I thought

I thought that life would make me bigger

But as I grow I only shrink-

And as I shrink and I shrink the more I fit,

Nestled between shoulders and curled up between promises.

It’s comfortable but it’s not free,

Like blackish blue velvet that embraces with deliberate softness.

I smell it in the air like an unanswered question-

In response

The fog only halfway clears,

So I stumble into the next minute

And keep walking.

“Are you okay?”

“Are you okay?” That’s a hard question to answer. I’ve gone through a lot this year, with interpersonal struggles, financial struggles, and health scares in people close to me. I tend to attach shame to admitting what I struggle with- even though they are very real hard things that I know plenty of other people relate to.

“Are you okay?” Maybe it’s hard because I’m so used to covering up my moments of struggle: whether it’s with my tendinitis or mental health issues. It’s easier to cover up otherwise invisible issues: most people don’t care to know or won’t understand. For example, explaining something so specific as sensory overload* to someone who hasn’t experienced it before is difficult, especially when my eloquence levels are going to be pretty low during and after the overload.  Even if I wanted to make up a more socially acceptable excuse for looking unwell or upset, I’d be bad at lying about it. I just tend to say I’m fine and deal with things internally. I quickly shelve things so I can return to normal functioning and appearing confident and “together”.

“Are you okay?” I just lost my aunt Friday. That’s not something I can just shelve and then move on with my life. I haven’t really lost someone before (except once, when I was a toddler and my grandma passed away). I’m allowing myself plenty of time to process alone. However, expressing to others how I’m feeling is hard.

“Are you okay?” I rarely cry in front of people, even family members. Nobody has asked me to prove that I’m sad, but I feel like I’m expected to- partially because of gender stereotypes. Women are expected to show more emotions with their body language. Perhaps people notice that the effervescence I usually layer on to my social persona is gone, or that I’m quieter than usual.

“Are you okay?” When people ask me how I feel, if we are not close, I’ll tell them there was a family tragedy or not tell them at all. I am still trying to figure out what levels of closeness make it okay to share certain things. I err on the side of caution if I’m not sure. A person who isn’t close to you doesn’t usually want or need to hear about your problems. People just want to hear that you’re fine and continue with their day.

“Are you okay?” Even with people I’m really close to who genuinely want to know, I can hardly express how I feel because I’m still figuring it out myself. I know that I’m sad because I’ll cry really hard sometimes- and the way my stomach twists in knots. That only happens when I’m alone. Describing the feeling itself is where I get lost. Words, my best tool of self expression, are failing me. I just end up telling people facts- like the story of what happened and how I found out, or how things are with my family. Or I share fond memories of my aunt.

“Are you okay?” While I’ve had some of my hardest times ever this year, I’ve also experienced some of the deepest closeness I’ve ever had with God and the people that I love.  The illusion of independence is stripped away when you go through your hardest times- you’re forced into the beautiful mess of vulnerability. It’s reframing the way I look at closeness. We don’t always completely understand what’s going on, or what the other person is thinking or experiencing. In fact, we’re very often in the dark. That’s why we have to trust each other and stick together. Ultimately, God has His purposes, even if the way is not clear. If I lean on Him, I feel peace.

“Are you okay?”

No, I’m not okay. But I’m learning it’s okay to be not okay.

______________________________________________________________________________

“It’s one thing to trust God’s guidance when it’s actually quite obvious what to do next. It’s something else entirely when you seem to be going on and on up a blind alley.” – N. T. Wright

*Sensory overload is when the sheer amount/variety of competing sound /sights/other stimuli  becomes overwhelming for a more sensitive brain. It’s something I’m more sensitive to when I am tired or stressed, or in certain high-stimulus environments. It’s something many people on the Autistic Spectrum and related disorders struggle with. Different people have different sensory sensitivities, and therefore avoid certain environments as much as they can. These sensory overloads put the brain into “fight or flight” mode, and the reaction can look different depending on the severity and the individual. My reaction is a “flight” response, usually: to escape in some way, by turning away or exiting the room.

Come Sit Next to Me

Come sit next to me
The words echo longer
Than they really ought to,
I’m bewildered surprised by that door
Open in your eyes
That invitation
From you-
Why you?
Come sit next to me
I’ve seen how you stand
So tall like an oak tree,
You make the world a firmer place
While I stumble blindly
Juggling words
Like promises-
Why me?
Come sit next to me
You’ve had your choice
Go choose the best,
You could take anyone’s hand
You really should
And you could
And you don’t-
Why not?
Come sit next to me
You say it this time
So quietly it’s deafening
You could say any words now
And I would stop
I would smile-
And sit.

Art is not made in a studio.

Art is not made in a studio.

Art comes from stumbling steps and laden hearts,

Wandering minds and outstretched arms:

Art is hurt.

Art is born in the grit

That gathers under fingernails,

The sweat that betrays a body’s true odor:

Art is dirty.

Art that comes from sanitized halls and swept clean minds,

Sparkling white and cold to the touch

Does not strike true.

Art is the guttural shriek

That we all secretly make behind closed doors,

Fists clenched, trembling lips asking questions like

Why?

We need art.

Where it’s safe and beautiful to cry,

Where we can see our heart mirrored in a picture or a song and know

We’re not alone.

How do you say Goodbye?

How do you say

Goodbye?

Where do you get

The words?

Useless vowels and consonants,

Lips flapping against teeth.

Air coming up through vocal chords

From faltering failing lungs-

I have an expiration date.

You have an expiration date.

You always knew,

It’s hidden on the packaging somewhere

Right where no one can see.

You can forget it when suffering is far away-

A dot on the horizon,

A simple silhouette of grief.

But it cuts deep

When you are right next to it.

Writer’s Block

I can speak of the sea

In its terrifying drowning power-

But a rose’s petals

Are more fragile, more sweet.

Like a bubble that bursts

When I catch it,

Like a cloud whose shape

I can paint well enough

From far away and yet

Never touch,

I’m left with nothing.

The thing itself captivates but

Words fail.

We’re all swept up by the same

Celestial melody,

We all know its delicate chords

When we hear it-

But who could transcribe

Its glory?

My pen falls to the ground,

Scribble-filled pages float away

Ultimately unheeded.

For in the moment of joy,

Does it matter anyways?

There’s A Place – Original song

There’s a place

That I want you to go,

There’s a place

That I want you to know.

If I tell you

Where I’m going,

If I tell you

What I’m knowing,

If I tell you,

Will you still want to be there?

There’s a time

That I want you here.

There’s a time

That I want you near.

If I tell you

When I want you,

If I tell you

How I want you,

If I tell you,

Will you still want to be there?

Well, I’m not much for dreaming,

‘Cause if I dream I don’t know what will come true.

But I won’t hurt you, I just

Want you to be

There.

I won’t hurt you,

I just-

There’s a place

That I want you to go.

 

Screenshot 2018-03-08 14.41.20

 

___________________________

Song at:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCW3Ng58zjWpXBHdM_j93MPw?view_as=subscriber

This is my submission for NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest. Hope you enjoy!