Sunrise

I never knew love until I found myself telling someone “your eyes are like sunrises” and meant it with all of my heart. The way the underbelly of her eyes turn into half crescents with sparkling suns peaking over the top, are exactly like a sunrise I once saw while sitting on top of a mountain in Japan. It sounds like a lie, but it’s not, and that’s how you know it’s actually love. The moment when I saw that sunrise in Japan, I was sixteen and it was too beautiful to take a picture of. Even then I knew that some things were better left for only your memory to uncover each time you so choose.

Our bodies find each other and wrap themselves into the tightest knots- long strong legs intertwined, back to stomach, firmly pressed, one arm under the other’s head, one face in the other’s hair, fully breathing in their scent. It’s as if our minds have no say in the matter. Our bodies are present and biology kicks in. As soon as I smell her skin, I know I’m home. When I run my fingers through her hair, I feel the power and strength of a future yet to reveal itself. All of the rationale and the worry in my brain completely disintegrates when our eyes lock and my heart fills with the warm sunshine of contentment and peace.

It’s difficult being apart even for just one night. It’s like a vital organ is missing from your body, or like the world suddenly falls dark and sunless. But there is hope and there is promise for morning’s return. It’s a short moment in the span of our story together, the last moments of darkness before the dawn.

Sisters

My sister used to be a decent human. But then she turned into a teenager, sending me emails that claim that she “knows everything that has happened between our parents” and me. She even ended that email with a quote saying something about how at the end of your life you the only thing you know is that your family will surround you. Her naivete is almost adorable and I’m sure if there were even just five degrees more separation between us I could see that she is just a teenager who thinks she has a grasp on the world.

She’s fifteen with long flowing red hair that has natural blond highlights throughout. Her braces came off a few years ago and her smile is perfect. Her blue eyes glisten and sparkle when she talks to you excitedly about the boys she likes and how they’re seniors and they’re asking her out.

Our mother was a beauty queen. Miss Glendora 1989. Gorgeous, tall, dark flowing permed hair and big round brushed bangs. She wore a dark lipstick all the time that brought out her creamy complexion and the blueness of her eyes. She’s always been thin and always cared deeply about what the world saw when they saw her.

My sister wasn’t always beautiful. She used to be a pudgy little ten year old and that’s when I loved her the most. She had this adorable round face and awkward buck teeth. Her eyelashes and her eyebrows were too blond for her face and a too-thick-for-a-ten-year-old layer of blond hair coated her arms and legs. She was bright eyed and wanted to know about everything and everyone. She was excited about softball and making friends at school. So it’s no surprise that our mother encouraged her to be conscious about her weight and her appearance.

When Jenna expressed interest in a beauty pageant, my mom took her to the store where they sell gowns for weddings and for prom and Jenna tried on everything. She looked stunning and she knew it. She posted pictures on her Instagram of her in a body hugging white gown and instantly had hundreds of “likes”. People love her. People bow down at her beauty and her charisma.

I am eight years older than my sister. I left home when she was 10 years old. I often wonder if I did a disservice to her by leaving before her teenage years. I remember her crying because our dad made some snide comment about her weight. She whisper-sobbed and let me hold her in my arms. I told her she was beautiful and she didn’t need to listen to him.

Maybe if I had been around to hold her down to the Earth and remind her that looks are not everything, maybe she would care about something other than her hair or the number on the scale. Perhaps if I had stayed, she would still have something in common with her average looking sister. Then when I called her to ask how she’s doing, maybe she would give me a real answer instead of the high tinny voice telling me in her valley girl drawl, “Yeaaaaah!!! Everything is great! School is good, volleyball is great…. we’re just hangin’ out!”

What about the friction of it all? What about the beauty in the grime and dirt, the struggle between the pure and the corrupted? What about literature and art and the struggle with science and God? What about your soul, my love? What do you have to say about that? Let’s stop the petty nonsense. I just want to know how you’re doing.

The Tub

Oh the joys of shaving your legs in the tub. Mid morning, day off- fill the bath tub with the perfect temperature of water, pamper yourself. You’ve even splurged and bought a new razor and the nice shaving cream. Stretch out your legs. Point your toes like the ballerina your mother told you you could never become. Elegantly reach out your arm to your ankle, push aside the extra five pounds on your stomach that will never ever leave and begin. The sound of your unwanted hair being shaved clean off your body… “Ahhhh….” you think, “Now I feel like a lady.”

Lift your arms, lather and enjoy the last few moments of fury softness. Hear the sound of the razor against your skin, a soft shhhhhhhhhh, like the soothing coos of mid nightmare reassurances. Rinse the razor in your warm tub of heavenly hot water. The floating bits of shaving cream, the little hairs, floating free in their murky water home, ready to make their way back to the ocean.

Stand and examine what has overgrown in your nether regions. Carefully evaluate the damage done by your thoughtless neglect, lather up and hack away. Extend one leg at a time and be sure to admire the little valley in your hip socket between the unspeakable, the roundness of your bum and the start of your leg. This little space never looks so lovely as when you’re about to shave, hollowed out for just a moment. Carefully and blindly maneuver in a way that is sure to obtain maximum hairless results with minimal nicking. Fondly pinch that little inch of fat on the inside of your thighs and kindly remember that picture with the font that read “My thighs are so sexy they can’t stop touching each other.”

Fork in the Road

Something in the way she asked “So you’re giving up baking?” has me questioning everything now. Karen is a woman that has known me since I was eighteen. She’s seen me through my first love, calling off my wedding, going to a private Christian university, a year of family crises, a string of short lived dating relationships, pastry school, moving to Spain, moving to Austin… she’s been there through it all. So has Maria. I’ve been a nanny for both of their families for over five years and now they are making me question everything. Maria is more like an actual mom to me where I sometimes discredit what she’s actually saying to me. But to hear Karen’s disappointment and to see her confusion over the last few days and the way she’s totally avoided talking about it… it’s really making me wonder what the fuck I’m doing!

“Yeah, I’m thinking about going back to school for Communications or Journalism.”
“Oh. Okay.”

Owning a bakery, however small it was, and watching it fall apart really broke my heart. It was what I’d always dreamt it would be. I was in charge of my schedule and my menu and I was so happy to finally have this thing that I could pour all of myself into! It held so much promise and was so much bigger than I am. The long days were brutal. I was totally alone, baking bread in my one oven, in my 400 square foot studio where I also lived. It was miserable towards the middle of summer. But when I think about the day I threw a bake sale in my apartment and posted signs all over my neighborhood, and people ACTUALLY CAME, that’s what really breaks my heart. I let go of it all so quickly. I was exhausted and overworked. I was totally not making enough money, but I was somehow breaking even. And when I worked as a pastry cook before at restaurants, I was making shit money, but I wasn’t totally worn down. I had days off and it was okay even enjoyable!

What if I don’t give up on a career in pastry? What if I stay in this field that I’ve poured my last few years into and what if I succeed? I miss being in the kitchen. I miss getting there early in the morning, pouring a cup of coffee, checking over my production list and my mise en place and knowing where to go from there. I miss having work friends and kitchen brothers. I miss the actual work of making ice cream bases and family meals. I miss striving to always get better.

I have some talent. I have a good palette. I’ve been beating myself up because my bakery didn’t and couldn’t grow. I would need so much more than my own hard work and whatever talent I bring to the table. But maybe I got ahead of myself and I just need to backtrack instead of doing a total re-write. I love baking. I loved working my restaurant jobs. What if there is a place for me in this industry? My doubts are that I don’t have enough talent, I won’t make enough money and I will get stuck in an entry level position.

What if in 10 years I look back on these few months and realize I was in crisis mode and needed to break away from it all to see how much I loved it? What if I go back to school, acquire a bunch of debt and a degree and realize I just want to be in a kitchen? Why do I keep getting the same reaction from everyone that I love? It’s the “Wow, I can’t believe you’re giving up so easily” reaction. I don’t want to give up.

Then again, knowing me, this is just another panicky moment where I’m questioning everything and wondering if I’m doing anything right at all. It could pass by the morning. I could still want to get a real people job. But I need to remember that going back to the kitchen is totally an option. I have options. All the doors are open. Sometimes you just have to pick something and stick to it. Other times you have to admit you made a mistake, re-evaluate and go a different direction. Crap. Adulthood is so hard.

Divorce

The question was recently posed to me, “What would your life have been like and who would you be had your parents not divorced?” My gut reaction was that I wouldn’t be as strong as I am today.

I was two when my parents separated, three when they got divorced. My dad had missed my mom’s entire pregnancy and my birth because he had been in the Navy and they had sent him to the Persian Gulf. My mom was 23 years old and working as a waitress when they divorced. My dad was 25 and a security guard at K-Mart. She wanted to pursue a career in nursing. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do. She got impatient and asked for a divorce.

It was just me and my mom for about a year before she met my step dad. I was young, but I remember that year. I remember just having each other and how strong we felt. And then Tom came into our lives with promises of a secure and stable future. He had just been hired on with our local fire station. He was enamored by my mom’s beauty and taken with our story. He wanted to save her. She wanted to be saved.

My dad slowly disappeared from my life, but never altogether, which made it worse. He came and went for a few years and then he married my step mom and they had two more kids together. That was the end of our relationship for a long time.

Tom and my mom got married six months to the day that they met and got pregnant with my brother a month after they were married. It was around that time that Tom, who I claimed as my new dad, started getting loud and angry with me. It progressed into spankings with wooden spoons and belts. I’d have to sit in the corner for long stretches of time, with my forehead against the wall. Once I forgot to give the dog water and as a punishment I had to go the day without drinking. I was eight. I remember going to the bathroom and drinking from the bathroom sink. I was in trouble at least a few times a week, devoid of a voice and scared shitless. He would yell at me and tell me to get out of his sight, he couldn’t even look at me, and as I turned to walk away, he’d kick me for good measure.

There were times that I would overhear my mom and Tom fighting. Once, knowing that I was listening to their argument, he yelled out to me “Sarah, pack your bags!!! You and your mom are leaving!” Twice in my high school years he sat me down and told me they were getting a divorce. Every time I thought they were separating, I felt relieved. I felt like he was finally cutting us loose from his grips. I didn’t know what would happen to my brother and sister, but I knew I would find a way to see them.

Going through such a huge loss and an unfortunate gain at such a young age has made me who I am. It’s given me my good traits and my bad. I know that I can endure a lot because I carried an immense pain with me as a kid and I made it through that. I’ve had to realize that you can feel two things at once about a person- the world is not black and white. I can feel grateful to Tom for providing me with a home and a brother and sister, but I can also feel mistreated and upset. I’ve realized that relationships can be rekindled. My dad and I have a great relationship, even though it didn’t truly get the chance it deserved until I was about 20. These lessons have taught me that people are broken and even when we are trying to do our best, we hurt those around us.

To My Future Little Ones on Their Eighteenth Birthdays,

To My Future Little Ones on Their Eighteenth Birthdays,

I have yet to birth or even conceive you so I feel like this is the right time for me to write an unbiased letter and let you know what to expect. I am almost 24 years old. I’m working through what I think is my quarter life crisis and I’m learning some seriously huge lessons. I would like to give you, my treasured little one, some perspective and advice that I wish someone had given me on my eighteenth birthday. Let us begin.

You’re about to enter toddlerhood all over again. Soon you will be birthed into this thing “adults” like to call the “real world”. It’s horrifying. You’re leaving this safe little cocoon and you’re ready to breathe on your own. You will have to explore the world with all of your senses. Give yourself the freedom to touch and push everything that you’re not supposed to and learn some hard lessons several times over until it sinks in.

Life feels like an uphill battle. I’m hoping that in five years I can write you another letter and let you know that it gets better and easier, but I’m not holding my breath. I think maybe you just get used to the constant state of flux.

You’re going to do some hard work in order to find your boundaries. You will try on lots of different hats. You will befriend lots of different people. You might change your life path and career path 20 times in one month. You might sleep with lots of people. My genuine hope for you is that you find your voice. Listen to your gut, listen to your instincts. This is your voice. Let it grow strong and practice speaking up for yourself and your boundaries.

Work hard to understand your visceral reactions to the things around you. Find what you love about yourself and what you want to work on.

Don’t be afraid to grow and change. I have been a multitude of people. Embrace the changes. Challenge yourself to find the core root of who you are and what you believe in, but don’t be afraid to evolve. Strive to remain on a path of continual learning and education. You will outgrow friendships and lovers. Do not take this as a sign that you are doing something wrong. When you are perpetually moving forward, you tend to leave the stagnant behind, it’s natural.

This “life” thing is a total mess and especially in these first few years of quasi-adulthood, don’t be discouraged when things don’t go as planned. Nobody knows what they’re doing and I’m 85% sure that the word “adult” is a completely made up term. The sooner you learn to let go and let the waves take you where they may, the happier you will be. There is a difference between banging your head against the wall and working through something. Your gut will know the answer. Know when to give up and move on, take what you can from each lesson and keep on that path of natural progression.

Pick your battles wisely. Don’t let anyone tell you that all they want is the easiest path for you. (Not even me.) The path of least resistance leads nowhere. Allow yourself to be refined through the fires that life gives you. How did the beautiful mountain ranges come to exist? Or the seaside cliffs of the Pacific? Through immense pressure and earthly pain, over time and throughout the years of nature taking its course. Work hard, be persistent, and know that something beautiful will come of it in the end.

Don’t focus on soul mates. It’s an unlikely possibility, statistically speaking.

If you ever find yourself asking “am I in love?” You’re not. You will know so immediately and it will hit you with such force, that there will be no room for doubt or error. If you find yourself questioning “is this person in love with me?” first seek out your own projections and insecurities, work through them, and if the question still remains, they probably don’t. Move on. And when you do find the person that is as equally enthralled by you as you are by them, have all of the hard conversations right up front. Ask all of the scary questions. If you can handle the answers or come to some kind of agreement, hang on tight. That person is worth it.

Most of all, frequently remind yourself that you are human. This time on Earth is limited. At the end of our lives, you will not remember the fact that you have thirty five cents to your name, but the creative ways in which you survived your early twenties. Give yourself room to breathe. Accept your high standards and your challenges and know that just the fact that you are thinking of where you want to go and who you want to be, are surefire signs that you, my sweet unfathomable angel, will be okay.

Best,
PW

Gods and Humans

The young are often given a set of strict guidelines in regards to their elders, in order to set up the long established hierarchy.  Passed down for generations, as surely as our biological manuals on how to breathe, the young take in these guidelines as unfailing truths. “Those are our elders,and we treat them like gods.  They know what you’re going through and what you’re doing. They love you, they have your best interest at heart. They only hurt you, sometimes because they love you too much.”  We, as tiny humans, take that information and internalize it. It is Fact, it is Truth. But then the day comes when that god hurts you, and you realize this god has been hurting you for eighteen years, and you’ve believed it was because they cared, but really it’s because they are broken and they are human. The understanding sinks in “Aw, he’s human. Now I understand.” and then the second realization hits you “Oh. He’s human. He is a human. And I am a human. And he is treating me as less than human because he is broken like I am broken. Yes he may love me, and he may care too much, but he is not a god because he loves me. He is not allowed to treat me this way.”

In ideal situations, this human in disguise as a god gets help. They realize they are human. They realize that they are broken and are indeed hurting other humans around them, humans they care about. They stop behaving the way they have been. They see that they are human and other people are human.

Then in other instances, the god continues to behave in angry, erratic behavior. They get angry at the person who is calling them a human and they claim “I am a god, don’t you understand? I see things more clearly than you do, tiny human, I am not the problem, you are the problem!  You and your brokenness are sad and weak and I only wish there was someway I could help you, but you must stop blaming your weakness on me.” The tiny human turns to the human in disguise as a god and says “Man, Fuck You. You cannot beat me down my whole life and proceed to claim your godliness. You are a human, and maybe if you saw that you might understand that as a human, we are allowed to be broken and as a human, I am allowed to tell you to treat me like a human.”

The god becomes desperate to understand. He puts on his most endearing face, just begging for clarity. How have things become this ugly when all he did was love the human? All he wanted was the best for the human. And sure he raised his voice a few times but it was only because he cared too much. And maybe he hit the human a few times, but hadn’t he apologized? Besides, when he hit her it was nothing compared to the way he had been hit as a child.

The human flees the situation, shutting the god out of her life hoping for the day he realizes he is a human and needs to treat others like humans. She realizes that she cannot maintain a relationship with someone who refuses to see their faults in full, realizes the depth and capacity at which they have done damage and flees from their life of abuse and intimidation and seeks out a life of peace, compassion, and genuine understanding.