Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye and Other Black Crowes Songs

This is something I’ve been meaning to write about for years, but am glad I waited ’til now to actually accomplish. Sometimes putting something off is a good thing. You know what else is a good thing?

Being raised up listening to Black Crowes bootlegged cassettes.

I almost named this post She Talks to Angels, and Other Black Crowes Songs No One Should Cover Ever Again, but instead opted for Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye for a few reasons. Before I explain, let me just say something about you and your acoustic guitar and your confidence in your vocal talents.

You are not fit to cover She Talks to Angels. Not because Chris R sings the shit out of it. Not because it is the most overplayed BC song ever, in history, forever. Not even because any time anyone plays an acoustic set anywhere, this song is on the list, or worse, REQUESTED. But because I HAVE HEARD IT THREE TRILLION TIMES ON EVERY BLACK CROWES BOOTLEG EVER ILLEGALLY MAILED AND/OR EXCHANGED AND IN EVERY RESTAURANT I HAVE EVER WORKED FOR AT THE BACK OF THE HOUSE, AND I HAD TO HEAR THIS FUCKING SONG EVERY SINGLE TIME WHILE I WAS JUST TRYING TO WASH DISHES, MAN.

Anyway, Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye is a song by The Black Crowes, a band that isn’t even my favorite, but way up there in probably my top five, that begins with my favorite introduction to any song ever.
in history.
forever.

My on and off boyfriend of five years has blue eyes (and has been repeatedly told he is a prettier version of Chris Robinson and obviously I’m into that). So naturally, any time I hear this song, I think of him. The other reason why this song reminds me of him is that he always seems to have bad luck. And finally, another reason I think of him when I hear this song is because I’ve broken up with him (said goodbye) exactly, and without exaggeration, four hundred and twenty times. So yeah, Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye! Makes sense!

Unlike our desire for commitment, The Black Crowes have always been a constant in my life. My mom and uncle have seen them a thousand times live. Even (actually, especially) in the smaller Atlanta gig days. They still play those shows, and I’ve seen a couple. The last thing my parents did together was see BC live. The last thing my baby daddy and I did together was see BC live. (Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye for good there.)

Cursed Diamond is a fun song. I used to hear this song and retreat within myself. My birth stone is a diamond, and being that I wrote my own obituary at the ripe old age of twelve, I am not at all hesitant to tell you that there are moments in my life when I feel, uh… what’s the word I’m looking for… oh- CURSED.

I recorded a homemade music video to Cursed Diamond that I stupidly shared on YouTube, and it has since gained momentum (only because it pops up if you search the song), which only terrifies me. Why in the hell did I post this? I can’t remember the login, and an old email account is attached, so there it is, trapped,
in history…
forever.

But, there is a part of me that is glad I can see it any time I like. Those are memories I love arranged to a song I love and hopefully it will be easily accessible while I rest my bones in a nursing home. If I’m LUCKY. I look at the bright side now, but that wasn’t always the case.

Which brings me to Sister Luck. And heck, let’s throw in Sometimes Salvation while we’re at it. These two sad old songs cut me DEEP.

My sister and I are two and a half years apart in age. The half is very important to us. We were forced to share a bedroom, and a lot of other things, growing up. As younger sisters tend to do, she annoyed the shit out of me. It was nerve racking, for someone like me who just wanted privacy and space. Any time we had a fight, my parents would make us sit next to each other until someone apologized. Then we were to stand facing each other and say “Sisters are (you guessed it-)

forever.”

There are, of course, very personal reasons why Sister Luck and Sometimes Salvation open my floodgates of emotion. Like anyone else born in the South, a sad song relating to numbing the pain with drugs, etc. will probably be one you feel you can relate to. There are so many people I have lost from one thing or another. It’s just common. When it’s your sister, though… that’s a really deep wound. But, it’s one I’ve coped with for years, with the help of The Black Crowes.

Writing about your struggles and pain seems like it’d be really dumb these days. The cycle continues. But people need to face the realities of the struggle. Yes, it is real. But in that struggle comes some really beautiful transitions. You can even become Ashley’s probably fourth favorite band.

Thorn in my Pride, Wiser Time, P. 25 London, Nonfiction, She Gave Good Sunflower… and so many more Black Crowes songs to name that have been present in one version or another through my life. This is just my thanks, for being present before, during, and after every single one of those splits. Seems like the Robinson brothers can relate.

The Horrible Bitch that is Dementia

This entry was originally published on my website, Live Onawa, January 12, 2021.

I’ll begin by sharing a paper I wrote back in 2015 exploring the use of non-pharmacological therapies to engage a person with dementia. Beginning here:
The purpose of this statement is to substantiate my view that simulated social stimulus in the form of a life-like baby doll or stuffed animal helps in engaging a patient with dementia in a nursing home setting to generate warm feelings and reduce agitation. Through this research, I wanted to examine non-pharmacological interventions to deal with dementia patients during aggressive behavioral outburst. Is it really useful in creating a distraction from harmful or threatening situation? It seems to me that the dolls keep the dementia patients distracted more than those who do not have one. Some authors consider doll therapy as controversial due to its ethical nature and consider doll therapy as “infantilizing for patients who end up being treated like children” (Hughes et al., 2006). Perhaps dignity is the issue for some, however, certain things are done for the safety of the patient, and I personally see no reason not to use this method if it is effective. Although, in order to achieve the greatest likelihood of success, it is important for the caregivers to understand the patient’s attachment/relationship with the stimuli, cognitive status, and past history. Meaningful stimuli needs to be considered and explored to maximize the desired benefit for persons with dementia. It is pertinent to conduct more trials with less bias and with larger samples to see the efficacy of such non-pharmacological interventions amidst our dementia population. In my experience, there have been instances in which the doll caused more distress. For example, one patient became distraught because she didn’t know the dolls’ names and felt they had been abandoned. Otherwise, I have seen mostly positive results. Interpretations of doll/stuffed animal therapy enable health care providers to maximize the positive outcome of providing stimulus with greatest likelihood of success (Cohen-Mansfield et al., 2010).I interviewed a Nurse Practitioner (NP) who works in the dementia unit of a Nursing Home (NH) my employer services. She has witnessed positive results in the NH when a doll/stuffed animal has been introduced to geriatric clients. According to her, this sort of stimulus seems to fulfill a sense of purpose, and provided a calming effect while keeping the patient engaged. She emphasized the doll/animal should appear as realistic as possible (S. Hasgrove, personal communication, January 20, 2015). This NP’s experience corroborated with the results of Ellingford et al. (2007) post study analysis that “These authors found an increase in doll users’ positive behavior following the introduction of the dolls and a reduction in negative behaviors and aggression”. Amongst geriatric patients suffering from dementia in nursing home settings, how does simulated social stimulus like doll/stuffed animal compared to no stimulus reduced behavioral disturbance and wandering within three months of exposure to stimulus? In conclusion, this finding is consistent with studies showing that increasing resident engagement through individualized activities is associated with decreased agitation. However, we cannot disregard the severity of dementia that is a significant factor, as severely demented became increasingly disengaged from the stimulus overtime. Future research should focus on the development of targeted individualized interventions based on the cognitive and affective profile of dementia patients with behavior disturbance. Reference List:Cohen-Mansfield, J., Marx, M., Dakheel-Ali, M., Regier, N., Thein, K., & Freedman, L. (2010). Can agitated behavior of nursing home residents with dementia be prevented with the use of standardized stimuli? Journal Of The American Geriatrics Society, 58(8), 1459-1464. doi:10.1111/j.1532-5415.2010.02951.xEllingford L., Mackenzie L., Marsland L. (2007). Using dolls to alter behavior in people with dementia. Retrieved from http://www.nursingtimes.net/nursing-practice/specialisms/mental-health/using-dolls-to-alter-behaviour-in-patients-with-dementia/201683.articleHughes J. C., Louw S. J., Sabat S. R. (2006). Dementia: Mind, Meaning, and the Person. New York: Oxford University Press


Now, I have worked in mental healthcare facilities from Cullman to Decatur to Madison to Huntsville, and have scribed for geriatric providers who see nursing facility residents who suffer from this God awful disease that affects the brain in the literal sense. Because it physically affects the brain by shrinking some areas, depending on which areas are most impacted, the loss of brain tissue negatively impacts the person’s processes of speech, thought, motor abilities, etc. Whether ripping the person from their fond memories, or the sense of who and where they are, their social or communication skills, or their physical capabilities, there are a number of ways that this disease affects the person. If you have never cared for someone with dementia and have no experience witnessing its effects, you would be amazed at the every day tasks we perform effortlessly without realizing how impossible it might be for anyone else. Most of the notes I scribed were vague and consistent, using very average and uninspiring treatments that basically allowed the provider to be on her way. Week after week, I would see either stability or decline, no real progress- nothing to leave me with a satisfactory feeling. This troubled me, especially years later, after having experienced working with dementia patients first hand.
To elaborate, I have also worked as an activities director in a nursing facility that maintains a hall specifically treating men and women who have been diagnosed with various forms of dementia, including a majority who suffered with Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and forms of dementia likely brought on by severe trauma and even heartbreak. For example, a prominent community doctor began showing signs of dementia shortly after his daughter was murdered in cold blood by a stalking ex-boyfriend. This incredibly educated, hardworking and caring man just shut down, and I was able to communicate with him during our time together because I could look him in the eyes and give him encouragement to do a task as simple as removing his shoes, whereas other facility workers often had difficulties and would require an additional worker to assist, using (gentle) force. But I somehow tapped into his emotional distress, found him, and was able to communicate in such a way he would willingly follow my soothing tone, in giving him simple step by step instruction. I was also able to communicate with a woman who was once a successful and independent business owner and prominent community leader (especially in her church family) in a way that was so efficient, other colleagues (including nurses and her therapists) often called me the “Betty-Whisperer”. (Her name is changed for privacy issues.) This woman would fight and scream and act like a completely different person unless I was present. I would use a calm, light tone and was incredibly patient and would use distractions sometimes in order for her to follow instructions in order to get her dressed, fed, or participate, etc.
Both of these superb people whom I love have since passed on, which in a way, I look at as a blessing to their own benefit because there is not one shred of doubt where their souls now reside. But that’s another thought for days that have already passed, too. And I moved on to other things now- although I’ll carry those lessons with me always.
I write this ahead of the real message I want to share to give you an idea of how challenging it is for us- people who do not have this disease- to understand and communicate with people who do. If we just take time and effort to listen, you will be astonished at what you might learn. Now, on to my story about my experience in listening to a particular person who would have lengthy and repetitive conversations, someone who helped me understand an issue that it still prevalent today.
Changing her name to protect her identity, I will use Rose.
Rose was a lively, organized, and educated woman. She kept up with the date, marking her calendar daily, took notes (a bit sloppy and unorganized), could mobilize easily with her walker, and was very well groomed and socially active. She loved participating in all group activities, especially activities outside. She is now 89 years old, and has lived with dementia for a number of years. She holds a Masters Degree in English, was a world traveler, a nationally acclaimed competitive dancer, and worked and retired from the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. In her time working for the US Government, she wrote pocket manuals, assisted big wigs, watched countless rocket launches, and even laughingly expressed to me that she and other government employees would “take a bus to Nashville to see the Grand Ole Opry every weekend on taxpayer money.” Amazed, but not surprised in the least, would be my reaction (the first, second, and twenty-third times in hearing her story). What was surprising to me, however, is the fact that she is (and often spoke about being) half Cherokee. It isn’t everyday you encounter a half-Cherokee world travelling woman in Alabama at her age who holds a Masters and is retired from a still prominent government facility. But she would, very precisely, detail these concreted stories about her life because it solidified her identity- one of the few things she was able to hold on to. (Imagine losing a husband of forty years, your career, your opportunities to travel, your home, your independence… imagine how sane you would be.)
In almost every verbal encounter we exchanged, she would never fail to mention that her mother was a full blooded Cherokee. She told me this because she sensed I was of a similar heritage and she asked me if I had any Cherokee blood in my family, to which I said yes. She would then talk about her mother, who was an expert seamstress and taught her how to sew. Her mother had two children- Rose and another son, who had “white cotton hair, fair skin, and blue eyes”. I couldn’t help but think- “I wonder what that must have been like, considering she was physically polar opposite and had been uprooted from her way of life to be acclimated to the white society she was forced into.” Nevertheless, Rose always claimed her mother loved life and was just happy to be a part of the society so that her children could get an education and all the benefits that come along with the acclimation.
Still, my heart continues to break- especially now, after all the recent events involving native peoples and their rights, land and culture, etc. It really is a shame that one has to acclimate to another society just to thrive in this life. It is, without a doubt, very unfair. This is what prompted me to share this particular story. I have heard numerous times from Rose that she “just had the best life- there’s not a day I don’t regret”. That makes me happy to hear, especially considering the unfathomable sacrifices her mother- and no doubt her mother’s own family- had to make in order to gain benefits only offered to those who followed suit. It must have been deeply painful for her, which is likely why she was such a dedicated mother and fervently took part in one thing from her heritage that could be carried over into the American pattern- needlework, a pastime that she taught her own flesh and blood.
Rose was subsequently moved to another facility to be closer to family, and I have not seen her in over a year’s time, but I imagine she is still sharing her very important narrative with any one person who is willing to listen. I hope they can take similar lessons away from her just as I have.

If you know or love anyone with dementia, especially if they are still under facility quarantine, please understand their best treatment is your presence of mind in speaking with and listening to them, and that’s if they even have the ability to speak. Otherwise, look into a lifelike baby doll. You’ll be amazed what a little music can do, too.
For more information on the challenges of being indigenous and to learn how you can better support these suffering communities and the independently owned businesses launched by these hardworking people, I encourage you to visit these websites:
littlecheiis.com

onefastbuffalo.com

linktr.ee/nativewomenswilderness

uihi.org

indianlaw.org

culturalsurvival.org

indigenouspeoplesresources.com

Ashley is Autistic

It took years- nearly thirty-two- for me to reach the conclusion that I am autistic. Even now, at thirty-five, I started to type that I “have” autism, when in reality, this doesn’t make much sense to me. And, in developing relationships with people in the community, I have found that they agree. Autism isn’t a disease. It isn’t a mental disorder. It is just the way our brains function. It is simply who we are.

Everyone is different, no doubt. Everyone has a unique way of thinking. Autistic people tend to think in such a way that someone with a “normal” sense of the world around them may look at them as though they are from an alternate universe. Autistic people are commonly outcast, or tend to fade into the background in social situations. Social cues are difficult to catch, and many times a crowd of people can be overwhelming. Autistic people usually take everything at face value, and it is sometimes difficult to understand why a person feels or thinks the way they do. So, like someone with a “normal” thought process, autistic people are equally baffled at the way other people generally feel. Small talk is annoying, for example. I honestly could care less how your day is. What I want to know is if you had any challenges that arose and how you dealt with them, and how I could potentially assist you through your struggles. This isn’t to say that I won’t listen to or engage in small talk, it simply means that I enjoy deeper, more meaningful conversation. The kind of conversation most people don’t feel comfortable with. It sucks, but I believe engaging with the autistic community over the last few years has allowed me to really connect to people who make sense to me, and people who have helped me make sense of myself. It has been special and empowering!

Autistic people have various characteristics, but share a lot of similarities in the way we think. The sensations we feel. The ticks and habits. The mood swings. The intensity. The drain. The STIM. It is exhausting coping with the every day life tasks for an autistic person. And a little secret for those who might sense you are also autistic- the society we have built is not very accommodating to those who think and feel the way we do. In fact, I had to do my own independent research for years to even get a grip of what, why, and how I feel and think. Psychology has always been an interesting subject to me, and after working in mental healthcare and completing two semesters of psychology, along with my own reading, I believe that my being autistic plays a big role in this general curiosity about the human brain. The shitty part about all of this is that all of my former research, prior to reading a book written by an autistic savant, doesn’t give autism any amount of justice. Autistic people are badass, and the more we engage in sharing our stories, the more we are lifted up in the community, and the more we can see that there is still a lot of work to be done in the general field of mental healthcare.

There are very limited resources, especially here in the American south, that paints the full scope of what autism truly is. So, please allow me to give you some more insight and resources. First, I will explain the reasons I felt strongly that I am autistic. If you are unfamiliar with psychology or autism, none of this will make sense to you, but these are some things that, I strongly feel, played a role in my being autistic:

Genetics (although it’s yet to be proven, I do believe other family members are autistic, my mom and daughter being among them)

I was born addicted to Phenobarbital, a seizure medicine (not a good thing)

Took early interest in music and film (Listening and rocking back and forth to music for hours, crying at movie scenes as early as age 3)

Fractured spine and concussion age 8, was confined to a reclined wheelchair, body cast, and home tutoring for nine months

Wrote a lot, won essay contests and participated in Writers Conference throughout school- very vivid imagination

Family trauma, developed bipolar disorder entering puberty

Fractured spine again, age 18

Family trauma, ten car accidents, PTSD

Hyper sensitive to loud, high pitch noises

Special interests in photography, art, nature conservation, human rights, etc.

So, there are multiple factors that can play a role in a person being autistic. The cool thing- and I can not yet explain why- is that autistic people generally gravitate to each other. In other words, it is rather easy to navigate social situations when you lock on to other autistic people. And you typically stick like glue. My mother was non-verbal until she was five years old. Her first words were “Good gracious alive! Look at that big pink gorilla!”

I was her shadow. And funny enough, my sister was mine. The same can be said about the relationship of my daughter and me. It is as though a light bulb flickers on and we find our way, helping each other navigate through life.

I attribute my ability to cope so well to the support I received throughout my life. I was never forbidden to spend hours at a time in my room, wearing headphones, blasting music in my ears while “dancing”. I was never forbidden to wear my hat backwards. I was never forbidden to cling to my security blanket (until I passed it down to my own daughter). I was never made to feel like what I was saying or doing was weird, unless I was outside of my typical social circle. And even then, sometimes I would be completely aware of my weirdness.

On the flip side, I have experienced negative social consequences among my peers. I’ve been called a lesbian- as though that were some sort of insult- countless times. Whether it was my lack of fashion sense, or the fact I could care less to fit in, or because I didn’t flirt back, sometimes I would be made to feel as though I did not belong or that I was somehow a threat, or less than. I’m not a lesbian, but given that homosexuality is somewhat related to autism, it makes sense to me now. And I still could care less. It is just yet another obstacle that our communities which aren’t quite cookie cutter enough have to navigate in order to somehow make our living. That, I feel, is the exhausting part. The good news is, more and more people are becoming aware of this. And the better news is, more and more people are becoming accepting of this.

Born on a Blue Day is a book written by an autistic savant, Daniel Tammet. This fella is intelligent beyond words, and breaks autism down so well, that once I began reading, I couldn’t put it down. I felt like I was connecting to my long lost brother. It was so enlightening to me that, even after more than a decade of digging into psychology, everything began to make perfect sense. This, along with connecting to other people in the community, has been a blessing. I have completely not only accepted who I am, but fully embraced myself. In the past, I struggled immensely with questions. Why this? Why that? Now? Not so much. I love myself, and this helps me cope with bipolar disorder. It is a win win- for everyone.

So instead of society trying to sweep the stigma surrounding autism, bipolar disorder, mental health under the rug and pretending like everything is just totally cool… look at it differently. I believe the stigma might be rooted in the negative events which have happened that were blamed on a person’s disorder. “This guy killed someone and pleads insanity”. When I make a mistake, I don’t blame it on anything other than my own stupidity. I’m not saying that mental disorders don’t play a role in producing thoughts that lead to making terrible choices, but the fact that they are blamed after the action makes me angry. This is something that should be said: mental disorders play a role in good things happening, too. The very same can be said about drugs. That is a subject for another day, but this is the truth. Bill Hicks said it first. And now that I think about it, I think he may have been autistic, too.

For more information on autism, visit these links:

Born of a Blue Day – DanielTammet.NET

#ActuallyAutistic and rejected by the autistic community | The Autism Cafe

Home | Autism Speaks

What is autism? – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

A Young Mother

At the time, I was eighteen years old, and my hair was emerald green. I had just moved back from Ft. Lauderdale where I attended art school for photography, and I was living in a rural community in Alabama, walking into Wal-Mart, eight months pregnant. People noticed me. They noticed my hair first, and then my round belly.

Then they scowled. Or frowned. Or quietly whispered. Or waved a hand gesture in disapproval.

It was never very difficult for me to be a mom. It still isn’t difficult. My job was easy. Still is. I’m not saying there haven’t been challenges, but I was lucky to be able to stay at home and take care of my daughter the first three years of her life. Due to that and a number of other factors, I have been blessed with a child who simply does what she needs to do and has no alarming trouble in any areas of her life. She excels in a variety of things that interest her and her talents and abilities never cease to amaze me. I could not be a prouder mom, and that is something I have always felt.

Being motherly comes very naturally to me, and I have always enjoyed playing the mom role to children. I love nurturing them and getting on their level to identify with them and help them to find their unique space where they’re comfortable and free to express themselves and do what they love to do and have fun. This has always been a part of my personality, and it comes so naturally that often while I’m in public, if I see a child, they see me, too. And they smile. And I melt

What has always been difficult, however, are the perceptions that people on the outside feel compelled to share with me, whether I like it or not. I realize that the statistics are overwhelmingly stacked against me, but I take great pride in being a young mother. I have wisdom beyond my years, and have always trusted my instincts and heart. No, not every situation goes in my favor, but my daughter and I have an unbreakable bond and it’s honest and loving and there is nothing that stands in the way of that. An open line of communication is important, and that takes trust. And we trust each other with everything we are. Bravery is also important, because again, while the odds aren’t stacked in my favor, my strength, wisdom, and brave spirit keep us safe and happy because we are always making the best of whatever situation is thrown our way.

We rely on each other often, but she knows I’m still mom.

But enough validation, I digress from the point. The point is, none of this is truly any of your business. I only share these things to hopefully bring awareness to the obvious and utter disgust that society holds in regards to young parenthood.

So with that, here are some honest questions for the college graduated, respectable career, one marriage on the books parents:

Do you enjoy people openly judging you for your level of income or your position in our society?
Do you notice others cutting their eyes at your children because they turn their noses up at kids who appear to be less fortunate?
Do you appreciate when some stranger smirks when your child rolls his or her eyes at you because you have zero authority over them?
Do you become uncomfortable when your child openly expresses his or herself in some way that you and/or society would deem inappropriate or unusual?
Do you feel warm and fuzzy inside when someone else connects to your child with ease while you have difficulty doing so?
Do you enjoy other people who could not possibly relate to you constantly giving you advice that you know would not work for your particular situation?

Things to think about next time you judge a hard working single parent who has been dealing with countless obstacles since her teenage years. And here are some pieces of advice I would like to share with those who might be able to relate (or not):

If you do what is right and treat others with dignity and respect, your child will notice.
If you take good care of yourself, your home, and other things around you, your child will notice.
If you express yourself freely without fear of judgement, and stay true to your morals, your child will notice.
If you take care of your responsibilities, but still make time for fun and activities that engage the participants and help strengthen bonds, your child will notice.
If you maintain a positive attitude through troubling, challenging, or difficult times, your child will notice.
If you make an effort to reach out to those in need even when you yourself are in need, your child will notice.
If you smile at strangers, go out of your way to pick up a piece of trash, or stop what you’re doing to actively listen, your child will notice.
If you create art, laugh loud, skateboard, write poetry, and continue learning even as an adult, your child will notice.

I could go on… but I’m leaving this here with you now:

Being a parent is always a learning experience. It doesn’t matter how much money you’ve made, how many degrees you’ve earned, or how many years you’ve lived on this earth. What matters is where your heart resides. How much effort, time, care and dedication are you putting into your parental duties? Are you willing to admit to your mistakes and learn from them? Are you being a good example by the choices you make and the way you treat yourself and others? Are you a patient and kind teacher? Are you capable of connecting and communicating effectively with your child? Are you able to stick to your guns and enforce your rules fairly? Are you giving as much respect as what you demand? Are you able to have fun while maintaining a secure environment?

When people meet my daughter, or see her accomplishments, they are amazed, almost to the point of disbelief. I used to question my abilities as a parent because I sometimes felt self-conscious about being so young, “uneducated” and poor while raising a daughter on my own. Now, I get it. But I also get that despite these higher standards of self accomplishment prior to bringing another human into the world, I am a proud mom to a daughter who is also proud to have me as her mother. I couldn’t have asked for a greater accomplishment personally, and our society couldn’t have expected a greater contribution from me. So, in short, you’re welcome.

 

First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:5

 

 

The River

We’d had our biggest fight yet. Everything from our hearts crashed down on our heads.

I exploded.
I jerked something I’d made for you off the wall and threw it to the kitchen floor. It broke in half, ricocheting into your knee.
You exploded.
And then we broke each other. We slept in separate rooms for the very first time. I felt like this was truly the beginning of the end. Hopeless despair filled my belly and I emptied the contents into the toilet. I felt weaker than I’d ever felt in my entire life. This is it, I thought. This is the last time I pour my heart into a man. 

Oh but what a profoundly beautiful innocence that resides in this imperfect man…

It was 5:30 AM. I was unable to sleep all night, so finally, I turned to social media for distraction. I saw a friend talking about her desire to let friends go who she felt like did not make an effort to speak to her. It saddened me, because I felt like I was one of those friends who had let our bond dissolve over the past few years. I decided to send her a text message and tell her I love and miss her. I was happy to hear back from her immediately, because she and her boyfriend had experienced a similar situation, fought, and then fought for each other. I asked her for advice, just as she had asked for mine a year prior. She told me that forgiveness is a good thing, but to also be strong and stand by my conviction. I knew at that point what I needed to do.

I got out of bed. I fed our dogs. And then I opened the door, and walked outside. I walked and walked. No phone, no note, no coffee, no water, no food, no real worry in my head. I just wanted to feel the freedom I had sacrificed for so long only to feel this bleak emptiness in the end. I wanted to regain my strength, my wisdom, my self.

My body gravitated towards a river he had taken me to while he was still interested in showing me the new and spectacular wonders I had never experienced before. The place he knew, and knew I would love. I thought in my head, if he comes looking for me, I’ll try. If he doesn’t, I’ll know. A Bob Dylan song, my favorite Dylan song, popped into my head.

We never did too much talkin’ anyway, but don’t think twice, it’s alright…

You just kinda wasted my precious time, but don’t think twice, it’s alright.

I hiked. The unkempt trail had been neglected and I preferred it that way. No traffic, no worry. I took a crooked stick and wound spiderwebs in it as I walked. I never tripped, as I usually did. I was regaining my confidence, I was feeling alive. Approaching the bridge that made things easy, I decided to avoid it. So I placed the webbed stick on the ground for a spider to enjoy a future feast, and walked down to the river bank. I took my shoes off and tied the strings together and slung the shoes around my neck. I stepped onto the stone and looked around. I saw a blue heron. I saw my reflection. And I reflected for some time.

I looked around for a walking stick. I began wading through the water, carefully. I was timid at first, unsure of the creatures that might lurk below. I soon realized it was just me, the earth, and the river. The sun shewn bright and the air was crisp. The water was clear and perfect- not too hot or too cold. I could see the rock formations below, and found it rather easy to navigate downstream. Approaching a wider and deeper area, I decided to immerse myself under the water. I came up, cleansed and refreshed. Rather than crying as I surely would have before the thing that happened the night before, I smiled. I laughed then. I had forgiven myself, and followed my forgiveness with the extension of more forgiveness for him. My man.

My mate.

I never felt so strong. Despite having no sleep, no energy, no food, no fuel, and no safety net, I felt so alive. I had guessed (correctly) that a few hours had passed since I had closed the door behind me without saying a word to anyone, so I decided it was smart to make my journey home. I climbed out of the water onto the rock. I threaded myself through the briers and foliage and easily found the trail. My heart was singing, so I decided to let the song escape my lips.

I walked home. I pictured him flinging the door open and running down the driveway to receive me with open arms. I wanted him to embrace me and stroke my dreaded hair. I wanted him to notice my wet, dirty body- my ruggedness- first, and my newly revealed cleansed, happy soul- my gentleness- last. I wanted to say “I forgive you”, regardless of whether he had been looking for me or not. But as I approached the cemetery, I saw his truck. I stopped as I watched to see which direction he would turn at the intersection. I thought he would turn right, towards the river… towards me. But the silver Sequoia with black rims turned left. I was relieved, I wasn’t ready to see him yet. I didn’t want him to find me here, so alive among the dead. I was unearthed. But he wasn’t there as I’d pictured in my head when I returned.

You can’t always get what you want. And this is life.

She found the keys in the other Sequoia, her mauve with factory rims Sequoia. He always locked the doors to protect the preciousness that was inside, but always thoughtfully left the keys for her somewhere, and she always instinctively knew where they were hidden. And just like every single time before, she was greeted by happy, slobbery faces and wagging tails.

I loved on each of the dogs, feeling more grateful than ever before to have them. I unclothed and stepped into the steaming shower. The water opened my pores and he walked through the door. I couldn’t speak, and neither could he. We both weren’t sure where to begin, but we both knew what we wanted to say without hesitation.

I love you.

I got dressed and put on the coffee. It was 10 AM then, the latest I’d made coffee in a very long time. We sat down and sipped from our mugs and talked. Only this time, it wasn’t the usual “So what do you wanna do today?” It was deeper, like me and, yes- like you. And we knew everything would get better over time. We knew we would have to take things day by day, just as we had been. And rather than me opening up about my insecurities and my doubts, and getting the usual “It’s all good”, you listened.
You
understood.
We talked for hours that day. And that night, we held each other and slept peacefully. You dream of rainbows and I dream of tornadoes, those symbolic dreams we’ve shared with each other before, only this time mine was different. This time, I dreamed of both, and the ever lingering tornado engulfed the rainbow, and the rainbow transformed into a colorful lightning bolt, bursting with energy inside the tornado.

For the first time in a long time, I felt “It’s all good” was something actually attainable, because it was something I knew took work. Now I could see you had finally realized the same. And one day, when we get to that bridge, we’ll either make our leisurely stroll across, or we’ll make a detour and find our own way- down the river… together, just where we want to be.

Ocean in a Drop

Rumi said- You are not a single drop in the ocean, but the entire ocean in a single drop.

I am learning to reconnect with myself. I have been distant, absent, far away for seemingly a long time- perhaps for as long as a year. I’m still working in spurts on a Bob Marley painting that I cannot seem to finish. I have ideas often about books I’d like to write, or projects I’d like to start, and they go nowhere, just as quickly as they came. Sometimes my thoughts race, feelings of paranoia or hopelessness overcome my mind, and my body suffers, too. My once daily yoga practice has fallen by the wayside. I’m lucky if I even meditate or practice deep breaths once a week. This in turn depresses me, because I feel weak. I feel jaded. I feel tired.

I feel like a liberal woman living in rural Alabama.

I love Alabama, though. I love the muggy air, the old barns, the magnificent sunsets, the slang. I love the wildlife, the rivers, the caves, the neighbors, the churches, the constant reminders that I do possess something inside me that is somehow beyond me. Something infinite, something majestic, something I forever long for. I always hope for the best, but for whatever reason, I can only seem to regularly focus on the worst.

Maybe it’s politics, maybe it’s current events, maybe it’s pollution in our rivers, or unfair wages, or mute personalities surrounding me, or fear.

Or me

Why do I blame myself?

I used to feel funny, helpful, and like a light. Adults typically liked me because I was genuinely me, and excelled in academics and athletics and art. I would raise my hand when I knew the answer, and I usually did. I volunteered at the library, and church, and school. I was well rounded, but different. Rarely afraid or timid, I typically expressed myself in different ways. Hairstyles, clothing, poetry, piercings- I tried to be who I wanted to be. I tried what I wanted to try. I’ve always known I was different, but I’ve always known that about every single person, too. I just never understood why people cut others down to make themselves feel- what they thought was- better.

Growing up, and even as a child, I gravitated towards the most interesting people, and guarded myself from the popular crowd as I would observe their judgmental or condescending behaviors towards others. Typically, I was just friendly or hyper-active, trying to make those around me laugh or feel good, but I never sacrificed my personality to make anyone happy. No, I exposed my personality to try to make everyone happy.

But with the commercials we see each day of the picture perfect families or seemingly idealistic situations, we begin fooling ourselves that this is what I should want. Maybe social media has created this new need of belonging to the most appealing or trendy group? We as human beings are social creatures, which is no secret. But when did we feel the need to sacrifice our true selves to please normal people who “fit in” to those pearly gates guarding a Utopian society? I’m a risk taker, damnit. I love that about myself. I don’t want to be trendy. I want to be free. And yes, I’ll say a cuss word every other sentence if I want to do so in expressing myself.

I live in rural Alabama and have almost all of my life. I appreciate every aspect of it because along with everything else, this state has shaped the person I truly am. I am a free spirited woman who has convictions, stories, jokes, advice, wisdom, pain, regret, and yes, even depression at times. I saw Dave Chappelle perform stand-up at the Alabama Theater on April 20th, witnessed the Dalai Lama speak to a crowd of people who wanted to listen and people who travelled the same tour just to protest, and with my own ears, heard Bernie Sanders speak in a park in Birmingham on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I love being 31 and having a 12-year-old daughter who I am immensely proud of and who never ceases to amaze me. I love that I have allowed myself to make countless mistakes and overcome my battles. I love that people judge me and in turn, I love them back with a smile and an offer to help.

Love your neighbors- especially the ones who don’t look like you.