Category: Insights

Scary shit

Dingy Diner Doodles

Sometimes I catch a feeling, a gigantic wind. It might be that I feed it, let it consume me. If I do, it will grow and so I count on it as I would any tangible thing so big, lake or mountain. It will become memory inevitably, taking up (I think) that same space.

Years later, something may poke at it—an image, a person, a song, a smell—and it seems the weight of those years has flattened it, a two-dimensional feeling.

Sometimes I am grateful that it isn’t so strong.
Sometimes I am disappointed by this.
Sometimes it makes the better poem, flat like that.

But no matter the outcome, the passive yet brutal way in which time can take down mountains… that scares the shit out of me.

30, basically

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There’s always something terribly sad to think about. Terribly terrible. And sometimes when you haven’t tricked your brain quite right, it skips to that terribly sad thing without your allowing it.

And the longer you live, the more terribly sad things you acquire. So you have to learn how to trick your brain better. But then you might become “jaded” or “hard” or “avoidant,” and maybe then even the good things have a way of not being the brightest.

It’s a fine line between feeling and hard, carrying and letting go. And I call that line 30.

I posted this at about 3 a.m. on Facebook the other day. There’s something about that social medium, being hit with the lives of so many at once, that prompts me to think more wholly, more big picture stuff. On days where I feel inspired by the people around me, I create anthems. Mostly in my head. Just small truths that I can hold onto, that can connect me to others. I’m always relating and empathizing and hoping people get it.
But maybe it’s just loneliness? And not the OMGIMSINGLEANDNEEDSAVED loneliness, but the kind that’s always just there like another skin. Maybe I’m still that 6th grader still writing in her journal about how she just doesn’t fit, how other girls are pretty and popular and have nice hair and cool clothes and I’m too scared to be anything but a clown.

I don’t know that much has changed. But everything.

Livejournal or bust

HermitTarot

Oh, I remember those days.

I used to spew my guts on Livejournal.com like some sort of uncensored, four-eyed mutant with a lead role and more feelings than dollars in my weekly Giant Eagle paycheck. Writing often, I would weave my emo thoughts and rants with bolded song lyrics. I would choose 100×100-pixeled avatar images of faceless girls in sad corners or dead-flower GIFs with flashing text reading shit like “it doesn’t even matter anymore.”

But that’s just it, it did matter. Everything mattered. Probably too much mattering.

Today as I ventured back into that world of “Everybody Hurts” and ambiguous crush speak, I stumbled upon a quote that struck me:

“The more profound you are, the more meaning you need.”

It doesn’t feel too long ago that everything hurt. I was an open wound walking, or so the cliche goes. I walked around like that for years in corduroys and striped sweaters, a heart dangling from my seams like a loose thread.

But the years wore me down, maybe. Here and there, we lose people to lack of humility or pride, to distance, to miscommunication, to disinterest, to one-ups and to one-downs. Each time a gut blow. (It’s tremendous, honestly, how much friends mean to me. Without much of a traditional blood-related crew, my friends have always been my family.) And then came a divorce-like split after so many years.That loss was more than familiar or romantic or plutonic, but all of it. Necessary and healthy, maybe. But not without pain. Still, even then, I went forward with my guts between my teeth, handing them out like hard candy.

And then my favorite person in the whole world died.

So that was it,  I guess. The last time I really remember feeling like that, a live wire under my skin. And I say, if this is growing up, it blows.

I told A the other day (after dealing myself a nearly-all-reversed spread of cards): “I guess I had to shut something off recently… to deal with the stress of small and big things. And maybe I just haven’t turned it back on. That’s where I am.”

I’ve never seen a spread that blocked and I’ve been reading cards since high school.

But it’s been more than just recently (more than this jet stream of bad luck I’m refusing to whine about any more on my blog). I’m stuck now wondering, years later, after her death, will I ever learn how to turn it back on? Don’t get me wrong, I feel a flicker on occasion. I’m absolutely ok, and you know, sometimes my heart gets full and round and I can hear the blood pulsing in my ears. But is that it? I just want to know.

Is strength, is growing up, really just dulling the nerves and dumbing down our hearts… is the only thing that really changes the things that change us?

I don’t buy it. I can’t won’t.

mt

Some serious flip-flop envy

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Ok, so I’m sitting here being a total creep.

A few weeks back, upon getting some worrisome news about a back x-ray, I decided to check in with Children’s Hospital to see if they had any of my old medical records. We’re talking about stuff from nearly 30 years ago. I wasn’t super hopeful, but my mom pushed me to try. At best, I’d get something out of it that would help me (and eventually my docs) to understand the current sitch.

Guess what? After signing off on some paperwork and paying exactly 49¢, the mail came today with my records. I got a CD-ROM with a locked PDF containing scanned in doctors’ notes and pre-op notes and WOW. It’s a little creepy, actually. Some of it is like doctors talking to each other and eeeeee… Why is it so unnerving?

Out of pure Meghan-like impulse, I started writing an understandably skeeved out status message on Facebook. But soon I realized, as the note rounded off its third paragraph, that shit was a little heavier than I first thought, a little too much for a status message maybe. I seem to be operating under this odd cocktail of nostalgia, pride and grief. In fact, I might have just cried as I was typing it, which is both embarrassing to admit and kind of sad to think about—you know, thinking those mean kids from grade school apparently still have that much power over me. (And to be fair, it wasn’t just them. I was pretty mean to myself in those years. So I’ll lump myself into the mean kids category here.)

Originally, the Facebook message was explaining how I was born with a funky foot/leg. A deformity, to be a little more scientific and unsettling. Soon after I popped out, the docs told my mom I would be in a wheelchair my whole life. Can you imagine? But so they ended up doing all these wild surgeries and procedures—ones that were setting a sort of precedence for infants at the time. I had to wear a big honkin’ cast up to my hip (until I was two-ish), but that didn’t stop me. I learned to walk in that thing. I was pretty much a monkey as a child, funky foot or not. No wheelchair, though—not even once.

As an adult it’s so much easier to look at that and feel grateful. I could’ve been in a wheelchair, but now I walk, run, jog… who am I shitting? It’s still hard. It’s still hard not to get frustrated with my foot, even for silly superficial reasons like not being able to wear flip-flops. And I guess that’s the place we live in, you know? I never ever felt “normal.” Now I know that it’s ok, that I’m so “abnormal” in so many other ways that my foot is the least of my worries. Ha.

But when I was a kid, I had no solace for myself. No one did. I used to imagine all the things I wanted, namely being a star on Broadway, were now out of the question. Once I figured it out, of course, and asked the right questions. How could I perform on stage in cool costumes with high-heeled and elaborate shoes if I couldn’t wear 70% of the shoes at the store for “normal” kids? To top it off, I had myself convinced that no one would ever want to date me. Would I be able to date someone and get away with never exposing my foot? Impossible!

I wish that was it, that my self-critique was all I had to put up with. But it wasn’t. Kids caught wind of my foot issues, maybe a pool party or something (those which made me the saddest of all), and they did what kids do—they ran with it. I mean, they really created some cleverly cruel nicknames, though. Some even rhymed! And if that wasn’t enough mean-kid fodder, I was fat. Hah! I absolutely had no chance. All of these things made me the most sensitive, poke-able pint out there… so you better believe the kids ate that shit up.

But hey, this is a big step right now. I’m telling the world the very thing I’ve spent my life trying to hide under socks and Chucks and Doc Martens and water shoes at the beach—I’M NOT QUITE RIGHT AND THAT’S OK. I can’t wear high heels. I can’t wear most shoes, actually. I’ll probably never be on Broadway. And if they make a Barbie of me (like I so thought they might as a child), it would have to have a screwy foot too. And I’m ok with it.

And you know, I’m always pointing a finger indignantly into the air (ask A), saying things like “…and that’s why I don’t want to have kids,” as if I have to defend my decision to be childless constantly. But this is something that stays so real with me. Thinking about how those kids made me feel every day… ugh. And I know how dramatic this all sounds, but it was sort of dramatic. And looking at these scanned-in documents, it still seems kind of dramatic. I just hope these days, we can show kids how to be more tolerant and loving, that we can find a way to make their hearts big and their hurt small. Because it’s one thing if I were to have a kid who is teased or picked on—something that would probably hurt too much to bear—but it’s another thing entirely to have a kid who does the teasing and the picking on. So let’s be the example for them, you know?

 

Oh, and thanks for reading this slop. <3
mt

 

EDIT FOR AFTERTHOUGHT: The point of this blog post wasn’t so I could garner pity or be commended. First, it was an emotional response to so many feelings. I felt empowered, like I had overcome some shit and can now speak about it and not be afraid.

Too, I think I’m feeling a little sad about how mean kids could be and how much it has affected my being. So permanent, really. It’s hard for me to even believe kids could be that cruel… and I hadn’t thought about it for a while, so it sort of hit me like a punch in the mouth. I’m glad that I still believe in people and didn’t turn out all bitter and spiteful. And that’s just luck, in my opinion.

Lastly, I think the bigger message is to teach kids to be kind. Not just teach, but SHOW THEM. I don’t mean you have to shelter them and allow them to be ignorant, but what about empathy? I didn’t mention it above (because I didn’t want to get even more cliche and melodramatic), but I’m glad for all that garbage. It helped me to becoming understanding, considerate and sensitive to people and how I make them feel. I have a lot of very real flaws, but I know for a fact that my heart is full. I’m glad of it. Despite. (:

Moving and not moving

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So it goes.

A and I packed up our shit, piled into our friends’ car and hit the road for Asheville last Thursday morning. Doped up on Dramamine and too little sleep, my heart was fluttering and flying. Despite the excitement, I fell asleep over and over again in A’s lap, waking to a new state each time I opened my eyes. I felt like I was small again, curled up in the backseat completely dependent on the grown ups manning the ship. You know. I wasn’t worried about the music choice, taking the wrong exit, weather conditions, traffic… just at peace, swaying to the hum of the tires rounding below.

We were moving to Asheville. I did it all. I talked to my workplace. That was step one. A scary step one that seemed to go over well. Relief.

Then, I started mentally preparing myself. When I woke up in the mornings, I began to log all that I would say goodbye to soon. Goodbye, room. Goodbye, cat. Goodbye, mornings stumbling out of the house and to the gym. Goodbye, Oakland Avenue. I got myself pretty sad just by doing it. But it needed to be done. Preparation. A lot of things that make you sad need to be done. True story.

Next, I told my friends. Most everyone close to me (and even those in my periphery) probably know how I long to move, leave this dot on the map. It’s not because I hate everyone or that I have fallen out of love with my buddies or even that I don’t enjoy where I am. It’s mostly because the world is so large, so full, and we all get stuck in these little grooves. I want to unstick myself. I want to explore a little, gain some experience points. Everyone I know has moved or left, left and come back, picked up and never returned to their home base. I just want that freedom, even if for a little while. I don’t think my declaration was much of a surprise to anyone, really. Maybe only in that I was serious this time. I was taking all the right steps. Hell, I even threw up an elusive Instagram photo that seemed to trigger an online hullabaloo of goodbyes I wasn’t equipped for. Damn.

I saved this part for last, because it was what I dreaded most: I told my mom. Sure, it was a flighty text message. Of course, she misunderstood it the first time and I had to retell her days later. You bet I used plenty of good emojis and made sure to keep things light. It’s all I know how to do. But all was well. I was a grown up, doing grown up things, about to thrust myself into a new world. Good, grown up.

But then the actual trip came. A and I planned to scope out neighborhoods, look up places to live (which we’d already been doing on Craigslist). We started our journey jazzed up, ready to take on the Asheville rental community. But this gusto quickly fizzled. The prices were high, the waitlists were long, the competition was nearly impossible.

“Yeah, we put something up on Craigslist and get about 14 calls in the first hour. It’s hard to keep up with,” a prospective landlord divulged.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m no dumb-bum. I know a salesperson when I see one, but this was the story from everyone we spoke with—from property management companies to Asheville newcomers to old-head Asheville folk. It is competitive.

“About 1 in every 10 people that come to see my places,” another prospective landlord estimated, “is actually from North Carolina. The rest are from out of state. Everyone wants to move here!”

Ok, so it’s difficult. I know difficult. I work so hard. I am not afraid of work. But it wasn’t the work that had us waving our white flag. We made posters, hung them up in coffeeshops. We made calls, met up with people. Drove around looking for lawn signs (not an Asheville thing, by the way). We went out of our way to converse with strangers in grocery stores, in restaurants, on the streets. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s networking. Because why not? I’m always willing to help someone out. That’s how the world works. We’re here for each other.

So why no move? It was that the magic that seemed lost. Maybe it was the hustle and bustle of competition, the way a prize is hyped up to be more than it is. Sure, the mountains are beautiful, the hippie liberal swag of the city, the artist vibe of every indie shop, the temperate weather and influx of sunshine… it’s a great place, it really is. And everyone knows it. Jobs are scarce, housing is rare and overpriced, every corner we turned (both literally and figuratively) seemed flooded. Asheville is the trend and we were hopping on board—but perhaps too late. Maybe it was that we both got our periods and were overwhelmed with hormones and paranoia and doubt. Is it worth it? Giving up our friends and home and connections and A’s career. Loads of questions and in it unfamiliarity.

I’m not saying it won’t happen ever, that I won’t ever unstick myself from this groove. But maybe it’s not the worst groove to be stuck in, you know? And before jumping ship, I want to make sure I’m diving into the right sea. It might not be Asheville. It might not be now. And as embarrassed as I am to redact my former verdict of leaving, I’m glad that we discovered this before it was too late.

Now we’re looking in Pittsburgh, Regent Square being a hopeful possibility.

And to be honest, I’m eager to throw myself into Pittsburgh: a place I already know and love and court on the weekends like some fulfilling affair. Hey, I’m excited again, feeling rejuvenated, thinking about all the lovely, lovely people I’ve gotten to know there. The writers, the Biddle’s crew, the Bayardstown folk… if you’ll have me. <3

So the bottom line? Appreciate the now, where you are, the present dance. It’s a hymn I’ve sung to many, even lately. But one that I struggle with myself.

I accept the challenge.
mt

PISSPOT

FrostyBlues

Fuck it. I bought a Frosty.

I wanted to celebrate the last few weeks of hell, the end of a painful semester, the triumph of telling the world HEY, I’M MOVING TO ANOTHER STATE and having that declaration hold me accountable.

I wanted to celebrate, but I also didn’t want to put pants on.

Wait. So I had pants on, but sweatpants. And as much as I wish I could be one of those people jauntily strolling into the grocery in my sagging boy sweatpants, I just can’t do it. So I settled for a drive-thru run at 9 p.m., a little self-celebration. I’m both shitting my pants and reeling with excitement. I think the two go hand-in-hand.

Also, why the hell are Frostys so damn drippy?

What’s worse is I decided the only way I could squitch another ounce of work out of my body was if I gave myself an end treat. Not just the Frosty, but I downloaded a ROM for my computer to talk myself into relaxing after my work was done. Pokémon Blue. Get out of town! I felt like I was 13 again, swaggin’ about the Viridian Forest with my Pokédex and 3 super undertrained pocket monsters. Whatever. I spent the last hour holed up in front of my 27″ iMac—an ingenious tool pumped up with supersonic speed processing and a brilliant retina screen to play a pixelated and anticlimactic videogame from the 90’s. This is what life has come to. (I also named rival Ash, “PISSPOT,” which had me in inevitable hysterics every time he popped up for a battle.)

To better paint the scene, ENTER a burning Yankee Christmas Tree candle and drippy Frosty lid making a mess of me. What is this?

Why am I telling you all of this? I don’t know. Because it’s nearly midnight, I’m to be up in a few hours for an adventure to Asheville, NC (future dwelling locale), with some amazing people and I’m fucking giddy. And I just did about one month’s worth of work for both jobs in like one week.

But this week held some heart gushers and it made me realize why I do what I do, which nudge of the Universe to let guide me. In the meantime, I’m going to ignore the raging guilt of having eaten a Frosty and spending an hour playing Pokémon.

Right.

 

<3

mt

Moleskine musing

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I’ve slept on floors, on pull-out sofa beds, on ash-sprinkled backseats, my body tucked in on itself, conserving space and dreaming. I grew up and into shapes, edging  corners and rounding curves—an eye on my imposition: how much of me could fill the room, how much of me could remain invisible.

Now, the world makes me, turns me over in its sweaty palm like an imperfect marble, weak planet, dwarf star. I’m dense, punctured, changed without my permission. Alien. It’s true: what we endure creates who we are. Even then, experience has only made me feel lonelier. Is that the emo kid speaking? On a Weebl toon the other day called “Late Night Shopping 2,” I caught a tiny detail in the cartoon, a box with some scribble on it. I had to rewind to see:

“Emo Cakes: The cakes that eat themselves.”

That sounds about right. Hah. Is that what I’m doing?

Anyhow, where once was the vastness of blue-blanket sky, the hope of impossible highway miles, the canvas of unpaved lots, the wings of folded and refolded maps in my car’s door pocket… I have come to this, book-ended.

Everything keeps getting smaller but what’s in me.

What’s with that?

 

mt

 

Repeating remainder

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Damn.

Maybe it was after Robin Williams’s death that this truth really smacked me. More likely his death was a reprisal of some other thing. I’m sure the initial feeling announced itself one of the many times D was praising my art or my writing that I came to this epiphany. Prior to her, praise was in the form of penned stars, circled descriptions and meetings with professors and advisors. I mean, a few close friends of mine(who were into such things) definitely enjoyed my work on occasion. But they were friends, they were writers or painters… it was in their realm of understanding. Besides, I dated a science major who “hated poetry”—or so she told me one night after a reading. Clearly that didn’t work out.

So I guess this truth unraveled itself when I was near someone who didn’t have that much stake in me. A visitor into my world, my worlds, whatever realms those art people live in. I never knew that a compliment could hurt.

Let me explain before things get silly. Some of the deepest pain I’ve felt came during those years… 2012-13. The end of the world. I was discovering all of these parts of myself, bleeding inside a lot. I was pretty messy. Anyhow, this was also a tremendously prolific time in my world as far as writing and art went. And so every time she grinned at my paintings or poked around in my poetry, it felt like she had an eye on my insides.

“It’s like excrement, though,” I told her.

“What?”

I explained that the process was pain, that it was like a black hole at my center. And maybe the stuff that came out was pretty. (Quasar talk again.) But what went into it wasn’t.

“I don’t care. I still like it,” she’d say.

She didn’t get it, of course. Or maybe she didn’t want to. It would ruin the thing—words or acrylic—and who would want to tarnish something so visual, tangible, aesthetically pleasing?

It’s just been on my mind. Sometimes it’s hard to see my work, have people praise it—especially writing. Because what went into creating it was hard and almost (I wonder) not worth it? At the same time, someone praising you, believing in you, supporting you… that makes it worth it, makes you keep going. It’s like some strange kind of solace and they don’t even know it’s happening. I don’t know what kind of monster that makes me.

Artists and their repeating remainders: what doesn’t fit neatly, all these pieces and parts of ourselves… we keep going, keep creating. That’s how we hold it together.

mt

Goodbye, 2014

New Year's Review // © Meghan Tutolo

2015. Are you serious? Ah, I can’t believe it. I can recall my 12-year-old self awake with the seemingly difficult math (of an oncoming Y2K)—how old will I be when the world ends? I was mad then, because if the world ended in 2000, I wouldn’t be able to drive yet. I’m glad those were my issues with the apocalypse. Driving and all.

I’ll be frank: I’ve put off this New Year’s entry for 3+ days. I had planned on something a little more froofy—a little more hippy dippy—but in the span of a few days, I’ve had my parked car plowed into (subsequently hitting A’s car and a telephone pole) and so I’m feeling a little skeptical. Do years really reflect their first few days? I hope not. But I did find 20 bucks in a used book the day before. Ahem. This is denial, isn’t it?

The worst year of my life thus far (2012) began with my good friend blowing chunks all over herself mere inches from me, while the ball dropped and the party hooted around us. It was movie epic. This was followed soon by my cleaning off said chunks from her and my other good friend’s floor. It was all too funny and embarrassing to be disheartening. And honestly, I learned something valuable— if pushed suddenly into desperation mode, I could clean chunky alcoholic puke off of people and things without puking. Even whilst drunk.

So there’s that.

Well, 2014, this is my ode to you: all gummy bears and cat photos and getting a chapbook published. And let me not forget, full of love. Love and letting go, that is. Maybe it wasn’t just 2014, maybe it’s been a few years in the making, but I’ve slowly come to realize that the company I keep is important as ever. You and your friends are sort of a team, you know? And keeping people around out of comfort or commonality isn’t enough. Or perhaps this is all just bullshit and I’ve just become lazy. I don’t know.

“Growing up means preferring silence over bullshit.”

I don’t know who the hell said this, but that sums up where I am.

 

Carrie Furnaces, Pittsburgh PA / © Meghan Tutolo

A few things I discovered in 2014
and that you need to check out ASAP

+ so much more…
Anyhow, I’m going to leave you with a poem. It’s gorgeous and so perfect for right now.

 

JANUARY / W. S. Merwin

So after weeks of rain
at night the winter stars
that much farther in heaven
without our having seen them
in far light are still forming
the heavy elements
that when the stars are gone
fly up as dust finer
by many times than a hair
and recognize each other
in the dark travelling
at great speed and becoming
our bodies in our time
looking up after rain
in the cold night together

Thanks for reading, being a part of my victories and my stumbles. <3
mt

A little dark for December

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It seems like everyone is dying these days. Matt told me not to make a list.

“Please don’t,” he asked loudly from his bedroom.

We talk like this most days: through walls, overtop house static and the far-away rattle of Main Street just a few blocks below.

“Where are you going?” he asks on nights like this, seeming surprised. But he doesn’t need to ask. He knows. The parking lot.

“Geez,” he’ll say.

I say it as nonchalantly as “the mall” or “Giant Eagle.” He knows me by now. When you live in a house with someone, you learn these types of things. For me, it’s how Matt spends nearly every evening on the couch flicking undecidedly over Netflix movies, falling asleep there snuggled with the cat (about 20 minutes after he finally chooses a film or TV show to watch). He cleans with vinegar. He makes random late-night stops at the cupboard to grab a fistful of granola. These types of things. For him, it’s my rituals he learns—my gummy-bear binging, my space-heater occupying, my evening coffee, my tendency to leave the house anywhere between 9 and 11 for a restless Walmart run, or worse, the parking lot. We both talk to the cat in a demanding and unhealthy way.

But it’s already December. And stranger than that realization is the the unescapable truth that loss is in the air: the way the smoke from a blown-out candle lingers a little too long.

Who am I to comment on this? Everyone in close range to me is ok—fortunately, and fuck if I’m not knocking so hard on my wooden desk right now. It’s those on the periphery. And for as much as I’m not trying to make this about me, my heart is breaking all over the place, you know? For them. Am I allowed to say that? It just feels wrong to mention, like these aren’t “my people,” but “my people’s people.”  It’s just that death is a lesson I’ve learned, a lesson I grew up with and grew to. Maybe it stirs it back up like some sticky fingers reaching gut-level. I hate watching others learn it, whether it’s for the first time or not.

It seems to have all started with Robin Williams’s death and that awfully omen-like dream I had just days before about him. I still can’t shake that.

Anyway, battles everywhere are being lost—to cancer, to addiction, to suicide, to old age (even). And at this time of year, it’s all we can do to let the Christmas lights twinkle and the holiday songs play without feeling the cut of grief and loss, no matter what shape it takes. So instead of “bah humbug”—I’m being grateful. Let the magic in, for those who can stand it.

To everyone facing loss right now, my heart is with you. All the way. <3

mt