Poem: Infinite Soul

It was a hot summer day in a small room in my even smaller town when I first understood that I did not belong to myself, that my body was not my own, and that I was inherently limited. Fifteen of us middle schoolers and our group leader sat in a circle, fidgeting in white fold-up chairs. The air hung heavy with premature body heat and Axe spray so strong a cloud loomed over our heads.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20. “My body is a temple,” says the Lord. And my youth pastor.

Our group leader plowed through an impassioned speech, beating this idea into the core of my being. And so, I believed.

With each action on this earth and impurity I committed, a stone was removed from my house of the Lord, leaving me more and more unwhole and unholy. And soon enough, everything I did and everyone I spoke to and every placed I went made little bits of me fall like a trail leading to an archeological destination.

Explorers came to my desolate building, seeking evidence that I once existed. They brushed away at the dirt and grime, rejoicing at the miniscule pieces still left to discover.

After twenty-two years on earth, I was hallow. I was finite—a shell and a limited soul. I took too many stones given to too many people and placed in too many homes. Those stones represented a name and when I had no stones left to give, I was forced to steal from the people I loved to give away to another. Love gives while supplies last, and when supplies ran out, I became used and damaged goods to my newcomers.

I sat at my computer at twenty-two, staring into the abyss of an endless Internet when a phrase once again passed before me. “My body is a temple.” There it was again, but new words formed after this dead horse, “But I am the god for whom it is devoted.” This unknown author pierced the deepest part of me, and new seeds were sown, watered over the next years by chance meetings and prophetic words. I reaped a new conscience, unblinded by previous misinformation.

Soon, I learned that my body belongs to me and I adorn her however I please. My temple isn’t set in stone. My existence isn’t limited by four walls and a carcass only meant to dissipate and die.

Love does not pick at the parts of who I am. Love becomes.

I become. I am infinite.

Every day with every interaction, I expand like the grass and the trees covering a fertile Earth. I discover new clay and form new stones and create new buildings. Little by little, I grow. I create love and give it as desired. I am reincarnated and multiplied. I transform and evolve.

My body isn’t a temple. It’s a city.

Excerpt: Here She Lies–Novel

In honor of the first Sunday of August, I’m posting a little except from my novel. The book is finished at 76,000 words, but I’m currently in the grueling editing process of this seven year project. Nonetheless, I’d like the chance to share a snippet of the beginning. Without further delay:

Chapter One–August 2, 2007

It’s hard to know exactly where November “Milly” Ray’s story begins, but it probably starts somewhere on Delatorre Drive on a hot summer afternoon in California or in a parked truck in the mountains of San Bernardino or perhaps in a hospital room in a nearby town—although chances are that’s where this one ends—but it could also begin on that same street ten years before at the bottom of a bottle of Black Velvet or the end of a piece of paper covered in the most elegant handwriting.

Whatever the case, today, her story starts on a porch before summer’s end and Milly’s final year of High School begins.

Delatorre Drive situates itself at the base of the San Gorgonio mountains where the valley accumulates the hottest wind and the driest summers. Milly’s tan skin glistens, causing her brown bangs to stick to her forehead. She slicks the sweat away and keeps her eyes forward, waiting for a red Jeep to pull up in front of her house and the boy with curly black hair to emerge from inside.

In the open window above her head, she can hear the loud swearing and slurred words of drunken man. She fidgets on the porch, causing the cement steps to dig into her thighs.

“Hurry up, Charlie,” she says under her breath. Milly looks at the bracelet on her wrist containing a variety of different beads strung together with a bright green thread. She holds a circular, translucent bead between her fingers, rolling it over and over again. Beside that bead, there’s a cheap plastic purple heart, a green, iridescent circle, a bright blue square with corners worn from time, and a white square with a black letter “N” carved out of it—its ink similarly faded—followed by more beads of varying shapes and colors all tied with a square knot, hanging loosely from Milly’s wrist. It was a necklace once, but over time, it grew too small and so became a bracelet.

From upstairs, Jonah, Milly’s dad, calls her name over and over again. Milly jolts up, her fingers still pinching the clear bead on her wrist. She skips the steps down the porch and stands against the cream stucco wall of her house, his window above her head.
Her fingers stroke the different textures of her bracelet until she feels the edges of the blue bead. Her eyes flick down at it before rising to search for similar objects—the neighbor’s hose box across the street, the garage door, a window. She looks down the street, but Charlie’s car is still no where to be seen. She sees other houses, all the same two-story, cream colored stucco as hers. At the far end, ten houses down and a good half mile, the cul-de-sac seems to form around one house that sticks out among the rest: a deep blue, two story home with horizontal boards and a wrap around porch—Charlie’s house.

The door to Jonah’s bedroom slams.

“Crap,” Milly says under her breath. She peels herself off the wall and starts down the street. Milly steps carefully down the road, avoiding uneven slabs and cracks overgrown with weeds.

The sun’s heat pricks at her skin and beads of sweat bubble from her forehead. The dry air sucks the moisture form her mouth. After passing the first couple houses, she already regrets walking, but there’s no turning back now. Suddenly, at the end of the street, Charlie’s garage door opens. Milly flops onto the sidewalk, which burns into her skin, so she gets up and takes cover under a small tree front of a neighbor’s yard.

The Jeep slows in front of her until it putters to a stop and a plum of smoke rises from the exhaust. Charlie, Milly’s best friend since childhood, is tall and lean—built for wrestling. He has brown eyes and milk chocolate skin. His face is oval shaped with sharp cheekbones and a smile that could melt the hardest heart—he’s easily one of the more attractive guys at their high school. But Milly looks at him and sees someone like her little brother and has since they were young children.

“I told you I’d come pick you up,” Charlie calls out to her.

“Well, I felt like walking.”

“It’s 104 degrees, Nova. You’re sweating like crazy.”

She shrugs. “You were taking too long.”

His eyes narrow and gaze in the direction of her house. “Is Jonah home?”

Again, she shrugs. “Let’s get going, yeah?” She yanks the door of the Jeep open.

“Sorry,” Charlie says as he grabs a half-drank gallon of water from the passenger seat and throws it into the back seat. It lands on top of his wrestling bag. Milly plops into the seat, and maneuvers her feet away from the graveyard of Red Bull on the floor. The seatbelt clicks as Charlie slams the engine into gear. Milly cranks the AC, and rests back, listening to the Van Halen CD booming from the Jeep’s speakers.

Charlie speeds out of the neighborhood past a blur of cream houses and trees and brown yards, slowing the Jeep only enough to roll through stop signs before speeding past other houses. They drive out of the track-home neighborhoods and near the half-million dollar homes where Charlie slows a little, so Milly can drool a little over her dream houses, until they reach a small strip of land and then a trailer home park. Charlie slams back on the accelerator. Eventually, they reach more trackhomes that are newer than Milly’s house and those homes unfold onto a small shopping center with a Chinese food restaraunt, an ice cream parlor—Milly’s favorite, Stater Bros. Grocery store, and a small liquor market—Jonah’s favorite.

As she and Charlie drive past Beaumont High School, Milly’s stomach flips. She takes a deep breath, only exhahling when they turn onto Cherry Valley Blvd and the school is out of sight and a long stretch of road lies before them.

Cherry Valley Blvd slices through rolling hills of yellow grass that’s freckled with resilient green bushels. The sky is a bright enough to blind her, but she keeps looking anyone. The hills seem to go on for miles, contrasting the congested neighborhoods of Beaumont.

She and Charlie remain in silence as the turn onto the I-10 Freeway, past the cities of Beaumont and Calimesa and Yucaipa, toward Redlands and their final destination: Hillside Memorial Park.

Poem(ish): Volatile

 I walk out of my favorite coffee shop and before my eyes walks this beautiful woman–swollen at the belly. I look to the man beside her, and your face rips through the barriers of my mind, emptying out the memories I’d purposefully hid away. And suddenly, the pain and heartbreak of letting you go comes back like cancer. 

 Toxicity is a powerful drug, and your hits made me higher than the atmosphere afforded. You left me a whirlwind of hopes and expectations,  unreasonable. Even now, with your careless and callous care of my heart, I can only pass the blame so far. 

 It’s foolish and selfish to believe you’d change and to believed you’d leave them for me when time after time again, your actions spoke Truth. But stupid little girls tell themselves it’s acceptable to be misused. Like a paddle board, you came and went, beating my heart with every reappearance. Blissfully unaware of my own delusions, I’d rock myself to sleep with the lullabies of, “This is fine. He loves me. He just shows it differently.”

 After all these years, I didn’t think it was possible to still mourn what we had and lost. But I mourn the pieces of me you took away. I mourn the little girl who loved you and the little girl who gave up everything waiting for your love, requited. 

 Only to receive it when you were gone and out of reach. Only to receive it when I moved on and you had a family of your own to love. I waited a lifetime for something so disappointing. “I love you. I always have.”

Liar. 

 You haunted my dreams and every love after yours, waiting for the chaos to fall and the gun to fire. The shape of my heart redefined, full but different–like a size-nine shoe print left from years of you walking all over me.

 It repaired after what I’d later refer to as “us.” But there was no such thing as Us. You were a figment of my desperation, and to you I was the fuel to your wounded soul. And somewhere we lost our humanity in the hopes that we might matter. After we parted, I found mine again. Where’s yours?

 You held my heart at gun point, but I your willing victim. Loving you mere feet away from certain peril, ready to destroy. I trusted you. I kissed that gun and made love to its sweet metal, until the day it fired and engulfed every part of who I was. Its powder still covers my should-be corpse like a blanket I pretend is Comfort. 

 I remember where I stood when I learned you finally planned your future, that you finally got brave and decided what you wanted—Under the presence of God in the church I grew up, in the church I believed I’d be married, and the marriage I believed between you and I.

 I looked over at you from what felt like a lifetime away, but really only separated by green velvet pews and church-goers. Your hand in hers and a ring on her finger. 

 Your mother whispered, “he finally proposed.” I nodded and mumble my congratulations—her only son, finally evolving into the man he long foretold but once refused to become–of course she beamed with pride. Of course she’d excitedly tell the family friend–the girl her son grew up with. She didn’t know, but how could she? She had no idea what she had done.

 I walked away and up to the front of the church and took my place in the choir. In shame, I whispered praises I didn’t deserve to utter. I inhaled at the right moments and I mouthed the right words. 

 But my eyes stung and my heart felt like stone, useless and heavy in my chest. I found you in the crowd and saw her sitting next to you. She glowed, but she didn’t know. How could she? She had no idea what you had done. 

 My mind flashed back to the month before–a warm November night–in my living room with the glow of Avatar on the TV and the soundtrack of my heavy breaths. I kissed your neck and you kissed my mouth. You proclaimed you needed me–couldn’t live without my deepest touch.

 And in December, standing on that stage in front of those worshippers, I knew I didn’t belong. Because where a love of God should have been, your soul filled mine instead. I had no idea, how could I? I had no idea what I had done. 

 Months later, I received the invitation to your wedding with bile in my throat that burned as it spewed from my mouth. My family went to bless your love, but I stayed behind. I couldn’t watch you lie. I couldn’t watch you vow promises I knew you couldn’t keep. Your blissful bride, she had no idea. How could she? She had no idea what we had done. 

 These are the memories that drown me as I watched you stand beside your wife, expecting another child, walking the downtown streets together. So I avert my eyes and rush to my car. Away from the coffee shop and away from the woman I once thought would be me.

  We were the secret you’d take to your grave, but I can’t live with your ghost anymore. It’s been years now since, and here I am writing you another poem. 

Poem: My Life

My life is an unmade bed, empty and still warm.
Sitting on the floor, waiting for the soft footsteps on brown 70’s carpet,
Hoping he’d come back to me.

My life is the silence, save the VHS player, clicking clicking clicking, in the other room.
“Be Kind Rewind” says the tape.
But there’s no reverse button for my story.

My life is somewhere at the top of my closet next to the varsity letter for a sport I made up
and academic letters for grades I realized were irrelevant,
but still I cling to them like old lovers and friends.

My life is a hallway, lit in fluorescent decay with endless doors,
And a burnt out lightbulb at the end, never replaced,
And stains from a bad glass of wine.

My life is a table that sits alone in the corner of the room with
a half eaten sandwich, a backpack, and two chairs.
The second blue, plastic chair is empty.

My life is a razor blade taped to the inside of a bathroom cabinet drawer,
barely out of sight, but quickly accessed, and hours talking to a stranger,
paid to fix all my problems, and paid to care.

My life is a carryon suitcase with clothes I would later throw away,
And souvenirs I would give away, and the sanity I left somewhere in
Bangladesh, or maybe Malawi, or Peru. Maybe all three.

My life is the empty shot glass that would make the taste of tequila
churn in my stomach, and the back of a yellow mustang and
lying about an emergency that wasn’t real, so I could get away.

My life is a long list of people who walked away and an even longer
list of “what if’s” and “should haves”
and what could I have done to change their minds?

My life is a love affair with a porcelain toilet bowl and the fresh taste of stomach acid
And lucky charms and pants that are too small
then too big and then too small again.

My life is being “too much” and too depressed, too touchy,
too happy, too sad, too needy, too emotional and too hard to love.
And deciding that I am too fucking tired to care what anyone else believes.

My life is a blank page, untouched, un-smudged,
and a white so bright it illuminates the room, and a pen,
poised at the ready, about to write the most fantastic story.

The Creature

A lot of people don’t understand Depression. Maybe they’ve felt it before but mistook it for Sadness, or maybe they thought they were depressed but really just sad.

Here, I want to offer my own definition. I guess that’s kind of what I want this blog to be about. For those who understand, I’m here to be your sounding board. If you don’t understand but you know or love someone who suffers, let me offer a new perspective. (I’m not a doctor, so I’m only speaking for myself)

When you’re depressed, it’s hard not to always feel like the poison in the water hole. It’s hard to ignore that ever present voice in your head that says, “You did it again: you ruined everything.” The Voice even ruins the good things people do or say, by reminding you how terrible you are and how undeserving.

I’d say that’s the difference between Depression and Sadness: Sadness grips you and brings you to your knees, but once you relish in all that makes you feel, Sadness lets go. On the other hand, Depression is the lover that grips you tight and waltzes you away into a flurry of unwanted thoughts and uncontrollable feelings. It’s like a bird squawking in your ear every few minutes. It’s this presence that clutches your soul and makes everything feel difficult. Everything sounds exhausting when you’re depressed and everything is work, even the things you love and sometimes even the people. Depression is like this monster that kind of just eats you from the inside out until you become the monster and don’t even recognize yourself.

When I say uncontrollable feelings, I mean completely unwarranted and unwanted waves of anger, bitterness, jealousy, hatred, fear, worry, and sadness. Everything that happens in the day elicits these responses that leave me feeling helpless, like a prisoner to my own mind and emotions. And then there are the waves of numbness. Those are the worst because the apathy and lack of feeling comes from nowhere. Sometimes, I feel this apathy towards things or people that I once felt so deeply for and about. I think it’s from this fear of all the work and energy it takes to feel and be passionate about anything, so even my deepest passions turn to dust in the face of Depression.

It’s also guilt. A lot of guilt and a lot shame—a never ending cycle that usually ends with me paralyzed in my bed, afraid to move or speak because it might lead to something else I’ll regret or hurting someone else I love.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to Depression:

ONE. Selfishness is the cause of Depression. It’s a constant looking in that causes people to become this hopeless blob. While I warrant this has merit, it sure as hell doesn’t suggest a cure either. It’s hard to be selfless when you can’t even get out of bed. Sometimes, this sentiment just leads to more guilt.

TWO. You’ve got to be selfish. If you’re constantly “pouring from an empty cup,” you’ll never get better. Be selfish, so you can be selfless later.

I think both are right to a certain extent, but in moderation and balance. The hardest part is learning the healthy balance between self-love and doing things to help you get better, and actually falling deeper into the all-consuming world view of poor me. 

I’m not really sure what causes Depression. I wish there was a clear answer: like make sure to eat your vegetables and don’t drink blue Kool-Aid and have lots of friends and good family, then you won’t catch Depression. God, I wish it were that easy. All I know is that when I was twelve, I woke up one day with this weight over me, like wearing a heavy cloak I couldn’t take off. I remember that first bout so clearly. In a jewelry box in the closet of my apartment, there are twelve letters written to God. It was 2004. How guilty I felt then, and now. As a little girl, I shouldn’t have had a reason to be depressed, not really. I had a family that loved me and food and shelter and clothes (though no sense of style sadly). I didn’t know why I was so tired. I didn’t know why I was so sad. I didn’t know why dying sounded so sweet. I didn’t understand. I was only a kid.

There are things I didn’t know then and still don’t know why now. Why Depression chose me, I’ll never know. If you’ve suffered through Depression for any length of time, you’ll sympathize.

I am often told: “It gets better.” It’s such a sweet thought. If you’re anything like me though, this sentiment will frustrate the hell out of you (as most supposedly reassuring clichés are prone to do. I’ll write a lot about how much I hate these types of sayings). Try feeling the same way for ten or more years. That little flicker of hope snuffs out quickly, and when the light at the end of the tunnel goes black, being told to hope for the sake of hoping doesn’t seem good enough anymore.

I’m not trying to offer excuses for my behavior; I know there are parts I am responsible for. I just want to help people understand where I’m coming from, and the why to the questions I still cannot answer. I know that I am difficult, and not from a self-pitying stand point but from self-awareness. I want so badly to love the people in my life the way they deserve. I want to be there for them. I want to laugh and have fun and be present wherever I am. I dearly love the people in my life, but I will be the first to admit that I cannot always communicate and show my love for them. I require a lot of patience and comfort. For now, I think that’s okay. But my hope this year is that the tides will change.

This year I want to be better. I want to love others in return better. I want to live better. I want to work better. I want better.

In the meantime, this is how I keep myself going, how I keep fighting for the life I want to have. On the bad days, I remind myself:

This feeling will pass.

I can do this because I am brave. I am brilliant. I am beautiful.

I will get better, because “it” might not. But I can, and that’s all I want anyway.

 

Joy and happiness friends,
With love,

Kariana

 

 

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2016: Leaving Neverland

After an unfortunate tea spill, my computer has been out of commission for the last month, so I apologize for the absence of writing. I assure you: it was terrible (as a writer, not having a computer for a month equates with being on an all juice diet for a month. I survived, but I wasn’t satisfied or happy about it). However, thanks to a superb and brilliant boyfriend, my computer is up and running again.

I’m aware that New Year’s Resolutions might be overrated and possibly unhelpful, but I love them, these ideas and little promises of “fresh starts.” I use every month as a fresh start as well, which keeps me on my toes. I haven’t actually put too much thought into it this year, mostly because I want my resolutions to be different than they have in past years (thanks in part to The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin).

By different, I mean I want them to stick.

My theme last year was mourning (not that I intentionally chose that at the beginning of the year. It just sort of developed). This year, I have a few themes in mind. Over all, though, I want to grow up–or at least accept that I’m no longer a child.

I want to pursue happiness and creativity. I want to be engaged in community and school. I want to try new things that are also terrifying to me. This year, I’m avoiding any resolutions related to weight loss because I’ve come to the realization that I’m tired of talking about the things that make me unhappy.

This year is going to be full of actions or acceptance, meaning I will either do something about the things in my life that I dislike or I will accept what is and be done with it. More than anything, this year will be about self-love and hope.

Happy New Year! Good luck with your resolutions. Let me know yours, and tell me your tricks for keeping them!

Joy and happiness friends,
With love,

Kariana

Eating Shit (Some real, raw, and possibly offensive honesty by yours truly)

As this horrible, no good, very bad  year finally comes to an end, I thought I’d make my position clear: I no longer consider myself a Christian.

So why did I stop believing?

It was for selfish reasons mostly–things I wouldn’t or couldn’t give to god, guilt I refuse to feel, dreams I refuse to give up, and an earthly home I desperately long for. There are many things I’m supposed to want as a “Christian Girl” that I don’t and can’t want. And then there are the things I want that I’m not supposed to want.

I choose my dreams, my hopes, my home, my sex and sexuality, and my humanity over a god who stayed silent–a god whose only mouth-piece seemed to me like the words of love painted with the blood of hate.

Shrugging off the veil of my religion was a relief bound in a bittersweet sigh.  It was not an easy decision, and there are moments I mourn all I once held true. But in the first moments of my disbelief, the first thing I noticed was the silence of my guilt. I am free. And for once, being lost isn’t a negative but a chance for adventure and discovery.

At the end of the day, however, I’m just tired of all the hate that comes from religious and nonreligious alike. I’m tired of the way we wake up in the morning and eat our own shit because we think we have to. I’m tired of the ways beliefs and politics pull us apart and make our Shit a livelihood.

The Shit we eat is full of bits of obligation and tradition, flecked with expectations and disappointments, hunks of fear and manipulation. But I promise, in the Shit we eat, you’ll never find humility or honesty or individuality. Every shit looks the same, and I see it all around us. It’s underfoot, it’s in our heads, it’s in our Bibles and textbooks, it’s in our constitutions and our handbooks. It’s in our peace, and it’s in our wars. It is both left and right. The Shit abounds, and the only escape is to stop feeding on the hate and judgement that points fingers and evades blame. It’s the Shit that renders us cowards in the face of anyone who looks different, speaks different, thinks different, believes different, worships different, and loves different.

We eat the same Shit, so we can fit in because on Earth, there is no greater curse than being different, and I am sick of it.