this is how the world turns

Post election days fill my social media feeds with so many messages, I can hardly wrap my mind around the state of things. We all want so desperately to say the right thing, to the right people, about the right stuff. We all want to be heard. We want you to agree with us. Hear me out, believe in me. Like me.

I struggle with words every day, not just as a writer, but as a human being. I wonder if words are losing their meaning. I am like you — I too “feel compelled” to say what I’m thinking. “I have been silent for a bit but now I must declare …”

We all think we have the answers. Or, no, just a part of the answers. We should love. We should get angry. We should fight back. “I know we’re all tired but …”

What do our words really mean? It is heartening to see my friends post links to websites where you can donate your money to worthy causes. I do not have extra money, but I can share in sharing those voices. That’s something tangible. But beyond that, I’m not so sure.

I keep trying to avoid political discussions, mainly because they end in heartbreak and helplessness, but also because I, admittedly, don’t have a lot of informational currency from which to draw. I haven’t “closely followed” much of anything that doesn’t have to do with me. I have that luxury.

I find myself frustrated, content, tired, and nursing a three day head cold that makes my whole body ache. You know how we’re all saying, “open your eyes to the problems of the world?” And we think we’re helping. Maybe we just sound like assholes.

In college I used to complain to my friends about fill-in-the-blank and they would nod their heads and agree. This is how the world turns. I didn’t seek advice, I just wanted to put my heaviness out into the world, with the hopes that someone else could up a piece. “I’ll carry this for you for a while.”

I sat down to read and here I am typing. “I think it’s important for everyone to know …”

No one says anything new. Every story has been told. We don’t have any power anyway, so.

But I still find myself typing. A lot of you do, too. The quiet humming of thoughts on a keyboard. Is yours also dotted with sticky food? We can start there. We’ve got that in common. Does your dog stare at you, eyes wide, from the couch, begging you to come pet her? Add that to our list.

We can’t stop thinking and talking and shouting because it is how we exist. But we can listen more, and better. We can move to our couch with our laptop and pet our dog because if she doesn’t deserve our love and attention, who the hell does?

For every word you want to say, listen, deeply, to the words of others. It isn’t easy. It may turn out to be fruitless. You may be worse for wear. Perhaps you’ll feel as if you’ve lost a little bit of yourself. Far more terrifying — maybe you’ll feel as if you’ve gained something, too.

It’s certainly worth a try.

 

 

 

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many brilliant things

This June I saw a play called Every Brilliant Thing. 

In it, a man, who is at first a boy, then a teenager, and then a man, lists brilliant (wonderful, special, amazing) things for his mother, who is depressed, in an attempt to cheer her up. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, and knowing my affinity for life and love, it won’t be the last.

I’ve been anxious lately, my stomach in knots. For almost two weeks I thought I was sick, but now I’m pretty sure that sickness was just anxiety. Which is a sickness, too, but ya know.

You can be anxious and happy. In fact, happiness — which is a really terrifying thing if you think about it — often triggers feelings of anxiety. Most of them look like, “How do I hold onto this?”

I saw Every Brilliant Thing with my sister and mother and my mother’s good friend. I sat next to my coworker, by happenstance. I cried at least three times, maybe more. Life is very much worth crying about, for every reason you can imagine.

My brain has trouble quieting; I haven’t practiced yoga in months because I am afraid of being alone with my mind. I could benefit from meditation, but I could also benefit from sobriety (probably). Neither one is happening anytime soon.

Writing helps the thinking.

And, so, I present you with my current list of brilliant things. These serve as salves for wounds imaginary and otherwise, for takers-up-of-time when something more dire could fill empty moments. These are my life:

Emma Louise sniffing the air when food is cooking.

The very, very subtle feeling of raised text on paper.

Bonfire smells.

My sister, doing, well, anything. She is funnier, smarter, and more kind than I can be.

Melted cheese. With and without ketchup.

Driving home and ending up there, forgetting what the driving was like.

Kind of shitty black coffee.

The coffee my boyfriend makes me and serves me in one of his seemingly endless to-go cups.

Also, his face when he’s confused. And then a big smile when he isn’t.

Deep breaths that don’t catch.

Inexplicable loss of hearing after a hard workout.

Texts from my mother, father, and sometimes my brother. (I love you, too).

Running inside after gathering a basket of just-dried clothes. Dumping them on your bed, jumping into their warmth.

A perfectly fried egg.

Moments of fierce remembering, and also of forgetting.

The knowledge, the hope, the desire, that these brilliant things will continue for as long as you may live.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

on: something new

I’m dating a guy. He is kind and good, and things are simple. I don’t get anxiety thinking about whether or not he likes me, or worse, whether or not I like him. We like each other. We tell each other that.

I read something a few weeks ago. A girl wrote a blog about her boyfriend and she promised her readers that the right guy was out there for them, too.

Meh.

Love, and the in-between words you use before you get there, is a hell of a lot of things. One thing it isn’t … is floating around in the netherworld. It’s inside of you, right? That sounds silly and trite, but it’s true.

You don’t need someone else to make you happy (unless that someone else is a dog). People can add to your experiences. They can not create them. Well, they can, but it never feels quite whole, ya know?

I haven’t had a boyfriend since my last boyfriend, which will be three years next February. The word scares me (it’s just a word! they say. but it’s not), not because it feels permanent — it does and it doesn’t — but because it seems to threaten something I have become.

In the past six months I have fostered such a lovely growth spurt of independence that casually throwing around the phrase, “my boyfriend,” is terrifying. Emma Louise (dog, age 3) and I have become the dynamic duo of my dreams, pushing through boundaries imagined and otherwise, carving a space for ourselves. Me, carving a space for myself.

I’m not afraid of commitment and I’m not gun-shy when it comes to relationships; I’ve never been burned. I’ve been bored, frustrated, and unfeeling. But not hurt so badly that I can’t trust another human.

I wonder if I can trust myself, is the thing. Will I hide behind that phrase, “my boyfriend?” He, the boyfriend in question, is nothing but supportive of who I am and what I do. He wants to help me clean my car, and I think, if he knew the “service required” date, he would tell me to take it in to get the oil changed, too. But other than that.

I got promoted last week at work. I’m the City Paper’s new arts editor. Hip, hip, hooray. That’s me, my name, just me. That’s not, “the girlfriend of …”

That’s not even, “The dog mom of a beloved 50 lb. mutt.”

Or, “Mary Scott’s twin.”

I struggle with my independence — I shy away from it, I revel in it, I question it.

I question this blog, about the point of writing, about how so many people say so many things, are we all just creating a bunch of noise. I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately, people riled up about a number of things they should be riled up about. I get riled, too. Just ask anyone who’s seen me grunt, fling my arms, shout, “I’m on one!”

I don’t think, though, that I’m wise enough to speak about so very many things. I’ll rant on here again, I will. You’ve gotta yell sometimes, because, shit, if you stop, maybe others will too. Silence is no good for anyone.

But here’s what I know right now: I’m kind of giddy. I’m happy. I am, in my eyes, as successful as 25 year-old Connelly could ever hope to be. I am constantly questioning and balancing and exercising then drinking then sleeping then working and wondering which one is best for me.

And, welp, I have a boyfriend.

There it is, a public proclamation of me trying to be myself, and to be with someone else too.

Wish me luck.

 

 

 

the good, the bad, and the gas stove

Today I left my gas stove on. All day. My sister’s boyfriend discovered the smell when he got home. He called my sister, she called me. “I wouldn’t have left the gas on,” she told me, accusatory. As she should be.

I hung up, left my office, got in my car, started sobbing. I guess the house could have burned down but mainly I couldn’t get the image of my dog out of my mind, either slowly suffocating or burning to death. That sounds a little extreme, but it isn’t, really, because it could have happened.

Emma Louise is fine. The cat seems fine too. The emergency vet hotline says that unless they show signs of distress, they should be fine. When I got home I put Emma on a leash and poured a tall glass of vodka and walked for 40 minutes around my neighborhood, whimpering, ignoring calls from my sister. Feeling like shit.

But Emma is fine. The house is fine. It’s OK.

The last thing I blogged was short and reactionary because Jesus Christ don’t sexually assault a woman or think about it or anything remotely related to harm. Is what I was getting at. I don’t need to talk about that anymore, because I don’t think I could stop.

I’ve wanted to write since then, you know, put the daily diatribes to paper, to internet, whatever.

Y’all know I’m happy, right? It’s almost boring, same old shit, Connelly doing just fine. I had a good day today (and this is where, if I were a lifestyle blogger, I would tell you how to make the vodka drink: three quarters vodka, some ice, two splashes of hot water from your kitchen faucet because for some reason the cold tastes funny). It was busy and some things went wrong and I was anxious and I have feelings etc., etc. And then I found out that I’d almost killed my dog — she’s my very whole heart and world and you know all that shit — and I fucking lost it.

I’ve been thinking about religion lately, prayers specifically. I don’t pray, but I’ve been thinking that when I wish really hard for things sometimes it’s like a prayer, for me at least. And also, how I feel about prayers doesn’t matter, because everyone can feel and think and hope how he or she wants to and as long as you aren’t pushing anything on anyone, that’s kind of how the world goes ’round, right?

And what I’ve wanted to write for so long now, and what I remembered when I was walking around, staring at Emma Louise, chastising myself for almost killing her (maybe, I don’t know, but even the thought is enough to do me in), and just loving the shit out of her sweet dog face and how she’s my best friend and she’s gotten me through so much … I remembered that thing about people.

Maybe the world is going to shit (my mom is reading this and she’s thinking, Connelly I love your sentiments but I wish you wouldn’t say ‘shit’ so much), but there are good people in it. There are, and I see them when I least expect it. Or someone you know and care about shows an even better side of themselves and maybe that’s you or maybe a friend or a new friend and it’s pleasant as hell.

People are pleasant surprises.

A) Don’t leave your gas stove on all day. B) Take a deep breath, open your eyes, see what’s good. Get worked up about the bad stuff, too, though, we need to keep doing that. But maybe every once in a while take a break, and, ya know, be surprised.

 

 

don’t be an asshole

This is a short blog.

The other day a guy I know said that he assumed that he would hook up with a certain girl over the weekend, and he was upset it didn’t happen. He made this assumption because they had hooked up before.

He didn’t ask her or anything, just, you know, assumed.

Guys: don’t do that.

Don’t be an asshole. Worse, don’t be on the edge of pushing a girl into a situation she didn’t ask for or want.

Fin.

Loneliness, renege

Two summers ago I wrote a sad piece about how lonely I was. The first version is gone now — I had to edit it for my blog so it didn’t sound so freaking sad. The thing was, I was really sad. I was lost, confused, painfully lonely.

I’ve always been a little bit lonely. We all are, just to varying degrees and in different ways. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because I have a twin, if sharing my DNA with my sister robbed me of … something. I tell my mom that in the womb, we split our cleanliness, which is why we’re both so messy. Does it work that way with loneliness? If so, you think we’d have less of it.

I feel things deeply, often in rapid succession. Happiness, wonder, joy … terror, frustration, and yep, loneliness.

Two summers ago I was depressed, as I sometimes get. I haven’t been that sad in, well, two years. I remember the week I grabbed the reins of my lonely life: It was in September, 2014, and I made a friend. Loneliness: 0, Connelly: 1.

Making friends is difficult. My sister and I have always done it together. In Charleston, I’ve mostly done it by myself. I go places by myself all the time. Two years ago, I would not have done that. I would have moped in my bed. Now, right now, I’m sitting at a brewery drinking my favorite beer. Sometimes one of the bartenders has it ready for me. I come here by myself that often.

I started pondering loneliness last week, when I was alone at another brewery. Drinking Alone is definitely the name of some memoir, but y’all can tack it on my headstone as well. I told a coworker today that I would also like, “We need more vodka,” on my headstone, because, at that point, we definitely would.

Back to my solo brewery: I walked out onto the patio, trying the place’s new IPA, which was what my visit was about, and a group of youngish guys asked me to join their human-sized game of jenga. You know, the one with really big pieces. I had wanted to sit, drink the beer, stare off into the sun — anytime is a good time to catch a tan — but I obliged. They were a bachelor party, of course, they were nice, kind of dorky, but christ they probably thought the same thing about me.

“Who are you here with?” one man asked. “Myself,” I laughed, as if it weren’t obvious after the ten or so minutes we’d chatted. He was taken aback, nodded, said, “Cool.” I looked at him and continued my train of thought … “I go places by myself all the time.”

He smiled and we kept playing the game. I didn’t win or lose, which is a delightfully neutral way to ease yourself out of a short-lived scenario. I finished my beer, we waved goodbye, I drove off into my lonely, lonely future.

But it isn’t lonely. It’s just alone.

Two years ago I was struggling with that distinction. To clarify, I was both alone and lonely, and I wasn’t sure how to reconcile the two. It had been this way for years, with each year of college forcing me into a hermit-like existence that I didn’t want, but which I was too lazy to fight. I glued myself to my sister, my then-boyfriend, my few close friends. I couldn’t be alone.

I have friends now (see my September savior above). I also have plenty of time alone. Even some of that time is spent without my dog, who I whisper to every morning, “You are my best friend,” like she knows. She may know it. We often get beers together, which could be my litmus test for best friendship.

I am not the patron saint of battling loneliness. I still get lonely. Sometimes I think I’m fooling myself, being so blessedly content by myself. And then I remember the years of my youth, which I guess is kind of a joke since I’m only 25. High school roof sessions — you know when you climbed out of your window and sat on your roof and cried about being a teenager. And also smoked shitty joints.

And I think about how I struggled so much, at times, in college, wanting to open myself up to everyone, backing myself into the corner of a select few (a really great few, but, still, there was room for more).

And then I think, I deserve this shit. I catch myself being happy, just sitting in my backyard, drinking vodka sodas and skimming old copies of whatever magazine I have on hand. I wonder where else I could be, who else I could be with. What could I be doing right now. The question used to torment me. Now it passes. Am I growing out of something, or into something new?

I think what I want to tell myself, but I can’t quite yet, because I’m really not into finality … is that it’s OK to be OK. It might feel weird at first, after years of struggling through your own storm of thoughts and feelings. But it’s OK. Embrace it. Maybe next week, I’ll fall into the oblivion of something I can’t predict. For now, I’ve got, well, I’ve got my very own self.

a response to a response

Today I had a column published in the newspaper where I work. It’s a little scary to have an opinion piece plastered on pieces of paper that travel around the city — my friendly Facebook friends like my blogs, what strangers will hate my column?

The column was an edited version of this blog. It makes for a great little opinion piece because the subject is focused on one word and its implications. I’m not arguing against sexism in general (god help me if I could fit that into 800 words), but the use of a single word, “crazy.”

(Don’t use it, y’all. Or, well, try not to.)

I expected some negative feedback, you open yourself up to that. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the lack of negative responses*, and the number of positive ones.

*There have been negative responses ranging from my favorite, “go make a sandwich,” to “boo hoo this sounds like a millennial problem.” But I expected far worse, so, ya, know.

There was one response that wasn’t really negative or positive, but rather, freaking illuminating.

A man was disturbed by this line that I wrote, “I’ve stood, baffled and frozen, when a stranger groped me in a bar.”

He wrote a blog in response to my column. He writes about checking his privilege, not knowing what it’s like to be a woman. He questions if I’m exaggerating the groping situation, if I am, in fact, crazy. And I respect his response. It opens my eyes to what I’m kind of, but not really, saying.

Because, I have been groped in bars. But most unwanted touching and obnoxious come-ons happened in college, or a couple of years ago when I first moved to Charleston. If I guy grabbed me in a bar now, so help me god. I wouldn’t stand for it.

Which is where this stranger — this stranger who took time out of his day to contemplate my life, women’s lives, society — made a valid point. There are certain women who allow (allow isn’t the right word, but what it means is. Women who are afraid to say no or perhaps uncertain of what to do next) men to grope them in bars. They are my younger self, and your younger self, and maybe, at this point in time, you.

You know the whole “tons of sexual assaults happen in college” statistic? Yeah, well, there are plenty of reasons for that.

But one of them is the stigma of admitting you’ve been sexually assaulted. Or even almost sexually assaulted, which still counts as some bullshit, OK, don’t forget that.

If a guy is cute, if he seems OK, if he’s groping you … do you really push him off? Or do you shrug it off? I know I used to. I don’t think I would anymore. But then again, who are we when we’re two drinks in and having a good time?

Are you a buzzkill if you knee a stranger in the balls?

(The answer is no, of course, but this is my almost-25-year-old answer. This would not be my 18 or 19 or 20 or 21-year-old answer).

We grow out of insecurities. We grow into our confident and powerful selves.

Random commenter was so right: if you are groped in a bar, don’t throw it casually in a column! Do something about it.

I realize that now, and that is my message now, to women in college, in high school, and hell, anywhere in the world. Your hurt is no less than anyone else’s. Someone else’s disrespect is not your burden.

In my column I am suggesting a new way for women and men to respect each other. But I don’t want you to think I stop there. I just wrote 800 words. I have a lot left to say. The first thing? Respect yourself. Know what you want and what you don’t want.

And don’t take any shit.