No such thing as forever

I’m going home to Dublin tonight. I haven’t been back since January, but that doesn’t quite count. I was with my Dad and moody and mostly ate chips in bed.

This time, I’m fortunate to stay in The Gresham (which just happened to be cheaper than The Holiday Inn this week despite being the only 4 star hotel I’ve ever booked in my life).

I’ve been avoiding going back to Dublin. Four years ago, nearly five, I lived in the city and met people unlike any other people I had ever known. They didn’t judge me, they didn’t pester me about my anti-social ways, and they loved me more deeply than I had ever believed possible.

Growing up from school to school and county to county, I didn’t have many friends. The few I did make, I struggled to keep when I inevitably moved away again. The perpetual new-girl, eventually I stopped trying to connect with people. I was weird and emotional and didn’t have married parents (which was a bigger deal when I was younger than it is now). I came from a family of abuse that not many could relate to even if I did somehow manage to open the tightly sealed shell I kept around myself.

When I moved to Dublin, things changed. For the first time I felt I had a home. To this day when people ask me where I’m from I’ll begrudgingly tell them where I was born and then somehow slip in that Dublin is my real home. A lot of what made this little city I only spent a year in feel like home were the people–the friendships I made there.

Later, when those friendships dissolved like sugar in rain, the heartbreak I felt was unparalleled. To some extent I can still see how I am left reeling from the effects of losing people I was sure would be in my life forever. I keep people at an arms length now in a way I didn’t before. I expect them to leave me, not the other way around.

I get the odd Facebook salute of “we should catch up!” and “let me know when you’re in town!”, but largely I’ve dropped below the radar. One of my best friends at the time got married and didn’t invite me to the wedding. He’ll be having his first child next month, someone told me. We haven’t spoken in years.

At this point I’m fine with it. I know it doesn’t sound like it, but the fact that I can write this without crying is some progress. I’m a different person than I was when they knew me. They’d recognise my face, but not much else. Dublin is different, too. More violent I hear. More construction everywhere.

I’m not afraid to go home anymore, wondering if I’ll see one of them in the street and they’ll stop me as if I don’t still have splinters in my heart from the ease of their abandonment. I’ve got new friends. Maybe they’ll last, maybe they won’t. People grow up and grow apart. There’s no such thing as forever, and for the first time that doesn’t make me as sad as it once did.

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Falling in like

Do you know those funny dreams you have where you think you’re falling so your half-conscious body twitches violently in response, hoping to save itself? I think I must be dreaming, because try as I might, logic be damned, I’m falling in like.

I won’t say love. I know love. This isn’t love. The love I once knew ultimately ended in heartbreak. Twice. This isn’t love. Part of me refuses to even get close to such a thing again without some semblance of security. One foot out the door. Walls around my heart taller than those in Jericho. I know I sound jaded. I guess I am. It’s a long story and one many could tell themselves, so I won’t go into it. All I know is that serial monogamist me is suddenly craving something both casual but also comforting. I fantasise about marriage while at the same time trying not to roll my eyes at the impending divorce I see all around me. I imagine my future and for the first time I question if I’ll really be sharing it with anyone. I never wanted my own kids. Maybe I’ll adopt one day. I don’t need a husband for that. I’m surprising myself. I’m a hopeless romantic, I swear. Lately, though, wading through the seemingly endless dating-app-rape-culture-bullshit, I feel less optimistic.

There is this boy, though. I didn’t pay him much attention at first, I’ll admit. I don’t really remember what changed. One day I could see the colour of his eyes. One day I noticed how much I enjoyed being near him. Simple stuff. Like. Things like how easily he can make me laugh.

I’m not optimistic. He mightn’t even be in like back. Why chance it?

How has 21st century dating turned a hopeless romantic into a pessimistic mess? How is the next generation supposed to survive or emotionally cope? Perhaps none of us will use the word “love” anymore. Maybe it’ll become a slur, a curse, a la Brave New World. Perhaps we’ll have to settle for falling in like.

Time flies 

Being an adult means relating to the White Rabbit way more than ever before. I tend to be one of those people who are early for just about every appointment. I’m that way partially because of my super structured Dad and partially because I always feel two steps behind the rest of the world. I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!

When JORD Wood Watches asked to partner with me, I knew I wanted to blog about time. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m in the Creative Writing MA at University of Limerick. From the second I touched down at Shannon Airport, I’ve felt like I’m lagging a bit. Having lived in Dublin previously, I arrogantly expected any culture shock to be minor. Having graduated from a previous university cum laude, I expected to excel easily in my programme of study. I have been humbled. We’re not even at the halfway point but I daydream frequently about dropping out.

Last night, however, I went out with my classmates, and I was yet again reminded of how like The White Rabbit I am—too obsessed with what’s coming ahead and not enough on what’s happening now. I haven’t had fun like I had last night in actual years. Plural. There’s nothing quite like being open to spontaneity and then being pleasantly rewarded.

A wooden watch is a beautiful thing. It’s unique and stylish. It smells earthen, it has the weight of craftsmanship, and the crisp precision details of time itself. I keep time on my JORD watch, and I get to choose to make each of those seconds count.

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Good luck and remember time is what you make of it! Xx

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Great Expectations 

Limerick is not Dublin.

Dublin is home. The noise and clamour made barely noticeable by the briny stench of the Liffey. The electric blip of the street signs unleash floods of people in every colour. Birds sit on statues of rebellious heroes. They scream, but they’re drowned out by smoggy busses.

Limerick is not Dublin. Dublin is not Dublin.

Dublin is a memory from a girl who no longer exists in a city that once was all she needed. I changed, but I hoped everything else would stay the same. Frozen in soft-focused nostalgia.

These past few weeks have been hard. I yearned for independence and I got it. Like a child wishing for a false something-like-adulthood, I discovered independence was not what I had dreamed it to be.

My roommate is lovely. A Chinese girl who struggles through her conversations with me–translating her words into ones I can understand. I think she’s so brave. My classmates have been amazing, too. I love being surrounded by other writers. But they’re not friends yet. We smile politely, but we go home and we don’t text each other. I think of them at night. I wonder where they go home to. I wonder if they think of me, lonely and dark.

Limerick is not Dublin.

I haven’t felt that feeling of ‘home’ since I left Dublin in 2014. I thought just coming back to Ireland would fix that, but it’s not the same. Nothing is the same. I don’t have friends this time, they’ve long since stopped answering my calls. I’m struggling financially and public transport is a little less than ideal. I don’t know when I can go home—wherever that is.

Dating has been a joke. I had dreamt up my Irish romance. He’d have a sweet smile, dark hair. He’d invite me home for Christmas. Instead I find myself face to face with disgusting men fetishising my body and my skin colour. I know they’re not all Ireland has to offer, but I still seem to attract their sort like rotting meat attracts flies. There have been some nice men, too, tangled up in obligations, ghosts, and mindless small-talk, but they were nice to talk to for a while. None of them have been my dream man.

And that’s the point–it all has felt like a romanticised dream I had had and now that I’m awake there’s no reconciling reality with the happiness I had hoped for. I feel stupid for expecting so much. I had made a utopia in my mind without even realising it. And worse, I expected it to be there when I opened my eyes.

I’m trying to live moment by moment now, but in my heart I know I’m still mourning the dream that was killed by reality. I wanted so badly to believe that I only needed to go back to find happiness again.

Now I know there is no such thing as backwards. There is only forwards. There is a blessing in that vast empty unknown between our next page and the conclusion of our story. The blessing is only hope. It has to be enough. It has to. It is our great expectation, and we move forward and seek it.

Leaving on a jet plane

I’m finally going home–my version of home. 

I grew up not belonging to any one place. I was born in Maryland and I bounced around the state my entire life. Always the new kid. Barely really making friends. 

I also grew up with great European literature. I remember the first time I went to London. I’ll always remember it. Streets Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Dickens had trod on were now under my feet. I felt a peace I had never encountered when traveling in North America. 

Still, it was Ireland that unexpectedly became the first place I ever truly felt at home. Home. It had long been an elusive term. Something other people felt but I had no connection to. I don’t know what makes a place feel like it is an extension of yourself, but for me that place will always be Ireland. 

I’ve lived there twice–living on Northside Dublin both times. Both times I took a tearful plane back to America once my respective visas expired. I wanted to stay but just couldn’t figure out how. I thought making the move permanent was just too amazing to ever come true. 

Yet here I am–boarding pass in hand, everything I own in one checked bag and two carry ons–on my way back home. The airport is cold and filled with strangers. I’ve thrown up twice today from the irrational fear that someone somehow will force me to stay. 

Boarding pass. Not Dublin this time. Limerick. It’s all mine and brand new to my touch. I’m through security. There’s nothing in my head, I’m on autopilot, but I can hear my heart thud: home, home, home

Seven Poems

I. 

Who says a poem is a long thing? / Sometimes it is a deep breath / Sometimes it is an exhale

II. 

I was born to words more than I was born / To muck and blood and pain / My heart is full of ink / My bones were forged from stardust and stories / These lips were made to speak / These hands to collect worlds / My mind / Cherished enemy / Is a buzzing hive / Oozing with sweet honey

III. 

The rain / haults / quiet sea / kissing the air / silent / warm / lightning flashes / chaos resumes / filling me / with echoes

IV. 

Will I recognise you, / Love? / Or will I be / Obstructed by my own dreams?

V. 

I remember the first time I saw you / but I don’t know / which was the first day / I stopped crying when I heard your name

VI. 

If I could choose how I die / There would be water / There would be something to embrace me / Everywhere / Without limitation / Without hesitation / And I would die the way I’ve always wanted to be loved

VII. 

Pressed hand to a window pane / Cold kissing the fingertips / Soft / Soft / Shadowed light / Bright world / Behind glass / Under glass / Trapped / Cold / Cold / Kisses / Blood washed quietly away / Under porcelain and the smell of soap / Wishing it was so easy / To wash / Wash / The world / Of it’s sadness / Of it’s fear / And leave only / Clean / Pure / Happy / Clean / Pure / Happy / Clean / Pure / Happy / World…

Learning to be lonely

I am an introvert by nature. When I was a kid I didn’t understand this. My Mum is super extroverted and had a hard time understanding the moments I hid away in my shell. My Dad is certainly more withdrawn, but that’s likely due to trust issues more than actually being an introvert.

I moved to a new place almost every year, so it wasn’t til high school that I actually made friends and it wasn’t really til college that I actually kept friends.

Now I live in Warrenton, North Carolina. If you haven’t heard of it, that’s probably because you’re not one of the exactly 820 people (according to a 2016 census) that live here. It’s small. We have two stop lights and about three restaurants. There’s a gas station and a dollar store. Everyone knows everyone by name. Food Lion is 30 minutes away. The nearest movie theatre is actually a State away in Virginia. Raleigh, the nearest big city, is nearly two hours away.

In a little over a month I’ll be moving to Limerick, Ireland. When I lived in Dublin a few years ago, it was the closest I ever came to feeling like I had a ‘home’. I’m looking forward to Limerick, but again….right now, I live in Warrenton. My grandmother stays with her boyfriend most days, and when my Dad isn’t with his girlfriend, he’s likely sleeping or working. So I’m largely alone.

All day. Every day.

I know I’m blessed. I don’t have a job, so I could be struggling, but my Dad covers everything so I’m not. My grandmother’s house is spacious and gorgeous. I’m lucky to be here. I’ve got internet, cable, Netflix, cozy blankets, a dog and a cat, food, shelter. I’m in introvert heaven.

I am so lonely.

I’ve walked up and down the Main Street just for something to do. I’ve been to all three of our restaurants. I bring my own books to the library just to read among other humans. I went to the barber shop to get my undercut trimmed, even though I have clippers and could do it myself easily. I sold my car to prepare for Ireland, so now I’m even less mobile than before. No more random trips to WalMart, the grocery store, bug-infested parks, or GoodWill. What I thought was introvert heaven has quickly become a little closer to hell.

It’s strange to think that once I thought I didn’t need anybody. I dreamt of being a recluse in my old age (I figured I’d have plenty of prizes for outstanding literature to keep me in medium-rare steaks, curly fries, and DVD box-sets for years).

I came to Warrenton from London (oh God, the culture shock) in January. Seven months later and loneliness has gone from a mild annoyance to an ache that has transformed me into something so socially malnourished it’s almost feral. I’m afraid for Limerick now. I’ve forgotten how to make friends, how to have polite small talk, how to smile when there’s nothing interesting to smile about. Did I ever know those things?

I will always be an introvert, yet I have learned a fearsome truth: I need alone time, but I don’t always want to be alone.

I suppose I will learn again how to socialise. I will adapt. I’m used to it. I have to.

I’m always the new kid.

You need to put what in where?

I’ve been gone for ages! We all know the Power-Hungry-Hairpiece is attempting to abolish Obama-care. So Medicaid-card-carrying me had to drive up to Maryland (my official residence) to visit family and go see a few doctors.

My main purpose was to get lasting, long-term birth control. I grew up very religious. My birth control has always been abstinence. Even before my baptism (which I don’t regret, by the way, just outgrew) I had no desire to have sex before marriage. I am the result of spontaneous break-up sex. My Mum hadn’t taken her pills. My Dad didn’t wear a rubber. 9ish months later, a little accident they couldn’t abort and got too attached to to give away popped out. I’ve had a difficult time coping with my existence my entire life. I never wanted another child to experience the self-loathing I did. 

Birth control was never an option for me. When I brought this up recently, both my parents somehow morphed into super progressive human beings. HEAVY eye-roll. If sixteen-year-old Lauren had mentioned birth control to either of my parents, they would have killed me, resurrected me, then grilled me for information about which boy I was obviously hooking up with in secret. Never mind that the only reason I would have ever wanted birth control in the past would have been a DNA-encoded fear since the age of 10 that I could be raped and possibly bear a child from such an assault. Yeah. 10. My biggest fear. The world is a great place. 

I’m older now. I’m still terrified of that possibility, but in another, less terrifying world, lies the thought of actually wanting to have sex before marriage. Maybe this seems so normalised in our 21st century, hookup culture world, but remember I was very religious. It took me a long time to feel comfortable with the idea. It wasn’t a specific guy I was vying for or a wild sex romp I was after. Still a virgin, guys. But I wanted to be a virgin in charge of her body and who she invited to partake in it. I wanted control over my reproductive organs–to never have kids if I so choose, and for that to be okay. 

Planned Parenthood helped me achieve that end. 

I’ll admit I was scared. Church girl was back and she was pretty sure we were walking into an abortion clinic and also possibly Hell. My best friend suggested it, though, so how bad could it be. No PCP referral needed. Medicaid friendly. Women-run, basically. Church girl didn’t know it yet, but she was in pretty good hands. 

At first I wanted an IUD. I had done my research and knew what to expect (so I thought). I could take the pain. I wanted copper so there were no hormones. Also, 12 years of birth control! Score! 

I very quickly learned (through great counsel) that Paraguard was likely not for me. No hormones, good. Crazy painful and heavy periods, bad. So Mirena was suggested. A sweet little pregnant lady climbed deeper into me than I had ever even been and talked me through the worse, most specific, most unyielding pain of my life. I didn’t cry, but only because my whole body had tensed and I could barely breathe, let alone squeeze out a tear. She then told me that the intense pain was because she was trying to shove a plastic T through my cervix which was tightly closed. I could take pills to open it, but that would have to be tomorrow. 

Now I cried. I don’t know why, but suddenly my self-hatred caved in on me full force. 14 year olds get IUDs for fucks sake. Why not me? I’ve gotten 15 tattoos. I pierced my own ears. I dislocated my shoulder twice. But I couldn’t do it. I didn’t care what medicine opened whatever,  I didn’t want those sharp metal and plastic things inside me ever again. I wanted another option. 

Then I learned about Nexplanon. It’s an implant that goes in my lower arm, has the same hormones as the IUD, and is actually more effective than sterilisation! After much (and I mean MUCH) deliberation, I decided to get it. The procedure start to finish took maybe 3 minutes. I have a killer bruise (this was only about 3 days ago now) and a little matchstick floating around in my left arm. Side effects will be monitored for the foreseeable future, but right now I’m fine. I’m in control. I’m free to make whatever decisions I want. I felt and feel so liberated! I’m not a slut who doesn’t want to deal with consequences or a barbaric life-killer who is going to Hell. I’m a woman who made a choice for her body. Planned Parenthood helped. Medicaid helped. Nexplanon helped. 

For the next three years, I have birth control and the most important thing is, it was MY choice. 

Surviving the loss of Sense8

Perhaps you’ve noticed I haven’t written in a while. That’s unlikely, but let’s go with it. 

Literally two or so weeks ago, I rediscovered Sense8. The first time I watched it I was sitting beside my Dad in that slightly uncomfortable bubble of wanting to be his little girl but also wanting to be treated like a grown-up. So I scoffed at the TV-MA rating and we started to watch Sense8 together. It’s all fun and games til someone pulls a well lubricated strap-on out of a trans-woman’s body and drops it on the floor with a professionally soundmixed “sssuulplunk”. My Dad turned off the TV immediately and we both blushed awkwardly. 

It had been some time since that first experience. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say over a year. In my own private TV-MA moment, I was pursuing a porn site on Tumblr and came across one of the Sensate orgies. The part of me that’s still embarrassed to admit I kinda like porn focused on the beautiful lighting and obvious production value. The other part of me that knew exactly what I was doing was immediately taken with a pair of wide, blue eyes belonging to Max Riemelt–known as Wolfgang on the show. If there is a Hell, it is guarded by a blue-eyed demon and people go to him willingly. 

So I digitally ran over to Netflix as fast as I could log in and found the full orgy plus a few more tingle-inducing scenes. I did this a lot over the next few days, I’ll admit, primarily focused on Wolfgang (my new fictional man-crush). Though my mind was at first gridlocked in a gutter, I kept finding myself watching bits that had nothing to do with sex–Nomi hacking, Sun fighting, Capheus protecting at all costs. Kala was and is my favorite character. Maybe I just relate to her the most–a good girl with a darkness in her and more than a few secrets. Maybe I’m living vicariously through all her kisses with Wolfgang (all the heart-eyes). Whatever it was about her, Kala got me to officially watch the show in the proper order. 

As most Netflix binges go, I had finished the entire series in about a week. I was just coming to the second to last episode of the second season when Netflix announced they were cancelling their distribution of the show. 

My heart broke.

The show was no longer free softcore porn. I was devastatingly invested in these characters. I remain fully supportive of the most important message it presents: that we are all connected. The diversity of the cast and locations, the beauty of the writing and directing, and the intricate story lines inspired me as an artist and as a person. When I got to the finale knowing there might never be more to the story, I bawled as only a writer invested in an unfinished masterpiece could. I called my best friends and I cried and cried. I mourned my beloved characters. I couldn’t feel satisfied watching anything other than Sense8 over and over for days. If I’m being honest, I’m still in this stage of mourning. Nothing else seems good enough. 

The petitions came out and I signed them all, got my friends to sign them even. I watched Max Riemelt in anything I could find. I watched an entire film in German with no subtitles just to see his face. He almost looked like Wolfgang, but his beard wasn’t long enough. It could only ever be second best. I know I sound mad, but I hope that’s a testament to how truly brilliant this series was, not only to how crazy I can be. I spent all last week unable to enjoy other forms of media and self-expression in my life because I was worried about my characters. In that weird place between conscious thought that shows us what we really care about, I was constantly brought back to Sense8. 

My Dad suggested I write some fan fiction to soothe me. I’ve never done that before, but I wrote a story outline and was surprised to see how right he had been. I just needed their story to end right. My writing isn’t as developed as the writing for the show, so it’s only a bandaid on the wound, but I felt a little less obsessed. Berlin Syndrome came out this week, but I couldn’t watch it. Too many triggers, but also it helped me to finally be able to separate the actor from the beloved character. This week Netflix also officially said no amount of efforts would get them to change their mind. 

I’m still hopeful, I guess. The creators have said they’re not willing to give up on the show. The fanbase is definitely there. Maybe Hulu will take the show. Maybe they’ll force me to finally get a YouTube Red account. Maybe it’ll be a little indie film one day. I don’t know. I wrote my little outline. That was all I could do. Writing has always been a cathartic release for me. 

In my story, they all live happily ever after. All of them. Especially Wolfgang and Kala.