My Body, My Choice

Vinny chats me up as one can do in 8th grade

(as boys can do in 8th grade), and says,

“Girls look better with their hair down.”

 

10th grade:

Allie tells me over pizza in a torn up, faux leather booth:

“People think you’re really pretty.”

 

“Take the bait,” they whisper.

“We are you.”

Your face, your words,

your worth:

we hold them in our hands.

 

I grew fragile.

 

“Not to mention you’re beautiful,”

a text from Devin I saved on my phone for 2 years,

a reminder that if I kept this up,

I could be loved.

“You’re special,” they said.

“Your precise,” they reminded.

“Keep it up.”

I never heard them clearly;

it was always muffled in my ears.

 

Confidence was for the battlefield,

and without cleats on my feet

and a soccer ball underneath

I depended, fully,

on this

damn

face.

 

Middle school:

Vinny was saying he “saw my potential”

and in that moment he pointed a finger at a moon

I did not know — that lights up the sky day and night.

With each step forward from that statement came promise,

like one day my body would, miraculously, lift off the ground and fly.

 

High school: I worked, observed, learned to follow the rules.

I made friends. I chased boys (or at least followed the chasers).

I saw a twinkle form in my eyes like the sun hitting my face

and I felt something grow: confidence big enough to sew a sweater.

That confidence was soft and warm and humble,

each stitch a modest color, so I put it on:

oh, the comfort…the ease.

 

What sweater?

This is my skin, clear as day.

I don’t need all of these words–

they’re woven into my Long Island DNA

and somewhere…somewhere…I seized it.

 

College: I was prepared!

My sweater was woven!

My charm was rooted!

Soccer, friends, face.

 

And then, college happened.

And it was full of devils,

people a mere sweater cannot take on

you want — comfort?

We’ll beat you.

You want — friendship?

We’ll desert you.

You think you’ve got talent?

We’ll show you.

Bam               bam              bam.

My skin faded, my body ached,

and what can a person do but blame what is left?

 

Wisdom swims through my veins.

Nana has her Jesus

and I have my Julia de Burgos

and that’s quite alright with me.

I build a new ship to freedom…

something you cannot wear, but ride–

invisible on all sides, impenetrable,

so much so that my world forgets the words

“break” and “fear” and “fall,”

that Kenny’s story can be his own.

that Marlena’s antagonism can be her own,

and that I can feel the wisdom in me,

the quiet confidence that does not need

a coach to tell me my worth.

 

I just play.

 

December 22, 2018

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Believing

Believing that you can…

Believing that you are worth it…

Believing that you deserve it…

 

It’s a practice.

 

Do you believe?

 

Who’s stopping you?

 

March 5, 2017

The Story

It’s what we write every day and, whether we are fully aware of it or not, it’s the grandest story of all:

The Story of My Life.

From the news and social media, to conversations at work and on the street, stories make up the “stuff” of our lives.  I truly believe that we are more than all of this “stuff.”  When you take it all away, there is only the simplicity of life churning away through our veins and souls, connecting us all to the universe.

And yet we still live here, on Earth.  We are always in the midst of other people and countless narratives.  We can’t just run from them.   The world will keep turning.  Even if we close off all our senses, the stories that make up society aren’t going to go away.  Yes, we can shape our personal narrative by stating: “My life is more important than my life story.” And you’d be right!  I am solidly in that camp.  But we are still responsible for our stories.

What do you tell yourself, about yourself, every day?  How do you view your relationship with others, with yourself?  Where does your self confidence fall based on these guidelines?

If I have a problem, I like to think about it in broad terms, considering the evidence of one truth versus another.  By doing so, however, I put a lot of pressure on myself (and my brain) to get it right.  As if I have all the answers!  It’s insane, and yet this pressure follows me day to day, allowing myself to identity with both intelligence and inability.  So when I ask myself the question, “Am I capable of changing how I tell my life story?” I doubt myself.

Do you have any doubts about yourself, about your abilities– about your story?

A wise friend of mine told me today that fresh starts are precious: not everyone can have them, and you can do whatever you want with them.

They symbolize ultimate freedom.

Today, as I find myself in the beginnings of another “fresh start,” I’m taking a stand.  I want to claim responsibility for telling my life story–  to the world, to others, and (most importantly) to myself.

In more ways than not, I am whatever I want to be.  I am whatever I believe myself to be.  There’s no pressure to know everything or for everything to be perfect.   But I’m the main character in this play, as well as the audience.  All I can do is balance the tragedy with the comedy and know that, in the end, my “life” under my “life situation,” my “life story,” will always be there.

***

So, hey you!  You’re a person with a story.  Go out there and write a good one.

Voice

Feel my voice

like a finger plucked across a rubber band

vibrations ringing through the air

breaking no twilight, no dawn,

only silence.

 

If you were so blessed

with a voice– use it!

 

Proudly, wisely, powerfully,

thoughtfully,

because a voice transfers more than words,

it moves worlds

from brain to tongue,

words I’m not always sure of

 

But I am sure of this:

I have a voice,

not an echo

 

mine, my own

to treasure and to keep

not locked-up in a chest

but drawn out, into the open,

 

like rain drops falling onto grass.

 

May 11, 2014

Mine

I remember

the first time I knew

I had a voice.

 

The high school cafeteria,

the salty pizza–the salted pretzels

hanging in the air

as my story concludes,

“And I laid there

until the police showed up,”

To my house? My body

surrounded

by laughter I concocted

how

how can this be?

 

I wash down the salt

with some OJ and try to remember

the last time I told a story

and heard it–

like the cop over my head

cracked open spilling blood

onto the basement floor.

 

Now it’s my friends

at this round table laughing

their way to my insides,

to the heart that thought

not even a phone call

to the local hospital could be

enough

to be heard from across town,

across the street,

across the table

 

I meet eyes

filled with nature’s shadows

giving me a look of acceptance

into how these words

can be mine,

heard

by sixteen year old girls

wondering what to have

for lunch the next day.

 

October 18, 2014

Confidence

“Are you a confident

being?” my teacher

asks of me,

my face approaching

a mirror I’d rather not see.

   

“Being of what?” I reply,

rapping the blackboard

my mind picks up chalk

and I write: “A tale

of confidence.” 

   

“It’s the story 

we need to hear,” I am told

on repeat, like a pop song

on the radio I want to repress

yet memorize and shout.

   

“Being,” 

I repeat.

“Being, me.”

   

The rap slows,

my mind stops,

and I start smiling. 

 

August 8, 2014