Lily sits alone, fighting shadows
under the shade of the pine tree.
She wore a tweed skirt today, looking sexy,
but her mom called her a slut and
pushed her down the staircase.
What a dangerous game she’s playing;
if she’s not careful, her own daughter
will end up dead, with a note that reads,
I wasn’t worth it
Mother’s Day came and went
No one called her
Not one of her daughters
What can she expect?
So, call her wicked, call her selfish,
call her the problem,
And keep it going.
Lily sits alone
All these years later,
her husband beckons from the
doorway, but he’s not there
She doesn’t see him.
She’s still fighting shadows
under the shade of the pine tree.
We were all lied to when we were told we could be anything we wanted to be right out of the gates.
That the possibilities were endless and that all our dreams would come true if we just worked hard enough.
Just because you work hard doesn’t mean your dreams will come true.
In the real world there aren’t any do-overs.
In the real world there are tears and blood.
In the real world the air is so tight that sometimes I forget to breathe.
It’s taken me a long time to realize the secret – the “how to” in making my dreams a reality.
It’s not about intelligence, and it’s not about money. It’s not even about beauty or age.
It’s about awareness.
It’s about realizing what systems I’m a part of and figuring out how they work. It’s about mechanically separating the parts and figuring out how they fit back together.
Only then does this “Real World” become a tangible thing-something I can step back from and observe, before making a move.
A system is a set of rules and procedures put in place to accomplish a particular goal.
We all have our own personal systems, the little rules that we use to make sense of and run our personal life and how we relate to others.
The Real World is a result of everyone’s systems colliding, crashing and burning, creating bigger systems that serve individual and personal interests.
If someone doesn’t know how the system works, or which rules govern it, they can easily become overwhelmed and intimidated. But once they get to know the rules and understand the basic components, they can understand how each piece fits into the overall goal.
It’s easy to get lost if we continue to look at the hundreds of colliding systems as the scary Real World and not as it truly is- the compilation of individual systems.
My students would do a project on the Real World, and they would frequently tell me that they were scared shitless because adults use phrases like, “real world,” and sayings like, “you’ll see,” and, “It’s harder than you think.”
Why does no one tell them? Why when we find out do we hide it away like it’s our big secret? Is it because we’ve struggled so much, now it’s their turn?
How many of you would have liked to know earlier on that you weren’t alone when you didn’t know what to do?
Personally, that would have saved me years of feeling trapped, thinking I was the only stupid one without the secret of how to be an adult. Now that I know, I’ll shout it from the rooftops.
Now that I understand that everything is made up of systems, I can step back and watch the systems at play before deciding which ones I’ll be part of. Now I have the mindfulness to choose what parts to focus on and what to let go of.
There is hope. You don’t have to give in to the illusion that you’ll never win – that you’re always trapped. The real world is a system, a structure of people set in place by other people. And they aren’t smarter than you. They aren’t better than you. They’ve learned how to play the game.
I’ve spent years thinking my life couldn’t change, that I’d be forever trapped in the systems I’d become part of. But I’m finding the cracks, slowly but surely. And I’m making significant changes in my mindset and focus. I’m seeing my dreams shine through and I’m realizing I can choose what I’m a part of and create a better version of me.
Maybe you have a job you hate.
Maybe you are constantly questioning why you can never get a break.
Just because you’ve always been part of something, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. Decide what you really want and which systems are holding you back from reaching your goals. Take a step back and observe how your systems are run, which rules make them up, fair and unfair, easy and hard. Choose new systems that help you reach you goals, or find cracks within the systems you’re a part of that give you some breathing room.
The Real World does not have to be a scary place.
We believe in curses.
The names we’ve been called,
The feeling we were being
Overlooked on the playground
The whispers behind our backs
The quickly muttered greetings
& sideways glances
Hands held between people
But not ours.
We shared our lunch with
No one on a picnic blanket
Meant for two.
Is it the color of our hair
Or the size of our frame
That make them doubt us so?
Or is it that feeling
Deep in the gut
Bubbling underneath the awareness
That’s let them know
Something sinister is lurking?
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 3rd. Dirty.
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.
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.
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
Until the tears came
And I sobbed
But I asked for it, right?
So, you’re off the hook.