Dirty

The bathroom was dirty.  The off-white tiles shined almost brown in the cheap fluorescent lighting.  She noticed right away there were no paper towels, only hand dryers, the kind that blow all the dust and germs around.

She checked the first stall and then the seconds-no, still dirty.  She would have to hold it until she got home after school, or skip 3rd period to go home to pee.

Grabbing her bag, she ran to her English III class, making it just in time before the bell.  The teacher had announced she had a treat for everyone today, and the girl had been looking forward to it for a while.  M n M’s; natural serotonin.  Good.  Maybe now her mind would calm down a little.  Maybe now she would stop imagining the bathroom air sticking to her, soiling her clothes and skin.

The teacher lifted the giant jar out from under her desk.  The candy was not individually wrapped.

The girl’s heart began to pound in her chest.  Damn it.  In reached the 1st students hands, grabbing what he could.  Then the 2nd, then the 3rdDirty.

She’d have to go without.  Too risky.  The fear outweighed the momentary benefit-and so she refrained, once again, from experiencing life.  She couldn’t help but feel punished.

As class drew to a close, she reached for her bag.  A classmate noticed her hands, red and raw and asked if she had a rash.

No, just wash them a lot.  Understatement.

You need to get some help, then.  Cause that’s weird. 

Pause.

Then a breath, angry and hurt.  She squeezed her hand into a fist, and the skin began to crack and bleed.

She was smart, so smart, so she couldn’t understand how she couldn’t reason herself out of this.

The color was gone from her life, and fear had taken its place.

By this time, skipping 3rd period was a must.  She couldn’t wait until the day’s end to use the bathroom.  So she ducked out of class and snuck off to her car.

On the familiar drive home, she let the tears come freely as she drove.  Punishment seemed too friendly a term.  Hell was more like it.  Confined, in her own head.

She gripped the wheel tightly, as her hands shook.  The road was empty; no one would see.  The car was already picking up speed.  The Slow down – Sharp Curve Ahead sign far in front of her kept whispering its ominous warning.  All she had to do was let go, just for a moment, and it would all be over.

Maybe in the next life she’d be normal.

But as usual, I’m just not brave enough, she thought.

She pulled into her parent’s driveway, thankful they weren’t home.  No witnesses to see her suffer.  She preferred aloneness; silence was the most loyal friend.

After using the bathroom, going back to school right away seemed useless, somehow.  So she turned on the shower and let the steam fill the room.  She still felt dirty from stepping into the high school bathroom, and she felt just crazy enough to try anything, so she stepped into the shower, fully clothed, praying that the hot water would heal her.

And she sank lower and lower underneath the heat, until she was curled up in a corner, letting the water burn her skin clean.

Too bad she went crazy.  They all said.  Too bad.

But this wasn’t crazy.  This was OCD.  But she didn’t know.

And she didn’t know how to not blame herself.  For not being like everyone else-not able to let things flow off her, down the drain.

 

 

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Hidden Truth

 

Where they sent me

To recover

Destroyed parts of me

Unseen

The soft parts

Of my underbelly

Soiled

And broken,

I’m

Like a doll

Who cocks her head

And smiles on cue

Open my mouth

And take a pill

To swallow the crazy

That no one else

Wants to see

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I asked for it

Would you hurt me

If I asked you to

 

Would you strip away my dignity

And undress me with your eyes

 

Let me tremble beneath

Your hungry gaze

 

Even as I covered over

My naked body with my hands

 

And sank to the cold

Bathroom floor

 

Until the tears came

And I sobbed

 

Victimized

But I asked for it, right?

 

So, you’re off the hook.

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Burying You

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And yet

I stand here,

Trapped

 

Surrounded on all

Four Sides

With reminders of you

 

Staring me down

Telling me it’s

Time to let go

 

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Vengeance

She stands still, looking out over the sea

I hold my breath, watching from an upstairs window

Does she know she isn’t alone?

 

A breeze takes her by surprise, and a curl

Of hair is pulled from her cap

Blowing gently across her face.

 

Does she sense another presence,

Another pair of eyes-observing?

There is a noise in the distance, and

She abruptly turns her head to locate.

 

I instinctively take a step back in my place

Of concealment

But I have no reason to cower

The shadows give me the upper hand

Does she know she is my salvation?

 

Everything is so much simpler than

I had previously thought

For all my calculations and detailed notes-

My breathe still catches every time

She moves.

 

Observation is not understanding, but

It’s pretty close

And anticipation carries a purpose

Does she sense, in her bones, my

Ache and longing?

 

Before I realize what’s happening

I’m reaching out to take hold-

My arm, exposed to the moonlight,

My hand slowly closing into a fist.

 

As the waves crash along the shore

She’s dropping to her knees

Clutching at her throat

Scratching for breath,

Staining her soft white neck

With a frenzy of red.

 

I realize this is my choice

I realize I deserve this

And at the same time

It will also prove to be my undoing.

 

But I have waited

I have kept still and quiet

In the shadows

 

And as my grip tightens,

I watch her reach out once more

To the hissing night-

Before tumbling down

Into the ocean.

 

Then all is still

The deed is done

I only hope to God

The ocean will

Wash away my sins.

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Enough

I stand here in the rain
watching you run so you
don’t get your hair wet.

Such a difference
between us.

All the time-
making it seem like
there is no reason for
what I do.

But I love it.
All the droplets falling down.

It makes me believe I will wash away-
if I just stand here long enough.

Monster

I will weep

When you get

What you deserve.

 

I will cry out with pain

When they hit you

And spit on you

And call you names

 

Showing their hate

Of you,

Making you feel stupid

 

I will lose sleep

Waiting for you to

Come home, bruised

And beaten

 

So I can hold you

In my arms and

Rock you to sleep

 

I will know why.

What you’ve done

Is unforgivable

 

But you are my son

I can’t help but love

What I’ve created.

 

The Danger of Over-Planning

I’m a planner.  I create plans for deadlines every month, every week, day by day, and even moment by moment.  Sometimes I use lists, sometimes I type out plans, and sometimes I put events on my Google calendar.  But mostly, the plans are in my head.  I think I’m improving myself, but in actuality I’m confining myself, minute by minute.

I find that when I base my day to day choices on the plans I’ve already made, I lose myself.  I complete tasks, but I’m never content.  I always seem to be reaching for that green light at the end of the dock.

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I’m not content because I think that if things don’t go according to my plan I won’t be who I’m supposed to be or where I’m supposed to be in my timeline.

Don’t get me wrong, planning is good.  It gives us assurance and peace of mind when we prepare ourselves and our family for our future.

But recently, I’ve realized  nothing is for certain.  We can plan our lives, minute by minute, but the moments that take our breath away are rarely the ones we have planned.

What If?

So I ask myself,  what if I let go of my grip a little?  What if my 5 year plan takes 8 years?  What if in 10 years I’m not where I thought I would/should be?  What if I allowed for the flow of opportunity to come my way and stopped basing my happiness on my plans for the future?

What if I allowed myself to be happy right now?

Instead of focusing on the destination, I’ve made up  my mind to focus on the journey.

Yes, all of us have milestones we want to achieve in our lives, but we can lose ourselves and our present happiness if all we’re focused on are those future events, thinking once we get there, then we’ll be happy.

Day after day, we are inundated with stimuli, data, and other people’s opinions.

If we allow these things to define us, we end up creating and following plans for someone else’s happiness instead of our own.  In doing this, we confine ourselves.

But what if we’ve spent hours, days, even years planning out our lives?

It’s okay to change your mind.

It’s okay to change decisions as we learn and grow.  We don’t have to stick to plans just because we spent the time making them.

Reality is different than the story we tell ourselves or the picture we paint in our heads of how we think events are supposed to be.

Most of the time, reality is messier.  Many times, reality is more beautiful.

If we embrace now, one moment at a time, a surprising thing happens.  Each moment of contentedness leads to another, and we realize we’re living happier lives than the ones we had planned.

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What dangers have you discovered about over-planning?  I invite you to join in the discussion and leave your comment by scrolling to the top of the page or clicking on the link below.

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Medicine

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The dizziness overwhelms

And she finds it hard to take a step

 

Not ready to let go of the banister to

Stand on her own two feet

 

The nausea comes next

In waves

 

Sort of like pregnancy

But there’s nothing to look forward to here

 

Like the smell of a newborn

Cuddled in her arms

 

Just the loneliness surrounding

And the palpable metallic taste

 

That comes and goes in her mouth

Reminding her she’s made of flesh and blood

 

Reminding her what she puts in must

Find release, somehow

 

The healing will come, with time,

But withdrawal is a different beast altogether

 

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This Time

She spoke softly. She spoke just above audible, her voice grave. She told me to change it this time. She told me to choose differently, to follow the words into the light, instead of turning around to the familiar. She gripped my hand, unusually strong for someone so sick, and spit out the words, “Promise me, Taylor.” The words were strangely biting as her fingers dug into my skin, “Promise me, this time you won’t let me die. Promise me you’ll change the past so I won’t have to die.”
_______________________________

I open my eyes to another day as I sit up in my dorm bed, my alarm music playing subtly in the background, a lifting tune to get me out of bed. But the burden is still here, always. Mom died last week. The cancer took hold and continued to eat. She had survived through the fevers, through the pain, just to deliver that puzzling message to me. I still have bruises from her fingernails on my wrist. I don’t want the impressions to go away; the marks prove she’s still here, holding my hand.

As cryptic as her last words to me were, I have no way of knowing what the hell she was talking about. The doctors said she was delusional at that point, but I remember how her blue eyes burned; she looked real and raw in those few moments. She didn’t seem foggy or crazy. She made me promise, and I had promised, like a good little girl, not understanding what I was promising. Promising to give her hope, maybe? At least in my dreams, she wouldn’t die.

The school counselor said I should take more time off, but I insisted I was okay. I insisted I needed to get back to normal. And so today is my first class day back. My writing class is in an hour, and I’ll have to hurry to shower, dress, and make it there in time. I won’t forget my journal this time, never again. Mom taught me to never take moments for granted. You never know when you’ll get another chance to observe and transcribe that perfect moment.
_________________________________

The cancer had attacked aggressively, severely. If she had known the warning signs and gotten checked earlier, she could have beaten it, if there had been enough time. But my parents and I had all been oblivious. We made our way through our regular routines of work, school, friends, appointments, and parties. Mom had started getting sick more frequently but chalked it up to work strain. And I was too focused on my freshman year of college-all the classes, events, some cute boy whose name I don’t remember now. He had asked for my number and we had planned on meeting up, until Mom got the news.

Dad, focused on writing his next novel, How to Find Time, was out of town when the call came through. Mom told us the news over the phone. That first week she was alone, too late for treatment. I had found her curled up in a ball on one side of the bed, glassy eyed, in extreme pain, tears streaming down her cheeks. She told me she was waiting for someone to come get her and bring her to the hospital. Dad would be home tomorrow. I held her until then, until we could all go together to check her into the room that would become her tomb. She had waited. She was always waiting.
__________________________________

Her last words come back to me, pulling at my heart strings, and I have to choke back a sob. Promise me, this time you won’t let me die.

I pull my journal out, flipping through, looking for that note I wrote Mom and Dad the day I left for college. I had been sitting at the desk in the living room, window open and breeze rolling in. I could have spoken directly to Mom and Dad in the other room, but there were things I could say in a letter that were too hard to say face to face. Even though in my life I hadn’t wanted for much, there were dreams I needed to pursue apart from them, apart from this home they created for me.

I could hear Mom’s laugh and Dad’s witty comment in return. I had finished the letter and made sure it was placed so they’d find it after I’d left, and then I went into the kitchen to join them. All smiles, the three of us. The sky was a clear blue, and there was a light frosty bite to the air, the crispness of autumn making its way through our jackets as we took a walk in the diminishing light.

My hand rests on the letter, carefully caressing the words I have to go.

I can’t help it. I can’t help the tears, but this time I don’t hold them back. I let them slide down my cheeks, trying to purge myself of the past, trying to keep the guilt from crushing my brightness. Maybe it is too soon to go back to normal. And what is normal, now?

Promise me, this time you won’t let me die. Promise me you’ll change the past so I won’t have to die.

I feel a pulse under my fingers, and look down. Heat begins spreading up through my fingers, and the pulsing continues. The words on the letter are focusing and re-focusing, as if they are being re-written each time the tears hit them. Startled, I push the letter out of my hands and the ink darkens to its usual color, but not before I notice the light behind the words.

I immediately grab it back up. The tears are still coming, not as strong. Mom had told me. How did she know? She had told me to follow the words into the light. I look around at the familiar, but then turn back, focusing on following to somewhere new.

I place my hand on top of the pulsing mix of ink and light, and feel a sensation of being drawn inward. There is a flash of pain and a searing burning across my hand.

What the hell is going on?

My whole body is vibrating painfully over the letter, the colors going in and out, and I feel as if I’ll faint.
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And then I’m back to that day. I see my old living room. The letter is on the desk, only partially written, and my hand is poised halfway through, ready to write the next words. Mom is laughing from the other room, but the sound is coming in and out. There is a loud buzzing surrounding me, and dad’s witty comment makes it way to my ears. My focusing is coming and going, and the letter in front of me is vibrating, like it did in my dorm room. Promise me, this time you won’t let me die.

A severe pain across my brow shatters my thoughts, and I will myself to focus on the present.

There’s the breeze, the light, the feel of the crisp air; my senses can make this real. And the throbbing lessens and the buzzing fades.

I feel Mom’s arms around me, “Honey, whatcha writing?”

Something has changed. I didn’t get to finish the letter, and Mom and Dad are already in here, ready to take that walk.

“Grab your coat, love. We’ll meet you out front.”

I turn around, reaching for Mom. A sob breaks free, and I bury my head in her chest.

Startled, she gently says, “Honey, it’s okay. We’ll still see each other plenty. I’m not going anywhere.”

I can already feel myself being pulled back to my present, like a rubber band. This elastic reality will only last another few moments.

The ink is spilling from the pen all over the paper, creating designs, all leading to the last word I’ve written.

I can change my words. I can change the end of the letter. I can warn my mom and change the end of her story. I have a few seconds left. The room around me is shifting back to my dorm, and the ink under my hand is drying before I can get the words out. Mom’s face is starting to fade.

Just enough time for a warning, just enough to change a few words.

You’re right, Mom. This time you’re not going anywhere. This time I’m not letting you go.

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