Discarded Dream


This wind sock used to fly outside the tiny apartment that The Flutenist and I shared. We were at the graduate school where we met, and after a few twists and turns, we were married and both studying to be international aid workers. I brought it with us when we moved to the state I’m from.

1,200 miles. 1,900 kilometers. Same country, language, department stores, but light years of difference. I kept it because it was a piece of continuity. 

When we moved into the house owned by my grandparents but being prepared for someone else, I hung it up in the tree outside our window. On the days we had privacy and the days that my grandmother let herself into the house to move things around (why would people married 6 months ago want privacy?), that wind sock fluttered in our tree.

When we moved into my parents’ house, I packed it away with the rest of our things. It wasn’t our home.

When we moved into our tiny blue house where we live now, it went back up in a tree. I braided a cord for it out of yarn and hung it there. It stayed in our tree through the sun, rain, and snow. Through the gusts of wind that beat it against the tree bark. On the good days and the bad ones, it was there.

And now it’s gone. 

I took that picture of it yesterday, before I threw it away. Straight into the bottom of the trash can. With bags of Dora’s poop and our kitchen trash that smelled abysmal. Then out to the curb. This morning, I double checked our trash can before bringing it back inside, and it was empty. Just like that.

My tie to our past, to our lives before they changed forever, is gone. We’re stuck here. It’s real now.

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Letting Go (Way Too Late)

I’m doing some summer cleaning- going through my possessions and getting rid of things. This week, I’ve managed to get rid of some items that I’ve kept for too long.


Nail polish, some of it from Christmas 1999 or something, all of which survived my last polish purge. These are the bottles which are really separated and gross. I kept them because I hadn’t used them up yet. I have a problem with getting rid of things that are “still good.” Bah.

The sweater that was one of my defining shirts in high school. I wore it very often and was told that it looked good on me. I’ve tried it on, and it’s rather ill fitting now. It’s quite snug, uncomfortably so, and in the last decade, I’ve lost patience with shirts that end abruptly at the waist. I like the way a longer shirt looks, how it’s sort of reminiscent of a dress, making it just a bit feminine, while wearing it over pants balances things back out. My body looks better in clothes that don’t really try to bisect me. I’ve kept it this long because I thought I would “shrink back into it.” I have, but I don’t need it any more.

The orange fuzzy hat I used when I unsuccessfully campaigned for a fictions office during a mock government camp. I meant for people to remember me, or at least my hat. The problem was that I hated campaigning… And being outside while other people were campaigning. It was so annoying to be hounded down by everyone I saw when I was too polite to say “Piss off. I’m just trying to get to the dining hall,” or anything. I just stayed inside more and more during free time, and I completely lost the election. 

I was sad, but proud, so on the day after our results came in, I knew what I had to do. I wore my fuzzy hat again, and went to my appointed position dutifully, acting like I had only worn the hat because I enjoyed it.

Packing My Past

For the first time in a few months, I felt like unpacking a few more boxes and reclaiming the clutter room for our use. One of my boxes was pretty much stuffed with old papers- pay stubs, birthday cards, college homework. A lot of it is in the recycling now, which is good. But some of it…

Seeing a few of the items set off strong responses. Not panic attacks per se, but something close: rushing heartbeat, wide eyes, shallow breaths, a wave of emotion. It was hard to handle it, to keep my cool and finish my day, but I did. The papers are sorted, all of the scraps are off the floor, and it’s pretty much handled. Two of the hardest items came from college, but from different years. 

The first was a note from my “little” in sorority, who got assigned to me right before my health issues forced me out of school and I was at the brink of suicide. I can’t remember if I was already in medication fog at that point or not, but I may well have been starting into it; I think I was diagnosed a year or so before that point- maybe? Either way, it was a dark time for me, and I never connected to that young woman. I don’t know her name; I barely know her face (she was blonde); and she never got what she wanted from our group. It’s too bad, but I can’t apologize. I have no idea where she is now. Hopefully she handled it alright.

The second item was a collection of stories written for one of my senior classes. They all have cricisms written in unfamiliar handwriting and I just remember how the classes were run badly. The author never got to speak at all, even if the classmates or professor had questions or were confused. We had to listen silently while people tore us apart or completely missed the point of a story or made off topic comments. 

One of the stories I found… I wanted to write about a kid and his dog, so I wrote these short little questionnaires for 4th graders, and had a teacher I know ask her students to complete them. Just simple questions about dreams, hobbies, and things they would do if they wouldn’t get caught. Their answers were adorable, and I marinated myself in them: carrying them with me for days, reading them over and over, following the memory trails they triggered. It was wonderful.

I wrote my story based on their input, and on one of my breaks, I drove back home to read the first chapter to them. They enjoyed it, they said it sounded like a kid, and they all wanted me to finish it. It was great. I researched, wrote, and won over my target demographic. I loved it.

But the 22 year olds and the 50-something professor? They did not like it; did not believe it; did not care for any part of it. So I sat there in silence, listening to these really, really old people trying to convince me that they knew my target audience better than that audience knew themselves. It was horrid, you know. I remembered how excited the kids had been to be asked for help by an adult, and to see that adult use their help to make something. It just seemed wrong to have something so beautiful torn apart for something as meaningless as a grade.

I threw those stories in the recycling bin. As soon as I saw the comments, I remembered the pain. I can’t keep them. I can’t.

I never finished his story, either. After it was attacked in class, I didn’t have the heart for it any more.so in the end, I let them down too, because I never finished the project they had contributed to, even though I told them I wanted to. I can’t apologize to them either.

Love that Never Was- Part 2

As mentioned two days ago, I have decided to try writing letters that I don’t intend to deliver in order to get some closure from baggage that I’m still carrying around. I don’t use real names, but the events are true, even if they’re vague for anonymity.

Wow, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I remember your name today, even though I’ve forgotten most of the words of your language. Is that sad? Maybe not. Do you remember me? Is your English any better?

You know, I never told you, but I learned your name because you wore glasses, so I could recognize you. I know that the people in your country don’t all look the same, but isn’t that a problem that we all have? It just takes a while for us to recognize what features are significant in distinguishing one person from another? We all need to learn if it’s hair, skin tone, eye color, nose shape, cheekbones, forehead size, etc. We all look for the features that we are used to, so I looked at hair and eye color. Black hair and brown eyes were everywhere. You were the first one I met with glasses, and the lenses had a little blue brand name on one of the lenses.

I paid attention, but I didn’t understand most of what I saw. I was young. So young. 

Did you know that you were the first guy that I flirted with? It’s true. I was only going to be in your country for a few weeks, so there was no future, and no risk. I felt so free and beautiful. My appearance was pretty exotic, I suppose. Would you believe that I’m actually quite plain here? Would you believe that I gained more weight since you knew me? You were right to worry about my health, but I didn’t listen to you, because in my culture,  it’s not polite to bluntly tell someone they need to lose weight. Also, I was trying to commit suicide in a socially acceptable way, so that people wouldn’t get angry at me. It was complicated. 

In many ways, I was unhealthy.

So, honestly? I liked you. A lot. I was impressed by your faith and your ambition- how you actually wanted to be someone who changed your country for the better, instead of someone who wanted to complain but wouldn’t get involved. You were remarkable. And intense. 

Do you remember holding our hands up to one another through the airport glass? Did you know that as my plane took off, I mouthed the words “I love you” out the window? It was a perfect moment, like a dream. It felt like a movie. But you haven’t shown up randomly in a coffee shop or book store, we haven’t recognized each other, and our romance hasn’t been absurdly successful. Because this isn’t a movie, and because strangers do not end up living convoluted, destiny-laced lives. Nope. I’m just gone. You go on. I go on.

I don’t know anything about you really. Language barriers really prevent friendship from forming. How can trust or common ground form when we can only talk about a handful of topics? Who are your parents? Do you have siblings? How do you treat people around you? Are you kind or cruel? Do you have a short temper?

Were you only looking for an excuse to immigrate here when you asked me to be your girlfriend via email? Everyone told me that you were, but it didn’t feel true to me, not at the time. But who was I to judge you really? I was just a stranger from a shared dream.

Why did you remember me for so long? Why did you enjoy the day that we caught a salamander together? Two adults, scurrying around the room like children, chasing that little amphibian until we caught it finally, then laughing at the squirming tail in our hands after the little guy had skittered away? Why did that afternoon keep me in your mind? Why did you tell me you couldn’t find a girl like me in your country? Why would you say this stuff?

Am I a bad person for acting like people in my culture do? Is something wrong with me for reaching out to you with only shallow interest, rather than with earnestness? I didn’t know that your people don’t flirt. I thought my culture was universal. I was so young.

I’m sorry. You life would have been much easier if I had never entered it, or if I hadn’t chosen that trip to be my flirting debut. If I hadn’t felt free and beautiful, and if I hadn’t treated that trip like an adventure. But I was so young! I was caught in that stage of legal adulthood and mental idiocy! I’m sorry.

Please forgive me. Please forget me. It’s for the best.

Clinging to Scraps

I was going about my day this morning, when I saw my sad little soap dish. I’m poetic at heart, so I tend to see deeper significance than others might. In all honesty, I’m just fine with the way that I am, even if most people don’t get philosophical over hand soap. Moving on.

What you see here are various soaps that I: A) never used or B) stopped using in order to avoid running out of them. In both cases, the soap remains because I recognized something of value in them- an appealing color or shape, for example- so I did everything in my power to preserve them. 

So what? It’s soap.

Well, the issue is two-fold: first, I accumulate a lot of things by doing this and second, it reveals my desire to keep something rather than be left with nothing. To understand problems with the first one, look up “hoarding disorder” online and you’ll see what it can grow into. For the second, well…

It’s not a big problem for an issue like soap, but what about with something bigger, like relationships? What happens if I try to keep the pieces of a broken relationship without accepting that it’s over? What if I try to live in memories instead of moving on? What if I do the same thing with traumatic memories too- just so I can feel something? Now it gets dangerous.

I do keep possessions that are tied to pain, you know. It’s important to remember the guilt, to keep myself from ever hurting people like that again. I shouldn’t be doing this, really. Holding on doesn’t fix relationships and it doesn’t take away anyone’s pain. It’s not even valid penance! I just do it anyway.

Hopefully, one day, I’ll be able to use up the scraps and accept that once things are over, there’s nothing I can do any more.

Hiding

It’s a little funny- the sad kind, not the ironic or pleasurable kinds- but I am actually going through life changes and hiding them from you. You, my blog with one follower. (P.S.- Thank you, Problems with Infinity. It’s good not to feel alone out here.) You, my blog that I am writing with the explicit purpose of processing baggage in a public setting, so that hopefully, I’ll be diligent in continuing and maybe someone out there will benefit from it.

It’s ridiculous. And understandable.

What I paint is personal and if I don’t tell anyone, then maybe it isn’t real. Because if I don’t have to select the words or hear my own voice, then maybe it’s just thoughts in my idle moments, not signs of something larger.

So I hide it. But the thing is: this blog is bathed in obscurity and totally anonymous. No one will know it’s me unless I send them the address or physically show them the painting. So, in theory, I could post it up here and explain it, but STILL have it be hidden just the same.

Except that the Internet is a cruel place that follows a simple rule: don’t post it unless you want to take the heat. Content creators are shredded. Cosplayers are insulted. Musicians mocked and writers ridiculed. It’s like we are all a bunch of jerks- have always been a bunch of jerks- and today is our day to shine through anonymous trolling.

It’s scary.

It reminds me of elementary school, when my coat had a vest attached to it and everyone called it a life jacket and asked me about my fear of floods. One difference between us, one divergence from the norm, and I was fair game. So is it the same?

Are we all so insecure, so desperate to fit in that we will attack anyone who sticks out (because we hope that doing so will reinforce how well we fit in)? Is that it? Are we all just scared?

Terrified that no one likes us?

Terrified that we are less than we want to be?

Maybe. But if it’s true, it doesn’t really help me to know if I should hide myself or just thrive in spite of the sad small people. After all, cruel words really do hurt, no matter who says them.