[This has been a year of much NFL.]
Growing up we had a few sayings in our family.
For those less than pleasant things everyone has to go through: “That’ll build some character.” For those atrocious things the very unlucky have to go through: “That’ll put some hair on your chest.” I’ve been turning these both over in my mouth the last few months, flinching through new blows like I’m watching clips of a gruesome horror movie. But I’m onscreen, so I can’t cover my eyes.
Speaking metaphorically, of course, because I’m not sure I can afford any more laser hair removal: if the second one rings true at all, I’d be pretty wooly by now.
So, many of these moments I’ve been able to tell myself were character building—I mean, really, truly character building, in the sense I had no idea I had it in me to get through them. I mentioned this to a friend recently—”I do know this all happened for a reason that I’m sure I’ll understand soon enough. I’d have never guessed I’d be this understanding, though, so in a way I’ve already learned a lot about myself,”—to which she responded, “Yes, you do learn a lot about yourself when you’re put to the test.”
There’s one thing to add to the silver lining column, which has been noticeably scant—and for no real reason other than that I didn’t realize that column was even open for business.
It should come as no surprise that I tend toward self-flagellation. Along this journey, I’ve only taken note of the super horrible moments. But the really great moments haven’t gotten as much airtime. Like, I earned my right to sit around and dwell on the horrors I’ve gotten through. Why not take inventory of all the awesome ones? Why is sprouting chest hair so much more venerable than standing in the sun for a minute and being grateful?
I realized I was choosing to stroke my scars. Choosing anger. When things were happening all around me. Good things.
I had another theory, then. That being in this much pain is a generally lonely, alienating experience. And for someone who doesn’t entertain suckling at the teat of her own misery, victimhood was a new and warm and soft place for me to explore, like a dark closet full of knitted memories. And it was a cozy little foxhole for awhile. Looking back at these pictures, I was with family and friends, but I was also 100% inside my own head.
Then, something changed. What in the ever-loving hell was I feeling lonely for? Lonely is for people in lighthouses. Looking around, lonely was a choice—not a circumstance.
The song I listened to and loved the most when I first met *him* was Death Cab’s “Your Heart is an Empty Room.” It was my mission to make that song not be his anthem. And through it all, in the end, when I was left spent and empty-handed, it became my anthem.
And all you seeIs where else you could be when you’re at homeAnd out on the street
Are so many possibilities to not be alone
[Breakfast pina coladas, because my parents know how to give me the best days.]
[Below: a Bellini and a Black Crowes ’92 concert t-shirt from the archives… remember this?]
[Concealing visible cleavage in a Mason Michelle Mason shirtdress with sheer panel inserts. Boobs at family functions, por que non?]
[This is Christmas in FL, in Vix Swimwear.]
[Last day, on the beach drinking margaritas with Mom in my best new Rag & Bone t-shirt that costs exactly what a cotton t-shirt should cost. Just kidding. Also, one of the two Chan Luu rosaries I got with the idea if I needed to get rid of all my jewelry and only have enough for a backpack in Machu Picchu, these two would do the trick.]
[Uniform: LNA t-shirts + Chan Luu rosaries, all day every day.]
In middle school, we had a guy come in and teach us Mandarin for a month or so. Like some sort of meme generator before its time, I had my name translated: Little Warrior. It seemed to click, and I feebly carried it around with me waiting for it to resonate.
I realized I’ve been so busy fighting—fighting to get through this, to protect myself, to understand why this happened to me, to get my footing again, to get my life back—that I was fighting the good things as much as I was fighting the bad.
Fighting easy smiles. Fighting new ways of seeing, and doing. Fighting good people who wanted to be good for me. Fighting an open heart. Fighting second chances.
I couldn’t put my fucking dukes down for one second.
And then, as if my body was a tank slowly filling with warm water frothing and churning around at my shins, rising up to my midsection—the sound grew less hollow.
As soon as you lay down the weapons you’ve got against everything out there that was designed to take you down, you’ll have an open hand to take the one that’s trying to help you back up.