Tagged reflection

Filling up my meter

Image from simqueen.wordpress.com
If you’ve ever played the Sims, you know that for nearly every action or interaction—whether it’s talking to a family member, pulling weeds from the garden or observing a new piece of art—your Sim (depending on his/her personality) will react with plusses and minuses. Every moment is more like a transaction. 

I once conjured a super anal, flannel-wearing Virgo with a shaggy beard, OCD tendencies and a love of classical music. His favorite color was green and his name was Aiden. The dude was annoyed with just about everything. In particular, he hated when his mother-in-law baited him in conversation. Most oft, he was just trying to make some pancakes (another of his favorites), but she would block him from getting to the refrigerator, waving her hands like a madwoman as she discussed dollar signs and gossiped about the neighbors. Not only did he not enjoy small talk, but if the toilet or the sink was dirty when he tried to get ready for work, he’d throw a fit and clean, missing his carpool altogether. Not even the act of cleaning nor the resulting sparkling bowls were enough to make tiny blue plus signs appear! And then I’d have to spend more time on him, trying to up his mojo for the day so he would want to go to work the next day (and so on). Difficult dude. 
I know how crazy this all sounds. But bear with me. The point is… we all have our Aiden days.
 
And on days like today, I think about that point system, how we are all just action and reaction… that simple (and that complex). Depending on how we were raised, our past experiences, sensitivity and mood, some of us are predisposed to get the feels, or not. Some of us are more or less affected. While some peeps are easy to rattle, others seem brick-like and unable to be touched. There are the sad and the overjoyed, the busied and the lazy. But no matter who we are, we might find ourselves in the negative… because we had a disappointing conversation with a friend, burnt our pancakes or came home to too many dishes in the sink. Or you know, maybe it’s just that all of those things happened in one day.

Shit, I know it’s me. But I keep bumping into blahs. Just one of those days whereliving feels hard and maybe even pointless, and boy, do I know how melodramatic it sounds… but like my mouse-hand, I an trying to find the things to up my meter. 7:05 p.m. And now, after collecting final papers from students, I can go home and paint, love on my cats and A… and fill up my meter. 

What do you do when you’re having a bad day? How do you make the plusses appear over your head?

Tell me things. 

mt

You have to love you

 

Moon Blur

So many are hurting right now. What’s up, planets?

This I’m realizing more and more: being aware comes with a bit of sadness. Ok, more than a bit. Sometimes noticing the bs and narrowing down motives and intentions and behaviors can feel like a whole ocean of sadness that you have to (somehow) stay on top of, ride the waves. Besides sadness, analyzing yourself and the people around you can really take the magic out of shit. I keep picturing the Wizard behind the curtain in his shiny glistening green castle.

This year I’ve come across more personality-disordered individuals than I even realized existed. I mean, this isn’t to sound better-than or unempathetic (because typically those folks are the way they are for one reason or another.) But that’s just it—too much empathy and you’re letting in unhealthy, self-serving “victims” who are great at taking you on their drama-coasters. Worse still is that some of us are prey, easy because we are sad, insecure, unfulfilled, self-deprecating, etc. Not being well—in whatever way you want to put it—makes us targets. And at this age, after 20 or more years of unhealthy thoughts and behaviors? It feels damning and unchangeable. It’s hard to break habits and even to tell them apart from personality traits and whatever hole it is you got yourself stuck in.

Up to this point, if you identify with such a sitch, you might also be the caretaker, the dominant, the “control freak,” the anxious worrier—responsible, ever-guilty, shameful and a member of the royal court of Never-Enoughs. Maybe you grew up having to emotionally care for parental figures, siblings, etc. (this along with your young self.) So then what? You end up stubbornly independent and responsible, likely hyper-critical of yourself and possibly others. But under there, in a place you don’t want to admit exists, is a deeply buried need to be “taken care of”—the way no one ever really did for you. It’s ok. That doesn’t make you weak or wrong. Of course, you’ll never want to admit to it (see: stubbornly independent) and so you’ll repress it and it’ll come out in unhealthy ways attracting all sorts of characters (narcissists, borderline folks, basically those that can see what you need but also your vulnerabilities). Ugh.

These peeps (in particular I’m seeing, borderline folks) will see your dark because they, too, are a bit broken. Whether they are malicious or unaware, this crew will suck you dry. They are vultures. They might not make sense to you. They blame you. They surprise you. They have a different reality in which THEY ARE ALWAYS THE VICTIM. That’s a huge red flag in my experience. But you know, these people will make you feel good, so the drama is worth it. And maybe they are right; maybe it IS your fault (that’s when your insecurity feeds into the game).

I’ve been noticing this trend, though, and watching good people, people I care about, become involved/consumed by these individuals and it’s a world of hurt they don’t deserve.

I’ve kept myself mostly at a distance here for the sake of sharing somewhat objective knowledge with you all. (And hey, I think I needed to get this out of me.) But this distance doesn’t mean I have been without my own experiences. I still fumble with toxic thoughts and relationships and behaviors; I still let insecurity in. The difference is now I see it—both inside myself and around me (what it can do.)

Not to be one of those “brightsiders,” but this lesson is invaluable and a necessary catalyst to venture off of your unhealthy, insecure, sabotage-y  path (and yes, you can still be humble). YOU make you better now. This sounds boring, huh? Like too grownup and not so “fun.” If so, you might not have experienced bottom yet. You have to want out, you know?

Really, at the end of the day, the problem isn’t them. It’s you. They more than likely gave you all the little clues you needed to uncover their intentions, but you weren’t paying attention. You didn’t want to. The bad felt good and you lived there; it’s a twist cone you’ve indulged in all of your life. But now it’s time to work on you, not them. Good people will come. I swear. Fill up your cracks so no one gets in there and shakes up your foundation. If you are solid, those people won’t even bother. If you are solid, you will attract other solids (or at least, those will be the only ones to stick).

Today I felt it, the longing for the caretaker, the neediness I’ve learned to acknowledge and move through. Once in a while it comes—in the form of an invitation to some pity party I don’t want to attend. Why me. I don’t have. I never got. Why can I. Boom. I refuse to indulge for too long, even that comfortable hurt.

I’m writing this because everyone deserves to be ok, to be loved, to let healthy in. Not because I’m judging or pointing fingers. Shit, I still have to remind myself of this. I just came out the other side (mostly) not too long ago and hope to stay here, better. But days are still struggles and the ocean still has the ability to throw me off track.

All I’m saying is protect your heart. Even if it means you must love it to do so. Love yourself? It might sound yucky and cheesy but I won’t tell. (:

<3

mt

 

Even if you stop moving

scoot

Life keeps going.

If nothing else, that’s one thing we can bank on. Even in our stubborn complacency, our unhealthy comforts, our black-hole grief—even if the first thing you think about when you wake up every day is what you are not, or you don’t have, or worse, what you have lost.

This year has been a fierce, really, and in all the ways. Since D died, I have inadvertently split my life into two distinct time periods, before she died and after. Yeah, there are a ton of pivotal moments in my life that could’ve created a similar divide, but they didn’t. Mostly because of who I was before and after, and who I continue to be.

Three years this July.

The anniversary of her death came on so suddenly. It was physical. I was readying myself for a Chicago trip (the same location I headed to the day after her funeral), fussing to finish work assignments, worrying the semester, but then it came on… a wave over me. Not sure that I believe in much, but I do know when I feel her there. She kind of knocks you know. I’m sure you know. I’m sure there is someone you lost or miss and though often it’s the intensity of the missing that conjures them, sometimes they come uninvited. It’s a surprise. And no matter what your beliefs are—god or no god, spiritual or black and white—you invite them in. You invite them because it’s warm and nostalgic, the kind that hurts in the best way.

Do you speak to them? Out loud? A whisper? Inside? I do. I’m not embarrassed to say it—three years later I’m still sneaking in chats. Not like the daily texts and phone calls we engaged in, but car rides and bathroom breaks and walks to the coffeeshop. In that way, I never feel so alone. Not like I used to.

But for some good? Facing fears… and hopefully not foolishly. I got a scooter! It’s a “barely” used guy, a Yamaha Vino 125. It’s honestly been a source of pure joy. I can’t explain it. I’m just glad this summer weather is holding out as long as it is.

Latest poem published by Arsenic Lobster, “ONCE I DIDN’T DROWN IN A LAKE.”

And I finally scored a poem in my white whale of a lit mag, my favorite, Rattle. Scoop up a copy of your own.

But this. This is something that’s been haunting me, this poem and it’s sentiment. It’s so vital. While I wish I’d had discovered it long ago, I don’t think I’d have the Life Equipment to really get it.

Leaving you with it. Here.

mt

 

After Twelve Days of Rain – Dorianne Laux

I couldn’t name it, the sweet
sadness welling up in me for weeks.
So I cleaned, found myself standing
in a room with a rag in my hand,
the birds calling time-to-go, time-to-go.
And like an old woman near the end
of her life I could hear it, the voice
of a man I never loved who pressed
my breasts to his lips and whispered
“My little doves, my white, white lilies.”
I could almost cry when I remember it.

I don’t remember when I began
to call everyone “sweetie,”
as if they were my daughters,
my darlings, my little birds.
I have always loved too much,
or not enough. Last night
I read a poem about God and almost
believed it–God sipping coffee,
smoking cherry tobacco. I’ve arrived
at a time in my life when I could believe
almost anything.

Today, pumping gas into my old car, I stood
hatless in the rain and the whole world
went silent–cars on the wet street
sliding past without sound, the attendant’s
mouth opening and closing on air
as he walked from pump to pump, his footsteps
erased in the rain–nothing
but the tiny numbers in their square windows
rolling by my shoulder, the unstoppable seconds
gliding by as I stood at the Chevron,
balanced evenly on my two feet, a gas nozzle
gripped in my hand, my hair gathering rain.

And I saw it didn’t matter
who had loved me or who I loved. I was alone.
The black oily asphalt, the slick beauty
of the Iranian attendant, the thickening
clouds–nothing was mine. And I understood
finally, after a semester of philosophy,
a thousand books of poetry, after death
and childbirth and the startled cries of men
who called out my name as they entered me,
I finally believed I was alone, felt it
in my actual, visceral heart, heard it echo
like a thin bell. And the sounds
came back, the slish of tires
and footsteps, all the delicate cargo
they carried saying thank you
and yes. So I paid and climbed into my car
as if nothing had happened–
as if everything mattered–What else could I do?

I drove to the grocery store
and bought wheat bread and milk,
a candy bar wrapped in gold foil,
smiled at the teenaged cashier
with the pimpled face and the plastic
name plate pinned above her small breast,
and knew her secret, her sweet fear,
Little bird. Little darling. She handed me
my change, my brown bag, a torn receipt,
pushed the cash drawer in with her hip
and smiled back.

—From What We Carry. (If you don’t have this book, you need it.)

I don’t know how I know, but I know.

Lake Chautauqua Sunset

That was my response after answering a question—with confidence—that I couldn’t possibly know the answer to.

Knowing but not knowing, you know?

These days, I live by logic. Mostly. I still run the gamut of emotions, often frustrated and bubbling over, but now I make decisions. I wait. Younger Meghan? Oh, she donned a reckless impulsivity that could’ve easily ruined me. No, really. I was somewhere like a 7 or 8 on the Richter Scale, a Tazmanian Devil sort of swirling around in a self-made tornado of sadness, loneliness and self-deprecation. I took it to a new level. I wore black girl-sized Dickies and dyed my hair a shade to match. Raise your hand if you feel me.

Knowing without knowing isn’t a science. It’s not sensical. It’s not even like the lesson of maturity I learned (late) in adolescence: Will you ever learn to think before you open that mouth of yours… damnit, Meghan!

(That was my mother’s voice in case you didn’t recognize it. “Damnit Meghan” was more of a household name.) And no, I will learn, but it’s something I’ll wish I could unlearn. At least a little bit.

Knowing without knowing is more like intuition, a phantom kind of thing I’ve always had but couldn’t count on. I’m no mystic, no wizard. But these days I’m counting on it more. Is this a getting old thing? 30 going on 80, yep.

“You need to learn to trust yourself. Right now,” warned the tarot reader who sat across from me, taut-lipped with her hands folded across the table.

But that was in 2012. I’ve made a conscious effort, really, but trusting my guts is worrisome for all kinds of reasons. Just the other day, my guts decided it was ok to spend an hour online trying to locate a rare book of short stories. The day before that, my guts thought it fine to indulge in a plate of General Tso’s Chicken—breaded, fried, glistening with grease, married to a huge helping of oily fried rice. I mean, for someone who relies heavily on logic to keep her in line, intuition is about as grounded as a beach kite. I mean, I stop at Sheetz gas stations at like 11 p.m. for gummy bears so what do I know? I find, however, denying ones guts leads to another set of issues.

So ok, it’s balance I’m looking for in my 30’s. Oddly, where my teens were teary, flailing and faltering, my 20’s were for exercising control and maybe, sometimes, too much (see: picking lint off the floor, having meltdowns cleaning bathtubs…). It only makes sense that I come to this, convergence.

The struggle is the limitations of balance, what the old me might have seen as boring—stagnant and idle—I should now embrace? Kind of like a see-saw, but just because it’s level doesn’t mean there’s no one on it… right? Maybe there are just two forces of equal weight. Precise, shaky, going nowhere? I’ve always hated even numbers…

Man, I could go for a smoke.

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.

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

Next, your nightstand

I wish there was something more poignant about the way I’m feeling right now.

These days it seems that every experience I have (and the feelings that accompany it) are new and strange. Have you ever gotten to that point in your timeline where you realize that you are just… different? The changes certainly weren’t overnight—maybe they came from extreme loss or a job change or marriage, partnered, perhaps, with purposeful self-growth. It doesn’t matter. Either way, you come to this point where you fully realize it. It’s like if you were slowly to replace everything in your bedroom. First, you swap carpeting. The next day, your hamper goes. The next, your sheets. And so on, until eventually everything is different. You feel like a foreigner in your own room, your own shell.

I don’t even know if it’s ok, you know. I just know this is how it is. And I can either accept it or start swapping again.

mt

Summa-summa-time & a visit to the supposed city of my dreams

Hey y’all…

Yep. Being in the south for a week definitely does something to one’s dialect. I mean, it’s not like I’m really toting some raspy drawl or anything, but there have been some slipups. Don’t worry: I came home and said “hey yinz guys” in front of the mirror like 147 times to make sure.

The week-long jaunt to and from Asheville was a much needed vacation. I still did work and fretted over such things as emails and edits, but I think the fresh air and the new surroundings did me good. It’s amazing how gorgeous those mountains are, and how they followed your every move: pumping gas, standing outside for a smoke, walking around town, everywhere. It was kind of like having a sky in your pockets. Or something like that. (I realized upon coming home that we have all those gorgeous mountains, just smaller.)

We ate BBQ, wrote postcards and walked around town (we stayed in Black Mountain), enjoying most of all, the people. What is it that makes us so frustrated, uptight and intolerant? We are so rushed and quick to move onto the next thing. What about right now? Time crept more slowly there and my eyes weren’t fixed to my phone’s clock.

What can I say? Asheville was everything I thought it would be.

The house across the street

I look.

I can’t help it. It’s right across the street. It’s a worn white house with ugly brown trim. Looking at it, I can’t quite point out exactly what it is… why it looks as if it’s caving in on itself. But it does.

When I moved in, my roommate told me the story.

A man lived there, a big man, with no family. Nobody really knew him. Middle-aged. He shot himself a year or so ago. Pretty sad. Could it be any sadder, really? And since then, it’s quirks have haunted me.

It’s been only about five or six times, but sometimes a car will be there. On a Sunday. Once I saw a small gathering, a few men and a woman, purveying it from the sidewalk. Solemn.

Sometimes, a light will be on outside. I’ll run a few errands, come back, and it’ll be out. I don’t think it’s motion-activated. I’ve tested that theory. Sometimes, and this is the worst, the screen door will fly open. It will stay that way for days, flapping. I don’t dare close it. I’ve never come that close.

A small driveway, severely sloped and stout, falls into it like an open mouth, a garage tucked neatly below. And, on a morning not too long ago (aptly during the deep freeze of this winter), I heard a gushing sound emanating from it’s eerie cavern. Water line, I’m sure. And I had to call the cops.

“Who owns it? Does anyone live there?”

And somehow I was explaining my haunt to a policeman, leaving out all of my paranoia.

I don’t know what it means or if it will ever be sold or demolished. But it’s part of my (nearly) everyday. And I just wanted to say it somewhere. I’m sure we all have these things. I’ve even dreamed about the place, the man inside who I’ve never met.

Do you have something like that? Something that scares you, a constant reminder of your mortality?

That’s just one of mine.

mt