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/ ]

notes on fading a little

I went dark on social media. Because things were feeling overwhelming and I wanted peace. Stayed off for the span of a Mercury retrograde. Now that is over.

But I have to be honest. I haven’t gone back on yet. I don’t think I want to.

Everything is just… a lot. Still. I thought going offline would bring some sort of relaxed exhale, but it just clarified the parts of my brain and heart that hurt. The clarity is nice — just not exactly blissful.

Good things did happen. A lot of them did, actually. Dating certainly did not slow down. My play is going to a festival this summer. And I got back to therapy yesterday!

Because it turns out, you don’t have to do this alone. People want to help you. And that already feels so much better.

eclipse after a birthday

I’ve been learning about myself. That’s all I ever seem to do.

The sky rumbles and planets crash into each other and you think, is this really going to affect me this time? And then you’re awake at 3 AM in a panic over how invisible you are. But you’re not.

I get lost in my own head. A personality test revealed this even though it is so obvious. I get lost but it doesn’t feel lost. It feels like reality. That’s the danger of it.

So many stories to tell you, sweet one. It was my birthday and I didn’t tell anyone. Bought myself a cake and threw most of it in the trash (sorry).

When your tendency is to lose yourself in your own thinking, a solution is to make contact with other people. This can feel awkward and anxiety-inducing in its own right. And that’s ironic. But it’s still what you should do.

So on Friday I did that. My friend is a songwriter and he was having a show. He hadn’t performed in 3 years. So I thought yes, I will go to this and pretend to be the cool girl whose friend is the lead singer. Even though the idea gives me nervous stomach.

Sometimes you step out of what’s comfortable and everything feels weird. Other times you do that and you find a seat, the venue is cozy, and your friend plays music that hits the exact soothing spot you needed. Then you hug him after the show and he asks if he looked nervous.

I’m so good at telling myself stories that sometimes I paralyze myself.

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.

all over the place

My neighbor’s lonely cat yowled constantly for almost an entire week straight. Its crying got longer and sadder until I worried it might be dying. There was a call to animal control. And then a sudden reappearance of the owner.

There was water on my bathroom floor and a constant drip-drip-drip I couldn’t stop. The sound made me feel insane. An extremely gentle plumber came and compared a toilet to a body that needs to be taken care of and nourished, you can’t just expect it to get to 75 years on its own.

There was waking up in the dark, terrified and not knowing what I’m doing. Feeling like I’m not living correctly because I don’t have a partner. But do I? Do I need to know what I’m doing? Does anybody know what they’re doing?

Nobody answers me. There’s just darkness and my own anxiety.

Also, taxes.

I write plays. They were why I moved to New York. On good days, they feel like they are why I’m alive. On bad days, I don’t think they’re very good. On pandemic days, they didn’t even exist. But I wrote a play in lockdown, so I could at least pretend to have voices to listen to.

So now Mercury is not retrograde anymore. Theater exists again. And I am flirting with the idea of sending the play I wrote to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Which would be terrifying. And an adventure. And me making theater again. Just….. in Scotland this time.

Friends smile and say “you should do it!!” And I know they mean well, but if I’m being honest it all makes me want to cry or scream or hide somewhere. But then, you know, I’d wake up in the darkness of my hiding place and freak out over not spending my life correctly.

So, it’s a lot.

Someone get this woman an edible. Stat.

where my thoughts go

Spending time with you makes me want to dream and listen to sad music afterwards. Take long walks, stare out the window, burrow into the inner world, where everything feels sweeter and easier to sit with. In that inner world I can remember your hair falling into your eyes. How you look when you’re asleep. The tiny starburst that went off in my heart when you said you’d been thinking about me.

I was in a car, going to dinner. We drove by your neighborhood and I whispered your name.

Hours later, you were slipping a finger into my shirt and pulling me closer. You were standing over me and kissing me with your hands on my face. I was sitting, arching my back, my mouth reaching hungrily for yours. Mind just crying please, yes please, I can’t believe this fantasy is real.

Maybe if I lie still in that inner world, I could write something that would connect with and move you. You who are so public. You who the world is trying to move. You who have built such a shiny persona to mask the deeply quiet well in your heart. You who will not actually read this.

morning

It’s morning and it’s quiet and I’m here.

The sun slowly warming up the chilly sky.

A line of geese flying over the house with purpose.

My body doesn’t exactly ache, but it pulses dully like it has gone through something.

My heart is a big tangle of several different feelings.

I guess the longer you are alive, the more you have to sit with the painful and heavy and strange. But I’d love for that stuff to stop sitting on us all so persistently.

Maybe we can start something new from here. Maybe we can learn how to feel better. When I figure it out I’ll let you know.

this is all noteworthy

God forbid we tip the scales and he wonders where I am for once.

Is it possible to feel a lightening and a heaviness at the same time? Like things have shifted position? The problems that had a chokehold on you seem to have loosened their grip. But they still keep that pressure on your throat. Or maybe your PTSD makes it so you are imagining that pressure.

You don’t always feel tired. On Sunday you ran around like a cartoon, in the pursuit of constructing holiday treats. Organized all the ingredients just so and then went a little nuts, got a little creative. Good thing you weren’t baking. Just melting various types of chocolate, pouring them into a tray, and adorning them with nuts, pretzels, peanut butter, etc. Then it hardens and you break it apart until soon you have lovely shards of decadence.

This is all noteworthy because you didn’t feel sad or heavy. Two hours whirred by like nothing. You’re not even sure that you feel sad right now. Loneliness has a low hum like a river in your body but its heaviness ebbs and flows. In the meantime, the sun set today over a clear blue sky and huge trees with branches like thin fingers. And that’s all I have right now.

anyway how are you

Heard about a phrase, “revolutionary optimism.” Not to be confused with toxic positivity. Instead it’s the inherent belief that things can be better than they are. However awful the systems in this world are, they can rot away and be sloughed off, replaced with vast improvements.

Belief in that possibility is vital.

Under the quiet stars of the Midwest I have noticed a desire to cut off what isn’t working or doesn’t feel good. To remove myself from the endless feed of posts that make me overwhelmed or sad. To… not have sex on the first date anymore. Perhaps. Wow, how revolutionary.

A night or two ago, I woke up in the dark. The same old sads. But they grew warmer and melted away (a little) when they had permission to be cozy. Yes you are sad and other people are too. You’re just seeing a shiny veneer. Nobody in the wrong. Everybody just hiding and vulnerable behind bright glass screens.

both sides of a full moon

We had dinner together two nights ago. It was the first time meeting you in person, after knowing you for a year. We coped with the 2020 election by constantly sexting BDSM fantasies to each other.

No one’s words have ever revved me up into such a constant state. You made me remember a dark and gorgeous part of myself that I had been pushing down out of fear. You made me start to feel proud of that part.

I still reread those sexts. But we don’t do that anymore. I was afraid you would disappear. But now we have known each other for far longer than we did all that.

For months I’ve been picking up all the wild feelings that were stirred up. One of which was wondering if I was in love with you. But anyway you don’t really know any of this. We’re just friends. This was a friend dinner.

You wrote a theater piece, and last week I went to it. It wasn’t actually in a theater – it was in a giant indoor space. I wore headphones and wandered around, listening to monologues from characters in an empty living room. Or a very well-lit kitchen. Or a perfectly staged New York City apartment. There was an inevitable “March 2020 in New York” scene that gave me PTSD. There was a first date scene you wrote where both people were going through the motions like robots. You’re not that way at all but they were your words.

Dinner was your way of thanking me for going to the show. I suggested a very basic coffeeshop and you countered with a really cute Mediterranean restaurant that had *delicious* food and outdoor tables.

I’ve had an image of you in my head for a year (built on videos and images and audio notes) and you turned out to fit that image perfectly. I couldn’t believe you were just sitting there. You were nervous and I was pretending not to be.

I have to admit. At dinner, there weren’t any heavy heart-poundy dramatic moments. Mostly we were just keeping a conversation going. About theater and writing and other nerdy things. You are brilliant (I already knew that) and you talked really fast. You have a kind smile and you are just magical.

Okay anyway.

That night was a full moon and something insane happened. A man with slick hair and a trench coat teleported out of the 1980’s and approached our table. He said there was a man nearby who wanted directions to a place but was afraid to ask because he was Black. There was indeed a Black man standing nearby and he looked mortified.

Trench coat man was white. And drunk. And extremely angry when we didn’t know where that place was. He slurred something about calling the cops. He said a bunch of other things to try and scare us. I looked at the other man and said, again, we don’t know where that place is. He rushed up to the drunk trench coat man, “come *on* man leave them alone!” And then both of them parted ways and completely disappeared.

“Welcome to Manhattan,” I told you.

So that is a thing that happened. On a full moon I finally meet you and crazy shit happens. Sounds about right.

The next day you texted about a weird dream where you were breathing with your mouth open and Taylor Swift was turned off by it. Somehow in my head, I made that about me.

I don’t know what the hell any of this means or what I’m doing. But I care about you and love that you are in my life.