Sunday, January 22, 2012

I still remember the first time I realized that a guy thought I was cute.

Then I thought maybe it was a joke, or he was on drugs.

It happened back when I was in college. My self-esteem was incredibly low then...or, more nonexistent, because it had been so slowly chipped away throughout middle and high school. And when you’re told you are ugly every day, or made to feel it, for years on end, you just start believing it. I had no reason to think differently.

So it wasn’t only the idea that someone found me attractive that blew my mind, but that I could be something other than ugly. I had believed it was just a simple, permanent fact that that’s what I was, and there was no changing it. And then someone was defying that, going against everything I’d heard for so long, and showing me another option.

The problem there, though, was that the belief that I was not ugly didn’t exist because I believed it, but because someone else did. So once again, my self image and view of myself came from other people, albeit in a different way. It’s only really been in about the last five years that I have grown confident about my appearance, on my own, without validation or approval from others.

The thing that I realized is that whether you hate your body or love your body, if either one of those things is fueled by what other people are telling you, then it’s not coming from you—it’s coming from them, and they still have the power. I didn’t want that. I wanted to be the one with that power, the one in control of my feelings about myself, because I spent so much of my life powerless and feeling like I had control over nothing.

So it feels good to be able to look into the mirror these days and think, “You know what? I am pretty darn cute.” Cause now, even if no one else thinks so, I don’t need the reminders. Because I am the reminder.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cinnamon Stick.

That sweet-smelling spice that stirs into the froth.

I remember when my hair was down to my waist. It was when I smelled cinnamon in my grandmother’s house, the air rife with it at Christmas with gingerbread men baking in the oven.

The pajamas are scratchy, all heavy and cuffed, with a long zipper running up the front. The bottoms of the feet are padded, whispering under me as I walk from room to room.

The tree is blue. Ribbons, ornaments, white lights strung elegantly from top to bottom. The angel is on top. Everything is breathing, and the plastic on the table squeaks under my fingers. Plates of red, yellow, olive green pass through my mind, eyes flying open as the grainy crunch of warm bread fills my mouth.

I never ate much. It was always about the presents, the tearing, the ripping, the grabbing, the heart leaped up hard in the back of your throat, stomach gurgling with anticipation. Yet whatever lived inside those ornately wrapped packages is a mystery to me. I just see her face, pink lipsticked lips, short brown hair. And her smile. A grandmother’s protecting smile.

The pieces lie fragmented—sharp shards tossed askew on the open plain of my memory. I keep trying to put them back together. To reassemble that place, that last refuge of a lonely child. Where I was safe.

Where I wasn’t where I am now, which is the last place safe can ever be.

Sometimes, It Helps When I Write

It’s cold. My right hand more than my left is full of chill, and the soles of my feet. A fluffy robe is no match for winter’s aim. No matter how much I try to get warm, it stays the same. I’m running out of time, running out of air, of breath and wind and socks and pleated skirts that fall over your thighs just so.

Milk feeds me, with a plate of warmed cookies for eating. My worn knuckles bend and crack slightly as I grip the glass, trying to hold on. That’s all I’ve been doing—trying to hold on. Where they can’t get me. Here, I thought I was safe. Here, away from blues and purples and those uncomfortable chairs that make your back ache.

I’m getting this out. Out, out damned spot and stripe and zig-zag, zig-zags on zebras who live behind their own set of bars and hooves clawing into the dirt. Their skin must be so soft, covered in coarse hairs. So are we, but we shave ours off. That’s why we’re naked.

Blood is the color of my fragrant sun, shining heavy and heated above burning the skin of my face, even in the coldest days. I’m not waiting to fall apart, not holding my breath, cheeks puffing bigger and bigger, not for them, not ever. I breathe. I live. For me.

For a future that doesn’t have them written in it.

That’s where I am going.