To A New Beginning

Friends,

Nearly six years ago to the day, I started this blog. I had no idea when I wrote my first entry that within a few months I would be boarding a plane to San Francisco, or that I’d still be there six years later with that orange cat I dreamed up. I had no idea how many times I would fall in love, or how I would write about it here. Well, maybe I had some idea that I would write about it here. I needed to. I didn’t have the tools to speak honestly, fearlessly, emotionally. I didn’t have the confidence to reveal the parts of myself that I considered shameful, weak, or undesirable. I didn’t have the insight to accept that I am a complex and emotional creature, imperfect.

Increasingly over the past year or two, I have contributed less and less to this blog, and not for a lack of trying. I’ve started entry after entry, and each time my brain would start to feel like I was wearing a hat that was too tight. My brain feels like that now. It may be that I need glasses, I wouldn’t rule it out, but if I’m honest, as I’ve committed to be, I think it’s because I’m trying to hold onto something that is ending.

Having this outlet has allowed me to outgrow it. This blog has given me the confidence to speak my truth directly rather than in carefully coded messages. This blog has helped me follow my gut and find gratification in my work, my family, the friends who have stayed close. Still, I’m clinging on to this blog. I’m clinging on to this blog because some of my finest writing is contained in it. I’m clinging on to this blog because in many cases it’s the last connection I have to people who are no longer in my life, but hold a lasting place in my heart.

This blog has been a gift, an opportunity to share all the joy and pain that I couldn’t contain within myself, that I feel so grateful to have possessed. This blog, as exposed as it is, has been my safety. It has been the thing that has allowed me to be more authentic, more self-accepting, more kind and honest and brave than I thought possible. The time that I’ve spent here has been precious. I want to stay in this place forever and feel these feeling indefinitely. But, if I’ve discovered anything through this process, it’s that there is a time for everything, and that time passes, and here so has mine.

To each of you who has read and responded to these letters, thank you for letting me be heard. Thank you for your kind words. Thank you for joining me in this journey so I didn’t have to walk it alone.

To each of you who have found yourself directly or indirectly the subject of my letters, know that at the root of each word there is a profound and timeless love. Know that I am aware of the role I played. Know that there are things I would change. Know that I have many regrets. Know that I think of you often and struggle not to write you daily. Know that I’ll continue to read the words I wrote for you, and that I will continue to want the things I asked of you. Most importantly, thank you for being patient with me and compassionate towards me.

The time for this place has passed, but rather than mourn the end, please join me in celebrating a new beginning.

For the last time here, but forever yours, and with love,

Lili

Meddle

Oh meddling. It’s almost as satisfying to feel the word trickle off my tongue as it is to watch the tiny catalyst of intent spark a firework of reactions and feelings. I am a tinkerer, a tradesman who melds fantasy with reality until they form a single metal to meddle with. I should have a medal in meddling, a gold medallion that hangs from my neck, my albatross.

I’ve forced myself to sit here and type my fantasies onto a blank page rather than into a message to you. It would be impossible to keep these thoughts to myself, and since there are things that should remain unsaid, I’ll use this as a placeholder for all the things I can not be transparent about. I will repackage my thoughts into clever twists of tongue so that my hands and imagination will stay occupied while my heart steadies. Outside of my writing I have no other outlet for feelings I can’t act on.

But even here I’m stunted. The point of this exercise in restraint is to avoid stirring the pot, but even carefully coded allusions run the risk of being understood. I’m stuck. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to extract myself from these situations that I have to admit I had a hand in creating. I don’t know how to step back from feelings that have developed despite my better judgement. The feelings aren’t the issue so much, it’s the actions that follow, and the consequences thereafter.

There are a thousand things I want to explain to you here, but I won’t, because I’m trying to protect your feelings, my feelings, the feelings of someone you don’t even know is in the picture but is significant to me in ways I’ve never shared with you for various reasons. And, I want it to be clear that the “you” that I’m addressing exists in many forms at various points in this letter, and that I’m pointing that out to further obscure who they may be.

More than anything, I want you to know that I meddle when I’m reminded of something I want and can not have. It is the direct result of longing, of identifying a want and feeling powerless to claim it. I meddle because the instant gratification irrational behavior elicits reminds me what control feels like. Meddling is the cousin of chaos, chaos had long been a friend, but we had irreconcilable differences and agreed to part ways a while back. Still, something feels empty. I miss my friend, and I miss you.

I will not include the last part of this letter which was far too specific, but I’ll read it silently to myself and imagine you’ve heard it and understand. After all, this whole thing started as a fantasy, so the resolution can take place in my mind just as easily as it began. I won’t feel any better than I do now, but at least I won’t have to find out the real ending to a story I never thought I’d see come true.

Love,

Lili

The Fool

I’m a fool, or feel foolishly often when I move compulsively towards something I once regarded skeptically, and then decided single-mindedly was perfection in one of its myriad forms. I seek out answers in strangers who all too suddenly possess the qualities I never knew I wanted. I wholeheartedly embrace anyone who holds the promise of home.

Home, of course, is the place where I am my most authentic. Home, naturally, is the state of being where I feel most complete, fulfilled, and active in living out the fantasy life I’m determined will become real. Home is where love is unconditionally enjoyed. Home is where I am fulfilling my potential, where my inner world is brought to life on a small stage in a million places. Home is where I let myself say “a billion places” because that is the truth of my desire. I have a heart at home, one that I all too readily make available here, at this point on my journey where I met you, on my way towards the place I call home but feel endlessly far from.

Here, as I’ve said before, I love impetuously. I am a fool, here, I am a fool. And I can’t blame you, or you, or you, for seeing that and being drawn in, it’s charming to be sure. Who can resist a fool when she’s a fool for you? How could your fragile ego say no? Mine couldn’t when you whispered kind words, or made me the object of your affection, if only for a moment. Silly as I am, I know a moment when I see one. Foolish as I am, I turned to you and asked for you to make it last longer. You’re no magician, you’re a mortal man, and mortal men have no power to control the elements of time. I wonder if that scares you.

I’m going home, and this is where I leave you. I am not a fool further down the road, and this happy hapless mess you hold on the occasions when it suits you, will shortly be a small speck in the distance. Stay here, or take your own path away from this place, but do not keep me from continuing on mine. Although I hate goodbyes, very soon your voice will hardly rise above a faint echo in the caverns of my mind. Very soon, your image will blur seamlessly into the scenery. And, though I am scared to walk alone, I will not wait. And, once I’ve gone, I will not come back to find you. I can not risk getting lost again. I can not be delayed. And though I admit I’ve paused to call out the names of past companions, I know in my heart that they’ll never catch up. And although it pains me to leave you, and although I often entertain the idea of stopping for a while and building a shelter where I stand, I will keep moving on. Nothing I can build here will ever compare to where I’m going.

I can see that you still think your charm could keep me here. You are grievously mistaken. You only know me as a fool. I am a fool, but a few steps from here I’m a king.

The Phoenix

We often look to the phoenix in times of struggle. A phoenix is beautiful, but when it loses its luster it bursts into flames to be reborn from its ashes. We’re enthralled by the phoenix in its immortality. But, the Phoenix is vain. When it reaches a point where it finds its feathers to be mottled and imperfect, it spontaneously combusts. That is its nature. It is impermanent. It is forever starting over. It self-destructs.

I used to be a phoenix. I used to go through the same cycle – build, grow strong, see flaws, destroy, become my “new” self, build, grow strong, see flaws, destroy, and marvel at the spectacle with a macabre glee. Because I would start again, I felt I was someone new. Because I felt new, I would create something beautiful, perhaps a relationship, maybe an idea. But, I could only enjoy it for a fleeting moment before the downward spiral would begin. Everything was temporary. There was only a brief history of self to build on, and I would find out I just became the same old bird I was before. Phoenixes perpetuate cycles of growth and destruction because that’s all they know how to do, and when I see that tendency in others, I am afraid I’ll be consumed by it. I’m afraid that I’ll explode too, that I’ll have to start again.

The thing is, I’m not a phoenix anymore. Somehow, perhaps during my cycle of destruction, I changed entirely. I became a snake. When a snake loses its luster, it sheds its skin as it moves forward. A snake is not spectacular by any means, it is solitary and unassuming compared to a phoenix in all its glory. But, a snake grows. A snake carries strength in every inch of its body. A snake is poised. A snake unhinges its jaw to swallow life in one fell swoop. A snake does not move backwards. As a snake, I can shed the unnecessary superficial aspects of myself that limit my movement. As a snake, I can bear my scars and watch as they become less visible with each new skin. As a snake, I continue to grow and change while maintaining the essence of myself.

A phoenix gives the illusions of many lives, but is stuck in an unchanging cycle. Do not be fooled by the phoenix. Instead, follow the snake.

To The Myth (A Farewell to the Man)

I recently unpacked my diaries and read about you. There were details I had switched around in my head, things I had forgotten that detract from the myth I’ve created based on our interactions. I had forgotten that, once upon a time, you were just a person to me.

I’m never ready to say goodbye, but I have accepted (if only rationally) that there is no longer any common thread between who you are and what you represented to me. I can’t find the words to properly communicate my embarrassment and grief. You were so important to me, or rather, the idea of you was so important to me, as a person you were very disappointing.

For the longest time, I have given you credit for inspiring my successes. My world turned upside down when I met you, and for the longest time, I thought you were the one who did the turning, that your very essence was the push that started me on the path I’d always hoped to be on. When I read those paragraphs about how you were selfish, how you were disinterested, I realized how wrong I’ve been. I was doing the turning. I was the one who was brave. I was the one who decided to risk everything for what I wanted. I was the one who pursued what I felt passionately about, and I am ultimately the one who will succeed. That isn’t to say you won’t succeed, it’s just that your success is irrelevant.

I feel ashamed at the thought of you reading this, but then again, you are not the man that I’m directing this towards. This is a letter to the myth. You two are separate entities now. One of you is an actual person who I have no connection to, the other is a phantom that I have decided to release.

With that, you are gone.

-L

To 234 – 236

Dear M,

I met you at your low moment, one I’ll remember vividly and you are unlikely to. You’re all of 22, which is an age that holds particular significance for me. The circumstances under which we met will remain between us. I feel no sense of pride for what I did, or desire to discuss what I saw. I don’t feel the need to tell the world about my triumphs of character anymore. I think what unites us is our very human flaws and struggles. The only person I want to talk to about this is your mother. I wish I saved her phone number. I want her to know you’re going to be okay. I wonder if she got my message, or where you are now, or if she knows that her son struggles as much as he excels. I don’t know the intricacies of your relationship, but you called her on Friday which would suggest you are close. Of course, who am I to say.

Why am I writing you now? Well, because you were the best part of yesterday. You, at your worst, made me feel like I was at my best. You gave me a sense of purpose for all those minutes we shared. That’s important, because I rarely have the opportunity to do real things, good things, ones that leave lasting impressions or inject a vein of kindness into the ether. A friend asked in so many words why I care. Well, caring is the only thing that feels good to me. Kindness is the only act that I feel truly connected to. It’s the only religion I have. My faith lies in karma.

The downside of following a limited faith is that there are few moments in my life where I can practice it. It’s not to say I don’t follow the tenants of kindness, or acknowledge that even small offerings hold some meaning, it’s just that they all take place in a vacuum of uselessness and production for consumption. It is uncomfortable to acknowledge how little impact I make, and how the things I strive to achieve are mostly selfish and egotistical. I wish I were braver. I also question whether those feelings are the act of my inner saboteur, the one who tells me my small victories won’t be big enough, to divert my energy towards “better” things so nothing will get completed at all. What if it were to change? What if it’s right? What do you think, M? Or should I not be asking? I don’t know which of your demons will answer.

My best wishes for you, and take care of yourself.

Lili

To Lili, Age 22

Dear Lili,

I’ve been reading your diaries. I stumbled on that entry on February 13th where you were adamant that you would never sleep with Alasdair again, and then the entry on February 15th when you admitted sleeping with Alasdair the previous night. I think we can both see the humor in that. What made me sad was your detached analysis of your motives, your willingness to admit that he was the antidote to the crippling loneliness you felt that day, that you feel most days.

I remember that time well. You’re under an incredible amount of pressure, mostly self-imposed, to finish your university career with a flourish. You’re living with people you don’t feel close to or particularly comfortable with, and you are failing miserably at maintaining the facade of mental stability. Sorry to break it to you, but it’s not fooling anyone. That being said, nobody is helping either. Your parents have no idea what is happening to their daughter or how to help. Your therapist’s eating disorder is starting to consume (pardon the pun) your sessions, and you’re not sure whether she’s sharing her experiences to try and normalize yours, or whether she’s just losing her grip too. You’re tired all the time, and you think it’s an illness, but it’s probably just severe depression. It’s an awful, awful time for you. You feel crazy. Everything is a trigger. You’ve already spent two years intermittently trying to starve yourself and time your binges to when everyone is out of earshot so that you can force yourself to throw up. It’s bad. It’s really bad.

You write that you feel like two people, you’re not half wrong. You’re growing up, badly I should add. Your rebellious phase is all happening internally, and you’re doing a lot of damage girl. There is a part of you that wants to remain a child, and it is viciously and violently attacking the woman that you can’t help becoming. That’s nature, baby. You can’t avoid it.

I wish I was there to walk you through the next three years, to keep you from tripping over the life you’re inheriting. Of course, if I did you wouldn’t end up where I am now. If you looked at me you’d be disappointed because I’m not 110lbs and I’m still getting coffee for people. However, I’m financially independent, I’m in a loving relationship, and I can’t even remember the last time I binged or tried to starve myself. In other words, I’m on the other side. That person you don’t recognize in the mirror, that’s me. That’s us. We did it. Everything else is just an added bonus from here on out.

Just know that your life will be yours again, and this disgusting, petty disease will eventually be tamed. You’ll end up sleeping with a few more Alasdairs, but company is company, and you should always be grateful for someone who was willing to be the person you needed in the moment you needed them.

Love Lili,
Age 26

26

When I woke up this morning, I remembered how we used to decorate our friends’ lockers on their birthday. I saw the wrapping paper and curled ribbon tacked to top locker near the room where I took History with Mr. Wilson vividly, and last night’s dream came back to me.

I was in a somberly lit hall, not unlike a museum, with doors to different lecture theaters, and I was reunited with two men I had loved in high school. I say men, because it was the boys I knew then as I imagine them to be now. I was reminded how innocent those feelings were then. How common it was to pine over someone for months, even years, with a passion fueled by the most innocuous interactions. Those years, where all you needed was the feeling of an arm brushing against yours.

How simple it is now, with physical affection exchanged frequently, easily, and thoughtlessly. In the rare cases when I’m forced to wait, I turn to the nearest willing participant and pull them on top of me in order to suffocate those feelings

I don’t know quite how I managed to retain my sanity as I floated down the hallway behind these boys all those years ago, hoping for moments in dark corners backstage, scheming a hundred scenarios that could lead to just one kiss. None of my silly plots ever manifested that kiss, alcohol did. Drunkenness allowed us all to shed our reservations and fears, and swap saliva in an unflattering and ultimately destructive way. The things we wanted to do had consequences.

I’ll never regret those kisses. But, it occurs to me now that ultimately, both resented me for it. And now, I can only think of the times where a victory in love for me was a failure for him, a moment of weakness, a lesson to be learned, about what I couldn’t say.

I recognize the hunger I woke up with. It wasn’t for apples and peanut butter. It was to be back in that lecture hall with those boys from high school who I loved, and who I never questioned, and it sits in me.

It’s my birthday soon, and there is no locker to decorate… I have my own house. I guess I could fill it with balloons if I wanted to.

To The Empty Space

Dear empty space,

I don’t mind being alone in my waking hours. I have a thousand thoughts to occupy my mind. And even when I see other people together, I don’t feel lonely. I have company enough of the time. I only feel your absence when I contemplate sleep, and there is nobody there to whom to say goodnight. I liked having you here. You’re bigger than a plush toy and warmer than any blanket. You protected me from all the bad things that could haunt me during my most vulnerable hours. You were my companion in dreamland, and my good morning. And now, when I wake up the first thing I see is the sun, and it breaks my heart a little. There is nothing to keep me under the covers except the promise of more sleep, which is, as I said, no longer desirable. And I know there are reasons that you’re in your own bed a stones throw away. I realize that this was a temporary arrangement until you found your way back home. And I understand that there will be a time in the not so distant future that you will be my daytime companion, but that is not a comforting thought, because I have nightmares and you kept them at bay those hours you slept beside me.

Love Lili

To The Old Year

Dear 2013,

I feel obliged to write to you, to round out this year with a summation of what I have learned, but I have rugs to vacuum and dishes to wash. I have towels to hang, bags of miscellany to sort through, and a garden I have neglected. To write to you as an exercise in self-reflection feels forced, and false, and gratuitous.

When I wrote to you last year, it was an acknowledgement of my fallibility. The “Year of Ass-Kicking” is one I am happy to leave behind. It was a formative year for sure, but not one I care to dwell on further. That is why there will be no summation today. There will be no lessons learned, or fantasies explored. I am going to clean my house and prepare it for the year to come, dust away the memories that lurk in its corners, open the windows to let in cold winter light wash over the walls, and make it new.

Love Lili