Lavender 

I used to think you lavender

And myself a shade of blue

Because when you came round

You lit me up

And replaced my blue with you

Lavender was all I craved

Steadiness, warmth, and calm

When you called out to me

It was your lavender I slipped on

You waved away my cloudy days

With just a flick of your hand

You steadied all my careless ways

And helped me understand

It was okay to be blue, you’d say

After your fourth or fifth beer

Just don’t get too crazy, babe

You’d remind me with a jeer

I lay with you in your bed at night

Knowing I wasn’t the only one

Who laid at night with lavender

True blue, I bit my tongue.

Days to weeks and weeks to months

And now it has been years

I’m always blue, and only blue

Until lavender reappears

So many times I’ve wondered

And then I’ve stopped myself

Was I truly blue when you found me?

Or did you declare me blue yourself?

Was it my state of being

Or an opening you saw –

Was I ever something other than blue

Or were you the blue one after all?

That’s the funny thing about time

And growing past a problem

You start to see with clarity

You start to learn to solve them

If I saw you now, you’d smile that smile

That you saved just for me

And I know I’d squint and

For just a moment

The predator would be me

I loved you once

And I swear some days

I wish I could turn back time

But I stop myself, remembering

How blue you made my mind

Because that’s the thing

That took so long

For me to understand –

You were the rough and bellowing sea

And I was the safety of land.

I thought it was in reverse

You the savior, I the damned

But when the fog cleared

And the sky beamed down

I saw it was all lavender in my hands

The house to ourselves, the captain’s chair

You called me “Pink” to all your friends

A knowing look, your strut, your sway –

Third Eye Blind’s “Dopamine” on replay

The bad was bad and the good was good

And that’s all I can let it be

In the succession of your blue girls

I never fell in line

I protested, I fought for myself

And now color is mine

I found out what you never wanted me to know

The truth you kept under your thumb

The lavender was always me

It was you who was blue all along

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I ALWAYS KNOW WHERE THE BATHROOM IS

I always know where the bathroom is
In every building that I go
I always know where the bathroom is
Because that is where I’m safe, I know

I always know where the bathroom is
Flushed red chest and wild eyes
I always know where the bathroom is
Where I can pretend I’m not alive

I always know where the bathroom is
Sweat trickling to the cold tile floor
I always know where the bathroom is
Escape just behind the lock of a door

I always know where the bathroom is
Murmured conversation all around
I always know where the bathroom is
The place where I’m allowed to be upside down

I always know where the bathroom is
Hand to the wall, breathe in, breathe out
I always know where the bathroom is
Where my mind is free to shout

I always know where the bathroom is
A concerned friend texting from outside
I always know where the bathroom is
My head pressed between my thighs, “Oh, I’m fine!”

I always know where the bathroom is
You see, that’s where I stay
I always know where the bathroom is
There’s nothing else, game over, no other way.

#FIREDUP2k16

So, I was fired from the funeral home.

Again.

One day shy of the one year anniversary of the first time I was fired.

Ahhhh, life. You never, ever, ever fail to keep me on my toes.

I missed class yesterday morning, which never happens. I set my alarm for the wrong time, I mixed up my days, totally goofed – but this meant that I could go into work early, and I was really excited to go into work. I miss work, I hate that school takes me away from work and that I don’t get to be as present as I want to be, as involved as I long to be. I didn’t text Tom and tell him that I was sneaking in a few hours early because I wanted to surprise him. Yesterday was the first day that felt like fall to me, the leaves are starting to change, the air was nice and cool, the sun was bright. I felt fine, I remember thinking that – I feel fine today.  I walked into the funeral home with a vial of shaved citrine in my hand (said to bring success in ones career) and an Elvis magnet, stoked to add them to the rest of the oddities collected on my desk.

I made it as far as the doorway. I didn’t even get to put my bag down.

Continue reading

BEFORE/AFTER

I have been living with a pain in my neck and shoulders for the past few days that feels like some sort of stress-born entity has planted roots and taken up a permanent residence inside of me, tendrils coiling lovingly around the knobs of my spine. Very matter of factly did it move in, like I had no choice or say in it at all. I never even thought to fight it, never even thought I had the right to. I am and always was bound to be the corporeal home of this being – was always meant to carry this weight.

I lay in my bed and I study the world around me through the tiny screen that is my way out – I compare, I compare, I hate myself, I hate everything about who I am. How did all of these lucky people that I know get to become able, capable, confident? What exactly is it that happened to me to make me so hard on myself? I try to look back on my life and pinpoint it – was it a childhood trauma,  some deep, emotional disturbance? I don’t know. But every day feels like I’m tip-toeing closer to the edge of a cliff.

What happens next? What do I do? Who am I? I don’t know.

Agitated, agitated. I’m happiest alone, but I crave motion, company. Stillness makes me nervous. I don’t feel like myself anymore, I haven’t for years – I constantly think back to the “old me” and wish I could find her again, she was fun, she was free, she wasn’t afraid. Instead I feel restless, old, stuck, uneasy, caged – I can NEVER see the forest for the trees. Summer is hard for me – summer is always hard for me. I want to say that I am not okay, I want to scream it as loud as I can until someone hears me, but I can’t find my voice, and even if I somehow could, what would matter? What would change? Those who want to help me annoy me most. I’m too tired to talk, it takes too much energy to try to make anyone understand that I feel like I’m already gone.

I am aware that time is flying and I can feel it, sticky and hot, as it rushes by and sucks the breath out of me, but somehow I still seem to be exactly where I’ve always been, watching everyone else pass me by.

Always watching.

Jealousy and spite are getting the best of me, I am a bent and bowed creature, labored and wanting. I don’t want to work, I don’t want to fight, I don’t want to do anything at all. I feel dumb, sluggish, my once attractive features warped into a constant ugliness that is all that I can ever see or fixate on. If I could pick myself to death, skin clean from the bones, I would, and with a smile.

I have lost sight, I have lost hope, I am unfocused. I search for answers, I have no answers, there are no damn answers. I hurt and I hurt and I hold it because I can’t bear to share it, can’t stand the feeling of my guts hitting the floor as I pour them out.

 

FORTUNATE

I’ll be thirty soon. In just a little over 3 months.

It feels hard to believe and also just right, you know? Like, wow. I can’t believe I’m not 11 and listening to Hanson and waiting for Taylor Hanson to eventually deflower me. And also like wow, I can’t believe I’m 29 and listening to Hanson and still wish it had been Taylor Hanson who deflowered me. Somewhere in between all that.

I’ve become quite introspective as my twenties have gradually started to draw to a close, which I feel is probably very normal – sometimes I look back at the last decade and ask myself “what the hell did you waste all that marvelous, youth-laden time for? You should have done so much more!” And other times, I look back and I laugh and cry and thank God Almighty that I have seen and done so many of the things that I have, because life moves so quickly that sometimes I forgot how great it has been – and truly, life has been kind of wild.

Though I’m reaching this milestone birthday that (to me, at least) is supposed to really signify the crossover into full blown adulthood, this place where I should be totally together and everything everyone expects of me – there are times where I feel less sure of who I am than ever before. Truth be told, I never really know what to think of myself.  Do any of us? Perhaps this is the last great hang up of my twenties – perhaps it will take much, much longer to figure out. I recognize that I get caught up a lot in living a social media life. I want my life to look pretty and I want you all to think that I’m interesting and fun and worthy of love, and I want to be someone that you want to know. I am very lonely a lot of the time, many times when surrounded by people I love – but I don’t want you all to think of me as lonely. I want to talk to you about my mental health problems, but I worry that I’ll do or say something and you’ll think I’m just “crazy”. And most of all, I worry that you think something must be wrong with me because I am single. That’s the greatest worry of all. Sometimes I want to show up on the internet performing tricks, juggling fire, belting arias, anything just to distract you from the fact that I’m single – because it makes me feel different. And feeling different makes me feel bad.

So I worry. And that’s silly, isn’t it? To worry about what people MIGHT be thinking of you. But boy, I am the queen of it.

There are many days where I struggle with who I am and with my life’s path, because let’s face it – three months won’t make me a together kind of girl. I won’t magic myself into adulthood just because the calendar says so. And I feel like a lot of times, I don’t have many people to turn to for guidance – I just don’t know any other morbidly obese, lipstick fiending, bipolar morticians who burst into tears at even the thought of Elton John… I’m kind of my own species, it feels like. I envy those who are excitedly getting married and having children right now, because that is so very, very adult. No one could ever question those people because they are doing typical adult things, and that makes them official adults, right? It is ridiculous to feel this way, because I’m literally envious of people who are getting things that I don’t want – but what I do want is to feel normal, and there are a lot more save the dates and baby bumps out there than there are morbidly obese, lipstick fiending, bipolar morticians. I’m not kidding when I say that sometimes it is my biggest shame that I am not another wife in a Lilly Pulitzer dress getting excited over flatware – I wish I had that in me, but it’s like a synapse that is misfiring – I can’t will myself to be her. I constantly try to cover up my life like a cat turd, because somehow I’ve convinced myself I should be ashamed of it. I still catch myself willing life to fast forward to the “good part” where I magically become some normal person who isn’t always so very, very, THIS.

But on good days, on days where I haven’t sunk too low into my worries, I try to grab ahold of myself, shake myself by the shoulders and remind myself that what I constantly  fail to acknowledge is that this IS the good part. It’s MY good part. And it doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s good part.

Like I said, on a good day, when there are no triggers or setbacks or tensions, I love my life with such ferocity that my heart could burst. I feel gifted, truly, with the one thing that shames me the most: being single. If the perfect man or woman comes along for me, that’s bitchin, and I’ll be stoked – but that relationship could never be more valuable than the one that I’ve been building with myself as I am forcibly dragged into adulthood. There’s a reason I’m single,  and I’m not ashamed of it (at least not today – it’s a good day) – I’VE GOT MORE TO LEARN FIRST. I’ve got further to journey before someone else can come along, because I am, for some reason, lucky enough to be given both the gift of self knowledge, and the time required to truly learn who you are. I know that by society’s standards, I’m supposed to be a wife and a mom by now, and growing up, I never really thought either way about what would happen to me when I got older, but I assumed it would look like everyone else’s life – and the moment I realized that it didn’t and that it wouldn’t, well, I have been scrambling to camouflage my oddities ever since.

But really – when you divorce yourself from what you think your life should look like and focus on what actually makes you happy and who you want to be (and not who you want people to think you are), there is this freedom that you would have never ever been able to dream of. My grasp of this concept ebbs and flows, depending on the day. There is sadness, too, when you align yourself with this line of thinking, because with that acceptance also comes a certain type of goodbye to a person you’ll never be – goodbye, Ashley in a Lilly Pulitzer dress, picking out shades of paint for the guest bedroom – but the pain feels worth it, somehow. Like that girl had to die so I could truly live. I mean, that’s sort of harsh, but you feel me. I’ll never know (well, I guess I will, I’ll ask Jesus about it after I die, right after I ask him who really killed Jon Benet Ramsey) why I’m meant to be eternally marching to the beat of my own drum, but who knows – maybe I’ll magically figure it out when I turn 30. For now, I’ll just keep wondering and marching. Well, maybe I’ll march more towards October – it’s getting hot outside here and I’d like to avoid boob sweat.

What I wish I could stop being ashamed of is simply just being who I am and feeling the need to explain away all of the things that I see as flaws – how the hell did I get to be this way?! Why am I the rudest person my self has ever encountered? And what I need to constantly remember is to STOP COMPARING MY LIFE TO OTHER PEOPLE!! We can all be happy and different and it doesn’t make me less to be just one person and not part of a pair. If the greatest relationship I ever have is with myself, then that’s awesome. If I find someone else who is a match for me, that’s awesome, too. But this mentality of thinking that I’m not enough or not on the same level as my peers because I don’t have a baby or a husband/wife – I hope that toxic thinking is the first damn thing to go when I turn 30. Because I’m more than enough. Hell, I’m too much – and not even in a braggy way. Just literally. I’m exhausting.

Above all things, I just want to  be grateful for this season of MY life – all seasons, really. Things seem so difficult and meaningless and frustrating all of the time, and I complain the days away and bitch about what is and what isn’t – but if I had to be honest and sum my life up with one word (other than “lipstick”), the first thing that comes to mind is “fortunate”, and that kind of blows me away, you know? I was so surprised, when it appeared, quite taken aback – but then  I nodded to myself. Yeah. Fortunate. Sounds about right.  

 

Summertime Sadness

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Well, it is unofficially and undeniably already here – my very own case of summertime sadness (thanks, Lana, for giving such a clever name to that listless and unfulfilled feeling that haunts me from late May until early September).

I’ve got a lot going on these days. I’m working full-time as apprentice funeral director/embalmer, I’m going to school full-time (which involves traveling an hour and a half away twice a week to Piedmont Tech for biology classes after work – meaning I don’t get home until nearly 11 PM at night) – this plus the rest of the coursework for other classes and trying to maintain sanity as I learn an entirely new career that isn’t quite so simple (I mean, embalming a human body is a little more complicated than working as a cashier at Target, and I can say that with confidence, as I have done both) – my point being, I don’t feel good. I’m stressed, and stress is hard for me, because I take it to a bad place. I take it to a place of blame and self doubt and it is truly the sickest and cruelest thing I could ever do to myself. I feel sad a lot lately. I feel overwhelmed and stretched thin and all of the things that I love seem to go abandoned – like blogging, reading, crafting, etc. I know – at least I hope and pray – that all of this will be worth it in the end, when I have that degree and my apprenticeship is complete, but it is hard to give away your time when you feel like you have none to give, I guess. Especially now, during my personal hardest time of the year.

I’ve always been prone to summertime sadness – while everyone else is orgasming at the first mention of summer rolling in, I withdraw, isolate myself, go away inside – I’m mean, snappy, frustrated easily, angry – I don’t know why this is. I just know that I have never felt joy in this time. It has always felt like something to be suffered (probably because I have the good common sense to be revolted by 95 degree heat). And mentally, as far as my levels and mania and ups & downs go – this is where I always find myself at my worst and most desperate. So to have an already heaping amount of external stress dumped on top of a place where I’m already trying to hold a hand over an open wound in myself feels like a mountain I’m too tired to climb again this year. Already, my teeth are gritted, shoulders hunched, “can’t can’t can’t can’t” a steady mantra on repeat in my mind.

I thought that taking a mini vacation to Disney World before this semester began would be a really good thing for me, and in some ways it was (pics to come later) – I flew again for the first time in years and got over that major fear (HALLELUJAH), and that felt AMAZING – plus I had a great time with my best friends at one of my favorite places in the universe, so you really can’t complain about that. Sadly, some “triflin’ shit” got in the way of pure & total rest & bliss, and it put quite a bit of a damper on my relaxation, but that was also a learning opportunity, too, which I’m grateful for – I’m quite used to trying to constantly be everything for everyone, and I worry to the moon and back about everyone’s happiness but my own. Fortunately, the aforementioned “triflin’ shit” helped me to put my foot down and realize that sometimes I deserve to be happy, too. And I think that was a big step for me – and having that notion cinched in my mind is something I’m going to carry with me into the summertime sadness – I DESERVE TO BE HAPPY, TOO. There. I said it. It’s on the internet, so it must be true.

I think something important for me, at least during my bouts of summertime sadness, is to be mindful of my triggers, so I can at least step around the landmines as best I can vs losing my damn leg to one. But how to get past the depression? That, I have no clue. This is how I always end up around the beginning of September plotting my suicide and being irrational and out of control to the point that none of us – my family, my friends, myself – know how to handle me- I get so down that I can’t see up, only straight ahead.

I guess I just wanted to chat with myself on my blog and rationalize what I’m feeling. The first step to getting over or past any hurdle is to accept it, and I accept it – I’ve got the damn summertime sadness. It’s a real thing, it’s valid, and I’ve got to somehow gird my loins and try to make it through. And mostly I think I just needed a good whine, and writing always makes me feel better. I get so damn hung up about writing and trying to make it perfect, but none of it will ever be perfect – and I guess I’d rather post lots and lots of sullen or meaningless crap than look back and wish I had taken the time and wonder what I was thinking way back when.

Feel free to leave your favorite summer suggestions in the comments – just remember, I hate the outdoors, all people, places that aren’t air conditioned, and basically everything. Just kidding – I’d love to know your tips and tricks for summer fun – or, even more importantly, what helps you get through your own version of “summertime sadness”.

Till next time xx

BLUE MY MIND

Since the moment you started coming around, I kept a bottle of nail polish (OPI’s “Blue My Mind”) on the top right corner of my shower, for emergencies. The idea of you catching me with chipped fingernail polish could be likened to the horror that I would feel upon facing a firing squad, and it just wouldn’t do. So many nights I have jumped in for a quick shower before you came over & grabbed that bottle to touch up an imperfection while the steam clung to my body in the heat of the bathroom. It was exciting. It was thrilling. The act and art of readying myself for you was a ritual and routine that l always loved performing.

The polish remained long after you stopped coming around, but it was familiar to me, I didn’t want to take it down. I remembered the thrill, the excitement, it was a token of a time in my life that felt like being shot into space without warning – the thrill and the fear were delicious and always present. I looked at that bottle every day and thought of you and felt sad because I kind of missed the fear and the thrill. And that became routine, missing you quietly in the shower every day of my life.

I guess if I’m honest, I used to think that if I did take the polish down, if I did anything with it at all, it would mean something, would suggest something – would maybe even jinx something. I never know from morning to night what state of grace you and I are hanging in, if I’ll get a call tomorrow and be summoned to your side or if we won’t talk for six months – and though it was unhealthy to linger in that space with a fragile heart and a cluttered mind, I clung on to the hope that you would come around and I used this bottle of nail polish like a little life raft –  a bat signal, or a beacon or sorts – some little symbol that meant we existed, once, and that maybe you would find your way back if I left the light on (or the polish in the shower).

I have spent so much time in my life trying to fix what was meant to stay broken. For so long, I looked at my inability to reconstruct the ruined as a character flaw: it was wasted time, a failure on my part, I missed a bigger picture because I wasn’t smart enough to see it when it was right in front of my face. And I punish myself so hard for what I can’t control or change. You have been one of my greatest worries, right from the start. The way I felt around you at all times was like a human Jenga tower that was one block away from falling to pieces – and by God, was I determined to stay standing for as long as I possibly could, no matter the strain and effort. Because to care about someone so much, to feel that gross way your actual heart constricts when you watch them sleep and know that you love them so damn madly – to hurt for them and to go through hell with and for them – and then to shake hands and walk away from one another … it doesn’t feel real. It feels inhumane. You once knew all of my secrets and now we don’t even speak regularly. How can I let go of something so massive in my life? Doesn’t it HAVE to be something bigger than this?

It came to me the other day, as I was staring up at that little blue bottle –  maybe it doesn’t have to be. Maybe all we had is really just that. Had. Past tense. The realization was like finally exhaling when I didn’t even realize that I had been holding my breath. Somewhere between the shampoo and the conditioner, I realized that you might be my past, but that I also deserve to have a future that doesn’t necessarily involve you … and that’s okay.  It can all be just exactly as big as it was. We don’t have to talk about it or fight about it or try to reconcile it or make any big promises about doing better this time – we don’t have to do anything at all except just go on.

Just go on.

Somewhere, in another lifetime, perhaps, you and I are together, but we are different there. Maybe better, depending on how you look at it. Maybe I’m not afraid and maybe you aren’t selfish. Maybe I’m better at all of this, and maybe you are, too. Maybe we live together, or are married, or are just best friends. Whatever we are, wherever we are, it is fun and we laugh a lot. There is always blue nail polish in the top corner of the shower. That I know for certain. And this place is where we will stay, you & I. Never a waste of time, never a failure – just another lifetime.

I took the nail polish down today.

I may put it back up tomorrow. I don’t know. I don’t know. One day at a time.

You blue my mind once, it’s true – but maybe one day I’ll be ready to let someone else have a shot at it.

 

(also, please never read this, because I would actually die)

A LIFE WORTH WRITING ABOUT

Whenever I try to write these days, I feel a sense of panic that I can’t really put words to. Writing used to be my most natural and craved form of expression – every word, every exchange, every thought had to be documented once, twice, three times over. I was religious in my documentation, the telltale hump on the middle finger on my right hand always red and swollen. My diaries were my friends, my confidents, the only people who knew the truth about who I was, what I had done, and how I hurt. Like a fool, I took for granted the person I was and the life that I was naturally living, and instead used to cry to the fates and beg the universe for a life worth writing about. And then when one fell into my lap, when things were hot and fast and out of control, when I had EVERYTHING to suddenly write about – the pages slammed shut and I put away the pen.

I rationalized this because a lot of things that I needed to say were hard. And some things are just too hard to write about. So … I stopped, pretty much completely.

Can you blame me, honestly? It’s like, you try as hard as you can and work with a furious fervor to squirrel away the things that hurt into a place where they aren’t constantly falling back into your immediate line of vision – and writing is just purposely recalling blinding, white hot pain for the sake of …?

Of what?

What was the point of recalling what I barely made it through the first time? Then again, didn’t I always want this? Countless pages in countless diaries, wishing one life away to make room for another?  Oh, how I wanted to be a real, bonafide adult, like the ones on TV – to have all the mythical secrets of adulthood unlocked and for the taking. Wasn’t that the story that I kept waiting to write?

It is this narcissistic and frustrating combination of finite disinterest and fleeting whimsy that seems to be where I spend most of my time these days. All of the time that I wished away is exactly where I wish I could run like hell to now. Most days, I feel like a battery in a car that won’t turn over – you try as you might, but the damn thing just won’t do it.  Everything in my life, not just writing, falls into two categories – hard, or not. If it is hard, if it even SEEMS hard, I don’t even bother looking at it. Writing is hard, so I don’t do that anymore. Facing my fears is hard, so I’ll just turn away and not look. It isn’t that I don’t want to move forward, or that I don’t want to be present or progressive – I just can’t find the strength. But here I am. Ashley the adult!

Every day, I’m toeing the line between desperate to make a point and exhausted by the idea of even trying. Working around the deceased has made me siamese, one single body split, fighting two alternative visions. There are only so many times that you can artfully arrange the shell of what used to be a human being into a fancy casket before you make yourself look down and wonder what the hell we are all really doing here in this life. When death becomes real to you, really, really real, everything matters SO much. The fear of wasting a second of your life is all-consuming. I panic so often about not doing it (life) right – the same old fear of not living “a life worth writing about” –  yet similarly, I can’t help but feel that nothing truly matters in the grand scheme of things, because we all leave the same way – alone, and with nothing. Both viewpoints are right in their own ways, but there has to be some sort of middle ground that doesn’t leave me hollow inside and terrified of facing reality.

I have to laugh now when I think about the desperation of wanting to carve out “a life worth writing about” – it’s sort of like walking willingly into quicksand.  Before you know what you’ve done, you’ve gotten so far off track – one leg stuck in the muck, no escape foreseeable. I have spent SO much of my time in this life wishing for something better, something bigger, SOMETHING WORTH WRITING ABOUT – but I have very rarely been willing to actually work towards the promise of a better tomorrow. If wishing hard enough created reality, I would be the richest woman in all the world. But instead I am poor, because I have robbed myself blind. I’ve stolen my own ambition, I’ve bartered away my strength and confidence, and I’ve crippled and hobbled the purest and best part of me – my imagination – and replaced it all with cynicism and fear.

I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to stop wishing everything away, to stop questioning everything so damn much and just take each day one at a time. Because we do all die, and you don’t get a second chance, and you should never waste your time worrying or being afraid. Instead of letting that reality be my touchstone, I have spent nearly 30 years wringing my hands and wondering if I’m doing it all wrong. An entire life that has always been a game that I am playing against myself and am still somehow losing. If I could go back in time, i would shake my old self by the shoulders and tell her that life was and will always be worth writing about, even on the hardest day, and to never, ever lose that good and pure part of yourself. It doesn’t have to be extraordinary to be documented. Face your fears, every single one of them. Don’t NOT try because something might not come from it.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my time here – none of us ever really get it all right – but the biggest one that I ever made was putting down my pen and shutting myself up because I got scared. It may take everything that I’ve got, and it may truly be for nothing in the end – but a life worth living, much less writing about, would not mean a damn thing without this, my purest expression, my most honest release. And I know that I can do this, because just like I know without a doubt that I would go back in time to tell my younger self to never stop writing, my younger self would visit me in the future and be shocked that I ever had.