Resolve

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I’ll go to the gym.  I’ll volunteer.  I’ll eat better, live better, be stronger.  In a sense, New Year’s Resolutions are a way of testing our resolve — of looking back at what you have no interest in repeating and seeing just how long you can keep those things behind you.  With each item on the list, we are essentially going, “I resolve to turn a new leaf, to go down a new path, to leave behind what needs to be left behind.”  Even the superficial resolutions are deep vows to ourselves, reminders that we have unhealthy habits that need dropping, that there is so much to do in this world.

If 2015 tested my strength, 2016 tested my resolve.  And I vow to go in to 2017 with more than just a set of resolutions.  I want to dive straight to the core — to what those resolutions actually mean, to the promises made to our souls.

I want to stick to resolve.

I resolve to remember my worth.  I resolve to stop trying to be as small and as unassuming as possible.  I resolve to step forward more often and be bigger more often and take up space and be loud and take pride.  I resolve to stop lowering myself just because I worry another person will think I’m too high up.

And I resolve to remember that my worth isn’t based on how many interesting things I can do or extraordinary things I can accomplish.  I resolve to remember my worth is innate, as inborn as my soul and as unknown to the outside world as I allow it to be.

I resolve to remember that worth.

I resolve to remember that actions speak louder than words: that apologies and promises mean nothing if you find yourself in the same cycle, over and over again.  I resolve to remember that my time and my energy are valuable.  I cannot be wasting them by going in circles.  I resolve to remember the very definition of insanity is doing the same thing, over and over, expecting a different outcome.  I resolve to recognize patterns quicker and to have the guts to stop repeating them.

I resolve to remember my worth.

I resolve to communicate directly.  I resolve to speak clearly — not skirt around the issues and hope people will infer & sympathize.  I resolve to plant both feet when I talk, never again retreating back or dropping the subject entirely.  I resolve to never downplay what I’m saying ever again, hurting myself because I don’t want the other person to get hurt.  I resolve to never again silence my suffering at the feet of someone else’s sob story.  I resolve to let my voice be loud and clear, to state simply:

The things you’ve done have brought me pain.”

I resolve to remember my worth.

I resolve to kill the Cool Girl off, once and for all.  I resolve to stop saying, “It’s fine,” when it’s not, it’s not, it’s really fucking not.  I resolve to speak in real time when things are killing my soul, to speak in real time when my soul needs something.  I resolve to kill off this notion that the only way I can be in people’s lives is if I have no wants, no needs, no hang ups, no anything.

I resolve to remember my worth.

I resolve to continue to be proactive about removing the things that drain my soul — and embellishing the things that feed it.  I resolve to remember it’s on me to break cycles, to step away from toxic situations, to step forward towards the things I want.  I resolve to — never again — meekly state my situation and hope someone cares enough to listen and change.  Because, the thing is — they don’t.  It’s on me to blaze the trail and cut out what’s in my way.

I resolve to remember my worth.

I resolve to keep my eyes more open, to not be so blind as to what is blatantly in front of me.  I resolve to be a little less naive, a little more assertive.  I resolve to be vigilante, to not wait until things have to be spelled out for me before I finally act.  I resolve to hold truth in both hands and accept it to the best of my ability.  I resolve to remember there’s a world of difference between positive self-talk and outright denial.  I resolve to not wait until I’ve tapped out my reserves before I finally say, “I won’t give anymore.”

I resolve to remember my worth.

I resolve to take more time to feel the miracle of things, to fight mercilessly against the despair of the world.  To continue to retreat to the mountains and visit the ocean and dive headfirst into life.  I resolve to continue my inquiries, both around and inside of me.  I resolve to be fearless in my pursuits, to let unanswerable questions hang where they must, to solve what can be solved, to build what can be built.

I resolve to remember my worth.

I resolve to remember what is good about me, and to finally drop that “broken” narrative, once and for all.  I resolve to remember the warrior within me that has gotten me as far as she has — and remember that she’s done a pretty damn good job, all things considered.  I resolve to banish the part of me that’s quick to label myself as crazy just because I have emotions, just because I find myself at my wit’s end when I’m hurting.  I resolve to remember there’s a world of difference between regulating responses and outright invalidating feelings.

I resolve to remember I already have resolve, that I’ve come this far with it, and to not act like it’s something I must dig up, create from scratch, make out of absolutely nothing.  Much like my mind, my body, my heart, my spirit, it’s not some shattered thing that I have to scramble to piece together again.  It’s a force in its own right, one that simply can be built from.

I resolve to remember my worth.  And to never forget it again.

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Gardenia / If She Could See Me Now

There’s a new trend on Facebook, one where you post a picture of yourself from 2006, then one from 2016.

I’ve been meaning to do it. Especially since us godforsaken late Millenials — the ones who got Facebook in 2006 — have quick access to those pictures from 10 years ago. I’ve been meaning to take part in this exercise in seeing how different we look, how much we’ve changed.

And I have changed. It’s as clear as the pictures from 10 years ago. In 2006, I had dyed blonde hair and an uneasy smile. I spoke a half octave higher than my actual voice, speaking to the world as if I were afraid it would bite me.  I held my body as if I were ashamed of it. Always too tall, too clumsy, too oafish.  The younger version of me was filled to the brim with potential, but overflowing with self-doubt and self-loathing.  She avoided so much because of it.  She avoided sports because she thought she never would be good at them, because she wasn’t an athlete.

If only she could see me now.


A weekend snowfall cancels school and opens up my Saturday. Plans get shifted and I end up joining my husband into Boston, parting ways briefly as he goes about his original plans before we reconvene for a few get togethers. I do what I do best: I put on my headphones and I walk the streets and immerse myself in.


Walking the streets of Boston with music in my ears is a staple. It was how I explored the city when I first moved in for college. It was how I soothed myself during the tumults of the college experience. It was how I recentered myself when the real world was too chaotic, too monotonous, too anything.  Returning to it is like returning home.

I walk streets I know by heart with songs that are as old as this experience.  Mandy Moore’s “Gardenia” comes on and I might as well be in 2006 again. I decide to go straight to where the majority of my 2006 memories were made — back to my alma mater, back to Huntington Ave and the Huskies and college age me.


Where was I in 2006? Depending on the time of year, an unsure freshman or an unsure sophomore.  A member of the literary magazine committee, eager to see if my latest terrible poem will make it in, and always grateful that the submissions were anonymous and no one ever knew when they were tearing into my work.

I was freshly 20 and filled with pipe dreams. I wanted to publish a novel. I wanted to publish a collection of poems. A collection of short stories. I wanted to be part of anthologies. I wanted to be way more than an aspiring writer.  My fevered little mind wanted people to read what I wrote and tell me that it connected with them.

But how in the world was that even going to happen? About 75% of my work never made it into the literary magazine and I didn’t really have any good book ideas and I probably could never really write a novel, anyway.

Oh if only that younger version of me could see me now.


Walking down Saint Stephens Street to Northeastern University is like reuniting with an old friend. While the other end of campus is rapidly expanding, this side stays the same. Same white brick buildings, same red brick sidewalks.  Mandy Moore croons in my ear.

I’ve been seeing all my old friends in the city, walking alone in Central Park. Doing all the things that I neglected, traded them all in just to be in your arms.”

Huntington Ave still has the same feel. The green line trolleys still emerge from the tunnel like tardy companions.  The tracks still clack.  People still dart across the ways, avoiding trains and cars and gigantic slush puddles.  The world is alive and filled with all walks.  The college kids all look like babies, like they should be worrying about getting their learners permit, not finals.  And I laugh, knowing that I was once one of those babies.  So eager to turn to the world and proclaim adulthood, but no where near close to actually achieving it.  Twenty and naïve and assuming it was all already figured out.

If she could see me now, she’d know how off base she was.


I walk past an old white brick building, one with bay windows and iron railings. The one that used to house a boy I once knew. A boy I once devoted my heart to, and, because of that devotion, I never had the guts to stand firm, to say our arrangement was bullshit, to say that I deserve better. And, in being afraid of losing what little I was given, I was only wounded further.

The entire dynamic shattered my heart and cut me up.  It would continue to cut me up, to walk past that building, after everything was said and done and nothing more would be said or done, reminiscing with too much solemnity on what had happened in that building, rehashing and resurfacing the broken sides of my heart as if to reinspect them.  I used to morosely walk this side of the street, convinced I had lost my One, convinced I would forever feel this way, convinced that my one shot at love had misfired.

I walk by it now and can barely conjure up even the memory of that feeling.  I walk by it and the memory that pops up is one of a saying I saw online: “Remember that time you confused a life lesson for a soulmate?

If only that younger me could see me now.


“Gardenia” is on repeat now.  Mandy Moore sings lightly, sings to the me of 2006 and the me of now.

I hear my own voice. It sounds so silly. I keep telling my story all around. And everything I’ve lost ain’t so different — ’cause this is how everybody gets found.”

My therapist warns me not to spend too much time in the past. And she has a point — looking back too much will tweak your neck. But the last few years have forced nothing short of a constant revisit.  The events from the last 2 years have forced me to compare and contrast, find root causes and flawed motivations and unresolved emotions.  And it all has shown me that sometimes the only way you can let go of the past is to dive headfirst into it.

I’ve already proven to myself that, if you don’t learn from the past, you are doomed to repeat it. I’ve already found that the lessons you refuse to learn will come back around, again and again, until you’ve no choice but to learn them.  I’ve already learned that if you don’t confront your demons, you will always attract people who’ll confirm them.

I think of a poem I’ve written recently, about letting go, and how there really is no such thing as it. We can pretend to pry open our hands and drop what we’ve been carrying. But it will follow us, wondering when it can jump back into our arms. The only way through it is to recognize we can’t let it go, so much as let it be. That we have to blaze forward and forge on ahead and pray we make it out on the other side with some of it left behind.


My time at my old college is short. There is too much to see, too many streets I want to visit before reconvening with my husband. There are memories on every corner and I have no interest lingering at one of them for too long.  I loop around the Museum of Fine Art and around the Fens and toward Mass Ave again. I revisit familiar roads filled with strangers and forge on ahead, letting what needs to fall by the wayside linger behind me on the streets.

I don’t wanna hang up the phone yet. It’s been good, getting to know me more.”

This Is What It Feels Like to Write a Novel

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I once likened writing a book to a long run.

A really long run.

Particularly, that part in the run when you’ve hit the wall, when the road stretches out into infinity in front of you.  When you feel like you’ve started running through molasses, when you feel less like you’re running so much as you’re picking up one foot and placing it back down on the exact same spot.  When you feel like you’ve run out of energy and you swear you’re going no where and the actual end is no where in sight.

And it’s true.  It does feel like that sometimes.  Sometimes it feels like a slog.  Like you’re dredging the swamp and coming up with muck.  It feels like murder with each keystroke, like each word has latched on to the back of your mind, the tip of your tongue, and refuses to come out.

But it’s not always like that.  The reality is that writing a novel is like any intricate, long-term endeavor.  It’s a complicated, nuanced, layered beast. Continue reading

This Is What Rebuilding Feels Like

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It was Thanksgiving of 2014 when I looked at the man sitting in the arm chair of the living room.  Thanksgiving of 2014 when I looked at a shell of a human being, a shell that was simultaneously hollow and yet filled with all the things I still couldn’t sort out.

It was Thanksgiving of 2014 when I sat in my car, shell-shocked and exhausted, and muttered, “I think that was my father’s last Thanksgiving.”

It was three days after the Thanksgiving of 2014 when he was rushed to the ER, and five days after Thanksgiving when he was transferred to the ICU.  It was a week after Thanksgiving when words like “encephalopathy” were thrown around, among a slew of words that never need repeating.

December of 2014 was marked with confusion and stress, with phone calls and conversations so maddening that I felt like throwing my phone against the wall.  My father would be in and out of the hospital, fighting tooth and nail to stay at home and rounding up anyone who agreed.  I’d be in and out of reality, desperate for a breath away from what life was turning into.

He’s spend his last December in the hospital.  I’d spend his last December in a anxious haze that gave the world a soft, surreal glow.

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Thanksgiving of 2015 was the first one without him.  My husband and I hosted a humble Thanksgiving, bringing my mother and my little brother up to New Hampshire.

My mother’s talk and demeanor gave hint to the damage of my father’s decline.  It had been almost two months since he had passed and so much had been hollowed out in the wake of it.  Things echoed in ways that caused sideways glances and knowing looks and a profound feeling of soul weariness.

December of 2015 was a weary one.  It echoed the previous December.  It echoed all of 2015, which would turn out to be a year of extreme and brutal upheavals.  It was a month of going through the motions, of being leery of the Christmas cheer and absolutely desperate for it at the same time.  It was a December of exhaustion, of a hazy reality, of a frustrating and confusing ache that lay heavier than any snowfall.

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The world was a different place by the time Thanksgiving of 2016 rolled around.  By 2016’s Thanksgiving, our family tree had trimmed off yet a few more branches: my older siblings’ mother, my beloved brother-in-law, both gone within a month of each other.  One death happening weeks before my father’s one-year anniversary, the other a few weeks after.

I brought up my mother and my little brother up again for dinner.  I could hear one of my nephew’s comments echoing through my head:

It feels like all of family get-togethers as of late have been at funerals and wakes.”

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The world was a different place.  There was no other way around it.  November echoed the lessons learned in 2016.  The beautiful and heartbreaking revelations and realizations.  The devastating and unshackling truths.  The recognition of the rebirths that had happened (and had to happen) in the midst of such merciless change.

In the midst of this evolution, there was an unshakable understanding that I was not the person I was in 2014, and I was not the person I was in 2015.  I was barely the person I was in October.  A page had been turned and I had adapted accordingly.  True to my promise to myself, I had risen from the ashes like the Phoenix, reborn and stronger than ever.

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Unlike December of 2014, when I wished to dive into holiday cheer to escape — or December of 2015, when the holiday cheer served as a brutal mocking for how badly it had failed me the year before — this December is different.

The start of this December was subtle.  As subtle as listening to the Christmas music on the radio with an easy ear, of making Christmas plans without the weight of the world on my shoulders.

This December proved itself gentler.  It didn’t roll in with hypnotic and intoxicating nostalgia.  It didn’t envelop me in all things merry and bright.  It stepped in slightly, let itself be known, and waited for me to react.

And I reacted with decor.  I put up the garlands and the knick-knacks and the lights because it felt right.  As right as my morning cup of coffee, as right as turning the volume up when the right song comes on.  There was no fight, no struggle, no overwhelming sense of duty.  Just a subtle step forward and into the holiday cheer.

Just a toe into the festivities, as if it were the most natural thing to do.

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“Let’s go over the basics,” my husband says as we go to the tree farm. “We’ll keep the tree wrapped until it’s all the way inside, we’ll make sure to never, ever use a plastic stand again…”

He references the comedy of errors from previous Christmases, a little bit of light-hearted humor as we set aside time to wander the rows of trees and cut down our favorite one.

Even the tree we pick is subtle and gentle.  It’s not the behemoth from 2015.  It’s not the tree I desperately wished was the one, right tree, the perfect tree, like I did in 2014.  It simply called out from the ones around it.

“Pick me.  I’m exactly what this Christmas will be.”

One of the men working at the farm is from Paris.  In his thick French accent, he asks if I am from Germany.  Apparently my sing-songy, vaguely-Boston, pseudo-SoCal accent sounds Eastern European to a set of foreign ears.

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We set up the tree in our living room.  Our black cat patrols the area, jumping up onto furniture and giving his signature head butts.  The room already has the subtle scents of evergreen.

The lights are colorful and bright and bold.  The ornaments echo back to a blindly and beautifully simpler time.  Trans Siberian Orchestra plays throughout the house.  We decorate the tree, casually talking about gift ideas and joking about farts and strategically placing the good ornaments by the top & the cheap ornaments by the bottom.  There is no need to desperately reference the past, or escape from the present, or worry about the future.  Both cats watch us, ready to bat at the bottom ornaments.

“This is what rebuilding feels like,” I thought to myself, letting Christmas be what it needs to be, in its simple and light and ethereal glory.

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