"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

security blanket:home :: ex-boyfriend's t-shirt:love

this series of portraits documents women wearing their ex-lovers' shirts and talking about the experience of love (and love lost). i feel like i'm looking into a mirror on my own experience. it helps to know i'm not alone and i'm not a weirdo for doing this too. so much comfort in the feel of that soft fabric against my cheek, even if there isn't a person behind it any more.

i sleep with my ex-partner's shirt beside my pillow. i nuzzle into it at night when i start to feel sad, when my awareness shakes me awake and reminds me again that i'm alone. for some reason just the smell of him helps me feel better, puts me in a place of calm and comfort, makes me think of being in california with nothing but his old shirt in bed with me. he started it; the first time he went away to Turkey, he hid it under my pillow for me to find later, and i slept in bed every night with it wrapped around me, the sleeves around my waist or draped over my shoulders, and somehow through all of that it never stopped smelling like ben, maybe it smelled even better over time because it smelled like us. even though the shirt i have isn't one he left for me, i keep it close by as a reminder: you weren't dreaming, he loved you once, he lived here with you and now he's gone. you were a we once. you loved each other. this is all that remains.

"It feels like a flag I can’t stop flying. It comforts me in the meantime between the spaces. It’s just a rag I turned into a promise that he would never leave. Some sort of common thread between us. Part of me wants to rip it off. So many what-ifs and could’ve-beens and should’ve-beens and never-weres. It’s just a shirt. It’s been there for me when people haven’t. It makes me feel childish and taken care of. It makes me look a little stronger than I am. As long as I hold onto the shirt she is never completely out of my life. I’d wear it every day if I could. As much as you build a house around it or put a ring on it it’s all still temporary and dissolving so all you can do is love it. Even if it’s painful we need to hold onto something. Proof that we did it. That we went through it. That we learned something. That our hearts were broken. That we were loved. That we weren’t loved enough. For someone I won’t be something that will be so easily shed."

i will not be erased

you do what you can to erase me from yr life
as if i never existed

you made a playlist for us once
i found it on spotify one night and cried tears of relief and joy
thinking we had one chance left
songs curated for our every moment
tender moments we shared
and delicate hopes for the future

when i asked you if it was meant for us you said yes
our initials side by side

today i find the playlist changed
the songs are the same
but the name is now

and i imagine you making love to yr new girlfriend
pretending like that list was for her
you forgetting all about me
these things have no value to you
but meant everything to me

here is that playlist now.
i will never forget.
you loved me once.
and i will not be forgotten.

point of contact

you call me for no reason today
    i was in a meeting
check my phone and see yr face

yr message says you're calling to see how i'm doing
   ask me to call you back

my heart sinks
    boils in my stomach
    my throat tightens
    my face scowls
    my body shakes + sweats

not because i'm excited to hear from you
you calling must mean you have something to say
and i don't want to find out what it is

you don't get to check in on me like you're doing me a favor
like you're such a noble dude
like you're doing a good thing
walking out and hurting me in the deepest possible way
and then call me in a few days as if that will make things better
you don't get to break into my life again whenever you like

you don't get to ask me how i'm doing
pretending like you care again
when yesterday you acted like i'd done the worst possible thing
by falling in love with you

you don't get to check up on me
when you're the reason i am this way
and you're the reason i'm here
and you're the reason i'll never the be same

you don't get to call whenever you like
and disrupt my world
just as i'm learning to live without you

you don't get to feel better by patronizing me
as if all i've needed is to hear from you

because you're not helping
and though i still love you
i kinda hope you rot

sea of love

i've sometimes wondered how i would handle something like a life-shattering, emotionally devastating break-up if i had to (obviously, i didn't think about it often enough, or i might've been better prepared. alas, some things you can just never anticipate).

in the past when i've grieved the loss of loved ones, i've shut myself down, unable to find the motivation to move forward in productive ways. i always beat myself up over things, whether it was the time i got fired from a job, or the time my first boyfriend cheated on me, i've always put myself at the center of that blame ("you weren't smart enough," "you didn't work hard enough to make things work," "you're not pretty or interesting, why would anyone ever want to be with you?") or found ways to blame others if i was feeling generous to myself that day ("the management at that organization was a mess, those people were jerks!", "the lady my dude was cheating with is ugly, why would he want to be with her?") neither one of these approaches is healthy. but we do strange things when we grieve.

when my uncle passed away, i blamed myself, somehow, for it happening. i beat myself up over not visiting him in San Francisco just months prior, thought maybe if i had, the entire course of time would have been changed and he would still be alive. when i got the call that he was in the hospital, i was teaching a class full of irate special ed students in South Central LA and i put the phone back in my pocket, in casual disbelief, and somehow didn't let things sink in enough to phase me (he died that night, when i was in grad classes. when i got the call, it suddenly sunk in so much that i felt myself sinking... tears leapt to my eyes, i couldn't breathe, i ran out of the classroom and got in my car, drove thru the night sky wailing and begging for everything to go back. i called cousins and cried while they told me they loved me. i just stuttered in my stupid grief. i couldn't tell them that more than anything else, i felt guilt, i felt i had caused this to happen... i had believed so much in my world continuing uninterrupted that the universe had to send me a dramatic sign to WAKE THE FUCK UP).

when my grandma passed away, i did the same thing. i thought about the call i had with her just a few days ago, how i was happy to talk to her but also eager to get off the phone so i could go back to whatever stupid selfish thing i was doing at the time (probably studying or writing a paper, or more likely pretending to do that while i wasted time on the internet). i called her every week and this week she was more talkative than usual, and took the time to tell me she loved me, how much i meant to her, and how proud she was of me. i took those words in, but didn't let them resonate the way they should. when she passed away i thought about that conversation, and still do quite frequently, as my grandmother knowing her time was coming and needing to say everything she needed to say to me. how selfish and self-absorbed i had been at the time to not appreciate and be there with her in that moment... it is still a guilt and a pain i hold tight to my heart to this day. i did so many little things to show her i loved her, but when it counted i wasn't there for her in the way i should have. if i could have that moment back, if i could have a handful of moments back, would everything be changed? could my love for her and for my uncle have saved them if i only let them feel it a little more? i had the belief that my love was magical enough to protect all those around me.

i carry so much guilt and sadness with me every single day. all the ways i've wronged my loved ones and all the times i've been the recipient of love and taken it for granted. when i stop too long to think about it i get sick and angry at myself, and in the strange way of grief, wish i could bargain my life, my youth, my health for the chance to bring any of those people back.

i spend a lot of energy thinking about this. in the last few weeks, as i've had to adjust to losing my job and losing the love of my life in the space of a month of each other, i've wondered every day if this is all somehow my fault. if i deserved this. if somehow the universe designed this as a punishment for something terrible i did.

every morning is a battle between two forces inside my head. one that wants to punish myself, to see myself fail, to never be happy again, to never rise out of bed, to shrivel and die and be forgotten and disappear. the other wants to fight, to prosper, to create and reach out and risk it all because there isn't a lot left to lose. i am never sure each morning which one it's gonna be. and throughout the day those competing forces still rage on inside me. there are moments when something reminds me how bad everything feels right now and i shrink into a ball, just break down inside myself and if i don't cry, i stare into the distance and see nothing.

but i am still here because of a few small things that mean everything. at my lowest, darkest point, when i could feel myself suffocating under sadness and grasping for a way out, i had a friend who was able to help me. i'll never forget this moment because he saved me. he gave me what i needed before i even realized i needed it. he told me it's ok to grieve, to be upset, to feel torn down. but never, ever, should i blame myself for any of it. people do cruel things to one another but we cannot be cruel to ourselves. even if i forget that, he reminded me that there are people who love me. and even though there are so many people who hurt us, who take us for granted, who make us feel small and invisible and insignificant, there are more who love us, for whom we are the world, who would be devastated if we disappeared.

in the last few weeks i'd beaten myself up so much i stopped eating, stopped sleeping, and stopped feeling anything besides sadness. i got good at smiling in public, but mostly so i wouldn't make people around me uncomfortable. my family has had the worst of it -- i haven't told them about my job or relationship problems because i don't want them to worry about me. for my burdens to be their burdens. but they can tell. my dad told me on the phone as he waited for his flight to London that he worries about me because i haven't sounded happy in a long time. we're having a family reunion in a week and i'm worried about bringing all this sadness with me. he told me he loved me, so emphatically, that i would have cried if i had any tears left in the tank.

my cousin said it best: "remember that there are people who love you. put one foot in front of the other until you get yourself out of this."

remembering in this helps me to lift my head and get out of bed every day. if not for myself right now, then for the people who love me, who believe i can do great things.

since things started falling apart, i've been slowly finding my feet again and managing to put them one step at a time towards the future: i started playing guitar and ukulele again (as evidenced by my videos), i've started reading and writing again (as seen on this blog + got a public library card!), i've found new communities and causes to dedicate my small efforts to (joined a community bike repair group that fixes bikes for low income youth, did a 50 mile bike ride in support of programs for homeless individuals in Syracuse, will be joining weekly rides with the same homeless advocacy group, trying to find opportunities to work with inner city youth on violence prevention, thinking about starting a cycling group for women and victims of assault and abuse). and even though it once felt impossible to love again, to open my heart to another person and risk being hurt again, it hasn't stopped me from loving my friends and family... if there is anyone in the world deserving of it, it's the people who have been there for me when i needed them most and asked nothing in return, who have seen my sadness and met it not with revulsion or annoyance (as my former partner did), but with patient, steady, everlasting love.

this is not a break-up song, but a thank you song. a song of thanks for showing me the sea of love i am immersed in.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

habits of the heart

i go about my day
       wandering aimlessly
             i realize how i carried you in my pocket all these years (a phone call away)
                 and now you're not

it feels the way it did in California
     sun shining, chill breeze
i'd wander around alone
       collecting thoughts and images
       gathering stories from the day
       to share with you later

a habit that hurts when i return to the apartment later
          and remember you're not there
          and it's no longer ok
          to call you with a moment's forgetting
                                  a moment's little happiness
                                  the day's small news

like, i took a bike ride today
       a small bird alighted next to me as i sat in the grass
       the lake was shining as if you were there next to me and
       i miss you


it's the longest day of the year
     a horrible day to be alone
          and missing someone

i'm starting this summer
        and the rest of this life
                 without you

there are more minutes than usual to while away
more minutes than usual to think about you
more time than i want to spend fumbling thru and waiting
more moments than a usual day to be reminded
                  i'm without you

i think of what we'd do in our other life
       pack up a picnic, sit and listen to the whispers of the lake
       ride bikes, wind like fingers thru our hair
       lay in the tall grass and feel the comfort of sun our face
fall asleep later and thank each other for a good day
wake up happy to see the sun rise again

when you're happy the extra time is a gift
         you want to stretch those moments out forever
         time is never enough
         (we used to feel this way)
when you're unhappy the longest day is a torture
        a sentence to be painfully waited out
        time is your punishment
        (this is how i feel now)

let this be a warning

"Don't let this fading summer pass you by...
you thought that you could outrun sorrow
Take your own advice
This thunder and lightning gets you rain" 

Friday, June 20, 2014

as if a dream

i imagine other worlds
            parallel existences
      somewhere out there
             there's a version of us
                   that gets to stay together
                   that finds a way to happiness
     somewhere out there
              i'm still holding your hand at night
               drifting thru sleep
                       like otters in the sea

maybe that can be my life one day
       and i'll wake up
            and this version can disappear
                       as if a dream

a poem for the last day of our shared life

feeling like i've been torn apart
  a train running thru my heart
  crushing everything on the tracks
  turning me into pulp

i want to write down every memory before
    i forget
before it's washed away
    before it becomes too gone
                                   too the past
                                      too lost
                                        too never again

these are the last times i will ever think
   about you

so much emptiness around me
   the room divided in half -- yours and mine
    but now you're gone
  half an empty table
     half an empty dresser
             half an empty bed
         a limp and empty pillow case where your head used to lay beside mine

your coats are gone
    your shoes too
     all the little stray hairs cleaned up
           and scattered somewhere else

i always thought when we left here we'd be leaving together
packing up our stuff for a new adventure
but you leave without me to start your life
   and i remain in this half empty apartment
      every corner a memory
         every moment a ghost
i never prepared myself to be abandoned like this
  i don't have bags packed for this trip

the left and leaving feeling
       the reality of loss
           you don't feel the finality until you see the physical emptiness
suddenly surrounding you

i watch as you pick thru things and
   stuff them in boxes
   what you choose to keep
     and what you leave behind

notes you wrote me, i find them crumpled
   and discarded in the recycling
  like small helpless birds with broken wings
    i pick them up and unfurl them in my palm

my heart sinks when i find those pieces of us thrown away
a picture of me from Occupy, left on the refrigerator --
    you don't want me coming with you
pictures of us in California --
    a fortune cookie message we somehow got twice
        "Your dearest wish will come true"
    you pinned them to the pictures above our desk
you left those behind too
in one of the pictures, we walk towards each other
    thru a maze of sea stones --
    forever frozen in time, never reaching each other before our moment ends
stuck in the amber of time
scraps of napkin with tape on the back
   a poem we wrote together
   where did this emerge from?
   you kept it safe all these years, only to leave it behind now like trash
a book of pictures -- The Story of Us --
  our happiest memories, a gift i made you
  that gets left behind too
the scarf i made you for Christmas one year,
the only thing i've ever knit, you took that
i imagine you wearing it around your face years from now, not even remembering me
     or maybe you discard it in a Goodwill pile when you wear out its fibers at last

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Mystery Girl

heard this song on NPR the other day in a story on Roy Orbison and it's been stuck in my head since. here's my ukulele attempt at it:

i should leave it alone but you're not right

today brings: more acoustic distractions from the pain i can't stop feeling. one day i'll be able to write and speak with clarity the sorrow of love lost, will be able to give shape to my pain and then discard it like a husk. but until then, these songs are all i have to offer for utterance.

edited to add:
a few hours after the initial video was posted, i rode my bike to the lake and i cried as i stared out across the water. when i got home, my longtime partner and former fiance packed up his stuff and moved out. empty bookshelves and half an apartment vacated... literally holes all around me where a person i loved used to fill it. in the trash i found a note he'd written me last christmas: "Happy Christmas, Baby! Want to color and/or read together tonight? I love you so much, Your Baby Boy" -- so much lost in a year. and he took the activist coloring books he gave me as presents with him. he left other things... frames of us on the floor, a copy of a book i gave him when we first started dating, piles of laundry. such an empty hollow feeling. right now i don't know how i'll ever not be sad, this feeling seems like it was built to last.

so i cried and i cried and when i had no tears left i tried this song again and this is what came of it:

Monday, June 16, 2014

a song you'll never hear again

so many nights spent listening to The National, they've become an outside comfort. they always seemed to know the state of our relationship, both good and bad. but i guess that's every band, isn't it? so much written about love, loss and pain.

in the early evenings in Los Angeles, cooking dinner in our loft apartment, bright kitchen lights softly illuminating the bedroom office, we lived in one large room with many corners connected by a staircase. back then, the lyrics that spoke to our situation were:

Stay out super late tonight
Picking apples, making pies
Put a little something in our lemonade
And take it with us

Tiptoe through our shiny city
With our diamond slippers on
Do our gay ballet on ice
Bluebirds on our shoulders

Turn the light out, say goodnight
No thinking for a little while
Let's not try to figure out everything at once
It's hard to keep track of you falling through the sky

We're half awake in a fake empire

and now? i can't stop listening to this song. it's a chorus to the waves of pain and regret i feel throughout the day. it gives shape to the voids and emptiness and soft-voiced anger i have felt since this started sinking in. it's a reminder that things will be different and i'll never get certain things back, even songs are changed.

Don't make me read your mind
It takes me too much time
You're not that much like me
We have different enemies
You should know me better than that

I should leave it alone but you're not right
I should leave it alone but you're not right

Can't you write it on the wall?
There's no room to write it all
Can you turn the TV down?
There's too much crying in the sound
I should know you better than that

I should leave it alone but you're not right
I should live in salt for leaving you behind

Think about something so much
Start to slide out of touch
Tell yourself it's all you know
Learn to appreciate the void
You should know me better than that

I should live in salt for leaving you behind
I should live in salt for leaving you behind
I should live in salt for leaving you behind

Sunday, June 15, 2014

heartbreak hotel

things have been so shitty lately. if i can live through this i can live through anything.

i can literally feel my heart break into irreparable pieces every day. i think if i ever manage to put the pieces back together, it will be less capacious than before. sometimes i feel i may never find a way out of this sadness.

my survival tactic is to space out distractions for myself... yoga this day, dancing the next, dinner with friends the day after that, a phone call with a west coast friend after that... and in those gaps, i learn songs on the guitar and ukulele, like applying mortar to the gaps between bricks... hoping i can build up defenses around me.

i'm not a super singer. i do ok with strumming things but i'm no rock star. i'm just trying to cobble together an arsenal of kick ass break-up songs to sing when i feel my resolve disappearing.

Monday, June 09, 2014

guitar tabs for Jens Lekman's "Cowboy Boots"

ever since i first heard this song i wanted to figure out the tabs. enjoy!

Capo on 3rd fret

Intro - G A D G

G                A
You were in my dream last night
D                    G
Like every night since two years ago
G                             A
I think my dream is trying to tell my something
           D                   G     
And I say “tell me something I don't already know”

G    G/B       Em        A          D
Just buy me a drink, so I can refuse
G                          G        A                   D
To raise my glass to these sad and worn out midnight shoes
              G      A            D
In my next dream I want a pair of cowboy boots
              G         A                    D
The kind that walks the straightest and most narrow route
Anywhere but back to you

G                     A
Here we are down the same old street
D                G
Here we are with nothing to say
G                         A
My little hand trying to make it into yours
        D                         G
But you put it in your pocket and look away
G               A
I keep my eyes on the sidewalk
D                       G
For something flippable like a dime
G                     A
I wanna know how you forgive someone
D                          G
Someone you've forgiven so many times

G    G/B       Em        A          D
Just buy me a drink, so I can refuse
G                          G        A                   D
To raise my glass to these sad and worn out midnight shoes
              G      A            D
In my next dream I want a pair of cowboy boots
              G         A                    D
The kind that walks the straightest and most narrow route
Anywhere but back to you
Anywhere but back to you

Sunday, June 08, 2014

quotes from F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Well, let it pass, he thought; April is over, April is over. There are all kinds of love in the world, but never the same love twice."

-from "The Sensible Thing" (short story)

“I want to know you moved and breathed in the same world with me.” 

-F. Scott Fitzgerald, Short Stories

quotes on love from Bob Marley



Bob Marley

Saturday, June 07, 2014

because i was in love

Sharon Van Etten is having her moment, and good for her. i was driving around Syracuse this morning, feeling so sad and lost, and then this song emerged from a long playlist i made in college.

it was like being thrown a parachute. i felt lifted above the gravity of my sadness for a moment.

i wanted to keep singing it and singing it and thus soothe all these heart wounds. apply it generously like a salve.

you can see i'm breaking up a bit over here. there are some words that are harder to say and swallow than others.

Friday, June 06, 2014

the past is a haunting

Post traumatic stress: not just for war, she thought. She felt silly and dramatic for thinking that. But what else to call this incessant feeling? The ceased existence of what was once vibrant; the vivid aching realness of something disappeared. The feeling of emptiness- how did all those moments fill such a space in the heart and then just suddenly disappear?- and the fear it will never be filled again, a saggy receptacle stretched larger still with the weight of this sadness. The splintering of happiness into a million, haunting, ever-present but gone moments. The way a lyric in a song could cause her to recall an unwelcome feeling and send her reeling into a fit of despair in the middle of driving to buy groceries. Standing in her kitchen washing dishes, a phantom sensation of a caress on the shoulder would cause her to break and slump into herself, sobbing. Scraps of paper with hand scribbled notes, casually tacked to the wall now were precious artifacts of a bygone time, and would cause her to clutch herself for fear of fading away, crying on the couch until day receded into night, and she was still alone. Little ghosts scattered everywhere, peppered throughout the day. Every moment riddled with landmines.

Being among people had become an alien experience. She thought surrounding herself would offer a much needed distraction, a way to escape from the weight of her thoughts. But she felt the nagging tug of that darkness even more in the presence of others. The language of happiness, of excitement, made her feel foreign, lonelier than ever. Misery had become her skin, her parasite, the tug and comfort of a strait jacket.


she opened her eyes. 7:23 am. the sun was already beaming onto her face from the window across the bed from her, shining hot and bright from off the roof of the house across the driveway. the birds were perched as they were every morning for the last 47 days, heads cocked cheerily to the side, screaming their tiny lungs into the summer air. at least they were happy it was summer. at least there was constancy there. so much life and cheer in small animals, she thought. she imagined the thoughts of a little bird brain, wished for the daily happiness that caused small birds to sing.

her face was heavy and puffy, her eyes refusing to open despite feeling wide awake. perhaps it was her allergies, the endless crying that caused her face to swell like it needed an epi pen, or the incurable wakefulness. it had been 57 days since she had slept a full night. she'd toss and turn in bed, drifting between bouts of fitful sobbing and panicky night sweats. the crying helped to exhaust her enough to drift into a pretend slumber before the panic of her reality set in again and the muscles in her face, her jaw, her hands, her forehead would tense, she'd feel the weight of her existence crushing down on her like a steel clamp, and she'd be eyes open again, staring into the darkness of the night, thinking about a life spent like this and feeling afraid that she'd never enjoy a moment of calm and not-fear again. it felt like a life sentence, trapped in the cell of her body, a vessel for a punishment meted out for a crime she didn't realize she'd committed.

she would lay there in bed picking through the details of her life, hopelessly trying to find the reasons she deserved to be this unhappy. a Sysiphean task, she feared she'd find herself rolling that crushing weight around in her mind every moment for the rest of her life.