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The natural order of chaos

Lose your mind.
Find your place.
Let the chaos breed.

Disintegrate any notion of control.
Watch as your toes bleed from the tightrope you walked.
So terrified of being consumed by doubt, resolved to hide honesty from reflection.
How wasted your time must feel knowing the choice to strain was yours.

Feel order play tricks on your sanity. 

There is no control.
Illusions once shattered will always remain in shambles.
Cut your hands gripping the loss if the pain will bring comfort.

The stability you knew was tentative will still quake as your feet fall.
Give way to the tilt and know a truer, more terrifying reality.

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Roots part one

I come from a place whose roots are scattered into more categories than one could ever expect. Some know it as a place where their toes were toughened under the dirt and rocks they stomped over as they ran from place to place. These are people whose memories are full of sunkissed days at stale lakes, hair smelling of campfire, and nails caked with a day full of disregarding beauty standards. Their sunny smiles broadened by the satisfaction of catching a fish worth some bragging rights. These core memories are similar but ever so slightly different from another area of my home. 

Then we have the women of Appalachia whose bones are strong with a culture far too few people care to admire. I imagine they have recipes that speak of their toughness and ability to love and be loved by land which broke their backs. I know the same borders as some of these women but I claim no expertise over their Kentucky experience. There’s a thickness to those hills that makes it difficult to speak of because there are too many layers of pain, unspeakable beauty, and resilience I wish never to maintain. 

It is my belief that one only has to be from Appalachia to be innately loved by the land. There is a give-and-take relationship those mountains have for their people. Like The Giving Tree, Appalachia gave and gave of itself until it had nothing left. Unlike that tragic tale, the people of the land felt and saw this pain as they were taking from themselves. Their story hasn’t ended yet though. I see the hearty love in the marrow of Appalachians bones driving them to nurture what can feel like the impossible. None of these are my Kentucky experiences. I was formed by a different kind of Commonwealth, one I think few people outside the Bluegrass would expect.

My Kentucky has always been full of the beauty of immigration, exposure and admiration of differences. Growing up I had friends from everywhere with differences that were accepted without the need for diminishment. 

I was raised by a village of families who saw me simply as a child deserving of love. Depending on the house I was in, I lived by a range of different rules. Some homes I didn’t enter without taking my shoes off. I did that knowing I would never see the amount of work that went in to keep that home as a reflection of themselves. I learned through this humility that love can live thick in the quiet of an ear willing to listen. 

There were mothers and fathers I didn’t dare leave out a “yes, sir” or “yes, ma’am,” knowing I was saying I love you and thank you for taking care of me and your children who show me the meaning of community. 

Others I put my everything into soccer drills with the whole family, knowing this quality time was worth every drop of sweat. I’d wait my turn to headbutt the ball right back into the tosser’s hand and run back to the back of the line ready to try again. I didn’t have to wait for a nod of approval to feel cared about. That love showed up outside every day running drills for soccer and organizing street kickball games. 

My feet were tanned by running across blacktop as fast as I could to beat my friends to the pool. I was surrounded by the acceptance of all religions and a father who had a rosary, prayer rug, and Buddhist statue. I never questioned who it was appropriate to love because the adults around me never thought to show me hate or judgment for the queer community. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision, it just didn’t make sense to think less of a person for whom they love or their struggle to become a truer version of themselves. 

Some of the adults in my life were buried under weights that don’t lift easily. Where they faltered in giving me what I needed others stepped up, creating the stunning mosaic that is me.

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Ready to leave

One foot watching the doorway, the other counting the exits. 

I catalog the words you’ve said, listening for confirmation of personal doubts. 

This you could be anyone, as it’s an approach…a guiding line for my interactions with every “you” that could ever be. 

Any existence that finds its way to a sticking point in my orbit is subject to these hesitancies. 

I’m beginning to notice a spasm in the crick of my neck from keeping an eye out for signs I’ll be left. 

The marks in my hand from holding on to hyper-independence are growing more permanent. 

Those little crescents resist the display of fear. 

I wouldn’t want to give way to the looming doubt which has discarded my shadow for a much larger version of itself. 

Can one build muscle from being unable to relax? I wonder if that’s what this soreness is all over my body. 

I’m told I hold myself with confidence. 

I always say it’s actually chaos that has become so overwhelming it began organizing and has now taken over my will for its own. 

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When I look too long

Sometimes I want to ask out loud, does the way the sun blinds you when you walk back inside to artificial lighting ever make you wonder what it would be like not to see defining features. 

What if I couldn’t notice the chips in my nails, the food stuck on a spoon I delayed putting in the dishwasher? 

What if the marks on my arm that make my skin red with too much sunlight just looked like the fuzzy blue of after sun sight?

Maybe it pays not to notice so many little things in need of perfecting. 

Perhaps rigidity of form has less of a place among our self-evaluations than we like to think. 

It’s possible the days would still pass, and my chest would still rise and fall even if I never noticed how well my weight fit in with the ideal, I imagine I should be striving for. 

It may even be that our hearts would beat normally if we didn’t have a name for false imperfections, despite its normality…like cellulite. 

To think, our veins could still have blood running through them if our hair looked different from each other. 

Imagine how we’d live to see the day if the different colors in our skin didn’t require products to make it more uniform. 

How long do you think it takes each artist to see the blues, purples, reds, and greens in skin? 

When I stand in front of a work that didn’t blend the different dimensions and hues that make up a face, I’m in awe of the industry that tries to keep these mosaics away from their rightful place. 

A spot that questions the steps we take to remove in the name of refinement. 

The oils in my skin when they show could be painted and I would admire the stroke. 

Yet when they’re captured in a photograph, I take note of all the things wrong. 

I want to know who is responsible for this discrepancy. 

Is it the hand that chose the colors, picked out the stroke, and took time to care for my details? 

Is that why I admire the work…how would I manage to go to comparison war with myself if I saw a painting of my own face next to another? 

I don’t think I could manage anything save for admiration of differences.

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When October Leaves

There is this sensation at this time of year, near the end of it.

The leaves are slowly changing, it starts getting cold with little to no sign of warmth.

Everything is rushing to be somewhere, myself included.

The end of the year is in sight, so we cram it full of things we imagine deadlines exist for.

The difference is this year, I’m quiet inside.
This understanding of time I gripped so hard has thankfully slipped right past me.

I’m unbothered by its passing, not unmoored by penning tasks to a list.

My walks in the morning are allowed to take as long or short as I can manage.

Days of the week are only important when I’m tapped back into the world of deadlines.

I’m slowly unraveling time and the constriction I forced it to wrap me in.
No longer finding safety and security in the dependability of my productivity.

I lounge with grace and sink into the wealth of empty afternoons and evenings.

Sometimes I’m visited by merchants wishing to trade time for wealth.
As pleasant as their pitches are, I continue to be pleased at my own resistance.

I manage my time around the warmth of not needing an escape.

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Watching Myself

I’m growing skeptical of the methods I employ to romanticize my life.

I can hardly decipher between what has been sold to me, and what I picked out for myself.

I’m unsure if habits are adaptations to veiled criticisms,
my desire to be loved above another,
to create a pedestal for myself.
Knowing full well I’m itchy with regret each time I reach a new height.

Is the single serving of honey I choose now because you took yours with one while I formerly opted for two?
My taste changed when there was enough distance not to hope for a moment of time over tea.

How quickly I move to make alterations, stunned into my own silence by those who are unwavering, unbothered by their preferences.
It is the small choices littered throughout the day I keep a log of comparisons of.

I embody unflinching confidence in moments of big decisions making, unaware I’ve done something bold…there I am surefooted.
I will uproot myself without a second thought

But I hesitate into silence when asked minor preferences…preferring to hear the room out before allowing myself the space I’ve been asked to occupy.

I am comfortable shrinking, a habit I have a friend in even when there is no one to witness a difference.

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Starting Over

Beginning again can be a godsend. A chance to drop everything that lined your lips as you repeated complaints to ears uninterested in hearing them the first time around. It’s an enticing escape, to drop everything and go do what you want. To pursue your dream. It doesn’t matter if that’s to travel, draw, write or do something completely unrelated to creative work. Though, it seems with the way our society devalues creativity, unless it can be industrialized and mass produced, it is usually that kind of work.

Actually, dropping everything and pursuing your dream is much easier when it is just you, but it’s also harder for that same reason. If you have a partner who can support, you and encourage you it can be easier financially. It is still an individual endeavor though. Only one person in that case is doing the work and figuring out how to move forward. Calling it a hobby feels like cheapening the reality of the creative work I chose.

Writing is something that has kept me going in vastly different ways throughout my life. I’m not much of a talker and have never been. But I could sit at a tiny desk in a room the size of a closet and write for hours. I had a lot of anger to sort through, and I still do. I manage it much differently than I did at that time when there were so many sources it was coming from, I couldn’t wrangle each one of them.

I gave up what could be considered a sort of platform in writing. I made myself into a voice that could be trusted to deliver important information, and I’m glad I did. It’s strange to be doing writing that is adjacent to it, without the platform to lend me legitimacy. Honestly, it’s really scary to stand still and speak the kind of work into existence that I feel closest to.  It doesn’t feel as natural as journalism became to me. Writing personally about my thoughts, experience and then using fiction to interpret things around me.

I’m reminded of all the crutches I was clinging to when I started my first full-time job in journalism. I knew I didn’t need to use them, and it was all make-work, but there was enough kindness around me to give me the time to see it for myself. I’m leaning on that kindness now and trying to show it for myself.

I’m not a patient person when it comes to my own progress, and I think there are plenty of other people who can relate to that. That’s why the saying “we are our own worst critics” rings painfully true all too often. Right now, I’m actually my only critic which isn’t something I was expecting. I thought I would be made fun of, criticized, and believed to have lost my mind for my decisions.

The people who came to know my name associated me with news. They heard my voice delivering them a slice of what was important on a weekly basis. I’m still doing that, but not how I used to. I’m excavating my own experiences and packaging them so you can see what is important in a moment. I like to think the timeliness of my creative work is rarely in question.

We all know the collective trauma the world has been going through. People are feeling that itch to wake up from what we’ve all grown used to accepting. I’m hopeful that something more sustainable than outrage and blame will take root and infect the masses.

To the quitters

I hope you ride the high of leaving what wasn’t right for you. When you come back down to a ground that’s unfamiliar and lacking the direction you should take next, I hope you’ll sit. There’s going to be a lot of noise vying for your attention. I’m not telling you not to work and get by as you need to, I’m just asking you to listen. Hesitate before you jump in with your worth next time.

Consider who you are, and who you might be if it was quiet, and your thoughts didn’t torture you with doubts and warped reflections. When you get back from the vacation, and your energy isn’t so focused on just getting out of work every day…what might you do? Think of something you would really enjoy for 3-4 hours a day, maybe a few times a week. Do not consider how you would make money, the success of this or anything like that. I’m not talking about turning your moments of peace into the next thing you’re trying to escape.

It’s just an exercise in remembering who you are. Not knowing how you want to spend your time is a valid answer, just as saying “I don’t know” should not be dismissed as a non-answer. The result can tell you where to start deconstructing. A truly uncomfortable process, believe me. Those of us who feel the most confident about this answer and skip the time to pause and listen are often the most directionless.

Let it be uncomfortable

Shattering the image you’ve created by parsing bits and pieces of yourself out over time…can always be shattered.

Finding yourself isn’t a crime, even when the confusion on familiar faces makes you feel otherwise.

Recommended Discomfort

The change I crave is uncomfortable.

The best lighting wouldn’t make it photogenic.

A well-crafted soundtrack underneath its experience would be awkward and uncomfortable to watch.

It is maddeningly unfit to a reasonable timeline.

I cannot fit it into a schedule of self-improvement.

It is an unruly child screaming at a pitch fit to pierce attention.

Ripping through unspent energy.

I have to cling to the change I want.

It will test me, begging to be abandoned.

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Tough as a bamboo infestation

I am durable.

Someone who survives a storm, bearing the brunt of things with neutrality.

I am tough.

Strong as the flexibility of material meant to bend but not break.

I grow.

No matter the scorched earth my roots find a footing in.

I laugh.

With the strength of someone who has been shredded.

I stand.

No matter the weight on my shoulders.

I shatter.

With a strength that understands the pain of each cut.

I bend.

Knowing how to meet the eyes of all who understand hate.

I stick my neck out.

Because I will break before I see a system make another bend too far.

How It Passes

Often, we pretend to be present as our feet stretch with anticipation to reach the future.
To obtain something seemingly better.
It’s hard to wrangle a current moment.
Never knowing if it will be worthwhile, how long it will last, or if that presence will scatter the moment your eyes turn to focus on it.
I have been paralyzed by time, the way it passes and how best to use it.
Trying not to obsess over the flexibility in which it comes and goes.
This process allows me to laugh at myself.
How silly it is to be confident in the structure of a minute.

When given a heaping table of options in who to become.
I’m stunted by the possibilities.
It forces a hunger to stuff myself full of every option, tasting nothing.

My eyes and mind are enraptured on who to become.
My true self looks on blankly, filled with horror at the rejection.

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