The Chase

The thirteen year old boy had woken up to this same morning thousands of times; following his routine to the ‘T’ as it was expected of him. At 5:30 am, exactly, he was woken up by his stepfather. Shower- no more than 5 minutes. Teeth- to be rubbed with a frugal finger full of bitter baking powder. Dressed by 5:45 and ready for breakfast before chores started.

As the boy poured his serving of shredded Wheaties-generic brand- he looked outside of the polished barn window panes at the black morning. There was a sort of comfort to beating the morning sun to rise. A small victory. He snapped his attention back to his cereal as he heard the pounding thunder of his stepfather’s footsteps descending the staircase. He quickly pulled a spoon out of the cutlery drawer and closed the drawer as quietly and as quickly as he could to be seated at his spot at the kitchen table before George entered the room. The oak stool screeched just as George’s steel toed boots entered the room.

George had been married to the boy’s mother for about 4 years now and life with a recovering alcoholic is not an easy burden. George’s work uniform was dirty splattered with the yellow and white road paint of previous jobs. Looking at George, the boy imagined just how tedious and careful George must be. It was hard for the boy to imagine George being careful or delicate with anything. How precise and steady your hands have to be to paint the straight lines on hot bubbly pavement. That’s why George wakes up so early. Apart from working 2 other jobs, painting roads required an early riser to beat that brutal morning sun. No one wanted to be hunched over bubbling pavement in a Noon sun.

“What the hell are you starin’ at boy? Why don’t you eat your damn cereal.”

The level of annoyance in his voice was just enough to tell Adam that George was not in any mood for his spaced brain today. Some days George was more patient, but that greeting was enough of a bitter taste to warn Adam to just shut up and get to school without angering his obviously upset Stepfather.

He ate his cereal like lightening, while George poured himself a tall glass of orange juice. As Adam went to put his bowl in the sink he crossed George’s path, frustrating him enough so that George rolled his eyes far back and snapped his large fists forward smacking the ceramic bowl out of Adam’s hands straight to the floor. Startled Adam immediately bent down to clean up the shattered fragments of the bowl as George repeated that same lecture–

“What are you stupid- You saw I was right here- But you had to be in the way, right? Goddam sonufabitch”.

Eager to get out of the too small Kitchen, Adam grabbed his school books and left the house, not able to handle another morning of being screamed at.
George screamed after him as he ran out of that 2 story barn house–

“Wait til you get back here boy. We’ll have a nice talk then. Hey! Don’t you run away from me”.

Adam ran down the long drive way and headed west towards the bus stop. His neighborhood was a bit nonexistent and the borders drawn between houses were unclear. He knew there was a short cut to the bus stop and honestly walking along the main road made him a bit nervous. Adam knew George’s route to work followed this road and couldn’t shake the fear he may leave for work early just to antagonize him on the way. Adam headed north, steering away from the lined pavement George had probably painted with his own hands, and into the grassy bed of the neighborhood.

The sun was just starting to burn the back of Adam’s t-shirt when he heard someone running toward him from behind. Without taking a moment to look, Adam took out into a sprint convinced by the voice burning the back of his brain that George was chasing after him eager to finish him off after dropping the bowl at breakfast.

Adam panicked feeling sweat pop out from his temples as he ran swinging his books in his clenched fist ready to swing at George if he got close enough, and he was getting closer. With each step, Adam could hear the panting of his pursuer get closer. For an old man, George had speed and was gaining on Adam fast. Just as quickly as when Adam took off, he was grounded. George had lurched forward grabbing him by the heels, causing Adam to trip forward, landing in the soft earth on his belly arms forward, desperately trying to fly away from this confrontation.
Adam kicked his legs as wildly as a swimmer. With each kick there was a tear on his left leg. Something was wrong. There was a white pain blanketing over Adam’s eyes. This sharp pain clenched deeper and deeper into the tissue of his calf unrelenting to let go. Adam flipped onto his back as the force dragged him backwards-staining the front of his shirt- and smacked his attacker with his books. Only then did Adam realize, George was not pulling him back with his large hands, but a German Shepherd had clenched its jaws into Adam’s calf and was tearing away in an attempt to protect the property Adam had trespassed.

The boy kicked and kicked but the dog wouldn’t let up. It was no longer clenching but had started chomping on his leg grinding into the raw muscle that was now clearly reflecting the fully revealed sun. Finally, Adam got the ball of his right foot square into the pointed nose of the German shepherd. The dog whimpered chops blood stained and retreated. It stared at Adam, hesitant now to approach.

As Adam lay in the fresh grass, leg as open as a fresh surgical wound, dog still ready to jump, all he could think about was how he would now be late to school—and George would not take kindly to that news.

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Sunday Rituals

Saint_Bernard_Church_(Burkettsville,_OH)_-_clerestory,_Let_the_Children_Come_to_Me,_detail

Sunday mornings were hell for my family. The entire week was a buildup of tension to the sacred day where my screaming father feeling frustrated bit his tongue, tying tight knots around his neck. My mother would angrily throw together breakfast and then throw it away frustrated at a comment my father would make about her hourglass figure in that hugging dress.

Every Sunday morning, my family followed a bitter ritual of fighting. My mother would lay out my Sunday best for me which always included a frilly pastel dress that was too tight around my waist and cut off the circulation in my arms. My parents were in denial about my weight and in an attempt to encourage their five year old to drop some unwanted pounds they’d squeeze me into my ideal fabricated mold. My buckled shoes gleamed black because the only time I wore them were Sundays. I never walked anywhere other than to the car, to the pew, back to the car, back to my home. But the one part of my outfit I could never stand was those thick white braided stockings. From their texture to their fit, I shuddered at the the sensation of the static fabric on my hairless legs. It was agitating year round, regardless of snowy mornings or blistering heat waves.
I think I stressed my mother out every Sunday with the argument about those restrictive stockings. I’d kick and whine begging her to just let me go without them. I promised her I’d do anything and claimed I would NEVER ask for ANYTHING EVER again, as long as I could escape these stocking’s grip on my thighs. I lost this battle every Sunday.

The car drive to church was always the most stressful part. Awkward silences where my dad grumbled about something, anything. I honestly wish I could remember, but it wouldn’t matter because just about anything was a stressor to his brain which was as knotted as the tie around his neck, or the hugging dress my mother wore, or these agitating stockings wrapped around my legs.

Grace Lutheran Church had its own ritual. The same ten old women would huddle together ensuring their seats were near each other. The twin vocalists who were practically pop star prodigies were being surrounded by the younger children and the lead organist being pampered and flattered. The family with the son with special needs sat in the same pew quietly. The father and mother staring blankly forward rigid as planks of oak wood. Their son quietly swaying, his eyes fixated on an invisible pendulum swinging synchronically from the ceiling. My mother and father bickering and I scratching my legs.

The Sermon began five minutes late, like always. The same organ music loudly bellowed throughout the tall ceiling. I spent most of the service standing and sitting on cue, not listening to the pastor in his robe thinking about what color sash he would wear next week and making a mental note to ensure I remember my bet with myself. Purple.

Finally, the communion. I wait for the usher to signal our pew to rise. My parents wait in line for their wafer and shot of grape wine. I am too young to drink the wine or eat the wafer but pastor touches my forehead, brushing away my sheared bangs, sweeping his clammy thumb to draw a plus sign. I close my eyes and slightly bow my head because that is what my father tells me to do. Now the next part of the ritual ensues. While my parents file back into the pew, I exit the large service room and follow the narrow hallway past the office doors and youth group rec room to the women’s restroom
The pale green tiles remind me of pea soup and everything smells sterile. I lock the stall door behind me, unbuckle my polished shoes, and pull up my pastel dress. I slip my thumbs routinely into the inside of the tummy tuck wrap of my stockings and fully circle around my circumference separating the tight stockings from my child’s stomach. I would trace the imprinted lines with my finger later that day, as I always did. I rolled the stockings down and peel my legs out one leg at a time. My pores gasped for the sterile, pea soup church air. I roll them up and tuck them in the front of my dress and put on my buckled shoes.
I leave the restroom returning to my parents. My father’s face is beet red and I can tell from the way his jaw line is set that he is biting his tongue. My mother nervously has her arms wrapped around herself anticipating the fight that will take place after service, when my father can unleash his swollen tongue from his clenched teeth and scold his five year old for taking her stockings off. I am not sorry because I am used to this tradition. It is all part of our family’s Sunday ritual.

Scars

I stand at the mirror examining my own unflawed body.
Unscared and smooth wondering where are my memories?
I have no proof to solidify my damage.
Running my fingers along my bare wrists to feel no scratch,
no subtle altercation.
I must be mad–
–I have no proof of the damage done.

Scoliosis

Scoliosis

To feel the burning cogs
of your twisted spine
as you fumble awkwardly
to slip on your tsunami of a sweater,
that has been twisted into cat’s nests.
Every snap and pop an eggshell
shattering against linoleum counters,
coated with enough Lysol
for a physician’s approving thumb.

The uprooted railroad
running down your shoulders
leads to splintered swing-sets.

Ground Your Journey 


Four of Pentacles: this archetype is stubborn, stagnant, possessive, limiting, controlling, and restrictive. In this world of materialism, possessiveness is at its worst. We must put less emphasis on our possessions. This card stands as a warning to stop trying to control everything in the world and your immediate surroundings. You simply can’t live your life fully while believing your course of action is the best or only one to follow.

Let go.


 Ten of Pentacles: you are at a stable place when it comes to materialism. Admittedly, we all have more than we NEED; so, stop fretting over securing and hoarding your possessions and enjoy your time with the ones you have to share with instead. Truly, take the time to work on your emotional thriving, because in other regards you are fine. Don’t take fine to be “rich” and partying with the 1%, but rather as simply fine .

You can live well and love more with good company.


Six of Swords: recovery. Allow yourself to drift away from trouble and difficulties in hopes for a positive new beginning. This card is about willingness to communicate yourself with the ones around you. Go out, exchange ideas, inspire and be inspired by words and relationships. Get lost in recovering yourself, new perspectives, and commit to your physical or mental journey.


 Pentacles keep this reading grounded. Be reminded to not get too mentally focused in a recent journey that you forget or fret about the physical world that is present. Take your journeys and heal, but tend to your loved ones. They care and cherish you. Remove from the self and link with others as a means to keep healing.


And just because mums are in season: here’s another shot… Just because

#healthyself


Observing a Yoga Class in Center City

My bare feet stand rooted shoulder length apart, heels pressing all of my weight into the shallow pad of my yoga mat. My toes extend into tangled green roots burrowing and nesting deep into the earth. I feel my toes spread and dig deeper as my breath flows cyclically through my wooden lungs. My arms extend parallel to the ground, shooting out branches so far my shoulders pop out of their sockets and extend to catch the sun on the horizon. I feel my torso stiff and solid carrying the weight of my heavy branches, but I feel balanced because my roots are deep and connected. I feel my breath exhale shaking the leaves of my branches and as I open my oak brown eyes I reconnect with the physical world around me once again. I wiggle my toes and shake out my shoulders, feeling a connection with every pore draping my newly refreshed body.  
What I have found is that yoga means something very different to every individual person. To Mary-Ellen, my own instructor, it is a form of meditation, to Kathryn, the instructor I am observing today, it is a healing ritual, to my father, it is a waste of “Goddam’ time”, to me, yoga is mindfulness and exercising control of the body.

The large room where class will take place looks to be a repurposed dance studio. A wall-to-wall mirror reflects the floor-to-ceiling window opposite. On this sunny day, this room embodies the world. You could look in that vast mirror and touch the face of a biker on Market Street and race your fingers alongside his reflection until he disappeared and your fingers pedaled right into the brick wall adjacent to the mirror. A single African American mother walks with child on hip, holding desperately to the small hand of another young child around the age of 4. He seems to be crying in the upper corner of the mirror, but the mother has a destination on the opposite side of the mirror where the wall molds intersect at the door, and cannot listen to the resistant child’s wails. Bustles of women and men march past one another; poor passing wealthy, father passing child, privileged passing needy.

At the very center of the mirror you can spot Love Park. The pool is empty and a bed of granite backdrops the love statue. In pictures, I imagine the statue silhouetted with lovers and that sparkling fountain. The statue, void of sparkling water appears as empty as the dance studio where I wait for class to start. This room is one world within a larger world. Micro within macro.

Kathryn walks in frantically, hoarse from a cold she is trying to heal. She shakes my hand while stripping off her street clothes. Underneath her oversized jeans are skin tight leggings.

“So glad you could be with us today,” she says through her Temple University sweatshirt as she pulls it over her frizzy short cut hair.

“Thank you so much for having me. I’m really looking forward to this.”

She notices my own robin egg yoga matt and I spot awkwardness in her expression.

“Oh, um, actually…for liability reasons, I could lose my job if you join in. I thought this was just an observation. I feel bad, but I could lose my job and it seemed like you just wanted to watch.”

Who just watches a yoga class?

Not wanting to make her uncomfortable and seeing her distress, I assure her it’s no big deal and I would just observe, “I’m just grateful to be here.”

The classroom of eight fills with girls draped in oversized neon armor: soft woolen socks and cozy sweaters cover their frames as they lazily slouch over their array of rainbow yoga mats. Kathryn begins to teach a lesson on spacing ribs and pushing palms between shoulder blades in order to enforce ‘the breath’. The class inhales and exhales as the wind reflected in the mirror breathes life into Philadelphia streets, lumps of trash thrown about through city’s lungs, navigate through alleyways as blood coarses through arteries. Students nod along, bobbing disheveled buns carefully placed on top of their crowns. Girls in colorful crop-tops over skin tight leggings stretch out their fingertips-popping joints- waking up their bodies.

Kathryn strolls the classroom touching each student, repeating, “Find your base, your skeleton, and feel how it moves.” My morbid imagination begins to take hold, manifesting itself in every corner of this classroom. Suddenly, they are all sitting skeletons striking sharp poses- downward facing dog, warrior, and triangle. Their sliding shoulder blades slipping through scapulas entrance me. I stare at each skeleton, still adorned in colorful garments breathing through their ivory bones. In the mirror, I catch a glance at myself. I meet my mirrored stare and can’t shake my comparative gaze of solid meat and flesh aside these dancing, slender bones.

My right hand callused with Russell’s sign wanders to my chest and I start pushing down on the soft skin searching for the bones beneath. I feel wiry muscle intertwined underneath my goose-bump skin. I dig and scratch at my skin searching for the structure I know lay below the armor of this solid body.

The warm sun drapes my back like a hand stitched afghan, but I shiver, huddled frozen to this hardwood floor, thinking, “How can I make these swaying skeletons disappear?” I don’t know how to let go of these images and see meat filling out flesh once again. I cannot un-see the bones before me pressing heels-imprinting their mats with simple touches. The dangerous beauty of these bones makes me cry, but I’ve mastered the mask. I sit with my face still and unmoving, but tears roll down my cheeks and dribble past my chin. I try desperately to remember the strong tree that I had inhibited earlier. I remind myself that trees are sturdier than ivory bones and this strive for a skeletal frame is what has haunted my mind for 3 years now. I want the shadows of skeletons to stop appearing before my eyes every time I come close to not caring about the protrusion of my rib cage.

  
Yoga is supposed to be mindfulness, but my mind is wreaking havoc through this brick sanctuary. My mind is a distressed youth, out of control, screaming protest through cans of hissing spray paint, smashing mirrors begging for my attention. Like a disappointed mother, I don’t want to listen. I just want it to shut up and go away. I shut down and ignore the skeletons and my mind’s encrypted message meant for me and me alone. I don’t know how to deal with this, so I won’t.

I curl into a fetal ball against the hardwood floor and try to remember my breath. Through a clenched esophagus I swallow the iron ball of air that has puckered itself within my cheeks. I force the breath down and allow myself to release the breath. It sputters out like toxic sludge and I swear I can see shadows of my inky breath rejected on the hardwood panels. I take in another breath and it comes in more smoothly, like a spoonful of raw honey. The breath leaves my throat expunged and clean.

I feel my feet become solid and stony. My eyelids shut from a heavy force and my body sinks into the floor as every muscle both tightens and relaxes, allowing me to transform into a singular solid object. I am cool to the touch and my pores open up to become solid masses of granite. I bring my arms and legs into my chest to make myself as compact as possible.

I am not mountain, strong and stable standing tall looking over the world with clarity and perspective. I am neither strong nor healthy enough to be mountain. However, I am stronger than these bones dancing around me. I am rock, but one day I will grow by developing strength from overcoming my comparative gaze. I will be mountain.

  

This was a harder piece to share ; because it’s admitting a weakness with no resolve. thank you for taking the time to read it 💐🌸

  
#healthyself 

The Cloud Effect

Otherwise known as that moment when you are simultaneously thinking about everything, while calmly not thinking specifically about anything. It’s a moment of both bliss and chaos. You’re endlessly reminded of your immediate purpose, which is to acknowledge. There is a constant demand to validate those tasks by indulging in that moment to think about them. The fact that there’s so much to think about, at once, proves your worth as a person: a person who is expected to follow through.   In that state of foggy, racing thoughts, if asked what you are thinking about, you couldn’t manage to mutter anything more than a measly “nothing” . This is because our thoughts are stretching vast skies hovering both mountains and coastlines, casting both rain and hail, all while blessing the bare faces of children chalking sidewalks with warm solar rays of affection.   It’s a frustrating state of mind , especially when trying to communicate in relationships ( not exclusively romantic). How can we expect to effectively communicate this cloudy effect on the brain that overwhelms the tongue and bewilders the senses? How could you possibly expunge every micro thought that your brain is both hypersensitive and numb to, all at once?  Quite simply, you can’t without sounding like a manic mess. Yet, it’s so important to try to spill your tongue. In the midst of random non sequiturs, feel bliss in the release. Make sense of it later, rather than finding yourself lost once again in that fog that leads you back into the cloud effect. Don’t get sucked back into the crystallized particles–freezing your senses. It can be painfully beautiful and inviting but perpetually lonely and cyclically isolating. In a relationship, pray that you are purging your brain to someone who is patient and loving enough to sort through the thoughts with you. Like a jigsaw puzzle, they’ll collect corner pieces while you match like colorsalong the  edges coffee table over warm herbal teas, while the clouds unleash a downpour outside…yet, somewhere across town its inexplicably sunny.

 #healthyself