Learning

I’m learning to walk without you—and except for that night through the streets of New York—I technically always have. You were consistently hundreds of miles away, but you never failed to whisper in my ear and laugh with me wherever we were going.

You remain this phantom I’ve hosted for months—appearing on sidewalks as cars pass playing our songs. The hardest part is knowing that you’re just as close as you have always been; a movement to the device that never leaves my side, and yet, everything has changed so that you’re not.

The thing is, I walk without you when I can. There’s someone new in my ear and often by my side. Someone who listens and retorts and makes me smile. Someone who is beautiful. So why are you the one I write about in a post I’ll never send?

I wonder how you are doing in your world without me. If there’s someone you go to when you need love. Someone who looks at you as I had, baffled that a human like you exists. Someone worth the sacrifice. And even if he is in your ear, here I am, wondering if I am the phantom you still walk with.

I’ve been learning to let go all of my life. It was often the involuntary option for me, so as I grew up and with more freedom I also grew to like holding on to those in my life. Until you, I forgot what it was like to be forced out.

Light.

You have to remember the bigger things. Where were you two years ago? Who was the most important person in your life? Did you wake up early to watch the sunrise like you said you would?

I need you to do something, and it’s not for me, it’s for you. You need to wake up. Take one day, just one day, to gift yourself, and go.

Order that burnt diner coffee and drive, or take the bus, a train, an Uber—it doesn’t matter. Go to that place you last felt at peace, and sit. Get your pants wet with the morning mist by the river, lean into the rock of a subway car, or recline in your parked car in that place you call your own. Wherever you are, take it all in.

Unplug yourself and settle into your solitude. Welcome the dark thoughts that elude you all day and haunt you at night. Live. Breathe. But look at where you are and feel the life moving inside of you. That’s your momentum to survive. That’s what is telling you that you can conquer those dark shadows.

You’re stronger than you think you are. What’s gotten you here will get you where you want to be, but for right now you’re meant to be in that wet grass, or heading north through Manhattan, or staring off, out of your car, into the flashing lights that catch your attention in the place you call your own.

Neither of us knows where you’ll be in two years, and I can’t tell you who will be the most significant person in your life. But I can tell you to watch the moment light first hits the Earth. It’s like watching the planet fill with life—a refreshing breath that reminds you that you’re alive. It reminds you that this planet is as much yours as it is anyone’s, and that one properly aimed stream of light can banish any shadows of the mind.

Water Ice

It’s been dreary since my mood changed. If you’re in the general Northeast, you know this week’s weather isn’t something to cheer over unless you’re into wet BBQ’s and binging TV (don’t worry, I binge watched a season of The Office this weekend… maybe two).

For the most part, this Summer has been entirely full of life—so much, in fact, that I had to fend off a panic attack mid-Spring because I booked something five days of every week this Summer. While exciting, I was scared I overloaded my plate. I never plan that much and my favorite memories are often sporadic trips with no itinerary until I’m in the car.

It was that fear that made me dread the sunshine season and it wasn’t fair for me to lack enthusiasm for what looked like an incredible and privileged Summer on paper. I define myself as an outgoing introvert, which I know will surprise many who know me, but I think that’s where the “outgoing” part comes in.

I had once been riddled with well-concealed social anxiety. At times it returns like black ice on a shoveled sidewalk—unexpected and terrifying, until your feet find traction and you balance yourself again. But for the most part, I don’t get as overwhelmed as many people I know with social anxiety do. I’m very thankful for that, but it didn’t mean my Summer schedule didn’t scare the living bejesus out of me. So I did what I could and lived every day as its own infinity.

Some of my friends think I’m crazy for being on the go so much and I don’t blame them; this past weekend held the first few days I had nothing planned. It gave me time to rethink my ability to take on tasks, both the fun and not-so-fun ones.

This leads me to how I think about my Summer thus far, and it’s been… incredible.

After learning that it’s better to let go of things that don’t make me happy, I promised myself to take everything day by day. To me, this means waking up without the stresses of yesterday or anxiety of tomorrow. Of course it’s easy to say that and harder to follow, but if you can make it one day without worrying over something out of your control, you can make it two days. Then three… then a week, a month—hell, maybe even a whole season. Sure, you might slip on that ice, but you can get back up, I promise.

I learned that this fear over a schedule of things that ultimately made me so happy was ridiculous. I accept that that doesn’t mean I won’t deny future anxieties, or stresses, but I know living past them is entirely possible.

If you’ve read this far, you might be wondering why I’ve written about such a dull topic. You could’ve picked up any self-help book and gotten better advice than something coming from me, nor do I think anyone came here for advice. I write as I think, and I’m realizing I’ve been using this topic as an analogy.

There’s a deeper conversation to tackle here (here, meaning in my head). It’s about fear, and taking things on one day at a time, and most of all, change and accepting things I can’t change. It’s why the weather reflects my mood, not the other way around.

As I walked through Philly and sat by the Delaware River yesterday, I saw how beautiful this weather is. I saw how it didn’t affect people making the best of their weekend; how smiles were still smiles, kids still laughed, and those lunatics still jet-skied in that very polluted river (I’m still cringing over this). Like the weather, my mood isn’t bad—it’s just different. And I know I’ll tackle the real topic soon enough, but dealing with bits and pieces of it every day is okay for now.

Many risks, events, and actions are worthy of stress or anxiety because they often involve the things most important to us. This Summer I learned that if you don’t work around these and face fears, you’ll look back on a life full of worry. I learned I’d rather slip a thousand times than regret the opportunity to slip in the first place. Who knew there was so much ice in the Summer?

Green.

Green are the eyes cast back at me
like ones in my reflection,
but lighter,
and darker
around the center.

Brunette is the hair I grasp
just as before,
but not any as soft,
nor any I palm and lift with her head
so gracefully

As I do,
a smile so contagious
comes across your face,
and a farce remains on mine
until you break me

With those eyes
and that hair
and that smile,
I smile.

Silence

Ambient sound is so loud. Wherever I went in college I was followed by this unplaceable, yet greatly present something. From the clap of excitement the moment my parents’ car door opened on move-in day freshman year, to our collective roar during the cap toss at commencement, there was no moment I stopped to recognize silence. For other reasons, it continued for years after college as well.

I had fun, and there were times I was stopped in my tracks during those four years, but it was never in a way that made me rethink silence. Even on nights I’d stay in and watch my apartment door close to muffled laughs as my friends left for the bar, there was some kind of noise. Maybe it was a pregame continuing next door, students outside speaking low, or even the building humming, I had noise all around me.

It might be something only I think about, but when I was a kid I remember jumping in the pool and hearing distorted sound waves through the water. It was new, and foreign, and something about it was attractive. I’d swim from pool-end to pool-end listening to the low frequencies and wondering what caused them. To hear a jumbled flush and recognize it was someone jumping in… it was like learning another language.

I wasn’t obsessed, but I enjoyed the newness of it. I’d be happily reminded of its existence when I unintentionally submerged both ears under the showerhead – reminding me of warmer, care-free times, but nothing… nothing prepared me to the moment it all went noiseless.

It lasted for maybe two seconds, but after countless years of noise, the moment you made my world quiet was unforgettable. This was the first moment of silence I’ve felt in… I can’t tell you how long.

The earth stood still, but the memory is combined with this image of you in my head. You were invincible—bounding in front strangers and coming to a stop in front of me, beaming. I blame my tired efforts to make you find me in a crowd, and yet, I wouldn’t change it for anything. I, stupid me, was iffy about the date and you hushed hundreds of people for two full seconds. The silence you fostered became my new language.

And now that moment plays on repeat – the whole night, actually. I can’t explain why. Maybe it was the confidence you had to take my hand at the bar, or arm in the street, but it warmed me in a neglected spot. The sound was there when it happened, but thinking back, it’s just me looking at you. Your fingers bound in mine, or the tightness between us as we walked on that cold night.

It was all silent, roaring in color.

The Letter.

Possibly one of the most paramount realizations a person can make is to continually recognize who they have been in life. For you and me, this might mean acknowledging your faults and merits, what experiences forged you, understanding why you liked, loved, tolerated, or hated another. We become who we are because of who we have been.

None of us live easy lives. I have stresses that keep me up at night, but I am cursed, and fortunate as hell, that the greatest in the forefront of my head is love.

This sounds stupid, and that’s because life is often stupid. Similar to some who concern themselves with making money, or experiencing as much of the world as possible, I find myself searching for that once in a lifetime, makes you weak all over, endless love. The trouble is, if I think it’s in one place, I’ll tirelessly see it through. Love is a learning experience.

I am fortunate to have loved. Hindsight can grant anyone the ability to comment on their past with, “Well, that was stupid…” but as long as that progressed you along, it couldn’t have been too stupid.

This leads to the interesting part. A glimpse into the deepest part of me; the letter I sent to a woman I loved. I don’t feel the same now, but I had never accurately described my feelings so fittingly in a given moment before. My ex granted me permission to share this. I think I appreciate most that despite not being in each other’s lives anymore, we continue to respect how much we grew in our time together.

Nevertheless, this is what I felt and this is what helped me become who I am.

“To that woman, 14 months ago-

I’ve been told at first impression I’m hard to read. I believe it, not because my book is closed—it’s wide open. It’s the small font that deceives. I don’t display my thoughts on billboards, however, the more a person reads in, the more massive the details on my pages grow. Larger and larger, until I burst from the ink and into the sky. All things I know and feel, written by six Angels sweeping clouded calligraphy in their wakes above.

See, I was that high in love. A book on the brink of the stratosphere. You depleted my fuel and now I am in mayday. No parachute you bestow may grace my fall. I must plunge to Earth and shatter; shedding my chapters across the land. I can only hope those who love me are those who collect me, for I cannot do it alone, but must not do it with you.

It was easier to let go when you weren’t here, and I write this when you are still an ocean away. I can’t be your friend right now. If you recall, when we moved to “friends” from “whatever more we were” the first time, I was upset, you were upset, I got jealous when you dated, and you got jealous when I did. I don’t know how your brain works; how you love me, but won’t love me enough to be with me. However, I know we’re creatures of habit, and I will shatter more than I can fathom when you choose to date other people. Maybe you will when I do too, but mine will be worse, and I know this because despite the hell you’ve placed me in, I would choose you at any time of my life because I love you. It’s that easy for me. But I need to be wanted as more than how you want me, despite whatever love you offer. To me, love is simple because it’s love. It’s not meant to be overthought, nor does it have to make sense. You fall into it, and you feel it, and that’s what you give each other. It’s not a phase, it’s almost never perfect, and sometimes it’s fucking hard, but if at the end you can say you love and were loved back… that’s worth the pain existence has to offer.

As I think of them now, this is not a letter to remind you of all the things we’d planned to do and state how terrible you are for abandoning me with empty promises. They were all the things that would have thrown us deeper into life together, and if we were not meant to be, I’m happy to think of them as reserves in my system. The last remaining parts of me and memories I did not give to you.

I’ve always thought that love and kindness are things you can infinitely give. I have with you. I listened, I cared, and with that, I reminded you what it means to live. Like a fledgling, I’ve pushed you out of the nest so you may fly and now with your wings spread you no longer need me to live. Only, I’m drained and without you there is no way for me to feel full, and that’s my lesson in all of this: loving does not guarantee the love you desire in return.

My brain is still playing every move over again, wondering if there is a way to resolve all this, but you can’t be soft with me. You can’t let me hold on to something that’ll only hurt me. I hate wanting you, but someone out there can love me, and you have to let me find her. As much as I don’t want to give you this letter, as much as I want to wake up with you every morning for every foreseeable morning there is… I must.

I’m sorry you can’t love me the way I need you to. It would have been too good. Better than I’ve ever experienced. I will always have a place for you in my heart.

Endlessly,

Amanda”

This letter remains the most fluid description of my head onto paper. I remember the strokes of pen to paper writing this. I also remember growing past the pain. I moved on, then fell back, got stuck in a few places, but persisted. I’m stronger for sending this letter and living through the consequences of its wake. This is all a journey, and even if something feels childish, maybe it was. Maybe that’s what you needed to feel for a better you tomorrow.

Fixated on Water

I’m sorry if I approached you like a wave –
crashing at your feet as you stared beyond me.
All I wanted as I reached at your skin
was to feel you want me around you again.

But that’s not what worked and I aimed to drown.
I pushed and pulled and you’re sinking down.

You got stuck in my tide with the changing day,
that’s what we get, for I’m a tidal wave.

Fools

If we rush in, call me the greatest fool. Are those wise men in love at all? Do they know what it’s like volunteering to drive through the night just to catch the morning light in your eyes?
If I’ve learned anything in my life it’s that love is utterly irrational.
Love left me terrified, dumbfounded, hysterical, completely incapacitated, and the happiest I have ever been.
Am I such a fool to love? No. I would be such a fool to have lost you.

Who’s in Your Head?

Tucked far in the depths of my hard drive was this piece I wrote in college. I was inspired to write something Salinger-y after reading The Catcher in the Rye and took a stab at it here. This was my first piece of fiction and one that hooked me on writing, though I’ve edited a little now, 10 years later. Enjoy.

I made no attempt to explain myself as I meandered through the hall avoiding my mother this morning. It’s not as if I was going to get in trouble taking the 26 steps toward my car, a 21-minute drive, and another 317 steps out of the car, into the cold, out of the cold, and into coffeeshop. It’s not as if my mother would stop me either, but explaining the explicit details of my hours aren’t how I plan to spend them.

I wasn’t outside for long and yet I was freezing, even in this place with 23 bodies pumping heat into the air around me. I waited behind eight people for five minutes and received my black coffee 42 seconds after I ordered… the exact same time as the man five places in front of me received his special-order espresso drink. People will wait an infinite amount of time and pay ridiculously more money for anything, as long as it’s more distinguished than someone else’s choice. I let the cup heat my frigid hands as I found my table built for four and sat alone in the corner facing those in line. I flooded my ears with music, but there’s no use drowning out the reality of what’s been submerged and what I am going to describe is going to come wading out one way or another.

I never understood why flocks of people sheltering MacBook’s with careful arms sat in coffeeshops, but I’m coming to understand the similarity we share as I sheepishly join in. We are insane. Not to the same degree, but it’s true for every soul who sulks to let his or her deepest thoughts marinate with no outlet. And being insane isn’t being crazy, and it isn’t half bad. It’s enlightening to hear what the normal claim it to be… because they would definitely know.

Memories in my mind claw at the wall of sanity until holes break wide enough for reality to peer through, and while the sane are stuck in a matrix, the insane are dealt the occupation to describe our clarity without breaking down the wall that keeps the sane so safe. We walk a tight line to entertain… to make people laugh, and cry, and feel all of the emotions that are so hard to feel ourselves. It’s easy to wear a mask and play fun to provoke feelings in humans. It’s what we all do best.

I know there are plenty of people like me; I’m looking around a room occupied by a few right now, but what I am, I can’t exactly describe past my insanity. It’s being a person who knows misery, but shows happiness. And it’s appearing less real than you are for the sake of protecting the truth from crushing an average person’s soul. We, the people like me, live in solitude within society; enjoying our days before allowing the demons to toy with our heads at night. This heroism is in all of us, fighting with no reason other than empathy to maintain the wall that spares the sane.

I know what I’m sharing is dark, but light may find its way into the strangest of places and disperses infinitely until it reaches a surface to warm. And yes, this is dark, but we create our own light, only the spectrum our eyes limits our capacity to see.

Little Lasting Memories

My dad is a pretty entertaining guy. As a kid, and far before Discovery Channel introduced shows like “Man vs. Wild,” my dad would explore in the woods, teaching himself little survival skills. He grew up on Long Island and while the island is very overdeveloped, back then the swamps, hills, and beaches offered a lot for him to learn from. I took the same mindset as a kid, so I flourished when my parents and I moved to upstate NY. Recently, my dad told my friend and I his favorite memory of me. To my surprise it’s a story from before we moved, when I was about four or five years old and still lived on the north shore.

One afternoon my parents and I went on a walk at a park on the Sound. We walked down a hill to a path along the water. There was no shandy shore here, instead, a small rock wall acted as a guard for the salt water below it. As my parents walked on the path, I balanced along with them atop the flat of the rock wall close to the water.

It was close to low tide, so the water was two yards below the top of the rock wall and a little less than a yard deep. We could easily see the sandy floor so when my dad spotted them, he excitedly pointed them out for me. “Amanda, look! There are about 20 horseshoe crabs!”

Without response, I plunged beyond the wall and into the water. My parents rushed to see where I’d jumped and saw me under the surface. Seconds before my dad followed, I resurfaced with a horseshoe crab by its tail in each hand. I was beaming, apparently. I wish I remembered this moment like my dad does, though I fully believe him. Our closeness to nature led me to have dozens of encounters like this in my childhood, some I even find hard to believe.

To this day, I respect nature more with every fact I learn about the incredible mysteries we live with on this planet. Thinking about these things puts my life in a perspective I almost always forget to take—one in which I hope to play a part, even if it is in a way I never know about.

Why do we all exist? Is it for humankind that we live, or for something much bigger than us all? I’ll bounce that thought around from time to time before giving it up, knowing I’ll go crazy if I focus on it. It’s funny to think our purpose could be for one moment, if everything happens for an ultimate reason. And even more funny, and like my dad’s memory, is if it’s a moment we individually forget that’s burned into the mind of another forever.