Saturday, October 29, 2016

Drunk Nights: A Poem


I'm bleeding and I don't care.

This  rivulet of blood stretches down my face,
across my skin and shows something
I can't quite grasp
in it's own way of silent steady flow.
I want to disturb it.
Disturb the way it stretches down
the impossible length of nose to lip.
Even now a finger reaches up and touches,
with the lightest of intentions,
the red silk.
Grooves come away doused,
while the river flows on.
It flows on.

I feel nothing
but the cold of air on white blood cells.
Are they protecting me, do you think?
Are they doing the job for which they were so lovingly created?
That's what the world would have me think.
These small creatures of fire and air
were the works of something greater than I.

It makes me laugh
because we are all creatures of random thought
and coincidence.
Some wish we were more,
but that's all we have. 
The most bizarre of happenstance
is what binds us together.
We're all just large bits of smaller matter,
joined together in a torrent of need and
bizarre gratification of our desire to mean something.

But it's possible, isn't it?
to mean something
without being created to do so.
I can give myself a definition
that defies all logic and reason.
Others disregard,
but I can fight on with my words and thoughts.
So determined to carve a real semblance of life
out of this haze of chemical reactions.
We find order in the meaningless and meaning in the ordinary. 
Meaning in the ordinary. 

Meaning in our blood.

-E.B




Monday, October 24, 2016

Valuing My Femininity




The more I become aware of myself as a woman in today's society the more frustrated I become with all the standards we put on ourselves. These are standards and high bars that are coming at us from a different place than the usual kind launched daily from media, politics, and ads. Those are bad enough, but then comes the inner workings of our own motivations and how they're so likely to clash with each other. 

Let me give you an example. 
I recently read "The Miseducation of Cameron Post", an amazing read for anyone wishing to be exposed to the hardships of the LGBT youth in rural America. There's a scene where Cameron's conservative aunt has successfully set herself up as a saleswoman for a company that provided tool kits specifically for women; so small electric drills in pretty colors designed for our dainty hands. My reaction to this was the reaction the author intended; why the fuck would I need a different tool set than a man? Am I so weak and in need of sparkles? My second reaction was an unexpected bit of guilt. Unexpected because I've been pretty secure in the knowledge that I've risen above the stereotype of linking my sex to fragility, and guilt because I'd just caught myself in the act of shaming other women. 

You see, for so long what feminism has meant to me is I can achieve what the boys can. I'm strong like boys are. Use tools that boys use. But I've noticed a transition in recent years that's not entirely unwelcome; I can be like girls too. In other words, should I really judge someone for enjoying a pink hammer rather than the typical brand? 

In comes the newest standard I now must meet; juggling my disdain for products marketed solely to women based on color and size along with my respect for women who don't give two shits what others think when they pick up that glittery allen wrench. Our femininity isn't something we need to be ashamed of, yet I'm still fighting off my enjoyment of pink pens. I was educated in a community that prized masculine tendencies over everything, whether you were a boy or a girl. Yes, we had the cheerleader and football player stereotypes, but we also had a state championship girls basketball team, a regional championship volleyball team, a girl on the state championship baseball team. The focus was on athletics, excellence, and tough attitudes for everyone. It gave me a love for sport that continues today, but it also gave me an aversion to showing off my feminine side. We made fun of girls for wearing makeup during games (despite the fact that we ourselves made our hair pretty and put gunk on our eyelashes) and scoffed at the idea of wearing anything but sweats and spandex during the season. When I look at that now, at my behavior towards girls who actually embraced the idea that they were girls, I really do become uncomfortable. I've come a long way for sure, but there are still negative thoughts like that lingering despite my best efforts. 

One of the more frustrating parts of this line of thinking is I actually have a solution to the predicament I find myself in! I would stop hating the idea of enjoying colorful tools if they weren't specifically oriented towards a single sex. For one thing, that's not how gender works; there's a spectrum, not just a binary. For another, if we stopped saying those cute hammers are only for girls we'd actually be helping everyone out. Anyone can have their own preferences and there's no reason they need to be directed at just girls or boys. I can still value myself as a woman while wearing flannels and playing rugby, just like a man can still value himself as a man while wearing his hair in braids and using a bright tool kit. It's just silly to limit yourself based on what sex is on the packaging. 

So while I may be frustrated at the standards I put on myself it's infinitely better to think critically about all this and deal with the confusion instead of buying into everyone's bullshit. 


-E.B

(for those of you who don't quite get why products marketed only for women are so infuriating)




Friday, October 7, 2016

Injuries That Make You Dumb: a Concussion Experience


Let's talk about concussions.

Concussions are also known as a traumatic brain injuries, happen when you strike or jolt your head, and are currently fucking up my life. When you're diagnosed many doctors say you're "suffering" from a concussion; take that word literally. Take it as literally as you are able to, because it encapsulates the rough experience that is recovering from a head injury. 

While rugby has contributed to the many incredible parts of myself and my life, the one area it's not done such a great job is in maintaining the mint condition of my grey matter. I've had two concussions so far; one last year which was comprised of multiple face-to-ground collisions ("multiple" because I'm an idiot and decided to play through the first impact) and one that occurred last week (this time back-of-the-head-to-ground collision, which thankfully saved the integrity of my eyebrows).

While there are several typical indicators and symptoms of concussions, one of the parts that makes them so much fun is everyone reacts and heals differently. One person can even have different reactions to different concussions. For instance my first one was marked by some lovely emotional issues that culminated in a few trips to a shrink's office (side note: always seek help for depression. There's body doctors for body issues and head doctors for head issues. Use them). This time I've managed to escape the darker mental side effects and instead feel consistently nauseous and dizzy when required to do physical and mental labor. Imagine the joy I feel every time I have to attend a class designed to make me think critically and can't exert myself mentally. It's not an ideal situation, though infinitely better than having no feelings or interests throughout the day. I will always prefer the struggle to concentrate over the struggle to find energy enough to smile. 

We tend to put a lot of emphasis on concussions in sports, but the more I talk about my experience the more I realize how many people are with me in this club I once thought was exclusive. We're a group of people who, whether it was done by hurtling towards another person and getting thrown to the ground or by straightening up to be intercepted by a rogue cabinet door, know exactly what I mean when I say the most simple tasks have now turned into a hot mess of horrors. This is important, because one of the most damaging parts of my bout of impact induced depression was my feeling of being completely alone. No one understood. No one could relate to me. No one knew how to help because I alone was stuck in this dark place. 

Except so many people understood. 

So many people are aware of the frustration that comes when I know the word I'm looking for but it won't come to my head. So many people know exactly how it feels to excuse yourself in order to cry in a bathroom stall because of trivial inconveniences. So many people are aware of how embarrassing it is to reach for a handle and instead slam your hand into the door. Do all these things suck? Yup. There's a reason the number of fuck-bombs dropped increases exponentially with a head injury. But does it also suck less because I have the support of other people who have and are going through the exact same thing?
Yup, that too. 

My point is concussions blow. They're hard to deal with and hard to heal. This is an injury that literally makes a person stupid and I'd highly recommend avoiding them. If you can't follow that advice, know that there's always support for you somewhere and that I totally understand how fucking terrible that test is where they make you count backwards by seven. Fuck that test.

Keep your brains safe friends,
-E.B




Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Memories

A thing I've been working on. Enjoy.




I'm running down the tracks by Adams house. The gravel is spraying out behind me with every step as I hurtle past the yellow dirt hill the railroad was carved into a hundred years ago. I don't know where I'm going, but I'm happy as only a child can be. I stumble to a stop as a glint catches my eye; a single, rusted penny is laying on the track, squished into the tiniest layer of copper by hundreds of steel wheels grinding their way across it. I pick it up and promise to keep it forever. 
It's lost within a week. 

The four of us are lying on the grass with our eyes to the stars. It's 2 in the morning and our parents think we're curled in bed. Not that it's ever stopped us before. We think we're rebels. We think we're feeling everything for the very first time in the world, and it's true because in that moment all the world is only us. The park is our ultimate sanctuary of loneliness and open sky. Mike breaks the silence, guys, right now I think we should just get in the car. Let's just get in the car and drive and never look back. There's a pause, a beat of breathless silence, and we burst into fits of laughter at the absurd cheesiness his statement encapsulates. We laugh so loud I hear it echo back from the hills. I am so happy I can't put it to words.
I'm discovering the indescribability of deep feelings. 

I broke his heart and now he won't stop looking at me. Controlling my pity is much harder than controlling my anger, but harder yet is shoving down my sense of satisfaction. I'm driving a boy to the ends of his mind just by entering a room. The sick glee is only matched by my shame. It's been two months and I can't understand his desperate attempts to hang on to me. We're driving down college parkway, chasers in the back and Windows down to drown out the painful silence that fills the car. He turns the radio on and his movements are slow, like he's trying to keep a wild animal calm. It's a valid concern; I'm practically vibrating I have so much tension in my spine. A wrong move will send us both into oncoming traffic. A song comes on, the latest love ballad of the latest music star and I can't change the station quick enough. Why did you change it? I hate him for playing dumb, and my anger loosens my tongue, because I'm sick of hearing about lost love. He spends the rest of the ride staring at his hands.
Our good memories are being replaced, one by one, by his obsession and my resentment.

This place isn't the same. I'm staring at her house, at the empty patch where the blackberry bush used to be and it's not. the. same. Even worse, it's not terrible. The garden is fine and the house has a new coat of paint. The restaurant down the street still has great food. The lake is still cold and beautiful and soul stealing, the small stacks of rocks remain balanced across the beach. My grandma was a breath of life in this small town, and while hers is gone this remains as bright and vibrant as ever. 
Will I leave behind a string of reminiscing family members to stare at my old garden too?

This is not what I thought I'd be doing tonight. I'm staring at Steven as the music swells around us. We're sitting in cheap folding chairs while lasers pierce the darkness and the Transsiberian Orchestra plays above us. This is not what I thought I'd be doing. I'm thrown by this boy. This boy who's making me break all my rules. That should be a problem, but I'm having a hard time caring about his age or his past right now. He catches my stare and holds it, sending my already stunned mind further into the insanity that comes with young feelings. I know what I want and slowly move in. The band is playing only for us in this moment and I'm fully lost.
It's the first kiss of a relationship that will break me. 

My feelings are absurdly peaceful as I hang 200 feet in the air. The rope slides gently through my fingers and I dip backwards in my harness, staring past the cliffside, past the safety monitors, and into open blue skies. There is a wild joy in this and I extend it as long as I can, gently swinging from a cliff in a country that is brand new to me. I'm ignoring the gentle reminders to continue downward and remain stretched out, parallel to the single cloud drifting along with me in my moment. 
When my feet touch the ground my heart stays up high, still soaking in the sun. 

While the mass stares ahead I keep my eyes on my mom. My dad's hand is clenched in hers but neither he, nor I, nor anyone can stop her tears from flowing. That task can only be done by the one who brought us here, the one whose casket is mere feet away. As my mom mourns for her sister I mourn for her. Surely a sibling takes a piece of you with them when they leave forever. 
A piece of my mother is gone, and I cry as much for it as for the lost member of my family. 

I can't stop staring at his message. Of every shitty thing that's hit me this past week, of all the stares, the whispers, the laughter; they're the pin pricks of pettiness. This is a shotgun to my soul. You disgust me. Bang. It hits again, and again I'm bleeding on the floor, or are those just tears? You disgust me. I can't breath. I don't want to. Is this what I get for my one night of distraction. My one night of liberation from the steady heartache. I save my begging for our messages. I won't let this desperation creep into the real world. But now I can't even message him, he won't answer. I never realized a person could do so much damage.
It takes years to shake off the cloak of shame he draped over me so cruelly.

My grandpa is frail and fading. If he could he would leave us right now; save us the hassle of cleaning after him, of paying for his dying moments. He knows it's his time but I want more of it. I want his heart to beat strong and his legs move forward. I am full of selfish desires that he can never fulfill, and for that I'm glad. We know we'll never speak again. We know there's no heaven to reach out for. We know to fully appreciate these last moments because it's all I'll have left. We understand each other, he and I.
He is the first loss I've never been able to shake off.

I'm seeing her, really seeing her for the first time and it is not a pleasant experience. This girl was once my friend yet her words indicate the pent up anger of a slow boiling spite. In our heated exchange I find myself reveling in my anger. She is the target I've needed, a thing to destroy and laugh while I do. Her final insult, slut, gives me a triumphant victory. She receives no pity, and the end of our friendship is not marked with sadness.
I no longer accept the presence of pettiness in my life.  

I'm sitting on this new couch that isn't mine in an apartment that doesn't feel like home surrounded by three girls who barely acknowledge my prescence. I'm sitting here knowing that I should be feeling fine, feeling anything really, but all I have is a deep and unblinking interest in the small knife in my hands. And now, suddenly, the realization that I've never been so deeply unhappy in all my life for no reason at all. I'm tricking myself into thinking that my darkness is just what nothing feels like, that I'm slowly cutting a line in my hand out of curiosity, that crying myself to sleep every night is not worth a closer look. 
Drowning out of water is so easy to overlook.

I've never been stunned by architecture before. My scarf is not quite up to the task of containing my curls as I tilt my head up and up, wholly appreciating the effect of blue and gold hitting my eyes. It fills my heart up, the amount of beauty surrounding me. It's easy to see how a person could connect the feeling of awe with their god, and I can appreciate the effort it took to embody that with brick and tile. This is a place of strange customs and language, yet I feel no discomfort. I take pictures I know cannot capture the true essence of this place and find I cannot stop smiling at the thought. I'm somewhere magical, right at this moment, somewhere spectacular.
I am finding myself inside this adventure.

He is...fascinating. Unstructured. Intimidating, though he doesn't believe that last one. It begins with a drunken kiss in the search for a quiet moment but does not end; only changes. I have never had someone with whom I can share a friendship and a bed and as his hand brushes mine I find myself happy to experience the unique moments of conversing with a person who is smarter than I am. I'm glad to have met such an incredible person. 
He marks the reemergence of my creative mind.

We are each other's first and last friends in Istanbul. I try not to cry as I remember our first fateful walk to campus. We're sitting on our bags, holding each other steady against the stream of commuters who are wholly unaware of the importance in this goodbye. Our tickets are ready, though we are not, and I hug her close. We don't let go and minutes pass by. I put all my thoughts, my appreciation into our final embrace and I know she does the same.
Our friendship of dark humor and bright adventures will never truly leave us.

It's finally time to acknowledge this house is not my home. I embrace my family, my animals, my old bed. I embrace them but find myself unable to shrug off this new feeling of need. It's a desire to leave and fully accept both the old and new of my personality. The girl who belongs in this purple room is not me, not the almost-woman who stands here now. I run my hands across the wall, stopping at each poster and drawing so as to truly feel the shift of perspective. This was a good place to be raised but the rest of my upbringing must be elsewhere. The thought makes me sad, but hope is present as well. 
I think I'm finally ready for the future.


Thank you to whoever kept reading this thing. I appreciate your perseverance. You're now privy to some of the deeper moments of my life; use your knowledge wisely. 
-E.B