The human skeleton is created with 270 bones but overtime some bones fuse together until there are only 206 left. That's 64 bones that morphed into 64 other bones. 64 parts of the human puzzle that go unnamed against the flesh.
I think about how our bodies evolve. How they get more elaborate, more capable, with time. I'm so adverse to conforming to the herd-mentality that I never take a step back to appreciate the other bones or-better yet- work alongside them.
In a poem by Cecilia Llompart, she writes;
“There are bones
waiting for names in the graveyards.
If bones were like trees, we could cut them open to reveal rings. Instead we wear our rings on the outside, symbols of promise- of possessiveness. All the while, spouting prose on how we can be alone.
I like solitude. But as age makes my bones brittle, I'm realizing how important it is not to be alone. To make eye contact with a person and smile, to laugh at a joke, to hug, to love. The words flow so simply but it all comes at a cost.
When you look at a person, it's the moment before you look away.
Or a smile quickly melted to a frown.
The way your body shakes, with hours of uninhibited laughter, that's how it topples over and cries.
Hugs leave bodies cold, in the aftermath of affection. When our favorite hugs are shared with other, it fills our chests with icicles. Those are the harshest winters, the ones we watch play out around us.
Like love- to freely give up your heart is bare-bones vulnerable. It's the skeletons in our closets, it's knock-knees and pelvic thrusts and entangled lives. It's everything we fear the most. All 206 of our most fragile parts.
If there are bones waiting for names in graveyards, I hope it's long before the names of the people I love etch the bones of time. Before they disappear.
Definition: Anxiety or fear that one's life is just passing by.
Truth is, you don't have to be able to pronounce it, to wake up in a cold sweat. It doesn't take an exorbitant number of consonants to express the way the world sounds when a heartbeat chimes on the hour. Timelines are tricky; constantly revolving clockwise in an effort to make us dizzy-- or make us think we're familiar enough with the number-laden road that we're safe. I don't know about you but I've never quite felt safe.
This year, the focus of one of my classes was 'mindfulness' or living in the moment. I've been trying to figure out why it's so hard to live where we are. For me and so many of the people I know, I think we're so concerned with tomorrow: With the promise of more and our grandiose thoughts. Through the sea of twenty-somethings, if thoughts could be captured and bottled, we would spell success with the letters in our own first names. But actions speak louder. And those who can't do- preach.
Perhaps it's that fear that petrifies us. Constant reminders that we aren't baby boomers, rather, we may be known for our lack of success. Every generation, to this point has been more successful than the generation before it. My generation is the first of it's kind: We're graduating without jobs, living without insurance or assurance. Nothing is sacred. It seems we've already invented the wheel and all the apps for it. What's left?
When I decided to go to school for theatre, then become a playwriting major, and now have found a little nest in English (namely creative writing) my argument with all the mathematicians and scientists, and all of their parents, was that nothing is guaranteed. So we might as well do what we love.
I can't decide if that's freeing or freaky. After generations of humans who are consistently improving, we blame the economy, our status, our parents, for all the reasons we are not more. There is so much more time spent on this blame game than on making improvements. We like what's easy. We've traded dial-up for wireless, letters for emails, dates for Skype sessions.
It comes as no surprise that torschlusspanik, like schadenfreude, is a German word. The literal translation is "gate-closing panic" which is sometimes attributed to the "ticking clock:" An opportunity missed, that will forever be intangible. But I almost feel as though nothing is intangible. Perhaps that will be my downfall: They call me the cock-eyed-optimist.
Here's the thing: I don't trust you.
In the moral breakdown of misogyny, I'm genetically wired to recognize that glint in your eye; to acknowledge the reasons behind your every move. It's not paranoia, it's recognition: Just maybe I would do the same thing, if I were you and the roles were reversed. But they're not. And you are no mystery to me.
This is not an open letter to the woman/women that I hold bitter conversations with, in my innermost thoughts. No, this is a letter to you. Even if you haven't walked into the bar (yet), jealously tagged your ex-in old pictures now that he's settling down, or attempted to rekindle a relationship that I'm gladly carrying the extinguisher for. For as long as there is more than one, there will always be "the other woman." Let's get one thing straight: I am not her.
In the history of woman's suffrage, every woman has assured herself that she is not "other" but "only" or subsequently "more" than those surrounding her. Most women don't seek to make enemies, either. I, for example, turn my radar off, until it beeps too loudly to ignore.
By then, however, it's too late. If we ignore the clues, we remain clueless.
In elementary school they teach us the Golden Rule: "Treat people the way you want to be treated." That mantra was repeated over PA systems and in large assembly halls for the majority of my formative years. Maybe you just weren't listening. So let me tell you how I want to be treated.
I want you to walk away.
I want you to bite your tongue- to know there is nothing worth saying and nothing good that comes from loose lips.
I want you to harness your dignity.
I want you to like yourself. Keep you legs closed.
Because at the end of the day, that's the only way anybody wins.
I know nothing.
Say it with me: "I know nothing."
Now you're ready.
I've always wanted to figure things out. I thought being the Nancy Drew of my fate would ensure that I was a firm step ahead: I dotted my 'I's, crossed my 'T's, filled sticky notes with lists and left my seven-year-old stamp collection to Marissa Goldstein, incase I died. I'm a planner. I'm a woman who prides herself on her neurosis and a girl who waits for you to call. I'm four steps ahead and three steps behind. And I'm thankful for the advent of the text message because it means that I can passive aggressively say all the things I couldn't say out loud. Or bite my tongue; rewrite, revise, refuse to send.
This is awareness.
The rest we learn as we go on. This is something I've only recently accepted. Because I like answers. Particularly ones that can be neatly wrapped with some truth and some twine. But this past year has been a real lesson about learning to let go. (For the record, this has nothing to do with Frozen). It began with uncomfortable walks into unconventional classrooms; tossing lesson plans to the wayside- to live in the moment.
It was furthered by the people that I've met. By the ones I opened my heart to. By the things that I've let hurt me and the roads I've walked- or walked away from.
This is called a loss of innocence.
This is called growing up.
And so, in less than a year, life threw me curves and I learned how to curve right along with it. We learned a tango all our own: We laughed between the confines of all the things we thought were perfect- because life knew, way before I, that it wasn't meant to be easy.
This is something they never tell you.
I keep having this recurring dream where I'm chasing a girl I used to know, in an effort to figure out how we drifted apart.
I keep begging her to fill in the blanks, to explain our demise in words that I can understand.
I keep hoping for closure; another part of my life that can be neatly wrapped and put at the bottom of my giant storage bin, next to my Ireland memories, ex-boyfriend boxes, and the moments I've made concise, with time.
I've spent so much of that precious time fitting old memories into new boxes that I had taught my bones to fold into neat corners. I'd grown comfortable in only what I knew.Turns out, life doesn't always fit in boxes, or casually at the bottom of a storage bin. And it doesn't have to.
I'm becoming a rebel with age. I'm still a neurotic list-maker and an extreme over-thinker, but I'm learning to use my voice. Respectfully. To let it out of it's cage on occasion and sing. I think I'm validating myself as a human, which is something I didn't know how to do until I left for New York and started painting my own world. That's the fun part about painting. (I've been painting canvasses and, every time I invite The Boy to join me he says "I'll just mess it up.") No, you can't mess up art. And, even if you could, you can always paint over a poor paint-job. That's life, I guess: A canvas. And that's a cliche.
But, if life is a canvas, that means life is unfairly expensive, rarely discounted, and textured. Maybe those are the bumps along the road. And maybe that's why it's hard to write our stories in a Nancy Drew-esque fashion. We've been using the wrong instrument all along.
So, pick up a paintbrush.
You can't mess it up. But you're missing out if you don't start painting.
I don't think I realized the importance of hair until I started toying with mine. That's usually how these thing happen: We want to be defined by our brains, by our most humorous senses, by the fingers we don't use to multiply. Instead we are most notable for the things on top of our heads: Hats, bows, hair (or maybe that's just me).
My hair went from brown to red the summer before my senior year of high school. I wanted to establish myself as the kind of individual whose hair was red. If that sounds like an awkward admission, I think-as auburn has grown in popularity- the idea that color is reflective of our personalities has become even more widely accepted. If nothing else, harkening back to the old adage about books and their covers, it's much easier to refer to hair color than it is to recall what came after it.
According to 'All Women Stalk" Redheads are "Feisty but Creative."
Urban Dictionary decrees that redheads are "Extremely hot girls who just can't help being so sexy."
All confusing gender specifics aside, hair color says a lot. I've, happily, been a $3-boxed-redhead ever since the first time I sprayed dye all over the mirror in my mother's bathroom. Better yet, I've even found myself gravitating towards other pseudo-gingers, in an act of solidarity.
When I first dyed my hair, I was keeping it long, by my standards. That's to say, my hair waved past my shoulders, pooling in a mass of purple split ends and summer vacation (because red, it turns out, isn't always the easiest color to master). I was keeping it on the longer side, after years of short hair, because it was senior year and I wanted to be a musical theatre major in college. I associated long hair with actresses: The embodiment of sex appeal and pretty things (Lately, I've been calling long hair "Princess Hair" as I pull on my shoulder-length strands and lament their slow regrowth). Long hair was pretty- and difficult to maintain, for a fluff-head such as myself. The long hair had to go.
Immediately following audition season, I went for the bob. Then, of course, in the ultimate vicious circle, I longed for the days of side-braids and the long, seductive, hair-flipping (that really ever seems seductive or properly flippy in our own heads).
It's three years later: The top of my head has morphed from a mass of brown to a rich magenta, to the bright blood-tones of Halloween- and now, on a good day, it's a little more natural. I've gone through the Dutch-boy hair phase, the shoulder length-straighten-into-submission (and its sister, the shoulder-length curly/frizzy/humidity induced hair). I've had short boyish-hair, and more of that awkward growing-out stage than anyone I know. And still I spend months attempting to be decisive.
Like, last summer, when the girls I was RA for convinced me I would look "Just like Marilyn Monroe" if I had blonde hair. And then dyed my hair a truly terrible carrot-top with too-white coloring that just made me look kind of awful. *Note to self: Blondes don't always have more fun, especially when they're employing all of their best hats to ensure there is little photographic evidence.
Call it narcissism but I don't really think it is. So many of our interactions exist solely by profile picture, these days, that a poor haircut could deter future employers or even- friends. I think you know who your true friends are when you drastically shave off most of your hair and ask them to love you anyway. Many forge a very phone-friendly relationship with you for the eight months it takes for your hair to fringe out across your ears.
Does anyone remember that article Girls With Short Hair are Damaged that sparked a frenzy of feminists and short-folicled at large? If not, basically, this bitter dude decides to go on a rampage about how girls with short hair are always uglier than girls with long hair and how, every time you cut your hair, you're basically asking to be ignored by the opposite sex. That's fine. If the opposite sex is shallow enough to ignore all of me when my hair is short (I'm talking to you, dude) the opposite sex isn't worthy of my long hair, anyway.
I love short hair. It's cute. It's easy.
Rapunzel looked so much cuter rocking the glass-snaggled hair, anyway.
But...maybe I won't cut mine just yet.
I want to tell you of my weekend: Of B.B. King's and Palila Vineyard. Of my very own bottle of "Joyful Pink" And my brain- brazen and blushing- but a little too bold for my own good. I want to tell you explicitly of how it feels to love from the ground up: To take off your shoes and dance in the grass, and- in the middle of the Beltane Pagan Festival- realize that, there must be a god, because something has to take ordinary days and turn them into incense and Victor Wooten techniques. Then, to laugh uncontrollably, still somehow able to enjoy the irony of where you are and how deeply you feel.
But that is nothing compared to Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
What I mean by that is, for the past few months, I've been overcome by something he said, once. So much so that it has a giant inspiration for my thoughts and words.
"Oh, heart, are you great enough for love?"
I think this is such a powerful, telling, question. It's in the adjective "great." And I don't think, as many may, that this is a rhetorical question: There is a definitive answer to what our hearts believe we're worth. I know I, and many of my counterparts, quantify each moment by others' opinions. We feed into this idea that "All we need is love" and ignore so many of our other accomplishments, or traits, in search of love that we can be "great enough" for.
So, in this space, because they aren't good writings but super cathartic, I want to share Part I-III from the "Oh, heart, are you great enough for love" collection.
There are bite marks on my bottom lip where my answers used to lie. Symmetrical reminders that I lost myself in confusion and two month old promises. Weeks change faces. That's fight or flight (survival of the fittest). You kill me (that's flight). In yesterday's tank we were Japanese fighting fish, both determined to make this fishbowl home. I would pack the world under my tiniest fin before taking the sarcasm from your eyes- but you stopped being funny three hours ago.
I don't know if time can measure drowning. Or if fish know how to drown. But it happens in a New York second--almost like it never did at all.
You think we can protect each other. Two chance encounters and a cute story have led you to believe you can get away with the craters on my bottom lip. Through kisses, I know you can feel them (fight).
So this is where I make my escape. But this fishbowl never escapes it's reflection, instead I'm fighting myself- pretending it's you.
In fairytales it's simple: the winning trifecta of desperate girl, strong man, and unbearable circumstances. Reality paints things a little differently. The girls aren't nearly as weak, the men not as strong and no circumstances are unbearable enough to make you cut off your heal to fit in a glass slipper. Or live within a suit of armor.
But the extremes make for better story lines. As artists, we live high and low, the in-between not space enough for the way we feel. So we create fantasies from our lesser realities, attracted to a life in excess. I don't want to live a bipolar existence.
Rather, give me our first meeting, our first kiss, the first time we cooked together. I will keep my heals and give you back your suit of armor, as long as you learn to let me in.
May 3. 2:15AM.
This is Me:
My name's Melissa. I'm the girl with her hands in her journal. Married to my best friend and planning a lifetime of adventure!