Wounds vs Scars & Desperate for Stories 

It started with a conversation about writing a memoir — particularly, my memoir (or, perhaps, technically, second memoir) and how I’ve hit the brakes a little bit.

“I don’t understand,” my husband said. “I feel like, when I was growing up, the only people who did memoirs were presidents and generals, and it was usually a look back on their lives.  Nowadays, it seems like there are all these women writing memoirs about one or two events that had happened to them.”

I had never given too much thought to that before — that we live in a post-Eat-Pray-Love-world, one where the nonfiction section is lined with memoirs written by women about somewhat recent events.  I thought of the fervent successes of books like Wild and Love Warrior and the response to my husband’s inquiry came flowing out, as if the answer had been hiding in my subconscious the entire time.

“We’re desperate for stories,” I said. “Women are.”

“Think about all the movies and TV shows and mainstream books that have been around,” I continued. “Think about what women’s roles usually are.  We play the manic pixie dream girl, or unattainable hot girl, or the sexy lady whose entire livelihood plays second fiddle to how sexy she is.  We play the supporting role while the guy has a coming of age experience, or overcomes his demons, or figures out the nuances of life.  It is only recently that the mainstream has even bothered to dive into any type of depth when it comes to a woman’s story. I think the uptick in women’s memoirs is just an indication of that desperate desire.”

Stories are how we make sense of the world.  This has been the truth since the dawn of civilization.  From tales around the fire to drawings on the cave’s walls.  From a blockbuster novel to hearing your friend reveal her darkest secret (and realizing how close it is to yours).  We need those stories to fill in the cracks and the holes in our soul, to organize this messy experience, to realize that we’re not alone in what we feel.  And we need more than being told we can be the quirky girlfriend to a man’s adventure, or the solemn-but-loving mother, or the supreme sex goddess, or any other two-dimensional female entity.

We need stories that dive into the complicated corners of life and shine light on the things typically kept in the dark.

And memoirs — true, nonfiction accounts — shine the brightest and truest light.  This isn’t just a concoction in someone’s mind.  Someone lived this and lived to tell the tale.  Someone was strong enough to turn around and write it out for others to read.

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My first memoir — if you can call it that — is lighthearted.  A handful of snarky, David Sedaris-esque essays about my time as a model, released through the book publishing branch of a website I write for.  It’s the literary equivalent of a jet-ski: fun and entertaining, skimming the surface at a breakneck pace and then it’s over before you know it.

I’ve been fiddling around with a second memoir, convinced in the most egotistical way that what happened over the last couple years — the good, the bad, the ugly, the fun and the shameful — would make a good story.  I’ve made notes and laid things out and even wrote a few scattered chapters.

Writing my story has been my theme for years, long before life blew up and then reassembled.  The first essay I ever wrote for that aforementioned website was about quitting the teaching field and the emotional fallout that came with it.  And of the hundreds of articles I’ve written since then, over half of them comes back to, in some way, me telling my story.

I’ve written candidly and rawly and in exceptionally public places. There are times when I’ll look at the things I’ve written and where they have been published and feel a stark nakedness.  And there are times when I look at those works and think, “Really, all I have to do is gather up these articles, add on a few chapters about things I haven’t had the guts the write publicly about yet, and voíla. Memoir done. Mission accomplished.”

Write from your scars, not from your wounds.  It’s a bit of advice I saw on a famous memoirist’s page (because, these days, it feels like all I do is stumble upon advice for writing memoirs).  Write when you’re back on dry land, not when you’re being tossed about at sea.  That’s the idea of memoirs, especially in their newest evolution: you live through it, you heal, and you turn around to tell people your tale.

Write from your scars, not from your wounds. I definitely don’t tend to follow that rule.  I think about what I wrote and published after my father died.  I wrote as I was bleeding out, hoping the words would serve as a bandage to something that cut way too deep for me to handle all at once.

I wrote in real time when I lost my cherished brother-in-law to cancer, when I nearly lost my beloved little brother to a motorcycle accident.  I wrote in real time when the woman who was the mother to my older siblings and in essence my step-mother passed.  I wrote from states of shock and numbness and despair and hopelessness and hysteria and good-old-fashioned-run-of-the-mill sadness.

I wrote from my wounds, and found such overwhelming solace in finding out how many other people were nursing the same injuries as me.  I wrote from my wounds and found that telling my story provided the same effect as reading other’s stories. It served as a reminder that these experiences are valid and universal and shared and real.


But I am learning the longer pieces can’t be written in the middle of the injury.  A story arc cannot be done while you’re still bleeding out.  You run a high risk of infection if you confuse your scars with your wounds.  You can’t turn around to tell others about the path when you’re still tripping over the trail’s roots and rocks.

As I started writing out actual chapters, I learned with a frustrating disheartening that things I had hoped were scars by now are still very much wounds, and trying to write about them in this format was risking tearing up what has already starting to heal.

A bit like life: be careful not to act as if the healing process is complete, lest you go right back to where you started.

So I put it on pause.  I remind myself of all the other things I need to do.  I still have a few more months left of my current yoga teacher training.  I have two manuscripts that need editing.  I have a third manuscript that might be entering its newest phase in my attempts to get it published.  My class schedule is joyously expanding, but also cutting into time once set aside for writing.

But I know those are all superficial reasons.  I’ve learned countless times over that I will always make time for the things I truly want to do.  The real reason is that I’m still dealing with the raw underbelly instead of scar tissue.  That I can’t fully forgive yet, and I can’t write with that type of anger still in my heart.

So, just like so many other things, I’m giving it time.  I let the moments of inspiration come on their own accord.  I write notes when the moment so calls for it, I indulge when the waters feel safe, but I go no further than that.

For now, at least.

Because, be it through a cosmic go ahead or a stumbling realization that, amidst the notes and the articles and the moments of inspiration, I had actually already wrote my memoir and healed along the way, this is a project that will see itself to completion.

Because, at the end of the day, I want this memoir out.  I want to be one more story that is shared, one more tale of a woman’s triumph over the demons and nuances of life.  One more story that was kept too long under covers.

You Are That

It hit me over the head while I was knee deep in what was essentially my yoga teacher homework.

Knee deep in ancient readings and modern-day people’s analysis on them, scanning through the Grand Pronouncements from the Upanishads, and stumbling upon a simple phrase:

Tat tvam asi.

You are that.

It hit me over the head like only one phrase had ever done so before.  It struck deep, leaving a loud and reverberating message:

“This is my next tattoo.”

I stopped everything — the homework, the reading, any type of productivity — and went to work researching this phrase.

The first time this happened, I was knee deep in Neruda poetry, attempting to better my Spanish by reading his work in the original language, when I stumbled across a phrase:  pura heredera del dia destruido — pure heir of the destroyed day.  I stopped everything and said to myself, “This will be a tattoo.”

I gave both time to marinate. I knew what a tornado my impulsive side can be.  I can dive headfirst into the pool without even checking to see if there’s water.  It needed time to settle, time for the fervor to go down, for the calmer side of my mind to take stock.  And then blind rush gave way and the resonating message stayed.

And that’s when I knew. I had long since learned just how powerful force it is when that impulsive fervor gives way to soul determination. Something in me becomes cemented, and it takes an outright sledgehammer to ever crack it back open again.

I got my Spanish line in September (alongside a long-planned Celtic knot) and my Sanskrit line the Saturday before Easter Sunday — nestled just underneath that Celtic knot, as if that had been its home all along.

Tat tvam asi. You are that. As part of the Grand Pronouncements, it means you are one with Brahman.  You are united with the supreme.  You are one with God, one with the universe, one with supreme consciousness. You are part of the infinitely complex cosmos and creation. You are one with the Force and the Force is with you.

A belief system that I slipped into like a pair of shoes I never realized I had.  One that came about in piecemeal after waking up one morning and finding that my beloved childhood faith had abandoned me in the night.  A New Age universalism before I even understood what New Age was.

God is the universe and made the universe.  You are a drop in the ocean and yet the entire ocean.  You are a creation and part of creation.  I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.  I am the eggman, he is the eggman, I am the walrus.

You are that.  Tat tvam asi.  Goo, goo, ga’joob.

The day after I get my newest tattoo, I head into Boston.  I’m first thrown off by how busy the area is, but within moments, I remember that Easter Sunday this year falls just before Marathon Monday.

The bleachers and finish line have been set up.  Gates neatly line the sidewalks up and down Boylston.  I’m surrounded by marathoners, their plastic check-in bags slung effortlessly across their backs.  I’m surrounded by fans and out-of-towners and townies and all walks of life, all anticipating the event tomorrow.

The energy is electric.  People are preparing for one of Boston’s gems — a gem that has only shone brighter in light of recent events.  An event that jarred every Bostonian and runner, but also shook us into unity — an event that reminded us that we’re in this together, and the love we have for our city and its inhabitants and for people at large is palpable and bigger than ourselves.

Our marathon was bombed and we responded with We Are Boston.  We are that.


Down in Cambridge, we stumble upon a marching band parading down the sidewalk.  We quickly go over to enjoy the music.  The group is eclectic and quirky and large.  They radiate positivity and beauty in waves.  My smile is beaming as they walk past, before they congregate around a cement park and play a few numbers.  I get closer to where they had congregated and listen.

Positivity and beauty. It’s all I can think about.  I stand there, taking it in, and, for a moment, I lose myself.  I am surrounded in the music and vibrating along with it.  The energy is overwhelming.  I’m on the verge of tears.  No — it’s more than that.  My lip is quivering and I’m ready to start sobbing.  It takes reigning it back in to avoid a scene — steeling myself, coming back into my own body — but I know if I had just rode with the feeling, I would’ve burst into beautiful and embarrassing and unstoppable tears. 

But, for as long as I could stand it, I felt boundless and boundary-less in the face of this simple and positive and beautiful energy.


You are that.  You are part of all of that.  You are one with your fellow man and one with all of creation.  We fight like mad for survival and we fight even madder for what we mistaken as survival.  We feel alone in this universe and yet we are part of this universe and the universe itself.  Even if the New Age ideas don’t strike the same chords, we lose something dear once the walls come up.  Something is lost when we decide we are separate from our neighbors, separate from the mountain ranges and the setting sun and the pain and beauty and love that this world is capable of.  And we gain something back when we remember.

You are that.  Tat tvam asi.

Goo goo, ga’joob.

Battle Scars

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I didn’t want to wear blue jeans when I went to pick up my car, for fear that the blue dye would tint the leather in the seats.

It was my first car in over 7 years — and it was my first brand new car, ever. The car I owned from ’04 to ’06 was a ’99 Chevy Cavalier, a former rental car with a subpar braking system. Nicknamed the Chevrolier, I drove that little green clunker as recklessly as any teenager would, blazing down the roads of my hometown, hugging corners like a NASCAR driver and deliberately speeding up over hills to make the car gain air.

How I survived those years without a single ding, dent, or speeding ticket, is beyond me.

But this wasn’t a 5-year-old former rental car. This was a brand new car with a brand new car smell.  No former owners — barely 20 miles on the odometer before it became mine — and a perfectly working braking system.

The car also had sentimental value: my brother-in-law sold me this car from the dealership he owned.  It was a value that grew heavily and exponentially after he sold the dealership — an act that signaled something frightening, that all the smiles and positive words were not reflecting what stage his cancer was actually in.

When he passed away a year later, the car become almost a relic of a beloved and beautiful soul.

As a brand new car, I was obsessed about keeping it pristine.  No food in the car.  Any travel mugs were securely closed and only sipped from at red lights.  Nothing was placed on top of the car, for fear it would scratch the roof.

Then, three months in, I got rear-ended.

Within three year’s time, my pristine car would become anything but.  The “no food” rule vanished and my passenger side seat became a graveyard of tupperware containers, wrappers, and crumbs.  The floors I tried not to drag dirt onto were perennially caked with sand and mud.  The cupholders have perpetual coffee stains, from all the times I was running late and took my open, at-home coffee mug to go.

Within three year’s time, I’d also watch the laundry list of damages and replacements pile up.  A tiny ding in the windshield would splinter into an unfixable crack before I could get it sealed.  I drifted into a snowbank during one blizzard, causing the rim around one of my foglights to break off.  A popped curb just before our road trip would result in a flat tire in New Orleans — as well as the discovery that almost all of my tires were on the verge of blowout, thanks to shoddy installation.

But nothing beats the last three months.  In December, a three-point turn on a narrow, dead-end street resulted in backing my car into the handle of an opened mailbox lid — with the metal handle puncturing my hatchback’s rear window, effectively shattering the entire thing.  Two months later, my car would roll into the hitch of a pickup truck, turning my front license plate into a shish kabob — and breaking off yet another foglight rim.

This past Sunday night, on our way home from the festivities of the day, we drove what we thought was out of the parking lot — but, in actuality, we were driving onto the sidewalk.

And then directly off of it, onto the ground.

The jolt of essentially popping down from the curb sent my rearview mirror flying off the windshield, hanging by the electric cord attached to the ceiling.  Upon inspection, we’d learn that the rearview mirror didn’t just come off: it took two layers of glass with it.  A completely unfixable situation, we’d later learn from the repair guys — my car would, yet again, need a windshield replacement.

I think of how I was when I had my first accident: my three-month-old car, getting rear-ended while I waited obediently at a red light.  How frustrated and upset I was, and how quick I was to get everything replaced.  How desperate I was to keep everything pristine.

There’s a dig just below the rear window, where handle of the mailbox first hit my car before shooting directly up — a dig that will probably be there until the car is retired.  The second foglight rim has yet to be replaced.  The car’s white exterior is striped with scratches, and the leather seats have become tinged with blue thanks to blue jean dye.

In many ways, I prefer this version of my car.  This is not the pristine, untouched, brand new car with its brand new car smell.  This is a car with over 100,000 miles on it.  This is a car that has seen half of the states in the continental US.  This is a car that I have driven at my lowest of lows, when my only respite was getting in my car and driving down the country roads of New Hampshire, blasting my music until it reverberated against my soul.

This car has been through a lot, and she’s got the battle scars to prove it.  And maybe I just like to see the metaphors in everything — but I cherish this car with its history and its dings and dents.

My Chevrolier was sold going into my second year of college — living in Boston proper, having zero use for a car, and no one in my family really wanting it for themselves.  I joke that my new car won’t last the length of its bank note — but I truly hope I can keep this car around for a while.  My relic, my metaphor, my means of release and reset.  A car with its components tinted from use.

A reminder to embrace what we carry away from the things we’ve experienced.  Battle scars and all.

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Return to Racing

Check-in this year is mercifully indoors.

The day’s weather hangs on a precipice.  All it takes is a slight breeze or the sun going behind some clouds and it tumbles into an arctic chill.  I’m dressed to be comfortably warm in the middle of running.  I’m certainly not dressed to be comfortable in the meanwhile.

It’s the city’s Shamrock Shuffle — a fun two-miler around the downtown area before the parade.  We check-in and get our bibs and find our group of friends.

“The cheapskate in me wouldn’t even sign up for the race,” says one of our friends, as we talk about getting our money’s worth. “I’d just run alongside everyone for free.”

“Grab some green construction paper and some safety pins and hope no one notices,” my husband adds in.

Last year, sign in was outside, when winter was mild and meek and spring had subtly slid in.  It takes a while, but eventually I realize that my last race was the race last year.

“It’s good to be back,” I think to myself, even as I shiver at the starting line.

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In some regard, I’ve been running since I was a kid — since I would barrel out of the elementary school building and to my mother’s car and my mother would call me her little track star.

Perhaps more technically, I’ve been running since I joined the track team as a JV sprinter my freshman year of high school. I’d venture away from it in college (potentially too busy walking the roads of Boston to ever run them) before returning again, using my runs as meditation, as a reset, as proof that the body I thought of as oafish and clumsy as an adolescent was actually capable of great things.

I’d return and up the mileage and find a home in the world of mid-distance running.  I’d eventually be forced take a second break from running — this time after tearing a tendon, after going too hard for that marathon glory and not properly paying attention to when I was past my limits.  It would be a year before I’d return back to any type of running, with most of my runs staying under 6 miles — my mid-distance days left behind on the trails.

I haven’t done many races in the last few years. Perhaps it was because I got too caught up in all that was happening around me, going too hard and not properly paying attention to when I was past my limits and resulting in tearing something other than just my gracilis tendon.

But I want back in it. That’s all I could think of when I was getting my bib, preparing for the race, lining up with my expected mile pace.  I want back in.

I want that bundle of nerves as you wait for the gun blast.  I want that rush of being in a group, hurdling towards something bigger than ourselves.  I want that maneuvering around the crowds in the beginning, feeling unstoppable as you find your place in the long line of runners.  I want that feeling of supreme connection followed by deep contemplative solitude, when the runners have spaced themselves out and it could be upwards of a mile before you see another person cheering on the sidelines.

I want that feeling of doubt halfway in, of wondering what in the world did you sign yourself up for.  I want that forced focus on the present moment — the reminder that it’s simply a series of moments between now and the finish line and staying purely within the moment you are in is key to making it through.  And I want that feeling of delirious gratitude when you see the finish line and all sense of time is lost.

The elements are there in any type of run — the crisp sharpness & clarity of the world after the run is done, the hypnotic rhythm of your breath and the sound of your feet against the ground, the feeling of accomplishment when you finally finish — but it’s a different feel on race day. It’s a different energy, one that can’t be replicated by just running alongside those who paid.

Why do we pay to run? We pay for this feeling. We pay to prove we can challenge ourselves and rise above. We pay to be reminded that we are a lot more alike than we think. We pay to operate as a group and move as a single unit but exist as blazingly individual souls. We pay for the moment of glory, when you cross the finish line and can do nothing more than walk forward in stupefied stupor.

And I want all of it.  I want back in.

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Five minutes into the race and I fatigue out quickly.  I’m already wondering if I’ll have to stop to walk.  In that forced and wavering focus on the present moment, I fill each second with doubt — why am I so tired, why am I fatiguing this early, why is a two-mile jaunt wreaking havoc on me, am I forever relegated to the jogs around the block, the jots down nature trails, the occasional toe into mid-distance running.

I think all of these things until I hit the first mile marker and my tracker informs me that I’ve completed it in 7:41.

I haven’t run a mile in under 8 minutes in years. The last time I did, it was on a treadmill — an endeavor completed without the uneven terrain and wind resistance of the outdoor word.

It’s enough to power me through the next mile — through the encroaching exhaustion and the deep desire to call it early and just start walking.

I finish with an official time of 15:41.

May this be a wonderful and fruitful return to racing in 2017, I tell social media. It’s one more thing to return back to. One more daisy popping up after a long and brutal winter. One more sign that, while there will be no such thing as returning to normal (as if I would even want to if I could), some things can still make their homecoming.

Yes, I want back in. With every fiber of my being, I want back in.

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Dark Night of the Soul

As it so happened, I learned about the dark night of the soul right as I was going through my own.

As it always happens.   And I can never really say whether it’s because we are simply seeking out what we need, or perhaps God/the Universe puts things in our path right as we need them.  But I can say I prefer the second concept way more than the first.

I learned about it from two separate places, from two different avenues, at almost the exact same time — and both on the eve of it all, right as my night had hit dusk.  Around the same time my father was rushed to the ER and curveballs had been thrown my way and precious items were starting to tumble from the shelves.  When I was desperate to run from the darkness, only to find myself running deeper into the twilight instead.

Dark night of the soul.  By definition, a complete and devastating eruption of your life.  A collapse in everything you once thought was true and infallible and unshakeable.  What was once a 16th century poem is now the term for when it all falls apart and you’re left wondering how you’ll ever redefine such key terms again.

In an obscure night
Fevered with love’s anxiety
(O hapless, happy plight!)
I went, none seeing me
Forth from my house, where all things quiet be

That’s when I learned about it.  Right when everything was collapsing.  When I was 27, right on the eve of my Saturn return, no less (of course it had to happen at the same time as a Saturn return. Why not get hit from both sides of cosmic continuum.  Perhaps it all would’ve been easier if I just believed in shitty luck, if I had adhered to just the former of the two previous concepts).

Dark night of the soul.  Nights so tough I would wake up at 2 and just know that sleep had abandoned me.  Evenings where my defense mechanisms would abandon me and I would be left sitting on the floor shaking, so hysterical that I couldn’t even make a sound, let alone cry — evenings that showed me a new level of anxiety and panic, that showed me just how debilitating both can be.

In the happy night,
In secret, when none saw me,
Nor I beheld aught,
Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart.

They don’t tell you that the night can last years — that you can spend your time in the witching hour, waiting for the sun to rise, convinced that, yes, finally, this time around, I will see the sun, only to find the time stretching on.  Your soul is left in the dark for a little while longer.

But the name still fits.  The dark night — a reminder that every night is temporary, no matter how long it draws out.  The sun also rises, given enough time.  Dawn comes if you can wait out the dark, moving forward even if you feel like stopping.

It’s a few days into spring, now.  Even in the blistering cold and sudden snowstorms, there is a theme of renewal.  In the fall, it will mark two years since my father passed.  In the same season, it will be one year since both my brother-in-law and my older siblings’ mother have passed.  My little brother now walks without a cane and has, for all intents and purposes, healed from the motorcycle accident.

The parts of my life that tumbled from the shelves — the things that shattered alongside the same timeline — have been slowly pieced back together.  Other parts have been deliberately left as fragments — done with attempting to glue them together, or denying that they weren’t broken beyond repair in the first place.

And other things I have decided to take down from the shelf, realizing I no longer have a use for them — realizing that they had lost their meaning in the midst of the tumults and tears.

Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved!

I’m on the mend.  I can’t count the number of people I’ve said that to.  Those who’ve checked in, who continue to check in.  I’d surrendered to the eruption and the changes, surrendered to the annihilation.  I continue to surrender to the plan in place for me — and continue to have faith that I am on a path, destined and created by God/the Universe Himself, and that the things that were not meant to be on that path have simply been ripped from the dirt.  I have faith that I lost what I needed to lose, even if it still leaves me in a state of imbalance.

Because that’s the idea of the dark night, the Saturn return.  If you can hang tight and pull through, you will emerge on the other side transformed.  If you can utilize the destructive force, you will rebuild better and more authentically you.  It’s a trial by fire that burns away the things that never should’ve been there in the first place.  You just have to be ready to abandon what needs to be abandoned and confront what needs to be confronted.  “There is no rebirth without a dark night of the soul,” – a quote from Inayat Khan.

“Birth always feels like death from the inside,” –  I’m positive that’s a Stephen King quote, but I’ve yet to be able to find it anywhere online.

I had spent the last three years waiting for the sun to rise.  And as the dawn toes in, softening the world around me, I stare off into the horizon, appreciating the glow with a new set of eyes, and ready like hell to make use of the day.

I remained, lost in oblivion;
My face I reclined on the Beloved.
All ceased and I abandoned myself,
Leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.

excerpts from Dark Night of the Soul, St John of the Cross

The Anger Dissipates

Practically a decade back, I found myself at the mercy of a terrible boss.  A petty, hypocritical, volatile person.  A boss who took me in as an apprentice in the profession, only to toss me out into the deep end, so that I spent more time trying to keep my head above water than I ever did learning how to do my job well.  I was promised a trusting guide and instead was fed to the wolves.

I’d eventually burn out and quit the job and quit the entire field.  I would point to her behavior, her decisions, her antics, as a major contributing factor.  I would walk away carrying a heavy anger – a venom I’d channel into a novel about a highly dysfunctional workplace.  While the book provided catharsis, it was a story written out of malice, and, as a result, was a slog and a chore to read.

That book has not and probably will never see the light of day.  At least not without a proper gutting.

I spent years wondering if I’d ever stop feeling such negative feelings about her, if I’d ever stop wishing for some type of karmic justice, for something to tip the scales back in my favor.  I spent years with that anger in my heart, even as I enrolled in new training and started a new career – a career path that fit me way better than the first ever did.

I thought it was impossible to, but eventually the anger dissipated.  Slowly, incrementally, but continuously, until it was clear that the anger was gone and I had moved on.

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I had a friend, once, someone I knew since junior high.  A friendship that was marked and marred by an intangible force, as if we were destined to never really be on the same wavelength.  As we got older, there was an undeniable undercurrent, an energy that made me look at an innocent interaction one Halloween night and go, “Someday we’ll have a falling out.”

The falling out would be more like a crashing down.  Eventually everything came to a head, leaving me scrambling weeks before my wedding and scratching my head the day after it.

I got so angry and so furious.  I thought about how I — and my husband — had given and given and how she had taken and taken.  I thought about how she could do that and somehow still carry the narrative of her as the victim, as her as the wounded, struggling one.  How dare she behave that way, to walk away calling me every name in the book when I had been constantly morphing myself into whatever worked for her.

I spent a solid year in a state of suffocating anger, even after I ceased contact with her.  A solid year, feeling that deep, destructive venom.  I remember those days, of feeling like two separate people, of feeling like I had become a hostage to my own hatred.  I could not forgive, I could not forget, and I certainly could not move on.

But eventually the anger dissipated.  Eventually I let go and even forgave.  She’s still out of my life, but now so is the hatred.

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“If you’re writing the memoir in order to hurt someone: don’t write the memoir,” an author said at a recent event. “At least, don’t write a public memoir.  If you’re writing the memoir because you feel you have a story to tell, then dive right in, and don’t worry too much about the ‘so what’s and the ‘what will people think’s.”

It was a running mantra for me during the upheavals of the past few years: this will make a great memoir someday.  It was what kept my head above water during the more turbulent moments.  It was what I thought about when things got so comically bad I had no choice but to laugh.

It was what I thought about when I kept silent on the things that I once felt I had to keep silent on — when I was suffering in silence and desperate to have those closest to me hear the whole story, to understand just exactly why these last few years had been hell.

I haven’t begun this memoir, partly because I feel like there are other pieces of the puzzle to find first, other parts of this story that still need to make themselves be known.  Partly because the avenues are so complex and layered that I need more time to sort them out.  Partly because I wrote two fiction manuscripts in the span of 6 months and I’ve temporarily exhausted my ability to do long-term writing pieces.

And partly because I know I can’t write angry.  I’ve done that before.  I wrote a whole book angry.  And the book is rubbish.  I cared more about my feelings and emotions than I did the story, and the story suffered.  Any proper writer will tell you what happens if you don’t prioritize the story above everything else.  I know the only way I can write this story is if I write it because I want to give out a piece of my experience, to find redemption in revealing, to resonate with people in the way we seem to only be able to with memoirs.

I can’t write because I’m angry.

You can write poetry angry.  You can write journal entries angry.  But you can’t write a longer, proper story out of anger.

That doesn’t mean to deny the anger.  Telling yourself you’re not upset when you actually are does not change your emotions.  It just shoves what needs to be processed out of the conscious and into the subconscious – and the subconscious is as good at navigating the tough waters as a young child at the helm of a ship.

It means to dive into that anger.  To recognize and highlight the things that infuriated you – that continue to infuriate you.  To be frustrated and pissed off and to just want justice, to just want the scales tipped back in your favor.  To repeat the cycle, over and over again, sometimes feeling like a hostage to your own complex and contradictory set of emotions.

Because the only way out is through.  To sit with what is and honor it and be honest with it.

Because eventually the anger dissipates.

And then the writing can begin.

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Manchvegas, the Social Introvert, and the Soul

I’ve fallen into a pattern of walking the main streets of New Hampshire’s major cities whenever the weather is nice and I’m able to find a good-enough excuse.

A pattern of parking just far enough outside of the downtown area that I avoid the meters, walking until I’ve blistered the parts of my feet that meet the edges of my shoes, and eventually returning back to the real world, exhausted and filled and achy and whole.


On Thursday, the weather is predicted to jump as high as the 50s.  Practically unheard of, especially for New Hampshire in February.  This time two years ago, we were shoveling ourselves out of yet another blizzard.  Two years later, we’re watching the snow melt into muddy puddles.

I have an appointment with my therapist early in the morning on Thursday.  After 45 minutes of revealing insights and tearing up about things I didn’t think I’d tear up about and having my therapist interject when appropriate (one of the many reasons I have stuck with her for the last few years, even when I thought I was going in circles with her: she doesn’t coddle, she’s willing to interrupt, she’ll call me out when I need calling out), she asks how I’m enjoying the sudden turn in the weather.

“It’s amazing,” I say, in between figuring out the logistics of scheduling out our next session. “I’m actually going over to Elm Street after this, getting a walk in before I return to the real world.”

It’s exactly what I do after I leave.  Her office is barely a 10-minute drive in city traffic to Elm Street in Manchester, and I park just enough into the residential area that I avoid the meters (One-Hour Limit, the sign warns, however).


I step out and immediately take off my jacket.  The air is still cold but the sun is warm enough to hint at how quickly the temperatures will rise.  I take off in the direction of the downtown area, headphones in my ears, my stride in sync with the music.

These walks echo back to my walks around Boston – something I cherished then and cherish now and perhaps will cherish until the day I am no longer able to and can no longer remember.

I cannot tell you anything about the neighborhoods of Manchester.  It took two years living in New Hampshire before I even learned that Manchester’s main street was not called Main St but Elm. But I can tell you exactly what areas remind me of what neighborhoods in Boston.  How the strip of redbrick apartments with rounded, jutted-out walls hearkens back to a strip of apartments in Mission Hill.  How one road reminds me of JP, while another reminds me of Allston.  How one collection of buildings is like Beacon Hill’s kid sister, or how a certain block is a replica of Roxbury.  How the Merrimack River is like the Charles’ vivacious cousin.  How the thriving parts of Manchester remind me of the thriving parts of Downtown Crossing – and how the decaying parts mirror back just a little too acutely.

I shiver slightly in the shade and bask when I’m back in the sunlight.  I maneuver around the fellow pedestrians, the construction workers, the mounds of snow that never got plowed out.

I am content to walk the sidewalks with nowhere to go.  Content to be surrounded by people coming out of stores and restaurants, walking by me on the streets.  It fills my soul in a way that nothing else can – not even the best, most refreshing hike.

If an introvert is supposed to gain energy by being alone, then there’s something faulty in my wiring.  I’ve joked before about being a walking contradiction – a social introvert.   Constantly wanting to interact, but never knowing what to say.  Seeking out social events while still carrying deep social anxiety.  Adoring people but also becoming drained by them.

I can never explain it adequately enough, and the only people who really get what I’m saying are fellow social introverts.  That I live for concerts and comedians and theatre because I’m quite literally surrounded by people – and people that I know, in some way, are here for the same reason I’m here.  That I don’t go silent in social situations because I’m bored or unhappy; I go silent to observe.  That I will dive into the deep waters of conversation with people I’ve only known for a little while, if only because I abhor the shallow pleasantries – that, really, the only part of socializing that exhausts me is the casual chatter, the adherence to the social script.

I loop around Elm Street and wander down the side streets and make my way to the Merrimack River.  At this spot, the water churns wildly over rocks and edges.  Not even a few miles south, it will calm down dramatically.  By the time it hits Nashua, it will appear as serene as a lake.  But, up here, it moves in violent ways, ways that threaten anything that dares to be in it.

There are countless symbolic avenues one can go down with such an observation.  But sometimes it’s just nice to observe.


One-Hour Limit.  That’s what I remind myself.  Another voice points out how lax the meter maids are in that area of town, how many times I’ve gone over limit with no tickets or citations.

Another voice reminds me that the One-Hour Limit is not just about parking.  I have things that need to get done.  The real world awaits.  That same voice is annoyed that I’m even doing this in the first place: how will I ever Learn to Adult if I keep blowing off work in favor of wandering around.

The sun has made good on its promise.  The weather is now warm enough that I’m starting to sweat, even in the shade, even in just my long-sleeved shirt and yoga pants.  I start bargaining with myself – okay, get these assignments done, get this bit of homework done, email these set of people, then you can drive down to Nashua early and walk Main Street before your evening class.  In some ways, that bargaining is the only thing that forces me to drive home and not up north to Concord, to lather, rinse, repeat in that city, too.

I drive with the windows down, my music now playing through the Bluetooth in my car.  I chuckle at myself, reminded of a passing conversation the day before about music and how I’ve been trying to become more okay with silence – that I don’t always have to be playing music.  But apparently today is not that day.  The songs on my phone are filling the spots that the walk might’ve missed.  It’s too perfect of a complement to give up.  Tomorrow can be a day I tackle silence again.

I get home and eschew everything to write.  To my right is my anatomy textbook – a thick, dense monstrosity, in some ways the bane of my existence for the last 5+ months.  A perennial sword of Damocles, hanging over my head, no matter where I am in the assigned reading.  A book that makes me wish I could throw myself into the future – a future where I have read it, cover to cover, and miraculously absorbed all of the information.

How am I going to Learn to Adult if I keep blowing things off in favor of writing.  Perhaps I’ll never learn to adult.  Perhaps that struggle between what I know I should be doing and what feeds my soul will constantly rage on, as violent as the Merrimack as it passes through Manchester, or as deceptively quiet as the Charles as it passes through Boston.