Twenty-Eight

Twenty-eight years spent
in the same place
that felt like a prison
when I was sixteen

It once seemed like failure
not escaping to surroundings
exciting and unfamiliar
somewhere far away

But now I see it as a blessing
to grow where you are planted
to traverse the same worn paths
through friendly trees in summer

To sit upon the same faithful earth
that holds mementos of my childhood
and watch the slow changes in myself
reflected back by the whispering hillsides

Sharing secrets with the soiled river
that has always known me more deeply
than anyone could through words alone
as it runs alongside my inner life

The quiet protection of the thick woods
softly urging me onward in time
tiny hands searching for fish hook treasures
among steep, rocky shores just outside of town

The awesome unfurling
of a life and a land intertwined
the profoundly soothing resonance
of a home that's greater than home
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House Fire

How can I ever forgive myself
for the fire I set in ignorance
and intentionally used to burn down
the only place that I belong

A decade spent sifting through ashes
ears still ringing from the roar of the flames
a warm home replaced with the
unbearable weight of my own mistakes

How can I ever trust myself again
to hold what is precious to me
when all I've ever done
is ruin what I love

All I can offer is to stand apart
and busy my hands by sifting through
the charred remains of my sanctuary
forever laid solitary and silent

How can I bear to move on from these ruins
of a life I loved more dearly than myself
to commit myself to a waking world that
pales in comparison to burnt memories

A Precious Aching

Sometimes my heart strains toward you
spreading so thin across the expanse between
that it quivers like a tightly strung guitar string
sending notes of anguish into all that empty space

Reverberation of moth eaten memories
stirring up stale dust in a long abandoned room
as it echoes off the walls of aching lungs
until I'm almost sure I should reach out for you

The half formed fantom of a future
grips my heart so suddenly in some moments
that it feels worth risking anything for
even certain humiliation and rejection

But then the sharp, pinching recoil always returns
to snap me out of my pathetic, forlorn reveries
my hand is not worthy of even reaching
a frenzy of hope can overcast the wretched truth

I have no right to continue pining
a don't deserve the bittersweet comfort
of these carefully enshrined memories
let alone the audacity of asking for more

My lot now is to keep languishing
moving inevitably away from a future
that could have once been mine
but was long ago forsaken

My selfish heart keeps me from
even the respite of one day forgetting
pouring warm tears over ice cold memories
I will be grateful for this aching

Green Tea Memories

Tea has been a re-occurring theme throughout my tangled life. My mother always preferred drinking tea to coffee. Her nervous nature simply couldn’t handle that much caffeine. Mornings filled with the fragrance of spices and herbs, clinking spoons, and tiny damp disposable bags.

Tea soaked wounds of my first broken heart remind me of moments of reluctant connection. It’s easy to wake up early when you’ve slept for over twenty four hours in the last two days. Dreams can only provide an escape for so long. When even that sanctuary is stolen from you, I learned that peace can be found in the slow ritual of sipping tea before sunrise. The begrudging silence between mother and daughter, the surrender of accepting help from someone you despise. Because you need her, and that hurts in its own strange way.

New love blossoms around a very different tea routine. Evenings after school, every day spent looking forward to this small, private heaven. Boiling water in the microwave and adding too much honey. The laughter we once shared when you finally admitted you couldn’t bear the way my overly sweetened tea made your lips sticky. Flirtatious frustration from the way you used to tease me for blowing on my drink before every sip instead of waiting for it to cool.

The soft haven found beneath the crumbling roof of your mother’s house. Her hovering hospitality of sharing joints with underaged teens, providing refreshments of my first teas made with milk. The strange, yet soothing smoothness of the subtle flavor. Savoring the mouth-watering smells of the best home-cooked dinners I’ve ever had being prepared in the next room.

All these years later, my heart can still rekindle those tender memories involuntarily as I sip my milky matcha. The most delicious ache, a powerful longing for a life that no longer exists. Beautiful lapping waves of private sorrow, never to be seen or shared. How can so much pleasure be found in such pathetic pining? Surely this secret clinging is a sickness, a delusion that corrodes all chance of a future. Even so, even so…

You’re With Me On My Own

Living lattice of spongey spiderwebs
stitches supporting the dark, damp earth
connecting networks transmitting information
between the trees' deeply buried toes

breathing in pulsating energy particles
that permeate the thick air above
quivering conviction of nature intertwined
magical mirror image, veins beneath pale skin

Sacred assurance that all is not lost
the same sun still rises in the east each morning
you reside in the red light beneath my eyelids
retinas stained with sweet remembrance

Everything fades except for this feeling
bitter things only taste better as I age
including this patient pain, the prize I protect
hopeless happiness harbored in secret

Silly dreams pluck breath from lonely lungs
pathetic mantra of "maybe one day"
vindicated by comparison to other
laughably unlikely anecdotes

The small, sharp pleasure of
planning this impossible future
fills my cracked cup enough
to keep going

Besides, we're still connected by
that complicated underground lace
linked inextricably through shared sunlight
eternally sown together with this earth
Mycelium Dreaming – Autumn Skye

Home Alone

Savoring the empty shell
of the structure I've called
my second home

Today I took pictures
of all the vacant, silent rooms
so I can always remember

I felt them catch in my heart
as I cradled my camera
with sentimental arms

Whether I turn away
or decide to stay
I am so grateful

For the way this place
has held me and helped me
to embody someone new

I find so much pleasure
in running my fingers over
these tender memories

No matter what happens
nothing can take away
what I've gained here

An End to Social Media

I honestly can’t remember how long it’s been since I decided one day to never post on or even open my social media apps again. It was definitely a pre-pandemic impulse. I can only imagine how much worse my mental health would have been at that time if I had remained on Facebook and Instagram. I really lucked out with my random timing because I don’t think I would’ve had the willpower to take that plunge during lockdown. I’m just going to estimate that it’s been around 3 years now since I’ve been a part of that online hellscape.

Right away I noticed more space open up in my day as well as in my head. There was no more mindless scrolling for hours or trying to mentally curate the perfect status update. I also didn’t feel the need to look perfect for even the most mundane events so that I could take tons of photos for strangers. I knew from the beginning that it would be more isolating to not have an active Facebook presence, but the pros far outweighed the cons for me.

Fast forward to now and I’ve started to feel that familiar itch for validation. Part of me does miss showing myself off and feeling important. Sometimes I miss knowing how people I went to school with are doing and always having an endless supply of people to message and get attention from if I’m feeling lonely. There have been a couple times I’ve considered trying to go back, if even in a much more limited capacity.

I had to remind myself of all the reasons I left in the first place and ask the tough questions about what I was really missing. The thought had occurred to me a few times for finding a way to have Instagram without all the other people. That might sound strange, but hear me out. I really loved posting on Instagram. It was my favorite when it first came out. I’ve always enjoyed photography, but even more than that, I enjoyed looking back at my own photos. It was my own personal little scrapbook of my life. I still look through my old feed sometimes to find a specific picture I want to show someone. It always fills me with such tender feelings of nostalgia.

At the same time, Instagram may have even been more toxic to me than Facebook. I followed so many beautiful, skinny, perfect women. It was one of my guilty pleasures to just gorge myself on these flawless images every day for hours. At first it really felt inspiring and motivating. That didn’t last long though. It quickly devolved into yet another way for me to feel like I could never be good enough. I would never look like those girls behind the screen. No matter how hard I tried. I truly believe (and many studies suggest I’m accurate in this belief) that those images on Instagram as well as Tumblr contributed greatly to my disordered eating and unhealthy relationship with exercise and my body in general. I was always a little messed up in that regard, but social media sent me over the edge.

While things are still not perfect, I feel more mentally healthy without these influences in my life. I feel like I have more time to form genuine connections with the people that truly matter to me. I don’t feel distracted by all of these shallow, phony imitations of community. Now for the first time in my life, I have been actively working to create a real community for myself. I even found a solution for the things I was missing about social media.

Having Apple products, I am constantly being bombarded with iCloud pop-ups trying to get me to pay for more storage. While it is endlessly infuriating, it has led me to realize just how stupid these paid cloud storage spaces are. Why should I pay to store this in one place when there are literally thousands of free platforms that offer unlimited free storage to every user? Instagram doesn’t ask you to pay to save all your posts from the last ten years. Facebook doesn’t have a limit of things you can upload or share. Even this blog affords me unending space to post or upload as many files as I see fit.

I mentioned earlier my longing to have a private Instagram vacuum. I don’t want to get sucked into looking at anyone else’s feed, nor do I want to become obsessed with a public image and getting likes. Some people have told me their camera roll is like that for them. But as I don’t have unlimited backup storage, I don’t feel safe relying on something that could ultimately become lost. (It wouldn’t be the first time.) Plus there isn’t really a way to organize photos on there in any kind of meaningful way.

A few months ago I had the brilliant idea of using my other blog that I never actually post on. Having a private blog is the perfect way to keep a little digital diary with photos, journal entries, or literally anything you might want to share on social media. So I switched the blog to private and make sure that I also set every post to private before publishing. Now I have a lovely little collection of moments from this past year just for me! I still get to take cute photos, edit and arrange them, but I don’t have to worry about tags or likes or who is going to see them. I can even add little excerpts about what that day was like or how my life was going during the moments these photos were taken. Uncensored, raw, and real. Memories stored forever, for free, for just me.

I would highly recommend this method for anyone who may be tempted to immerse back into the dark waters of these online spaces. It could also be an excellent substitute for people that want to extricate themselves from social media, but feel unable to do so. It has definitely scratched that social media itch for me. Even if you don’t want to stop getting on Facebook, another important takeaway is: The internet is the cloud. The internet is free, unlimited storage. Don’t pay for that shit. Anyway, thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.

Have any of you tried this method already for yourselves? Do you have any experience trying to get off of social media? What has it been like for you? Do you think my solutions would be helpful in your situation? I would love to hear about any tips or tricks other people might have. Hope everyone is staying mentally healthy out there. Whether you ditch the apps or not, always know that you are worthy, you are beautiful, and you are enough exactly as you are.

Scars

I love my scars
I love the raised white ridges
randomly placed along my body
reminding me of where I've been
running my fingers over these imperfections
private souvenirs from my past

My favorite scar
is the one you've left
internal and invisible, etched upon my heart
a mark that remains for only me
jagged and deep, still tender to the touch
from the years I've spent tearing out the stitches

The Roads I Used to Know

Crumbling edges of long, winding roads
worn tires and no cell service
kicking up dust and distant memories
of days when I was someone different 

Complicated pangs between heartbeats
it hurts, but I hope it lasts forever
the bittersweet flavor of emotion
crashing over me

the sweet honeysuckle air of early summer
saturating every poor with subtle notes of nostalgia
a backdrop of rolling fields and familiar forests
fading sunlight softly shining through knee-high grass

the blooming joy of all that has been mine
the bitter grief of knowing it's past
the lonely recognition of unique remembrance
never to be shared fully by anyone

the miracle of time's twisting perspective
the power to ferment past pleasure and pain
into one deliciously intoxicating wine
savoring each sip of yesterday

Linger

forgive me
for still feeling so strongly
for half forgotten memories
for keeping these embers of images
ever warm inside my mind

somedays it feels like a sign
to know I can't let go
but maybe it's a sickness instead
a festering heart left
frozen in the past

regardless I'm still grateful
for the ghosts that haunt me
my comfort and my curse
I cling to the thoughts 
that tear me open

if I were offered a remedy
I don't know that I'd respond
am I willing to sacrifice 
something as sacred
as this shameful, secret joy

I'd rather linger here a little longer
with all that I've lost