes I need a little perspective.

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times, which is the best way to sum up life.

I’m really bad with small talk. The “How are you?”s and the “How about the weather?”s make me really uncomfortable. Is this a rhetorical question?

I’m better with intellectually stimulating conversations about what you think death is like, what is the meaning of all this? I think our answers to questions like these say more about us then “I’m good” ever could.

The mind is a funny place.

I think about death a lot and life. I’ve faced my own mortality by my own hand. The future terrifies me. I don’t even know what I’m doing this summer, let alone forever.

I need to take it one day at a time right now. That’s all I can handle. The world’s a big place, and I’m a small part of it.

And so I people watch. Because people fascinate me, but also terrify me, which is one of life’s great ironies.

Just like the Hulk’s secret is that he’s angry all the time, I’m afraid all the time. That’s how I survive.

I want to do big things, write a book, change the world, but I feel insignificant. The world’s a dangerous place: there’s war, violence, murder, hate, and sometimes we’re our own worst enemy.

But there’s always hope. Sunrises, sunsets, summer and winter. Life goes on.

And so will I.

And so I people watch, because everybody has a story. Stories fascinate me, and they should fascinate you, too.

Empathy goes a long way.

I write to figure things out, and I don’t know what this poem is trying to say, but I think it has to do with the confusion that’s inside me, because how do you know if you’re in love, because I think he’s kind of great.

He makes me want to eat pancakes with him, but I don’t even like pancakes. I don’t even know who ‘him’ is.

This is what goes on in my mind 24/7, and I promise I’m not crazy. I’ve just been hurt a lot, and I’m trying to heal and deal.

Because life is confusion and chaos and order and beauty and a paradox wrapped in a conundrum shrouded in mystery.

And I love every minute of it.

Use Your Words. Here are my Words

I’ve forgiven. He’s apologized. (and, yes, it happened in that order.) But I can’t stop writing about it, and maybe reading about it all the time is getting annoying, but that’s your choice. I don’t force you to read what I write. This is not North Korea, nor is it Mao’s Little Red Book. This is not a required text for any of your classes, and I won’t quiz you on what you’ve read (unless you’re planning to date me, in which case, that last statement goes out the window, and any question is game).

So, basically, you can stop reading any time you want.

But I can’t stop writing, because I don’t write for writing’s sake. I write because I’m trying to figure something out, I’m trying to work through something, and I don’t know any other way to do it. (sure, once upon a time I did, but that just left me with too many scars, and it really did more harm than good.) When I was little, I didn’t talk: I knew how, but I had no reason to. I was the first grand-child on my mother’s side, and I was the first grand-daughter on my father’s. So, basically, my family knew I needed things before I did, all I had to do was point and go, “uhhh. Uhh.” Continually, I was told to use my words. “Use your words, Kaleigh. Use your words.”

Here are my words written last night when my nose was so congested I couldn’t breathe to sleep. Here are my words written last night when my head was so full that I wouldn’t have been able to sleep even if I could breathe.

The thing that hurts the most about this whole thing is that he told me that I should enjoy it, like it was a gift. A one-size fits all t-shirt. A gift that keeps on giving. A non-returnable, non-refundable, no one wants it anyway, type of gift. It’s the elephant in the room, or rather, the white-elephant gift that nobody is eager to trade. Warning: not permitted for resale. 

He asked me out. I said no. And then he got four of his friends and sexually assaulted me. And then he told me I should enjoy it, because it’s what I wanted when I turned him down, because I’m a bitch and a slut (his words, not mine). And it’s always easier to call the victim something else, to give them a non-human identity. They couldn’t call me by name even though they knew me for years. We were on a first name basis until that day. And then that tie was metaphorically severed. 

It’s easy to call someone else those words until you know how it feels to be on the receiving end: to catch the football thrown by the quarterback, and then immediately be tackled by a huge middlelinebacker when you are defenseless. *throws flag* Hit on a defenseless receiver. Defense. 15 yard penalty. Automatic first-down. 

There are no replays in real-life.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. I am an expert at bs-ing most of the papers I write, but this has got to be the biggest piece of crap I’ve ever heard. It’s as though his words can’t affect me if I say it long enough. My words can’t hurt you if I play this song over and over and over again. But, words do hurt. 

I’ve forgiven. He’s apologized. We’ve moved on. But I don’t think I’ll ever get over what happened to me. It’s not a hurdle to jump, nor a mountain to climb. I’ll heal, most definitely. But there’s a difference between healing (letting go) and getting over. I don’t freak out when I see any of them anymore. Or at least I didn’t the last time I saw one, anyway. But that’s a start.

Sometimes, it’s the littlest things that hurt the worst. I hope one day I’ll stop dreaming about what happened. I hope one day I won’t hear their voices in my head on my bad days. I hope one day shirt collars around my neck won’t terrify me as much.

I’ve never liked turtle-neck shirts, but I like them even less now. And I don’t always mean to wear low-cut shirts, but sometimes the thought of a t-shirt around my neck freaks me out. And until you’ve had hands around your neck, choking you as you try to fight off 5 pairs of unwanting hands, I don’t think you can understand. You should try, though, for my sake. And if not for mine, then someone elses. Because I’m not the only one.

T-shirts sometimes freak me out. But it happens less and less nowadays. 

Big steps, like not freaking out when you see someone in the store, are great. But sometimes, the little steps, like wearing t-shirts, are the greatest.

I live for the little steps.