Little Drums

It’s almost October and I’m still trying to learn how to empty myself of the icebergs last winter left behind. Every time I pass one of those ads stapled to a telephone pole with the rip-off tabs swinging from the bottom, I’m reminded of how difficult it is to keep holding on when the weather feels non permitting.

I can’t say I spent my entire childhood sticking my fingers into light sockets trying to figure out if grief had it’s own color but I can tell you I spent my entire childhood trying to figure out why it did;

Why long car rides shaded me in swatches of cerulean and sea foam not because I was ever car sick but because leaving home made me nervous and why funeral lighting always reminded me of the bottled hair dye my Great Aunt Sylvia used to use to cover up the strands of gray that showed how quickly she was dying.

Last night, I discovered a birthmark on the back of my neck in the shape of someone leaving.

Today, my eyes look more antique than ember- more ink than charcoal- and, unlike the people whose hair changes colors with the seasons, I think I’ll probably always wonder if my eyes change colors with my cycles of sadness.

Yesterday, I took this photo:

 with t1 preset

The toes belong to the feet belonging to legs belonging to Benjamin- a two year old who neglects to adequately pronounce his r’s and likes to poop on floors.

To Benny, my sweet little wanderer, life will not always be kind. It will not always be gentle water wakes meeting shorelines but rather tsunamis made of rage. And stings. On days you bear your wounds, remember, one day, your bed will no longer feel like your only home. Remember, one day, you will love yourself completely, without restrictions or regrets- radically and with everything you have.

Do not apologize for this.

Remember, one day, you will stop wanting to crawl back into the womb and start willing to climb out into the belly of life, as new and as quiet as the day you entered it. Remember, one day, your spine will no longer be the only tool that provides you with posture. Remember, one day, your fingertips will know what it feels like to want to hold on instead of letting go, your rock bottom will eventually bottom out and give way to solid ground below; remember one day you will stop feeling like a coward for struggling while everyone else takes gulps of the shit you convinced yourself was corrupting your lungs.

Breathe.

One day, you will no longer feel like an echo but, instead, a siren that sings loud and clear.

One day, you will no longer feel like a gun is always pressed to your head but, instead, a bullet that knows exactly where to spit its fire.

Remember, one day, not every day will be the worst day.

Be present. Be light.

Should you ever find yourself bleeding, do not bandage it. Let it spill out, gradually, so you can know what it feels like to be drained, to be gutted and turned inside out.

Be heard. Be kind.

I hear that there are currently 88 recognizable constellations but there are many that have yet to be discovered.

Find them, Benny.

Explore the earth from end to end until you find the brothers and sisters of the Big Dipper and then, once that is through, explore yourself from end to end until you find the constellations of yourself you’ve never met before.

Be calm. Be resilient.

Always, sweet Ben.

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Little Universe

I cried when my first dog, Belle, died. Like me, she was a hand me down from people who had less time than love for her and I think that’s why our souls understood each other; why a part of me died when she stopped breathing. I spent hours trying to study her, unravel her; I spent years trying to reprieve her, to revive her and although, during those years, I had no storms chasing me, I found refuge in the way she curled herself around me during crisp summer nights. I guess, in a way, it makes me selfish for wanting her to live forever but she grew old quicker than she should have and before I had the chance to understand how sad loss could be- we ran out of time to say our goodbyes.

I cried the night I could feel my dad giving up on me. I grew up admiring the way the world spun in his eyes and the way the Grand Canyon weaved puzzles in his palms but that night- the night I got too drunk to remember my name yet hardly drunk enough to forget that he was an ex soldier- I saw no evidence of an Earth and all proof that he had waved a dozen white flags long before I even had the chance to sober.

Not even the strands of the leftover buzz could muffle the sound of you forgetting me; erasing me.

Have I ever told you that I once saw Jesus in a McDonald’s bathroom stall? His skin was made of porcelain and his sins, made of stainless steel manufactured in China. In bold purple Sharpie, the door read “Eat acid, see God” and, although I’ll never admit it, that night I realized the teen spirit bleeds out in more forms than one. Holy scriptures of adolescence, psalms of hormone-driven emotion etched in pencil and teen angst somehow understood that we were all sinners searching for a way out-

That we were all flawed in some sort of way and that we may possibly never know if all dogs really go to Heaven.

I cried for eternities the night I became painfully aware of my imposition on space; that I took up more of it than I probably ever deserved.

I had every intention of stripping that night of its darkness but after hours of desperately trying to scratch the stars away from the sky with my fingertips, I realized that I was incapable of stopping my world from dying so, from then on, I chose to move my body gently and eat slowly; to swallow Eucharist in the smallest of pieces and nibble timidly around the cores of apples in the case there were grenades hidden within their cores. I learned how to read labels, to walk on the edges of my toes; I learned how to control, calculate, and categorize-

Good foods.

Bad foods.

Fat,

fat,

fat-

buffering the awkward matter between reality and the world as I had wished it would be. Food kept me sane; kept my worlds from colliding.

“Lex, you’re so bony!”, my mom would tell me as she laid rubbing my back after long days of work. I swear, it seemed like she worked forever. Her hands, cold yet never harsh, made maps through my spine and pit stops at my hip bones, knocking hard on them to make sure they were real. Making sure I was real.

“Bony, bony, bony!”

My mom was right, though. I was never a particularly large kid- my knees jutted out farther than they probably should have and I often found myself wavering at the lower end of the BMI chart during my yearly physicals. However, her phrase- my hip bones- later became the gauge of my progress- my worth- as I shifted from preteen to teen.

And I hope she never knows that.

I’d never blame my parents for my insanity. After all, when one tells you to jump from a mountaintop, you don’t close your eyes and let the wind take you just because.

No.

But me? I was born with too much fire and a hopelessly desperate need for adrenaline so, truthfully, I think I’d always sort of wondered what it’d feel like to fall, to be wisped away in a cool breeze just like the ones you read about in romance novels.

On nights when I cursed gravity for concreting me and the gods for making my feet too heavy, I found myself grazing the planes of the body that laid beneath the heavy sheets and thick night air, searching for those

hip bones.

On mornings when the air smelled of dew and cheap coffee and I prayed to the skies that I would have the power to be less needy, I found myself studying the way the shower water trickled down my stomach and over those

hip bones.

Hip bones.

You could tear into these words, rip out their roots, and chop away their stringy structures; you could dislocate these words, feel your fingers through their rhythms and peel away the alliteration that binds these letters together.

You could consume these words, feel the predicates dribble from the corners of your mouth as you crunch them out of existence; analyze these words, call out their “important” images and themes and crush them into powdery debris as you ask yourself, “…and how does that make you feel?” but none of that could ever erase the fact that this world is a perplexing place. In one motion it creates the most beautiful, freeing moments and in the other, it kills your dogs and makes you hate yourself for not being invincible. I used to cry over real things, you know. I mean, real, “Holy fuck!”, life-changing kinds of things. Now, I cry when I get stuck behind sleepy trains or when my pants don’t fit or when my apples are bruised or when other things that will never matter happen and I hate the world for messing up when it

made me.

For Insomnia

It’s 4 o’clock in the morning and I would tell you what gray areas feel like but I don’t know how to make suddenly finding yourself at the edge of your bed in which you’ve neglected to adequately make for weeks praying to a god you’re not even sure you believe in poetic. It’s 4 o’clock in the morning and I would tell you what writer’s block feels like but I don’t know how to make coming to the harsh realization of the fact that you have been killing yourself for no real reason sound like a best-seller.

Last night I stumbled into my 10 p.m. car, this morning I slept past noon, last year I wished to breathe and now, it’s 4 o’clock in the morning and I still have no idea why my favorite pair of shoes always seem to wear out at the most unfortunate times or why life without food journals and scales seems terrifying.

It’s 4 o’clock in the morning and this is not a metaphor for life. It’s 4 o’clock in the morning and I’m still afraid of turning off the TV and, no, I’m not tired because I counted to 100 a thousand times and counted sheep a thousand times plus one and even that has only left me with a sore throat and brain freeze.

It’s 4 o’clock in the morning and I once heard somewhere that the practice of self love improves your hearing, your eyesight, lowers your blood pressure, increases pulmonary function, cardiac output, and helps wiring the musculature.

Imagine that.

Do you think if we lived in a world where everyone truly appreciated each and every piece of their being- “Baby, if ya got it, flaunt it“- instead of spending late nights in drive-thrus and liquor stores; shooting up in places of the earth that were not meant to be seen, then, could we know solace?

Then, could we live forever?

It’s 4 o’clock in the morning and I know it’s hard to love yourself even though “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” because sometimes what doesn’t kill you makes you wish it did but, it’s 4 o’clock in the morning and I hope you know that your lungs are made of trees.

Your limbs made of vines and your eyes- although science books will tell you that the stars we see are already dead and gone- are made up of tiny constellations that are very much so alive.

It’s 4 o’clock in the morning and I’m telling you all of this because I know, for me, sometimes at night when the air is dense and I’m missing home and I feel my soul bouncing off the ceiling and back into my throat like the lumps they warn you about when you lose something you love, I need to be reminded that

even at 4 o’clock in the morning

I deserve to live forever.

Morning Horoscopes

I find it kind of ironic that my sign is Libra.

Scales.

Real original.

With heavy feet and 6 a.m. under eye bags, I found myself standing on the bathroom scale this morning. Again. First with clothes then, none.

Risqué, I know.

As I stood there, bare, with dewy morning air brushing up against my goosebumped skin and sleep collecting in the corners of my eyes, all I could think about was how this time, last year, I wished to crumble. I felt the cold metal greet my feet and all I could remember was how this time, last year, I wished to empty.

I looked in the mirror beside me and watched my stomach swell and sink for longer than I wanted to. I don’t like that- watching what I could’ve been in my exhales fall to what I am in my inhales. Did you know that the average human spends up to five days out of the year looking in a mirror? I read that somewhere before. Before I liked reading. Before it mattered. Before it became relevant.

120 hours,

7,200 minutes,

and a gazillion seconds wasted on bullshit.

This is why I’m not a morning person.

But, then again, it’s easier to undo expectations when I’m half-awake.

Oceans Part II

Last night, I went to bed obnoxiously hopeful; I was determined to wake up bright and early and make myself an egg white sandwich with apple slices.

This is the part where we laugh.

After a long and restless night that felt more like a midlife crisis than anything else, “bright and early” ended up being more of a “What is life?” and the egg white sandwich with apple slices ended up being more of a slightly under-toasted whole wheat English muffin with reduced fat cream cheese. It was gross but it was safe and that’s what I needed in that moment.

As I sat picking away pieces of the bread, watching its edges crumble in small pieces onto my plate, I couldn’t help but think, “Me too, English muffin. Me too.”

In that moment, we were both crumbling.

You see, the human body is mostly comprised of four main elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen, with the majority of that in the form of

Water.

One oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms held together by tiny covalent bonds.

Water.

Maybe that’s why I’m so easily molded.

Influenced.

Shaped.

PlayDough-ed.

Maybe that’s why I’m so painfully transparent.

You see, to be honest, I miss a lot of things about how my life used to be.

Not that my life used to be novel-worthy or anything like that but, it was simple. And it was enough. At least for a while. I miss when playlists understood me, I miss the way that, sometimes, I’d forget how to breathe when I told a good story, I miss bacon and eggs, I miss the way Sparkling Grape Juice made me feel like a cool kid, I miss when pouting still solved problems; when the melodramatic tragedies of my life played out on playgrounds.

I miss using night lights, I miss the way I used to loose things in the couch cushions and, yes, I realize that was a typo but I also miss when mistakes didn’t bother me so much; when personal errors didn’t feel so devastating. I miss yelling “Shotgun!”, I miss sifting creek sand between my toes, I miss the way I used to imagine how life would be after I parted ways with Earth. I used to imagine my bones being pieced together with some sort of paste or Scotch tape; threaded together and tossed back into space until someone happened to slip across it. I imagined outstretching my arms and embracing the sky only to be thrown back by its growls and plunging, headfirst, into the mud and stone and clay because, when it’s your last day, you don’t worry about grass stains.

I miss the way it felt the first time I saw my mom in a dress. I was four and newly adopted and although, now, it only feels like a vague memory faded by time and tears and Band-Aids and late night conversations, I remember it nonetheless.

It was a polka dot dress.

The dress was as new to me as she was.

As I hid beneath our wooden coffee table that wobbled awkwardly on its antique legs and smelled slightly like dust and musk, I saw the very edges of her dress breathe as she did and although she stood at just barely past five feet, she was a

Superhero.

Sometimes it’s hard to find words to articulate the magnitude of your emotions when you realize you’ve become nothing more than a shell of the person you used to be. For every day that I let go of this eating disorder and realize just how hollow and empty this disease has made me; I am realizing more and more just how many moments I truly took for granted. As I mourn the loss of the eating disorder- my coping mechanism and sense of purpose, of real importance for so long- I also have to mourn the loss of who I used to be.

And that makes me sad.

But I guess that’s okay, right? I mean, after all, the human body is mostly comprised of four main elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen, with the majority of that in the form of

Water.

One oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms held together by tiny covalent bonds and family recipes and Captain Morgan and perfect staccatos and mistakes.

The brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery bullshit: 31%.

I am water but hardly an ocean.

A significant fraction of my body is precipitating and evaporating; readily

Influenced.

Shaped.

PlayDough-ed.

I am water.

Therefore, some days I am weak.

And that’s okay.

 

Creature Fear

A while back, a very sweet and dear friend of mine, Laura, gave me an eating disorder workbook during a time in my life when I had really been struggling with my disorder. Since being back in Illinois, I really haven’t had much time to look at it or, rather, to make time to look at it. However, for some reason, the other day, I had decided to give it a shot.

As I skimmed its pages filled with charts and tips and self reflection exercises, I came across a single question that I not only think one must ask themselves when pursuing recovery but, also, a question I think a lot of skeptics ponder when approaching this situation.

What is your eating disorder like for you?

It took a while for me to fully comprehend the question. I analyzed its letters and syllables searching for an alterior motive but, I found none. It was a simple question.

What is your eating disorder like for you?

I guess I could have answered this question a few different ways. Perhaps I could’ve created a pie chart illustrating the different parts of my day, perhaps I could have made a list of

  • Bullet
  • Points

somewhat depicting the pros and cons of my disorder, or perhaps I could’ve answered the question by simply stating, “Shitty.”, because it truly is. But the fact of the matter is, as much as I would have liked to have answered this question with socially frowned upon profanity, the truth of it is, my eating disorder is far more complicated than that.

My eating disorder is tiring; more than tiring.

T-I-R-I-N-G

Six letters of a word that could never do my eating disorder justice.

My eating disorder is sleeping past noon, past one and two, past the stiff knees, heavy arms, and the thick white morning air just so I can buy myself a few extra hunger-free seconds.

Minutes.

Hours.

As my body screams for me to get up and to welcome the new day, my mind tells me otherwise; to fight against all unwavering laws of nature. To wait until the hunger passes.

My eating disorder is walking back and forth, up and down, tapping feet and fingers, knocking together knees and hearts

“…and lunge.”

because the seven extra calories I consumed in the homemade cookie I took a bite of earlier will kill me. And don’t you dare try to argue this with me. They will fester like toxic sludge in every impurity of my being, clinging like disease to healthy red blood cells, until everything I’ve worked so hard for is lost and I am nothing but just that.

Toxic sludge.

My eating disorder is sitting in my room watching The Biggest Loser, chain smoking the life out of my last few Newports hoping that the radio waves and Nicotine will be enough to fill me up; enough to say, “No thanks, I already ate.” Because although breakfast and lunch are the easiest of the three meals to skip, dinner is, by far, the hardest. I feel my stomach fold and reach and cave in on itself and although I know I should eat, I know that I can’t.

My eating disorder is quietly exercising in my room long after everyone has gone to sleep.

50 leg lifts.

50 more.

Crunches.

Butterflies.

Planks.

More.

More.

More.

While the house hums with sweet dreams and muffled snores, the voice in the back of my head the Bible had warned me about long before I even knew what sin was is screaming,

“You fucking fat ass!”

“You are a worthless piece of shit.”

“You will never be perfect.”

“Be perfect!”

“BE PERFECT!”

Although I want nothing more than a simple rest as my eyelids fall heavy with sleep and my joints, slowed with late night exhaustion, I know that I must feel my demons of the day weep alongside the sweat that falls from the outer edges of my hairline and into the carpet of my 4 by 4 room.

My eating disorder is seeing the disappointment in my friends’ eyes and at the very corners of their mouths when they ask, “Do you want to come to the mall with us?!”, because I tell them that I’m too tired for a day out. My eating disorder is hearing the dissipating enthusiasm in their voices when they ask, “Do you want to come to the mall with us?”, because they no longer hold expectations. My eating disorder is watching as my friends, one by one, come around less often and hearing nothing that resembles, “Do you want to come to the mall with us?”, or, “Hey, wanna hangout?”, because they aren’t the ones who fell for the calories. They aren’t the ones

cosumED.

My eating disorder is no longer being able to taste the binge food. The handfuls upon handfuls of pasta and pizza and chocolates and Flaming Hot Cheetos; the massive breakdowns when the hunger gets to be too much and hating myself for letting it get this far.

It’s the bathroom rituals. “Wash hands in hot water and soap. Rinse. Repeat. Take off ring. Wash hands again. Pull back hair. Purge.

Make everything come up.

Taste your memories. Taste your fears. Taste those greasy mistakes.”

I taste my damage.

“Put back on ring.”

My eating disorder is feeling lifeless clumps of the hair that my mom once twisted into big, shiny braids run down the back of my neck, weaving in and out of my shoulder blades and thoracic vertebrae, into the shallow water that pools at the very tips of my toes when I take my morning showers and knowing that I am very much so weathering just not quite sure what from; the starving or the purging?

My eating disorder is trying to cease the seemingly never-ending war between mind and body; my body is crumbling, begging for more while my mind degrades me for asking in the first place. For wanting what I cannot have.

It’s opening cabinets just to close them again because what’s inside is nothing safe. Although I was never particularly good in anatomy, I will dissect my meals until I know every part of its DNA. Although I was never particularly good in math, I will add, subtract, multiply and divide every calorie until I know every part of its formula.

It’s knowing that food can never make me feel whole yet still clinging to the idea that maybe, one day, it might because I know that somewhere along the way, I lost pieces of myself.

It’s counting down the days until Christmas not because I’m excited for its festivities but because I must be #skinny4xmas; I must be stronger by then.

It’s feeling my throat sting as I take drags from my menthol cigarettes because I forgot to cut my nails before I shoved my fingers down my throat the night before.

It’s convincing myself that I do not need food; that my stomach, instead, is applauding me for being invincible. For being brave.

It’s wanting to tell you more about what my eating disorder is like but neglecting to find the words to fit into sentences that fit into paragraphs that fit into the big picture of it all because I am still too embarrassed of everything that my eating disorder truly is.

I don’t want to tell you that I feel as if though I have lost control of everything I thought I had in life.

I don’t want to tell you that, if I could, I would’ve stopped myself from letting it get this far; that I would’ve asked for help.

I don’t want to tell you that I miss my dad.

I don’t want to tell you that most days, I feel hardly strong enough to fight for recovery.

I don’t want to tell you that I wake up already tired.

I don’t want to tell you that I would give anything not to feel.

And I definitely don’t want to tell you that even now, as I sit here typing this, I am hungry. I am tired and I am hungry but I will not eat until my legs can hardly hold me and my eyes can hardly focus because

this

is exactly

what my eating disorder is like for me.

The Truth About Adulthood

Growing up, I’d like to think that I was taught a plethora of knowledgeable and practical things; crossing my eyes would lead to permanent deformation, using words like “plethora” and “practical” would surely secure a future of nothing more than cats and crocheting needles, coffee would stunt my growth, curse words would lead to teen pregnancy and that absolutely no one yet absolutely everyone was a moron. Lying would lead to a serious and incurable case of acne, chocolate was for grown ups, and sex would lead to a slow and painful death. Seriously.

I woke up this morning to the sound of birds singing in the cool fall breeze.

Scratch that.

I woke up this morning to my friend’s cat, rightfully named Meatball, gnawing at my big toe and mild to severe back cramps. Okay, so severe back cramps because in case the boobs didn’t already give it away, my body felt the need to kindly remind me that yes, I am in fact a woman.

I moved back to Illinois on Saturday. It’s been an adjustment.

I’ve purged three times since being here.

Scratch that.

As of about three hours and half a taco ago, I’ve purged four times since being here. That’s been an adjustment too.

I bathed myself in a stranger’s bathroom yesterday. That was more than an adjustment. Well, to be fair, he wasn’t a complete stranger but having only met him a few times, I wouldn’t consider him exactly close.

His water tasted like copper.

It was cold too.

As I stood beneath the shower head, bathing myself with a questionably clean wash cloth, breathing in fumes of limescale and lavender scented shower gel, I wondered if this was adulthood. Was this what the public school system had been preparing me for all those years?

You see, although I know I’m not old or anywhere near that for that matter, having turned 19 just a couple of weeks ago, I know that 19 is an awkward age- an age where although you’re not quite “adult enough” to legally get completely shit faced off overpriced Long Island Iced Teas in shady sports bars on nights where there’s nothing else to do, you are however “adult enough” to carry the responsibility of “being an adult”.

Adulthood comes with phone bills, seemingly endless searches for employment, reliability and

unwanted facial hair.

It comes with late-night grocery store runs, emotional phone calls, 1-ply toilet paper, stress acne, non-stress acne, second chances, reruns of Live With Regis and Kelly, embarrassing doctor visits, Midol, more Midol, family interventions, self help books, untimely boob itches, and self discovery. You see, adulthood is a strange thing- every syllable holds contradiction. It’s perplexing, it’s freeing, it’s debilitating, it’s

everything

and nothing I wanted it to be. Adulthood comes with more life than you know how to live, more freedom than you know what to do with, more love than you know how to accept, but most importantly

it comes with showers in strangers’ bathrooms.

Because no one ever said growing up would be pretty.

No one ever warned me about this shit.