I spend a lot of time looking for the solution. Studying pictures, self-help books, psychological terminology, song lyrics, shampoo bottles, and google searches. Convinced that the answer is a simple, age-old rule; a new product; an expert’s secret; meditation; exercise; vision boards; positive thought; more sleep; more kindness; less talking. I spend a lot of time worrying. As if worrying about something enough shows that I don’t and won’t take things for granted.
I just keep looking. Immersed in the potential of magic.
The thing is, is I never do those things anyway. I still don’t get enough sleep, rotate my tires, or exercise regularly. I stare at my computer screen before heading to bed, wake up a half an hour before I have to leave and neglect to stand up for myself. (I did start flossing, though.)
Despite this, I search. Making endless conclusions about what will work. What will change the current situation. Tonight I asked myself for the first time, is there even anything wrong? A year ago it was the realization that I ate compulsively, it was ignoring and hiding from past pain. Two years ago it was my dad attempting suicide. Years before, it was abandonment. It was mom leaving. But honestly, what is it now? Since then my dad has celebrated two years of sobriety, a wonderful woman has adopted me, I’ve confronted the past through therapy and I haven’t binged in a very long time.
I think the only real problem is that I believe there is one.
That maybe I keep hoping to pick up a self-help book, read an article, or receive a phone call from a stranger saying, “Dylan, you’re okay.” That maybe all this relentless searching is the best way to put off life and cripple myself. To always have something to find.
Well, I cannot do it anymore. So here it is: Dylan, you are absolutely okay. Please read all the books you’ve been putting off. Wear the outfits you long to. And spend more time with the people that make you laugh your real laugh- the people you love. Please relax. Put your feet up and enjoy all your pillows. Life is only serious to the ones who need permission from everyone else.
For 38 miles, 3 main highways, and an exit, a silver Mazda and I were taking peculiarly similar routes. I drove consistently and made my usual Tuesday and Thursday lane changes. Speeding is unnecessary on the way home.
The Mazda, however, weaved through lanes of traffic at a time, racing around people, speeding up, slamming on brakes, getting ahead, falling behind. I stayed steady; at ease. Unconcerned with the ebb and flow around me. Enjoying my perfume and music. The softness of my cardigan.
We arrived at the same time. The urgent Mazda and go-with-the-flow me.
I’ve been that Mazda for years now, it seems. Pushing. Weaving. Speeding up. Braking. Breaking. Panicked. All over the road-
“Some things are meant to be. You know this because recently you’ve been pining away for something or someone that you believe was meant to be. But have you stopped to ask yourself why, if it was meant to be, it wasn’t? Or it isn’t? Some dream of yours did not come true. That’s hard to take. But you’re making it harder on yourself by presuming that you did something irrevocable to change your fate. But if you really believe in fate or destiny, then you must know by definition it cannot be changed. Look at it this way: some things are meant NOT to be. You’ll realize this when the real thing takes place.”—Horoscope
Things form quickly. In the first minutes, the first choices. People are just time machines that take us back to those first decisions, over and over. Who I am sitting in my bedroom right now, telling myself I’m beautiful comes in second to who I am later when I’m around the Erics and I remember (December) what it’s like to laugh at our self deprecation. it’s like things haven’t changed at all, until I come back to my room. Or when I listen to Jack Johnson (Autumn). Or when I eat classic Entennmann’s Donuts (Age 4). I go back to who I was, every time. My now mentality turns into my then mentality and the world shifts a little. Our best chances for change are in the brand new; when nothing is attached to anything else- yet.
Maybe there’s more truth in the power of first impressions than we think. Or maybe it’s last impressions; things get locked in the recency effect. We like this song now because we liked it the last time when we were thinking about how we liked it the first time. It may be Thursday but your fingers are remembering how this table felt on Tuesday. How that conversation ended last night. How that restaurant made you sick last time. Before. Previously. Since. The former. Prior.
Years go by and things seem to be different, but each song is its own, each group of friends is separate from the others, and when you go back in August it will feel like January; when there was snow and you stopped calling him. You’ll remember when you hear it again. You’ll feel it when you sit next to them again. Each place and time holding its own pieces to be picked up.
I was ready to fall asleep at 8 pm tonight. Instead of sleeping, I did laundry and took a shower. I got into bed to read around 10, turned off my light multiple times, and here I am.
I was ready to write something down at 2 pm today. Instead of writing, I yawned and kept working. I cut some flowers and wrapped some bouquets. I got into bed to write around 10, sentences came slowly and sometimes not at all, and here I am.
I’m not writing because I’m not paying attention to anything these days. I’m not sleeping because my mind is paying attention to everything, all at once. I feel like my body is living a life of its own. Breaking out despite the devotion to twice-a-day skin cleansing. Bleeding gums despite years of flossing. I dim the lights to fall asleep and my body wakes up. I scratch my neck and my back starts to itch. My hair is soft, but flat. Jokes come out punchline first and questions are asked that I already know the answer to. I go to say something nice and it sounds empty; tin cans for words.
My intentions keep turning into flaky bits of skin that slowly peel off but don’t fall completely.
Maybe it has to do with Christine leaving for school in Colorado. Or with missing Luke everyday. Or seeing the things I leave behind flourish as if it only needed me to leave to do so. Maybe it has to do with my birth mom disappearing. Or old pictures of me. Or not being able to laugh. Or hanging out with that old group of friends and feeling like I’m right back in that place; defeated and less than. Maybe it has to do with group projects and delivery confirmations. Pillow cases and insurance checks. Sexting and self respect. Artificial light and mosquito bites. Group mentality versus my own.
I got out of bed at midnight, made my way to the bathroom and put more cream on my face. Hoping it would clean not only the pores on my skin, but the block on my sanity. Hoping that if I can heal my skin then maybe I’ll fall asleep. Maybe Luke will call out of the blue and tell me he still wants our friendship. If only my skin would heal, maybe I’d stop trying to play perfect and life would feel natural again.
I’m sorry that I’m such a bitch. An asshole. On a high horse. Riding around looking like world’s biggest douchebag. I’m sorry that I underestimate you and assume incompetence. I’m sorry that I demand from the beginning and spit fire before you can ask questions. I’m sorry that I assume I know the answer before you open your mouth. I’m sorry that I expect and set you up to fail, then step in like some pitiful lost hero who deserves a pat on the back. I’m sorry I’m so obviously selfish. For clinging to my way of doing things. For being so fucking rigid. I’m sorry for being so afraid. For “knowing it all” but actually not knowing much of anything. For playing innocent. For covering my tracks. I’m sorry that I spend so much time being angry instead of asking for help. For thinking that I’m too good to ask. Too good to step off of my pedestal.
I do not know where to begin, but I’m sure it must start in my hands, because they touch everything. To the point where even soap only dances as something to settle the mind. It starts in the hands but it’s deeper than that. It’s deeper than my skin; my skin with climates like this continent. Glaziers on my hands, the dessert along my shins, cheeks and triceps. Marshes and swamps below my eyes; and everything is a different temperature.
It is my skin and hair, but it’s deeper. Sometimes the best part of my day is scratching my itches, and I could just cry because they take turns driving me crazy. It’s deeper than my razor blades dulling against my leg hair. It feels like the pores of my very being are clogging and choking on grime. Oil thick on my for-lack-of-a-better-word-soul; blemishing it.
My hair is drying on my shoulders and the wisps blowing in my eyes are driving me bat-shit crazy, but if I put it up while it’s drying I’ll be fucked trying to make it look nice in the morning.
Everything is always for tomorrow.
It’s as if who I am is choking. As if what I am is cramped and clogged. Like I’m shedding myself all over myself. Like little pieces of me break off and get caught in my hair, voice, nails and intentions. Rotting and unable to regenerate. Contaminating.
It is the physical - skin, sweat, and tangles. Piles of clothes and my night shirt sticking to my dampened showered skin. It’s as if nothing cleanses me.
But it is also deeper than that. Like follicles from root to surface.
I hope I don’t forget what it felt like to swim out there. Finally I didn’t ask to listen to the little voice in my head that knew what it wanted. I wanted to ask Megan or Christine to go with me, to join me in the lake. Because if someone came with me then I had permission. I was always looking for permission to be alive. I put my book down and looked at them, my best friends, on our last trip before Christine leaves for school in Colorado. I think most of all, though, is that if I relied on me saying it out loud, asking, then it wouldn’t happen. “I’m going to go in the lake.” “Right now?” Megan asks. “Yeah.” “I’ll go, too” they both say.
I put on my bathing suit, which is still wet from our swim earlier. I look at my sunburned skin. At the way you can tell it’s radiating heat just by looking at it. I get to the dock first, Christine behind me. She waits for Megan. I step in. I start to swim.
I keep swimming. The watery resistance surrounding my arms, my legs; kicking. The sun is setting and I hear them talking in the distance. I keep going. Keep reaching for more liquid handles, and I finally feel what I’ve always wanted. Something cold around me. Something reminding me what it is to breath.
I stop. I look back and they’re closer to shore. I look around at the summer sky streaked with highlighters and think about how I was treading even before I got in the water. How it always feels like I’m kicking to stay up.
I lay on my back and the sounds of the world are drowned out. Literally drowned by water.
Christine swims out to me and I’m happy to have her there. To be there with both of them. We yell something to Megan, and it doesn’t matter that I cannot remember what we yelled because the point is that we did it. That we let ourselves be loud enough to travel across waves. Christine says something to me, and it doesn’t matter that I cannot remember what she said because the point is that we were laughing.
That night we sat on the deck before going in for the night. Megan smoked a cigarrette and Christine and I smoked normal air. My eye caught on the star right as it streaked through the sky and I thought about what it felt like to swim out there. Staring at the sky I wished that I will always follow my heart.
"The only thing your eyes don't say is your name."
In a rush to get to therapy I blocked the entrance to a parking lot. I blocked people from moving from solitary positions back into motion. I blocked people in motion from resting. I waved my hand to the car next to me and mouthed “I’m sorry.” I was sorry for blocking the parking lot. For blocking people from moving on with their lives. I was sorry for being so oblivious when it came to the flow of people living. For falling apart on my brake pedal. He smiled, waved, and mouthed “it’s okay.” Regret and forgiveness traveling silently between our cars and I realized I would never know what his voice sounded like. And how we forget that that’s how it happens. That my hips talk to your eyes and your exhale speaks to my nerves. Voices have very little to do with communicating our deepest of words.