Musings

Pieces: Supposed to Be

Note from 2019 Annie: This is a post that was completed but for some reason was left in the drafts folder, so I am backdating it to the approximate date that it was written. This is unedited.

Tell me who I’m supposed to be now
Make me better
I can’t stay halfway dead forever
I fear now
There’s not much left of me
When you take the sick away
Who am I supposed to be?
Supposed to Be, Icon for Hire
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Anniversaries are important to me. Every now and then I go back through blog posts and read what I wrote a year ago on a certain date or time of year. This spring semester has been full of that kind of nostalgic activity. My Papaw died at the end of February. Looking back and remembering how genuinely sweet and gentle of a man he always was helped bring peace. But not all of my reminiscing has been as tranquil. When I wrote the first blog post about my childhood I don’t think I really had come to grips with how far reaching the indoctrination of that stifling, poisonous environment was. 

While I started opening up about my mental health struggles and eventually seeking help to deal with them, that wasn’t the only aspect of my life that was exposed last March. It was one year ago that I began coming out as– well, not straight. This probably won’t come as a surprise to most people; I haven’t been very secretive about my sexuality and identity. The exact terminology is a bit fuzzy, and the way I identify varies. Sometimes I’ll say biromantic lesbian, other times the term bisexual comes to mind. Exact labels don’t really matter to me. While there are a select few guy type people that I find attractive, I like girls almost exclusively and the general public really doesn’t need to know more than that. I would say they don’t need to know at all, but there’s a problem with that and it’s something I’ve been thinking about lately.

Invisibility is incredibly painful.

Not only is invisibility invalidating, it’s isolating. It isn’t good for me to be left to my own devices; they can be pretty nasty. Much like keeping my pain and past hidden left me feeling imaginary and craving realism, being completely in the closet didn’t last long. I started figuring out my feelings and it became obvious that hiding that part of myself indefinitely was not a viable option. When I first started going to meetings of our campus LGBT club I snuck in, careful that none of my friends saw me. Gradually, those meetings and other events became the majority of my social life. One year later, I’m the vice president of that club where a confused and scared Annie first found acceptance as a queer girl. I could, and probably will, write more about how I had accepted myself as queer as a young child, then forgot about it, but that’s not what this blog post is about. I want myself to be known for the same reason I blog at all. I share so that others can know they aren’t alone.

This year has been my hardest one in memory. At times it feels like I’ll collapse under the pressure and stress of resurrected memories and ideologies that have nearly literally killed me. Like so many other parts of myself, my self inflicted scars are more visible now. When you are taught from infancy that you deserve death, it is hard to come in as an adult and feel that you deserve not just life, but a happy one. Rewriting those recordings isn’t as easy as just swiping a magnet over the tape.

Yet, when I look back at those writings from last year, I can see how far I’ve come in so short a time. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m not as scared of relationships and have allowed myself to be more open to being loved.

Recovery time, a condition like mine
What are we talking here?
Getting so close, I can taste the hope
But I still feel the fear
Supposed to Be, Icon for Hire
Musings

I’m Not a Midwife

When I was 9 years old my first brother was born. I was thrilled to be designated official videographer of the homebirth. After all, that obviously put me at the same rank as the actual photographer, and he was a wicked cool guy with an amazing camera. “Click,” as 3 year old Claire called him, wasn’t the only person at the birth I was taken with. Miss Kathy, the tattooed, motorcycle riding, short little grandma midwife whose house my parents practically lived at for the month of February. I decided that I wanted to be just like her. She is kind and gentle, but also strong, physically and emotionally.snail

For the next 9 years I would grow more and more passionate about my eventual career as a midwife. Since Mom had started working as a lactation consultant again when I was finishing high school, I was already in position to start studying. For the last two years of high school I was around midwives, doulas and other birth workers, attending homebirth classes, first with my Mom, then by myself once the teachers knew me better. This wasn’t just some passing fancy of a teenager; I had my apprenticeship worked out.

The first step was to become a doula. The August after graduation I enrolled in a birth doula training course. It had been said that this was where most potential midwives were weeded out, but I was determined that I wouldn’t be one of those undedicated, dispassionate students.

But I was. And at the same time, I wasn’t.

I finished the training, but afterwards I didn’t even attempt to continue with the certification. Throughout the class my passion, dedication and adrenaline had heightened. I was learning a lot, but most of it was only a continuation of things I already knew. It was easy for me. Then, near the end of the week, we had a session on working with abuse victims.

On the way home that night I sobbed.

It wasn’t only because of the emotional drain of talking about abuse all day. That had been fine at the time. I cried because I knew I was done. The road was taking me elsewhere and the destination wasn’t at all where I had expected. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on why, but there was a sense of completion. What needed to be learned was learned. I didn’t know it for a long time, but I have come to realize that this was the beginning of my journey to reconciling my past with my mental health, and beginning to seek healing.

The next 6 months were tumultuous. It was too late to enroll at community college, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do that, or if I was smart enough. What was my purpose? The passion I had felt was real, I have no doubt of that. It just didn’t lead me down the path I originally thought. Finding its location has been one of my missions this past year, and I still don’t know exactly where it is.

I’m halfway done with my second spring semester. There are still plenty of things I’m unsure of, but I do know that going to school was the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m a completely different person than I was, even only a year ago, and I’m a much better version of myself now. But if I were to be truly honest, even with the reinforcement of an invitation to the honors society and a job in the tutoring center, I often feel that I’ll be found out to be an idiot at any moment. I just finished my application to study theater tech at University of Central Missouri some time in the next year. There are a lot of things I don’t know about, but underneath the insecurity, depression and anxiety, I know moving forward is a good thing.

I still want to be like Miss Kathy. I want to be strong and kind. I want to inspire; to change people’s lives for the better. I want a little girl to look at me and say, “That. I want to be like that.”

I know I’m not a midwife. I don’t know everything I am, but I do know that I am a storyteller, a collector, a writer, and a teacher.

Musings, Poet Among Other Things

Awareness

Last week I opened my email to find that one of my pieces had been selected as the winner of a poetry contest I had all but forgotten that I had submitted to. (Again, actual content is forthcoming, I have two drafts in the hopper at the moment)

My heart is filled with churning emotion
I don’t understand
A longing
A drawing
She’s calling to me
I must answer
Frantically I search for–
What?
Wandering among her branches and leaves
Finding a place of rest
The air is cold everywhere but here
My body is weak and tired
I lie down

Everywhere my back meets her surface
A warmth surges through me
Her grasses hide my face
Invisible to all but the lights above
And those lights
They sparkle and crackle
They whisper secrets

Faraway lands, they sing of
Lands of light and color
Where lights and sound swirls together
In an ethereal dance
I long to see those lands
A drop slips down my face
“Let me catch it!” a light cries
It leaps from its dark home to mine

I feel arms wrapping around me
Invisible bands holding me down
Not just my limbs
My every fiber becomes part of her
I can feel the pulse of my every cell
The air rush and fill every corner of my lungs
My mind, firing and processing
Then I become aware of her

I feel her move beneath my skin
The rotation that lasts beyond memory
Speed unimaginable
She has seen so much
She knows every secret
We commune and she tells her stories
Every foot that has passed over this spot
Every paw that ever will
She tells me her hopes and dreams
Her pain and woes
We share burdens and they lighten
I spread my hands and feel her surface
Intertwining my fingers in hers
Touching one so old and infinitely finite

The parliament across the meadow begins
They call to each other and to me
Asking probing questions
“Who, who?”
“I am Earth.” I respond
“How, how?”
“We are One.” I reply

Musings

Creativity in Hindsight

Sometimes you don’t really understand what your art means, or why you make it at all. But that’s the thing about being a creative person. You can’t stop making things just because you don’t understand them. When I wrote Volumes of Rows, I didn’t realize that what I was describing was probably dyslexia. That swimming around before the words are finally stationary long enough to convey their message is what goes on in my head every time I try to read. It’s as if the characters are on a rubber band that bounces away and back in the millisecond after my eye touches it. I didn’t notice this until recently, but it’s comforting to have an explanation of why I read so slowly, have a hard time with spelling and punctuation, and trouble doing basic arithmetic.penandink

When I’ve explained what I see to friends, the general reaction is something about how terrifying that must be. The first time I heard this, I laughed. It never occurred to me that vision problems were scary; they’re part of my reality.

But reality can be a scary place. Some of us don’t even have to read the news to see that. Some of us just have to remember. I’m still undoing years of brainwashing and manipulation. There are parts of my self, my personhood,  that I have such a hard time accepting because of what I was raised to think and feel about my body and role as a woman. I’ve felt overwhelming embarrassment when I see a picture of myself that shows some evidence of boobs, or even one that simply makes me look good. The amount of shame I felt after going out with friends and dancing with an attractive stranger left me in a state of extreme anxiety for weeks, resulting in more than one minor anxiety attack (one at rehearsal, in front of the whole cast of about 30). Processing my adolescence is taking much longer than I had expected. I keep finding myself upset about things that I thought I had gotten over.

Creating helps. Writing isn’t something I choose to do, it’s something that happens. To be honest, sometimes I hate it. It burns. It feels like drawing a long thread out of my diaphragm, and looping it into letters and words and thoughts. Both the exit wound and where it contacts my fingers feel as though they are being rubbed raw. But I have to do it. To leave that thread in place would burn even more; eventually eating me up from the inside out. When I journal I don’t know where the entry is going. Most begin with something about how I don’t know what to write or how to articulate my feelings. Journaling is cathartic. Writing poetry helps me articulate my emotions that I’m still trying to accept. I create to find out what I feel. And I share some of what I create to validate my feelings and those of others whom have had similar experiences. But I can’t share unless I create in the first place. “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Musings

Odd Child

I was an odd child. Ever since I was very young, I have wrestled with existential issues.

Birthdays have always been torture. Parties would often both begin and end with me crying in my bedroom, trying to forget that everyone there was focusing on me, so eventually I didn’t have them anymore. It bothered me to get older, even when I was small. I was aware of the “normal”achievements of a child valuemy age and it bothered me that I was behind. I’m six years old and I can’t read. I’ve done nothing with my life. Great, another year and no progress. Why are we celebrating my survival of another trip around the sun? It’s not that big of a deal.

But I’ve decided I’m not doing that this year. This has been the hardest year of my life. I’ve been depressed for most of it. I’ve changed more than I ever thought I could. There have been so many times when I just wanted to give up. When I felt nothing and the numbness was overwhelmingly cold and the only hope was that of an afterlife. There have been times when I felt far too much, but the emotions didn’t feel real until I gave them a physical manifestation; a physical pain to mirror and validate the emotional pain. There have been times when I was terrified for no discernible reason. I started having panic attacks. Dots connected that painted a heartbreaking picture and all I wanted to do was forget. But I survived.

I’ve learned more about myself and my tastes. I’ve had crushes for the first time in my life. I’ve been incredibly confused about said crushes. I’ve grown as a writer and a person. I’ve gotten to act and sing. I’ve been published. I’ve connected with people. I’ve learned some things I need to do to take care of myself.

I’m not over my depression or self harm. It’s a constant fight. I’m not done by any means, but I’m learning to accept my feelings as valid without needing a reason or explanation.

For now, I’m going to celebrate surviving another year.

Musings, Poet Among Other Things

Love and Freedom

I wrote this months ago, but given the national legalisation of same-sex marriage, it seems apropos to share now. I’m learning that, as a creative person, sometimes you make something, and you love it and are satisfied with it, but just can’t share it. It’s not that it isn’t ready, but that the environment isn’t ready. And that’s ok. It doesn’t mean that the art isn’t good, it just means that the time isn’t right.

Love?

What do you know of love?

You claim it as your Cornerstone

But have you looked at your foundation?

How can you claim to know loverainbowconverseverticle

When you spew death and hell?

All I have to do is say Yes

If you say No I am condemned

You say it is my actions, not me

But you do not see

My actions are part of who I am

My person caused my actions

 

You say you know love

You say what I know isn’t love

How can you tell me what love is?

Describe it to me

How can you know that isn’t what I feel?

You see an outer image

How can you look at one

And say, that is love?

But look at me and condemn

 

You say you know love

Are you patient, kind, just?

You want hard answers

I must define myself for eternity

Do you boast?

Is not your claim boastful?

To know the only love

Your list of perceived wrongs

It chokes the Life from me

 

You claim to see love

But your robe covers your eyes

Your tassels choke your words

You have cut off your own wings

 

And you claim to know love

Worse still

You claim Love has done this

That love left you torn

Beaten and bruised

 

You say you are not weighed down

That you are now made free

But how free is it to struggle?

To act without thought

To ride the wind

To speak the Voice of Ages

To love as seems fit

This is Freedom

Musings

Vampire Legs

A purple striped tank top hung from a pipe in the steamy laundry room. At the top of a stack of shorts lay a matching purple pair. “Why can’t I wear them anymore?” She was young. All she knew was that purple was far superior to pink, and short clothes were much cooler in the summer. The green shorts could go. Blue too. But why did the purple ones have to be gone. “They aren’t modest. A boy could look at you and think about not nice things if he sees too much of your skin.” Modesty wasn’t a concept she really understood, but she didn’t want anyone to think of bad things when they looked at her body.

Face down on the couch, matted brown hair clinging to her sweaty neck. Her legs and feet, propped up on the armrest, were covered in a layer of dust. “Why couldn’t I have been a boy? I should have been a boy.” She adjusts a new, uncomfortable, sports bra. Boys don’t have to wear stupid bras. Boys can wear whatever they want. Even her name was better for a boy.

In a closet consisting of tshirts and men’s jeans, the only indicators that this isn’t the wardrobe of a teenage boy are two denim skirts and a few worn out sports bras. If clothes are meant to cover your shame, they should also obscure every indicator of what type of body is hidden underneath. Tight could be more revealing than low cut, after all.

“You didn’t bring any shorts? I could get you some when I go to walmart later.” A young woman hikes through the woods with her camp counselor on a muggy June day. “No, I like jeans. They protect your legs from thorns and keep ticks off.”

Thud. Squish. Mud makes the trail slick, but that’s what the walking stick is for. She lead a group of young girls down through the woods. It had been cool and raining nearly constantly all week, so her one pair of knee length cut-off shorts hadn’t made an appearance until today. “You have vampire legs.” One girl remarks about the utter paleness of the young woman’s legs.

A group of young people sit around a table discussing fundraising ideas. “What about a car wash? It’s cliche, but we could have the girls wear bikinis– and the guys could wear speedos if they wanted.” She lets out a mirthless laugh “Trust me, no one wants to see this.

A few college friends stand around outside a movie theater. It’s warm, but not uncomfortably so. Summer has just begun and already she has a slight tan on her shoulders, there’s even some warmth on her legs. “What are you talking about? You have great legs.” She blushes and scoffs, but doesn’t refute the complement. The idea of any of her body parts being “good” is still a foreign concept, but she’s learning the language.

She sits and looks at the clothes draped over the ubiquitous “laundry chair.” Are there any shirts with sleeves left? Only a couple that fit. It’s funny how the clothes can change, but the mentality of shame can stay around even when it hasn’t been fed in years.

Hey asshole. There’s no room for you here. The food’s all gone, the party’s over. Go home. I have new friends now and none of us need you. You and your squad convinced us we couldn’t live without you, but you were wrong. Everything you had to offer was a lie. Now we can see you for what you are; a dirty, soul-sucking parasite. Hell bent on making us weak enough to look for strength and then convincing us that you had the answers. But guess what. Despite your best efforts to convince us that our bodies and everything about our personhood was worthless and shameful, we stand together and spit in your face.

Get the hell out of my life.

Kaythanxbi.