Category Archives: messengers

’til her little heart’s content.

excerpt from the journal of a 16-year-old tootie:

i want to be strong enough on the inside to accept things the way they are, but i don’t want to be so strong that i am heartless. i want to cry, i want to laugh, i want to be angry — but at a whole different level.

i often wonder about this 16 year old.

after almost 12 years of learning and growing and stretching into a grown-up skin, i still feel a commonality with her. 15-year-old tootie? too socially awkward. 17- and 18-year-old tooties? both entirely too boy crazy and quick to please superiors.

but 16-year-old tootie… now, there’s a girl i can get behind.

i guess it’s largely because she was almost there. she almost had it right.

every once in a while, i feel like i channel her. i know how ridiculous that may sound… seeing as how i am her. but there’s really not a better way to describe it. she makes me remember what it feels like to pour the soul onto paper. yes, paper. with an ink pen. real old-school style stuff.

and i remember what it felt like for her to be alone with her thoughts and this paper. to reach down, down deep until she struck a well, and her hand couldn’t keep up.

to 16-year-old tootie, the reality she lived in was only a figment of something larger — something she couldn’t quite place, but was still as real as ink or trees or books (all of which she loved).

this is the tootie who wanted to feel deeper, no matter how hard it hurt.

she wasn’t afraid or ashamed or embarrassed by what spewed forth from her gel rollerball.

because once it was out there, for all the world to see, it became everything she needed it to be.

and then she could turn the page.

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everybody wants to rule the world.

i haven’t written in 10 days.

it seems that i have been letting life’s ennui drain my energy and my focus.

it happens.

now i’m preparing to celebrate another family holiday as “newly separated, potentially crazy, sad and lonely girl.”

(not my choice of words.)

thing is, i don’t feel crazy or sad or lonely. sometimes, lonely. but not as such an overwhelming adjective.

but my family has a tendency to treat me as such.

they walk on eggshells around me.

and, at the mere mention of the words “divorce” or “marriage” or “husband,” i watch in amazement as eyes dart around the room with the hope that the words are lost in a paranormal shift.

or drowned in the silence that follow them.

and i’m left wondering what the fuss is about. why the need for discretion?

as if i am unaware of what is unfolding in my world.

i try to step back and look at it from their perspective. they are concerned because they are full of love for me and want me to be happy.

to them i am, as they say, fragile. (not to be confused with weak.)

perhaps they are unsure how to handle fragile. maybe fragile makes them uncomfortable. or scared.

but the world is full of fragile. i’m not alone in that regard.

and if i could tell them anything it would be that fragile is just a fact of life. it’s not more or less meaningful when it happens to me than when it happens to anyone or anything else.

even fragile has its place, and any efforts to control its causes or consequences are even more futile than attempts to prevent the spin of the earth.

or maybe that’s what i need to tell myself.

after all, i haven’t written in 10 days.

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cinnamon and slugs and synapses.

there’s this moment from many years back that my sister and i share.

something to do with cinnamon altoids.

i don’t even remember the whole joke, but every time we say the punchline — “cinnamon altoid?” — we both laugh hysterically.

this is usually followed by a conversation in which we both explain how we tried to re-tell the moment to someone outside of the joke and received blank stares instead of laughter.

and then we both laugh again, this time at the giddiness of sharing our own private joke that no one else can have.

it doesn’t seem like much, but it’s these little moments that define my relationship with my youngest sister.

when we get together, we talk about slug foot. and jc chasez. and special spaghetti. and flying toenails. and most of the time, it’s just a single phrase that launches us into a thousand giggly hysterics.

but it’s not really the phrases that construct our sisterly association.

it is the moments just before and directly after the phrases.

when our synapses fire and emit the same memory with the same emotional trigger. our mind-gears click, rock, spin in perfect time and tenor.

she’s there. and i am there. and we get each other. and no other words are needed.

it is the relationship that i adore most. because the in-between parts become a super-charged consolation.

and even when the phrases aren’t there, she is there. her spirit hugs mine.

and i never forget my way back.

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p.s. do i know you?

in an effort to make an extremely long story extremely short (as best as the complexities of familial bonds will allow): i have never had a great relationship with my biological father.

i’ve never even had a decent relationship with him.

or any kind of relationship.

as a matter of fact, when i was in 4th grade (right before he and my mom divorced), i asked him to sign a contract that stated he would no longer be my dad. he declined to sign. it didn’t matter to me that a used envelope covered in crayon wasn’t admissible in a court of law; i just wanted him to acknowledge my disapproval of his parenting.

see where i’m going with this?

with the exception of a few holidays and one agonizing summer, my sisters and i never really saw my dad during our childhood. he has always lived out of state and schedules, work, school, yada-yada… there was always an excuse on either end.

the summer after my senior year of high school, i finally got up the nerve to write him a very detailed, castigating letter in which i spewed forth years of irritations, disappointments and frustrations. i think the grand total was five pages, front and back. something like that.

weeks went by before i got a response.

and then, a letter.

he was sorry that my boyfriend broke my heart, but that it was probably for the best; he knew it took a lot of courage to write what i wrote; he understood why i felt this way, but…

but.

he wasn’t the only one who failed at our relationship.

with that, i tucked the letter in the back of a book. every once in a while, i would unearth it with the hope that time would expose some sort of underlying truth or grand revelation.

the last time i read it was about four months ago, when i was packing up my books to make the trek from marriage to single adulthood for the second time in my life.

and, as i sat in the floor of my soon-to-be former house and my soon-to-be former life, i realized why the letter never gave me any peace.

why couldn’t i move on from this? why couldn’t i chock it up to a series of missed opportunities and coulda-shouldas?

because staring back at me from those pages was someone just like me.

the string of failed relationships, the stubborn independence, the reckless disregard of consequences, the wanderlust.

that is my dad in a nutshell.

or, rather, that is me.

i spent so much time chastising the person he is, that i never realized how much alike we are. how the road i have traveled has had many of the same hills and valleys as the one he chose.

and, i tell ya, there has never been a more painful or irrefutable epiphany than that one right there.

if only i knew what to do with it.

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instances, in an instant.

homeless. laid-off. please help. god bless.

his sign was ragged with big, black letters. he wore a scratchy beard, halfway between worn and weathered.

he was dressed in dirty khaki shorts, beaten work boots, a holey t-shirt.

and the sadness —

it swirled around him. cradled him. wrung him out and shook him down.

this street corner defined him. but it was not his whole world.

* * *

someone once told me that this man and others like him were just beggars. people exploiting other people to get a free ride.

a free ride.

it never seemed free to me.

i’ve seen the way people look at men like him.

or the way they turn their heads and pretend not to see him at all.

the thing is, this man makes them uncomfortable.

he is both desperate and hopeful.

sometimes that combination throws people into a whirlwind of emotions. and they avert their eyes.

we like to pretend we have every ounce of control over our own little spaces in the universe. we like to believe that we will never be on that street corner, holding that sign.

but there is no difference between me and him. you and me. him and you.

we are made up of the same matter, the same energy, the same emotional charges.

the line is thin.

and the sooner we realize this, the sooner our world becomes a place where men don’t carry ragged signs.

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my cats are trying to tell me something. and i don’t think i like it.

i’ve lived in my apartment for approximately one month now, and i’ve spent a sizable chunk of that time on my knees… cleaning up hairballs/piles of rancid cat puke.

and, in the past few weeks, i’ve cleaned cat shit off of the following surfaces: floor, two walls, bathroom sink, inside the bathtub and my sheets. sadly, my assigned laundry day is not until wednesday (we have to take turns in my 8-plex). so i’m only a little ashamed to admit that the sheets were only spot-cleaned and are still on my bed. where i will be sleeping. for two more days.

i think the cats’ message is clear: dear mom, you think you’d like to bring a man in this apartment at some point… BUT YOU’D BE WRONG.

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attitude, shmattitude.

i’m new to the neighborhood.

so i’ve been making a point to remember things, activities and people in my still unfamiliar surroundings.

train whistles cutting through dark hours.

stray (roaming?) dogs hurrying down busy streets.

baked bread colliding with gasoline.

guitar-tuning two doors down.

faces.

i especially pay attention to faces.

i believe most of us spend the majority of our lives comparing faces. it’s sad, that one’s happy. this one’s friendly. that one’s intimidating.

we wear our attitude on our faces. whether we like it or not, that fact is undeniable.

of course, even though we may not be able to change the way our attitude is reflected, we can change our attitude.

[insert flashback to 6th grade: my mom got my report card, took one look at the unsatisfactory line of Cs and one D and told me to “change my attitude” at once. i spent the rest of the evening sulking.]

i’ve spent a lot of my time and conscious effort talking myself out of a hideous mood. i am fortunate that, though my moods are sometimes awry, i am generally an optimistic person.

generally.

and though i hope to always convey that attitude in my face, i have been known to miss the mark.

a few weeks ago, i was caught mid-mark-missing by a complete stranger.

she wore a gray hoodie, black sweatpants and walking shoes.

and she traveled in an electric wheelchair.

my head was down, at first, as i toted a bag of garbage to a nearby dumpster. i walked hurriedly, as i was running late for work. i tossed the trash and turned on my heel. i noticed right away that she was smiling. and laughing.

but it took me a bit longer to realize that she was smiling at me.

at me.

i heard her shout something from across the street that separated us. “pardon me?” i asked.

“i said, ‘smile! it’ll make it easier!'” she laughed.

i smiled in response to her’s. “thanks! you’re right!”

and as she passed, i turned to watch her disappear down the road.

what she saw: furrowed brow, frown, hectic stride.

and she suggested i change it. for my benefit and for the benefit of those whose paths i would cross.

attitude is contagious. cliché, i know.

but her’s most certainly infected me.

and released me from my negativity.

i’ve seen her three times since that morning, and every time is exactly like the first.

we exchange smiles, pleasantries, attitudes. then we go about our respective days.

and i’m always happy to see her again.

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