The empty vessel makes the loudest sound.

In a charcoal grey 2007 Prius, there is a touchscreen in the console that demonstrates the energy usage between the battery and the electric motor. I’d be willing to bet that all 2007 Prius’ have this feature, regardless of color.

As you hit the has pedal to drive, the electric motor powers the car and charges the battery with the output energy in order to create an efficient system. I’ve noticed that when I get in the car, I have no motivation to drive anywhere. Without driving anywhere, the battery will empty itself eventually.

I seem to have that effect on things.

When I was too lethargic to crawl out of the covers this morning, my dress hung limp on the hanger, hanged by it’s own unmet expectations.

I didn’t eat breakfast this morning and my empty stomach complained all during church. Now the dark chocolate cherry biscotti bag is empty too. And my poor coffee cup has been emptied at least 3 times.

Showering felt like too much of an effort so I decided to fill the bathtub to the brim with steaming water and bubbles. But as a last ditch effort to fill and fulfill something, I partnered a wineglass with Merlot. Now the faucet drips morosely into a hollow tub and the wineglass is sideways in a sink as the bubbles are crushed under my breath and release their own empty space into the mist on the mirror.

Hello is an empty word too if you think about it. The “H” is separated by a wall in the middle, the lonely lines punished like fair lovers in Verona, never to meet again. The “e” is sliced in half by early commitment and the tail-end is dangling in the breeze, desperate for something else to satisfy. The “l” envy the “h” and “e” because Hey, at least they were able to have a relationship with any other line in the first place, no matter how it turned out! But the “l” soldiers on it’s lonely path, parallel to anyone and anything else.  Do I even have to explain the “o” and the way it’s very existence echoes purposely, regardless of the capital or lowercase-ness?

I’m sorry if you’re reading this because I have this sort of effect on things…

Hello.

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Forcing through the doldrums is like forcing a fart – you feel so much better afterwards.

4 1/2 cups of flour.
2 1/2 teaspoons of yeast.
1 bottle Honey Wheat Blue Moon ale.
1/4 cup sugar.
1/2 teaspoon salt.
1 jar strawberry jelly borrowed from my great grandma.

Friendships run cheap these days.

I had never seen her outside of a lab coat – I didn’t even know she had 12 different flavors of coffee next to her Keurig until I sat at her kitchen table, perusing her countertop as I pretended not to notice her precarious limp. She could only offer me a glass of water; anything heavier and I’d have to get it myself.

The cuckoo clock (that’s an odd, certainly personal touch) clanged against the lipstick red wall – despite the aforementioned atrocity, she seemed to have strong decorative taste. Until I saw all the flamingo memorabilia on her back porch
in Margaritaville just a few steps out the back.

Perhaps I judged too soon.

She said she would return to work in three weeks.  Although I believed her, I should’ve doubted it when I remembered that she was 52 and scheduled for a hip surgery with two major complications.  Nine weeks later, I feel bad for not having visited sooner.

Until she lets it slip that no one else has come to visit her either.

I arrive at 3:57 pm. I’m late, but after discovering that I am the Christopher Columbus of visitors, I shrug it off. She hugs me 4 times in the course of an hour.  I didn’t get back in my car until 6:31 pm.

I remember chatting the whole time, but I can’t really pinpoint any specific topics: her dog, Pixie, was shedding a lot. Her husband was a Colts fan and – as predicted – they had done so poorly this year that he didn’t even get any satisfaction yelling at the TV, but rather sat dejectedly on the couch wishing the game would end.  Physical therapy was going as well as expected (and by that, it wasn’t progressing at all. Not even in a tango style with 2 steps forwards and 1 back.) The weather was nice, but the air smelled of fall and the leaves were whispering that they would turn soon.

I didn’t think it was very much effort on my part.

But she texted everyone in the department on Monday to send them a picture of her breakfast: homemade toast with strawberry jelly.

Her husband had 3 pieces.

I got two friends for the price of one.

 

 

 

Self-care is survival but self-love is sacred.

There are no wrong decisions.

Somehow I’ve managed to get to my 22nd year in this life and no one ever told me this.

There are no wrong decisions after your tears have blended with the water in the shower as your head is flooded with thoughts between the alternatives, your knees are as raw as your eyelids from falling on the floor and begging God – or the universe, whoever responds first – for an answer, when you’ve typed and printed and dated your resignation letter and hung it on your fridge so you can see it everyday.

When you’ve reached that point, there are no wrong decisions.

Of all the things my mother taught me how to do, taking care of myself was never one of them.  I never realized how important it was to actually love the body where your soul resides. And now, as I tilt my head and listen to the muscle knots crunch over each other, I wonder how long it would take for the neglect to catch up with me if I hadn’t noticed the decay when I did.  The bags under my eyelids are not designer, my friends. But I can remember the last time I felt well-rested!

Tuesday. Two short days ago when I had a day off work.  It was the first morning I can remember when I told my husband good morning before coffee.

I’ve never done that before.

I also notice the pain in my fingertips as a type from nails whittled down to nibs, ripped cuticles wearing drops of blood like ruby necklaces, and the flaking, onion-like layers of the nail itself floating across the keys.

If it were anyone else, I’d scoop them up and wrap like a burrito in a blanket, hand them a cup of homemade hot chocolate (made using my tiramisu truffles from Italy – what else?) and stroke their hair as I convinced them to quit their job – or anything else that made them so dreadfully unhappy.

And knowing that, I have to ask:

Why can’t I do that for myself?

Sometimes you find what you’re supposed to do by doing what you’re not supposed to do.

In twos, shouldering burdens fifty times our weight, I marched next to you
as the teeming crowd lumped us into boxes, our bright futures
fated as our cardboard crowns perched precariously on our heads –
further evidence that our participation-trophy-childhoods hadn’t lost
its steeled grip on the helm that directed our prescribed paths
while we gulped anti-anxiety pills down with the rest of our choices.

Of all the decisions made to sit here -in row 27, seat C – how many were my own choices?
Hundreds of parents leering, like the oncoming boot to crush the ant, to congratulate us,
to mechanically applaud your first (last?) step on a path
that looks too much like theirs for us to be satisfied with the future
ahead. And based on the number of trembling lips and the listless lost
atmosphere lingering over the graduates, it’s not all in my head.

Tassels swing like the gallows as we twist back-and-forth, our heads
unconsciously refusing to accept this ceremony and wondering if we chose
to play along in the first place. But here we stand – and then sit – and then stand again – in a game already lost.
I wish I could roll the dice again because I keep landing on Boardwalk and you
swallow my pink paper money as if that could guarantee your own future.
There are no shortcuts on that path.

But I say that as if my path
was any different, too innocent to cause heads
to roll. Each generation thinks itself better than the last, but the future
contradicts the intentions of the past. I wonder if my own choices
be as devastating – from the ones who could only afford Mediterranean Avenue, to you
who have invested everything you own to never lose.

But if you play the game like that, I think you’ve already lost.
Truth be told, there is nothing I can do to prevent any backlash, no path
so smooth. I just wish that would’ve been in the parenting manual you
read when I was the size of a grape, an apple, when my powdery bald head
fit in one hand. Did you regret any of your choices
when you contemplated this little future?

What relative term – because here we stand, in that imagined “future,”
in the millisecond before it lingers in the present and tumbles into the past. I lose
you in the crowd. I’m on my own now. And so, I make the first of many choices
and hesitate on the stage, my outstretched hand reaching for the paper to start my path.
Thoughts pound, insistent knocking on the door, in my head
and I turn, eyes scanning the crowd, peering for you.

Because on graduation day, you’re old enough to finally realize
that the only path you care to take
is the one that heads home.

If a woman is not Cleopatra, who owns Egypt?

On March 21, 2009, a sweet old hag of a good girl whispered goodbye to su hijo in the East Los Angeles apartment that echoed as hollow as the heartbeat that stopped right when she wanted it to, regardless of whether or not she knew it was what she wanted.

She wrote a poetry chapbook and published in 2002.  Alane Rollings helped her edit it and so was gifted a signed copy – could anyone give a more personal gift?  (Did not J.K. Rowling have the same idea when she turned a book into a piece of a soul?)

Alane was the second wife of writer Richard Stern – not that anyone outside of academics would know who he was since he basked in the shadows of his fellow friends and writers (he said after all, that he didn’t need to write, only that he wanted to do so). But Richard too died and Alane survived him, although she moved out of the house that reminded her of him.

And she left all her books.  Once the writer was gone, the writing never mean anything to her either.

And so it came, that a poetry chapbook by the name of Good Girl was given to Wilson. Wilson owned an antiquarian bookstore in Chesterton, Indiana.  And like a good girl, it sat quietly on the shelf, gathering dust but holding back the sneeze.

Until one very normal August Saturday morning, when I nodded to the accordion player at the European Market and ducked in the bookshop to avoid the piercing glare of the sun AND and the florist who heard me say that buying bouquets of sunflowers were a waste of money.

And finally, such a chapbook finds a home on my own bookshelf, awaiting the day when I can read it to my baby girl.  Because she needs to know that womanhood is ugly and that some people add mascara and blush to the title of “mother” to disguise the pain that comes with it – the heartbreak that I’m sure that same baby girl will inflict upon me before too much time passes.  Because all decent human beings need to know who Lee McCarthy is.

And just to give you a tease, here’s a stanza from a poem called “Conrad’s Mother”:

A woman who lives alone

will go out at nine o’clock at night

to buy ranch dip for the carrots, cappuccino

truffle chocolates for the office, and yoghurt

even though they’ve taken the h out.