just need to breathe

when you are trying to take a selfie of us and I don’t know what to do with my hands or face or body

when I am at your house and you are wrapped around me and I’m feeling trapped

..or terrified that I’m not good enough for you

just breathe.

you once told me that whenever you see me, at first my eyes and body language are always nervous for a few minutes. Like I’m subconsciously begging “please don’t get mad at me”

you said “but don’t you know by now how much I care about you, don’t you know yet that you’re safe here”

I just need to breathe

and move beyond being scared you’re going to think I look fat or bad

because things are different now

let all of that go silent

sink into my body and know I am enough.

[image found here: https://www.inprnt.com/gallery/jlarriva/tempest/ ]

vulnerability hangover

Okay but what was the point of that. Why did we open our hearts up and why did I cry and why did we journal about each other if none of that changes anything.

This is my stubborn contradiction. I crave closeness. Emotion. Connection. Then I get it but sometimes it feels suffocating. I float out of myself and ask “why did you do that? was there a reason to open up those old wounds?”

We broke up three years ago and I knew I was over him. We are still in touch. He mails me postcards but I look at them with a kind of detached fondness, oh that’s nice. But last night I was typing on my phone, bearing more of myself than maybe he deserved to see. Tears pouring because something had been newly reopened and for what purpose. Healing? Is that what this is?

At what point are we just picking at things for the sake of feeling something? What’s the difference between “doing the work” and just plain hurting yourself?

“I’ve changed so much.” he said.

“You have and you haven’t.” I replied.

tender and she throbs

After I fell, I hid the bruise underneath my dress.

Didn’t want to be a bother. Didn’t want to ruin anyone’s time.

She began as faint blue speckles. I thought maybe that would be all of it.

But she grew and her color deepened. Darkened into a violet-black galaxy. She stretched herself across the entire right side of my leg. I found her beautiful but I think she scared people. So I wore leggings.

She is tender and she throbs. Apparently blood can move down from the original injury to places that weren’t even hurt, and make them bruise too. The way the body expresses pain. Color like paint and then healing.

A reminder of just how sweetly, achingly soft you are. But also that you are able to stand after chaos. Somehow.

vacation hell

One night I couldn’t take anymore so I confided in you about him. He was not worth it but he was driving me crazy and I’d been holding onto that fact for so long it was consuming me. I let it go. I cried in front of you, and you hugged me. It all felt so much lighter.

“He’s probably going to come after you too.” I whispered tearfully.

“Nope. No. I really don’t like this guy.”

Cut to two days later.

You come into our room and need to tell me. Last night on the beach he told you he liked you and asked to kiss you. You’d said no.

“Are you going to do anything?” I ask while the bottom of my stomach gives out.

“No. Probably not.”

“What’s the likelihood that you’ll do something.”


That same morning I am in the ocean with a friend who tells me to get over it. You never even dated him, why are you so sad. The wound is still raw and fresh. I cry in front of him, in that beautiful blue water, for the first time in 12+ years we’ve known each other. He acts like he’s seen a ghost.

Cut to a day later. Last night of the trip.

I have processed the giant wave of feelings that hit me. I am lighter. Whatever you’re going to do together, it is going to happen and that is fine. It’s not like I need to look at it.

Or so I think.

I am talking to a friend and you burst into our room. You are drunk off your ass but fire is in your eyes and you hold my stare. Your lipstick is smeared all over your face from kissing him. You want me to see it.

“What the hell was that?” the friend asks.

I do not talk to you or hug you goodbye. I do not have friends that do this. Thank you for making it so obvious that you’re a monster. Have a nice life.

the truth of things

Last night got intense.

I watched something extremely stressful before bed and had a rough time sleeping.

In reality that’s all that happened. But “tossing and turning” is too cute to describe what it was: endless panicked thoughts that wouldn’t ease, even with meditating. Flashing worries that every single component of life was being lived incorrectly. Even though that’s not true. Even though yes, of course meditation helped. But where was that instant hit of bliss. Why isn’t it like that. Why is it actually something so much deeper and more subtle.

Why does it make you work for it so hard and not at all. Why do we make ourselves panic when nothing is there. Or maybe that’s just me.

The morning had a completely different mood than the night. It was so much more innocent. Watched a friend’s dog. She lives in my neighborhood, a few streets over. Her dog is sweet and ugly-to-the-point-of-cute. He never left my lap except to go on walks.

It was such a simple shift, being in a space like my own but not mine. Curled up with a little friend. How is that all it takes to feel completely different. It’s how we’re wired I guess.

Over and over we face that cold lonely terror at night. And every time we try to remember that love, warmth, coziness are alchemizing forces against it. Sometimes we remember and sometimes we don’t. But that doesn’t take away the truth of things.

like when I think about you

I came out of a room and I wanted love.

I didn’t want to be owned.

And I didn’t want to be lonely.

I still don’t.

For months, lonely sat on my chest and almost smothered me.

I have tried to quiet it by meeting people and bringing them into my bed

But when they leave (sometimes while they are still here) the loneliness twists at my side.

These days, lonely mostly sits in a corner in my room. It isn’t trying to kill me anymore. Now it can actually feel sweet. Sometimes.

I try to keep it warm and care for it.

secretly soft heart

When I texted you last night, I wasn’t thinking I was going to see you. But it would be a lie to say I hadn’t missed you.

I walked into my apartment after dinner with a friend, just as you were asking me to come over and have a drink. I ordinarily would not be so impulsive. But it was you.

Next thing I know, I’m in your apartment again and you are making me a cocktail with a clever name. You are deeply shy, and I think that’s beautiful. Sometimes you stared off and got quiet. Your eyes looked like they were a thousand miles from here. A lot of heavy had happened for you recently.

You also love to buzz about and describe things, pull out bottles with elegant shapes and difficult-to-pronounce names. While you were explaining one of them, you poured a little onto your palm and held it in front of me.

“Am I… smelling this?”

“No,” you said, “you’re licking it.”

And I sure did.

I told you later that when you did that, it turned me on so much that I would have let you throw me onto your kitchen counter and fuck me while I licked your fingers.

Instead we fucked in your bed, for four hours. And then you let me sleep over. You slept with your arms wrapped around me. I barely slept.

Which might have something to do with why I’m so tired now that I could cry.

Today marks the first time I slept with two different people in 24 hours. It’s also a day where someone else dumped me and made me feel like shit, even though I wasn’t even that interested.

So, you know. This whole thing is a lot. I don’t really know what I’m doing. You put your heart and body out there wanting to connect with people. And you do, and it feels wonderful. And you don’t, and it breaks your secretly soft heart.

but who takes care of you?

My body feels sensitive, like its edges are blurring and getting fuzzier. Softer.

I woke up in the night and thought it was pain. But pain is too strong a word. It’s just… sensation. Ache. Maybe there is magic in feeling sensitive like this. Excuse me while I drink enough water to fill a bathtub.

Aching on the night of solstice seemed oddly fitting. The edges of day and night blurring together too. The light slowly beginning to spill itself onto us again. A little bit longer every day. A minute more of light makes a world of difference.

My body is crying out for comfort. I curl up in blankets and the cry persists. I sit with the ache, try to comfort it as if I am my own lover, and it starts to melt into warm little shivers. Wanting to retreat from the world and just be still in those blankets for a while.

The dark blue eases into a sunrise and I breathe.

the big explanation

The past few days have been a rollercoaster.

We picked my sister up at the airport. My parents and me. We gave her a huge hug and chattered excitedly with her all the way home. Dad poured glasses of wine and gave my sister a beer. We had cocktails around the tree. The room was soft and rosy and we were all together.

Our parents left the room to go grab various items, go to the bathroom, etc. My sister leaned over to me.

“I think I’m going to tell them my thing in a few minutes.”

I took a deep breath. “Okay.”

“Yeah.” she said. “I want to get it out of the way.”

“It won’t be out of the way. But it will be let go.”

Our parents came back and I pretended I wasn’t about to anxiety-barf. I went into the bathroom and put my hands on the sink, stared into my own eyes, tried to breathe. I came out of the bathroom and it hadn’t happened yet.

“I’m really happy to see you guys.” she said. “I can’t believe it’s been 2 years. It’s been weighing on me.”

Bubbles of reassurance from our parents.

“There’s something I want to tell you. It has to do with me.”

She then went into the single most beautiful coming-out explanation I’ve ever heard. She talked about never having felt comfortable with masculinity. Always connecting more with women. Being so much happier now that she was living as her true self. How everyone close to her in California knows and calls her by her female name and pronouns. Including the company she works for.

She would eventually tell me that her biggest worry with this was that she would get disowned. She had actually made arrangements to stay with someone, just in case she ended up getting thrown out of the house.

During her speech our dad stood up. He said she would always be loved and accepted in this family. That he was so happy for her. He gave her a long bear hug. She started crying. So did I.

My mom asked if she was going to start wearing woman’s clothes.

“Well… yeah. That’s kind of the point.”

About an hour later, my mom was clinging to me and sobbing. She didn’t know what to do. She didn’t know what she was supposed to do.

“It’s okay.” I said. “You don’t have to know what to do right now.”

The next morning was… tense. My mom was quiet and she is never quiet. Her eyes looked like she had been crying. That never happens either. Seeing her sadness flips some ridiculous switch in my head where I say dumb things and try to make myself the butt of some stupid joke. I have no idea what to do here.

Our parents had planned a surprise visit to a cute hotel by Lake Erie. My sister and I shared a room. Mom and Dad used the wrong name and pronouns the entire time. They didn’t even act like they wanted to try and get them right.

“We’re doing ‘she’ now? Really?” Mom said to me in private. “I can’t do that.”

Yes. We are. That’s the point.

I feel like I am terrible at navigating this. I have no idea what to do. So I’m just going to keep using her name and her pronouns and hope some kind of fucking miracle happens and this tension can start to dissipate, even a little.

Well. Maybe I need to reframe that.

Maybe it’s okay that there is this tension. It’s necessary. Even though it’s horribly painful and I hate it.

Instead of waiting for tension to leave, I need to focus on taking care of myself. But how the hell do I do that when everyone else in this house seems like they’re so much more in need of some kind of care.

I don’t know. But I’m really tired and feeling blue. That’s all I’ve really got to say at the moment.