blog, paper street

i updated my privacy policy

It’s been two weeks since I’ve spoken to the one person I’ve communicated with almost every day for nearly two years.

I’ve never really talked openly about my relationship because I’m terrified of jinxing it. This far into it and, yes, I keep thinking about messing it up. Besides, there’s not much I believe in but of the few things one of them is that a relationship is between the people involved. And I’m selfish. I want to keep the good times all to myself and the not-so-good times… Well, those get buried so deep they’ll never again see the light of day.

Plus, this is the internet and it’s totally passé to be in your feelings about a significant other. No. It’s all “delete his number, eat mangos, and move on with your life”. We romanticize the gooey bits of love and all of its varying forms but reach for the ripcord at the first sign of discomfort. How the hell is anyone supposed to learn how to cope and persevere during turbulent times when all the hip advice is to jump out of the escape hatch?

The one consistent thing I had in my life is gone, halfway across the country on an army base, and I’ll admit I’m flailing a little bit. I’m closing in on myself while simultaneously looking for my own escape hatch. Because this, too, is un-friggin-comfortable. What do I do with all this free floating energy? All these insecurities someone else has regularly assuaged, they’re still here. They’ve always been here and right now they’re staring at me with hands on hips and accusatory gazes.

Here’s a misconception I’ve found: a relationship does not heal you. All those doubts and ugly stories you tell yourself about yourself… It doesn’t matter if you go to sleep with a warm body curved around you. It doesn’t matter who’s texting you good morning or who’s forcing you to watch some cheesy anime on Netflix at two in the morning. You can still smile in a depressive state. You can still have a panic attack wrapped in someone else’s arms. You can have weeks and weeks of really great days, but one bad day can warp how you remember each day before it. Believe me, I know.

You have to heal you – and I have a lot of healing to do.

I know this because I see how it trickles into other parts of my life. I’m currently employed but have been interviewing for other possible opportunities and the job market feels like prostitution. I am selling myself and hoping I get a return on my investment. And it sucks! I’m constantly at war with my self-worth, constantly trying to prove my value in a concise and itemized package to a hiring manager. All this to extend my livelihood just a little while longer. Pay my next bill, get back a few points on my credit score.

And I am a hard worker, a boss ass bitch if you will. I know this by all the responsibilities my supervisor trusts me to take care of myself, by myself. In action, I’m impressive. That’s the exact word one of my co-workers used to describe me just days ago when I was in a full state of panic. I don’t wilt and I’m not a quitter.

But I am only human. A very self-critical, anxious bean who is prone of isolation. I’m a trustworthy woman who has an extremely difficult time trusting others. My love language is acts of service (what can I do for you? how can I help? how can I show you I care?), but I shut down when I don’t feel reciprocity.

Not to mention I’m big on distractions. Blaring music on my morning commutes so I’m not stuck in my thoughts. Hiding myself in my writing because it’s easier to solve someone else’s imaginary problems. But the things I’m feeling and the fictions I tell myself, this stuff can’t be fixed by doing something drastic to my hair and trying a new face mask. If only…

I wrote this all out to say @universe, take it easy on me, will ya?

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nothing was the same.

i have a lot of thoughts about a lot of things. situations i’ve been in, people i’ve known, the mountains of feelings i’ve left unsaid… there is so much i want to say, apologize for or justify and not apologize for. i want to publicly talk about things i’ve been harboring so i can cut the anchor on my writer’s block and finally be free. 

i’m not going to, though. at least, not now. not for a while. not when i still wake up some mornings and wonder will my entire day be ruined if i accidentally dwell on an old conversation or past relationship. it can still be too much sometimes. 

but. i did find this. 

arden cho, known for playing kira on teen wolf, posted this on her blog the other day and she says so much of how i feel. about myself and about people who are or have been in my life. so for now, i’ll leave it at that.

p.s. i now know every word to pretty much every song on drake’s nothing was the same album 👌🏽

paper street

that thing you wish you could say goodbye to

forgive the sentence ending preposition, but it’s time i ‘fess up.

i wanted to do this series differently. have articles of varying points of view lined up. share and promote the voices of women i love and care about. crack open the door to vulnerability and show you are not the only person in that dark room. however…

in the span of about six, seven months, my life fell apart. all because of a dream. it’s not so much as i gave up on my dream, but rather it gave up on me…? however you dice it, a piece of my heart broke and i’m having the damndest time mending it.

i grew up in san antonio, texas. as a military brat, i tend toward the idea of having no home. of being a vagabond. but for my formative years, i spent a great deal of critical periods of development in texas. ages 4-11, if you must. my childhood has its share of traumas. many things i, to this very day, do not remember and my mom is never in a rush to trigger a resurgence. here and there i hear tale of this taking place or that being done, but my baby mind either did away with them or has them locked away in a very faraway corner. those “troubles” were a person, not a place.

still, the deepest part of me longs for san antonio. it has every single day since we moved in 2002. so, my new year’s resolution for 2k16 was preparation. do everything i needed to do in order to make my way there. i’d gotten through the harsh years of middle school, high school, and the somehow harsher years of college. i’d formulated a career path that just needed a little bit of experience to forge. i’d recognized and realized my life would stall and stop if i stayed in my small town in south carolina any longer than absolutely necessary. i’m very much a believer in timing and do the best with what you have where you are while you’re there, but it was time to put it into gear.

i wanted to be practical about it. i saved up money, investing in a FOF (fuck-off fund). i made plans. i would need a u-haul – or a trailer to hitch to my truck. my resume was in severe need of updating. i would have to prepare to tell loved ones, ones who would make it very hard to leave them. i worked on how to tell my bosses at both of my jobs at the time. i pro and con’d all the things, people i’d leave behind me. i set aside a week to make my first visit since 2005, simply to apply to jobs in person and look into apartments.

i made lists. i would need a deposit for a place and three months’ worth rent in the off chance it took a while to get a job. i’d need gas for the moving trip there. i-95 south to i-20 w until i got to tx, and then all the way down to the alamo is an 18 hour drive, so save up gas money and room for a hotel. probably in (*shudders*) alabama. a young, black female traveling through the american south by herself? i even contemplated getting my concealed weapons permit for the just in case.

it was happening. i was ready. i was fucking ecstatic.

and then my car died.

not oh, get a new fuel pump here or transmission there. i’m talking no amount of new parts could have me driving my ’98 gmc jimmy halfway across the country in one piece. i was suddenly out of a very crucial part of my plan, the plan.

with the rapid demise of my truck came another chink in the armor. a new car, yes, but guess what cars cost? money. attempting to band-aid my baby had sucked dry my FOF and a new car meant monthly payments and insurance, the former i’d been without for years and the latter had been taken care of.

whoosh. there went deposits and rental fees and gas money. but i was optimistic. okay, this pushes me from january to maybe july. no biggie. texas was now on the back burner but it was still cooking.

since purchasing my new car, which i love, at the end of july, it’d been hard enough to pay my present bills let alone make a bank account draining, life changing decision. and for months, i tortured myself with stories of people who moved to los angeles or new york with 300 dollars in their pockets and, yeah, they struggled for a minute, but now they live comfortably in manhattan as they blog full-time from home and get mimosas with their besties every sunday. i made every concession i could think of and still i was stuck in neutral.

(who are these magic women and why won’t they teach me their witchcraft?)

while i experienced this decline in my resolve, many things were happening at once. my anxiety and depression had reached its peak. i’m talking ithreatenedtoquitmyjobduringapanicattack bad. the election i never, ever want to talk about again ever took its toll on me – as i’m sure it did on everyone. suddenly people whose opinions i held in the highest esteem were lumping my perspective in with literally anyone whose mindset did not match their own. i was getting to know a guy who i liked while i became distant from a friend (well, friends) i loved. admittedly, every year around july to september, i get busy and i get stressed but this was different. this was DEFCON 5.

i fast went into self-care mode. i’m talking social media blackout, medications because it’d become very necessary, the whole nine yards. selah went into recluse mode to preserve herself and her connection to the outside world. i had to get it together and i hoped others would understand.

it turns out age 26 is a liminal space. here i thought it was time for me to go, go, go, and yet i found myself standing stiller than i ever had before. i let my friends move on with their lives without me and was met with resentment. i dealt with a medical emergency that one can’t quite bounce back from like, say, tonsilitis. my future looks a lot different than i thought or hoped or even dreamed it would, and i’m having a hard time reconciling that with what i want. what i believe i deserved.

right now, at this very moment, i know texas isn’t happening. not now, not in five years, and with the way the world is going, who knows who or where i’ll be in ten years. there is a misery in me that i’ve vowed to bring to term, but i don’t know if i’ll ever be over this. in tangled, one of the characters asserts “find a new dream”, but that is hard when a failed dream was your stepping stone to the rest of them.

but – it’s not impossible. it’s a one day at a time kind of thing, and each day has reasons to get better, do better. so i’m starting with that.


google defines “paper street” as a road that may appear on a map but doesn’t actually exist. i’ve always found a strange comfort in the phrase. who we are on paper doesn’t earnestly represent who we are in reality. yet, as writers, paper has been, is, and will always be our greatest medium. so came the thought –

why not showcase the parts of me and the people i know that live beyond the page?

 • paper street is a recurring series consisting of personal and guest posts meant to showcase the varying degrees of experiences we all share •

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The Owls Are Not What They Seem

There are a little over two weeks until opening night for “Almost, Maine”, the John Cariani stage play I’m directing, and I just lost two cast members.

I’m not surprised, honestly. We can’t predict health problems, but then again I’ve often felt like Murphy’s Law operates frequently in my life. Ya know, things going wrong at the worst possible time in the worst ways. It’s not as if this production has been smooth sailing from the get-go. No.

This show was meant to have happened a year and a half ago. I was always meant to direct – just with a little help from my friend. He flaked on me. I floundered for a bit, half-heartedly looked at alternative methods. The non-profit I work for finally got me to push through on my own and we set things in motion. Set a date. Held auditions. Bought the rights. Found the venue.

Things came together. And then they began to fall apart. Again. The friend who let me down before did it once more. Committed to being an actor, took on a few scenes, and then stopped showing up to practices. Wouldn’t answer phone calls. Won’t respond to texts from his scene partner. I reiterate, not surprising.

I’m grateful to be surrounded by a talented and understanding group of actors, who banded together and found four guys to replace the one. And somehow they encouraged me to take on a scene, one of the more lengthy ones in the play.

Only now I’ve got one scene that I’m constantly putting a pin in and, unless I insert myself – mind you, sixteen days prior to opening, will likely lose another scene.

It’s also Twin Peaks Day! Twenty-six years ago, Special Agent Dale Cooper drove into Twin Peaks, Washington and changed my life. Really. I knew the theme song in utero twenty-five years before I ever watched the show. I even have the same tattoo of the marking the Log Lady (Rest In Peace, Catherine E. Coulson) had on the back of her leg and Audrey Horne herself, Sherilyn Fenn, responded to me on twitter this morning at the exact moment I received the bad news.


Naturally, I keep thinking about one of my favorite lines from the show. “The owls are not what they seem.” Things are not as they first appear, they don’t happen the way we expect them to. And maybe they shouldn’t. Maybe things fall apart so better things can fall into place. Who knows? I don’t, but I’m still optimistic.

Odd.

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this is how you lose her.

i’ve been thinking a lot about fire escapes. about lofts high up in sleepless cities. about clear night skies and clearer days. about vitamin d deficiencies and short daylight hours. about very little daylight. the sun marred by cloudy skies. maybe it’ll rain, maybe not, but here’s four or so days of the sky making up its mind. about red meat being good for nails – but terrible for my skin. about my terrible skin and how certain times of the month it’s all i can do to stop myself from taking sandpaper to it. instead i just slather on layers of foundation, and going on about my day with painted nails growing longer than usual.

i’ve been wanting to write, thinking about it, but not seriously doing it. i’ve been reading. maybe not as much as i make it seem, but more than i have in recent months.

most of all, i’ve been hurting and i’m trying to be okay with that.

she’s sensitive, too. takes to hurt the way water takes to paper.

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wait for it…

i quit my job. 

okay, well. i gave my two weeks notice. i am still firmly at my first two jobs, but the third job, the only i got offered right after graduation…

everyone is talking about worth. the media, my eloquent as hell friends, my mom and i often have conversations about discovering our worth. and in knowing my own worth, i know i am not the right fit at that third job. 

i was hired because i’m good at writing grants – and i am – but i don’t write grants all day, everyday. i hold up a counter (and joke with customers saying i get paid to drink coffee and appreciate art). i do more, i did do more. inventory, customer service, and all that, which started to become monotonous…? and then yesterday i was told i “lack initiative”. ironic given that this past weekend i was frustrated because the girls at one of my other jobs do the bare minimum. they lack initiative. 

i have a strong work ethic. i pride myself in working hard so to be told the contrary? well, that stung. but when my supervisor sat me down and said “things just aren’t working” in that fix it or get fired way, something in me received confirmation. the massive anxiety i’ve been feeling for the past month hasn’t been unwarranted. 

i’m not enough.

i’m careful to not say “good enough” or “doing enough”. i am good enough. i’m intelligent, pretty damn great with customers, a quick study, and i do have initiative. plenty of it. if those qualities aren’t being recognized, then i’m obviously not the right person. i am not enough – for this job.

it took me a moment to figure out what i wanted to do. do i keep working there even though i would end up miserable (because, ya know, self-fulfilling prophecy and all that)? if i leave, where do i go? i do still have bills to pay because, ya know, in debt college grad. i couldn’t just leave and figure these things out afterwards.

i’m on the cusp of 25. i’m allowed to leave a job that isn’t utilizing my potential. i’m allowed to remove myself from an environment that isn’t going to benefit me. time is money and in this case i’m not a worthwhile investment for them and vice versa.

this isn’t me getting my feelings hurt and retaliating. however, this is personal. not against them, but for me. what i thought was an opportunity to further my career in the arts turned out out to not be. not really. but more than that.

art isn’t enough. art is my be all, end all. it’s why i get up in the morning and what keeps me awake at night. to quote scandal, art is “my hallelujah, heroin, and reason to breathe.” my job meant i got work for (another) art focused non-profit. it’s art…but it’s retail. i loved it for a while but i need more.

and already i’ve gotten the passive aggression. when i say i’m picking up hours at my first job, i get the “oh, you should be looking for another job where you can write grants all the time…” as if i’m taking two steps forward, one somersault back. but the thing about knowing your path is knowing you can’t tell everyone, despite what they assume.

to quote the song “wait for it” from lin-manuel miranda’s hamilton: 

life doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints. it takes and it takes and it takes. we keep living anyway. we rise and we fall and we break and we make our mistakes. and if there’s a reason i’m still alive when so many have died, then i’m willing to wait for it…

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guilt v shame.

i’ve been thinking a lot about a lot of things. but specifically, brené brown and her research on shame and vulnerability have been on my mind. stress is as foreign to me as the skin on my body, and this time every year i feel it on a molecular level. i can recognize it quicker than i can guess my favorite song by the first two measures. but stress, like everything else, does not exist in a vacuum. 

i have anxiety and depression. both affect me in different ways but can very easily lend themselves to the other. and i’m reminded of brown’s distinction between guilt and shame. to paraphrase: 

guilt says “you did a bad thing you did a bad thing” while shame says “you’re a bad person you’re a terrible, no good, very bad person”

in the simplest terms, that is how my anxiety and depression work. my anxiety causes me to think, “i did a thing why did i do the thing?” my depression, however, has me thinking, “i’m a bad person. i am not worthy of good things because i am bad.”

when i’m stressed, majorly, supremely, über stressed, one bleeds into the other. me doing a thing, not even a mistake, just a thing that someone else doesn’t like, i focus on the action. more times than not, thankfully, i know the action is not a reflection of who i am or my worth. i don’t gain or lose validation because of it. 

but when i don’t get a chance to catch my breath, the shame creeps in. “selah, you did a bad thing so it obviously follows that you’re a bad person. you. piece. of. shit.”

the downside to being the dependable one for those around me is i’m not allowed off days. i don’t get the space to be problematic, honest, human, me. i’m a helper. i’m a fixer. i am a “whatever you need me to do, i’ll do it” kind of gal. i’m good at that and it’s a position i actively put myself in, i know. but if i am not given the agency to have that off day, it turns into me having off weeks, off months. 

i used to take medication for my anxiety because generally if i can handle the anxiousness, i can battle the darkness. after a certain point my doctor and i agreed that in the longterm i would be better off learning coping mechanisms so i’m not taking something for years and years and years. while we weaned myself off the medicine i learned something. it’s not a cure but it helps and it’s fairly simple. 

feel. 

feel whatever is happening, the good, the bad, and the indifferent. instead of bottling stuff up inside, face it. process. deal with it head on so you can move on. i still have my bouts of existential crises – it’s honestly like clockwork – but i tend to be pretty level. 

unless i’m not allowed to feel. like how i’m working three jobs and volunteering as a director of a children’s theatre and trying to keep every little task that i have to do straight and still managing to have some sembalance of a personal life. and while i have this nifty talent for self-destruction, i really do try my damndest. often at the expense of my social life. yeah.

it seems like people in my life just can’t grasp this about me because all i keep hearing is “it’ll be okay”, “there’s no reason to get upset”, “why are you letting this bother you?” which on the surface are easy peasy phrases you pull out of your pocket when you don’t want someone you care about to bear the burden of stress. but to someone like me, it comes across as an act of violence. i am literally being told that my emotions are invalid at this juncture due to others’ lack of interest in them. 

and that’s fine. i would rather suffer in silence than let myself be vulnerable in front of anyone. in this case, an auditorium of almost 130 anyones. but when person after person after person – i swear it was three different people in the course of twenty minutes – deny me my right to feel, well, selah has a meltdown in front of those people and a week or so later she’s still in recovery.

so here’s my formula.

guilt + feeling that guilt = resolved emotions. but guilt – feeling = shame, all the shame, so much shame.

and i appreciate those close to me who allow me that space. who get it when i need to be alone and not talk much. who aren’t waiting for my rants to end so they can have their turn to talk. my best friend is my best friend for a reason. lots of reasons and not just because she took me to the wizarding world of harry potter this past weekend.

i suppose my hope, like always, is maybe if i put it out in the universe, people will start to understand. believe me, i’ve been explaining this to them until i’ve gotten blue in the face. 

*shrugs* going to finish this glass of wine and go watch twin peaks now…