It’s going to be alright

For young love that’s not so young anymore.

And for my 26th birthday.

We used to write 7 poems a day about falling in love. Now we can hardly form the thought. Our words used to spill out of us flooded, overflowing. Now we have grown comfortable with silence and when we speak it comes with a sob or two. We used to revel in the loneliness of the empty space next to us. Now we can’t remember what it felt like to not know how it felt.

We really don’t know what we’re doing anymore. But did we ever? I think some of us did. Some us found what we wanted or what we thought we wanted and then settled down with it just like we were taught to do. But even those of us whose lives came together are still waiting for our lives to come together.

And so here we are in our late-twenties, late for everything, late for our own lives. Or at least late for the lives we planned for ourselves at 16. Because even if it looks just like we dreamed it would, it doesn’t feel that way. No, it feels raw. It feels too realistic. It feels terrifying and boring and too much and not enough.

We waited so long for what, we don’t know. We waited for anything at all, for anyone who would listen. We waited for the timing to be right. We waited for a sign. But the timing is never right. Not really. And signs are not for us. Signs are for those who believe in fate and we know better than that. So we pick up and move trusting our own feet to do the work for us.

We are so tired, but there is so much more to do on this earth. So look back, but just for a moment. Look at all those adventures, flip through the snapshots of pain, reflect on the goodbyes and the change they brought. And then look forward. Remember that your earth shattering heartbreak and your sweetest love have the same name. Trust in your heart. Trust in your hands.

We are not as young, but we are still young. We know less now than we did, but that makes us so much more open to learning from the world. We love more carefully than before, but that makes our love all the more precious. Our lives are built from a scattered collection of things we picked up along the way. But we have built lives that are worth living, and isn’t that it? Isn’t that so much more than enough? We are enough. Look at all the good we’ve done. Look at all we still can do.

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A Moment

My life is quite full at the moment, but here is part of poem from Thich Nhat Hanh that spoke to me this morning. Take a moment to breathe and be and meditate on love and compassion.

 

The only thing worthy of you is compassion-

invincible, limitless, unconditional.

Hatred will never let you face

the beast in man.

 

One day, when you face this beast alone,

with your courage intact,

your eyes kind,

untroubled

(even as no one sees them)

out of your smile

will bloom a flower.

And those who love you

will behold you

across ten thousand worlds of birth and dying.

 

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A Brief Note on Grief

I don’t do grief well. Today I started crying in a coffee shop. The trigger? I couldn’t find the articles I needed to read for a class. And suddenly it is everything in the whole world that just feels so so hard, and the thought of never again getting a hug from one my dearest mentors and friends. Libby died on Tuesday and the funeral was Saturday and today is Sunday, September 11, which is significant but not significant, and I am in New York City trying to do my homework. I was told once that if I feel like crying but am in a place where I really should not be crying that I should focus on concrete facts. Fact: I am drinking black coffee. Fact: 2,996 people died on September 11. Fact: she gave the best hugs.

Have you ever had the experience where something bad happens but you can’t deal with it at the moment so you shove it down down down with the knowledge that it will inevitably catch up to you? And then here I am crying in a public place. Fact: my dress is grey. Fact: I live in Manhattan. Fact: she was someone who was impossible to keep secrets from.

I cant stop thinking about being seventeen. I was so dramatic and optimistic and hopeless and driven. I am still all of those things. I’m thinking about the way the living room carpet felt. I’m thinking about gingerbread houses. I’m thinking about that time I dreamed of my house burning down. I’m thinking about Wednesday nights and wishing it was Wednesday night eight years ago or Wednesday night eight years from now. There are too many memories, too many memories, and I miss everything. Fact: I’m crying again. Fact: people die. Fact: she called out all of the best things in me.

Grief feels so vague but so specific. There are no words except for every single word that races through my mind all at one time. Sometime soon I’ll have real words to put down and I’ll write some beautiful essay that says everything I want to say. But right now I don’t know what I want to say except, why? except, because. Right now I can’t write in the past tense. Right now I am so tired. Fact: I’ll find the articles I need to read for class. Fact: the weather is good in New York today. Fact: she loves us so much.

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Write about nothing

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Suhareke, Kosovo

I have so much to say and nothing to say and I don’t know what my life is. But I’m 25 and isn’t that exactly right? I like to write on here because I like to write, and because I like to think that maybe there’s someone who reads this who feels just like me. And so this is a post about nothing really amazing except for a few feelings (except that I think feelings are amazing). But just to sum up: for the last few months, I haven’t really felt like writing. I think that’s because I’ve had too many things to write about and just thinking about it feels overwhelming.

Here is a list of the things I have done since I last wrote:

-traveled to Turkey

-visited a refugee camp on the Macedonian/Serbian border

-hosted my mom and sister in Kosovo

-helped run a summer camp with my NGO

-packed up my entire apartment/life in Kosovo

-said goodbye to a million places and people and things

-traveled to Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and Italy with my sister, brother, and sis-in-law

-traveled to Jordan

-returned to America

-said hello to all my friends and family

-unpacked all my stuff

-watched my best friend get married

-packed all my stuff

-moved to New York City

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Ajloun, Jordan
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Atlanta, GA

 

Yeah. I’m not really sure how to sum all that up in words. I have so many feelings about everything that’s happened in the last few months and all those unspoken moments in between. There’s a fullness and an emptiness. It’s heartbreaking and wonderful. I feel simultaneously loved and alone. I’ve been curled up in the fetal position on the floor of my childhood bedroom and I’ve been dancing with my favorite people at my best friend’s wedding. There’s so much room inside the human heart.

All of that leaves me pretty unsure. Unsure about how I feel, unsure about my life, unsure about what to write in this moment at this coffee shop in NYC. I could write about what it’s like to pack up my life in a few suitcases. I could write about returning to places I’ve loved deeply. I could write about the new places I’ve been. I could write about falling in love with people, places, moments and watching my friends fall in love with people, places, moments. I could write about how excited I am about my life. I could write about how scared I am about my life. I could write about sitting on my windowsill in my new home in my new life in New York City. But I don’t think I’ve really leaned into any of that yet. I’m not quite ready to feel the whole weight of it. So for now I’m just going to say that I’m here, feeling what I feel, letting myself be blown by every breeze that passes through. My feet will touch the ground soon, I think. And then I will sit down and write something that makes sense. But until then I will just take deep breaths and go on walks in Central Park and try to remember all the good things that have come and let that heal me from all the bad. There’s so much room inside the human heart.

 

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NYC

A Poem About Breaking

On my Instagram page (@elizabeth_ee), I’ve been doing this thing that I call Tiny Poem Sunday. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but every Sunday I post a short 4 stanza poem. My first few posts were based off of a poem I wrote while sitting on the floor of the Tate Modern on my last day in London. By breaking it up into small individual poems that could stand alone, it turned into something much better than the original. I’ve now pieced it back together, and I thought I would post it here. I hope you enjoy it. Here is a broken puzzle of a poem about breaking.

 

Your hands are stronger

than they look.

You touch my cheek

and it cracks

sending flowering vines across my face

in place of your fingerprints,

Because I am fragile.

I always have been.

My glass fingertips

shatter a little bit

every time I hold a book of poems

or your hand.

 

I am a holding pen for beauty

and I will soon understand

that I have been seeing myself

through your small eyes.

Now begin to glimpse the truth of my reflection

in the pieces of glass that fall from my skin,

Because I am so much weaker

than a mountain or a word.

I am the delicate, crumbling parts of them.

But the truth is, I would rather be a thousand pieces

breaking away in your hands

than leave no proof that we ever touched.

 

I was here for so long,

But now I’m beginning to feel

like building a palace out of my body

and going home to it.

I will thank you for the flowering cracks

you left in my windows

And you will let me go.

I will be left standing,

amazed at the strength of my own legs.

Watch me as I walk away.

You’ll see the back of my head as a mountain, resolute.

Only I’ll know the lovely truth of my cracking porcelain bones.

 

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Dear California,

I woke up this morning with California on my mind, so naturally, I wrote it a letter.

 

Dear California,

You are magic. I bet all the girls tell you that. But it’s true, and I mean it.

I’ve been thinking about the first time I ever saw your Sequoias. I was only eleven or twelve, and it is one of the only things I remember about being that age. I was a small child and there was so much snow that I thought I would disappear into it. But that was nothing compared to how small I felt standing next to the trees. They were impossible, and yet I was looking right at them.

I think one of my favorite things about you is your transience, or my ability to be transient while I’m with you. I can have my pick of landscapes: desert, city, sandy beach, rocky beach, mountains, forests. You have all of it. You’re dusty and massive, quiet and dreamy, minimal and contrasting. I welcome every change of your landscape. It is an echo of the ever-changing nature of my own heart. We are both fickle in our own ways.

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When I was in university, I would sometimes tell people, “I’m from California.” A lie, of course. A nice thing to pretend, at least. At 22, I rented a car and drove up highway 1 in pursuit of clarity and romance. I don’t remember if I got either of those things, but I do remember that I pulled over every fifteen minutes just so I could run to the sea shore and stick my toes in the water.

The last time I was with you, I was heartbroken in my own small way. I stayed with you for a while and let your magic heal me just a little bit. There I was, traveling up highway 1 again, farther this time and not alone. With every turn there was something breathtaking. At times like that you have to be careful and make sure your heart’s still beating. We came to a cold, rocky beach near your northern border and I listened to the ocean flow through me. I explored caves and cliffs. I climbed up and down every rock that I could. And I discovered your redwood forests for the first time. I think you might be hiding fairies in there.

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It’s been almost two years since I’ve seen you. I don’t think about you every day, though maybe I should. But I think about you when it matters, like right now, on a cloudy Thursday. And I think about how we are both living lives of movement, and even with all the dust that shakes up, it’s a beautiful thing.

 

Hope to see you soon,

-ee

 

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On Fridays We Write Fiction

Here’s a thing about me as a writer. I don’t really write fiction, even though technically I concentrated in fiction writing as an undergrad. The “fiction” assignments I turned in were almost always stories from my life, where I just changed the names and a few details (sorry, Prof Russell). But maybe that’s all fiction really is any way. Lately though, I’ve been tired of writing non-fiction. I’m bored my own stories, so I’m trying to write proper fiction (with the help of Kiteley’s book 3 A.M. Epiphany). I’m even thinking of dipping my toes into a couple of real, structured genres (think steam punk or post-apocolyptic). The results are guaranteed to be disastrous but so much fun. Whenever I have something new, I’ll probably post it on here (on a Friday, of course, because of alliteration). So here’s one of my first attempts. I hope you enjoy it! Happy Fiction Friday!


 

The girl saw her first. She was walking to her piano lesson just like she did every Thursday: down the street, across the bridge, through the park with the big tree—and that’s where she stopped: to stare at the tree. Because there was a woman in there, or that’s what she would tell me later.

The girl stood staring at the young woman in the tree, and the woman stared back. They stayed for a couple of minutes like that and then the woman winked, startling the girl who jumped back and bumped into a boy, a classmate of hers. He had olive skin, dark hair, and dark eyes. He was an orphan who had been adopted by the young, unmarried town mayor.

“Oh I’m sorry!” she said, but the boy, who had turned towards the tree when the girl bumped him, didn’t seem to hear her. He was staring at the tree, his mouth agape.

“Do you see her too?” The girl cried, grabbing the boy’s arm.

“There’s a woman!” He said pointing.

“I know! What should we do?” They both stared at the woman. She was laughing and had her arms thrown up so they extended in and around the branches. She kept wiggling her fingers, which scared the birds away.

“I’m going to get my father,” the boy said, and ran off.

The girl stayed where she was, staring. The woman appeared to be doing jumping jacks but her arms kept getting caught in the branches. The girl was so mesmerized by the woman that she didn’t notice the crowd of people who had gathered around her, all staring at the tree.

“She winked at me,” someone said, and a few others murmured in agreement.

“Look what she’s doing with her hair!” A man cried.

The woman had begun to toss her hair up into the tree. She would fling a lock of hair, and it would ascend into a branch and then begin wrapping itself round until the ends finally caught on a leaf. She had divided her hair into seven locks and did this with each one until all her hair was above her and above us, wrapped in and around the tree branches. When she finished, she appeared to sigh with satisfaction.

The boy returned at that moment with his father, the mayor. The mayor stood staring, mouth open. And then the woman in the tree winked at him, waking him from his shock.

“Someone get the professor!” The mayor shouted. There was a mumbling through the crowd as to who would go, and finally the girl volunteered.

I was in my office when she found me. She explained everything in detail, every movement the woman had made and the way she looked. I nodded along, and then agreed to go with her and see for myself. There was, of course, no woman in the tree. I diagnosed the whole town with a kind of mass hysteria, which is now known as the Daphne Epidemic of 1848, a name I came up with myself. I studied the members of the town for the next few years. The town was quarantined, as this was seen as some kind of bacterial epidemic. But eventually the people of the town stopped seeing the woman. Or at least, lost interest in her. They walked by the tree as if nothing had ever happened, though occasionally they would glance at it as if to check if she was there.

There were several campaigns to chop down the tree, all stopped by the mayor. The tree had been there for centuries, and he believed it should be preserved, regardless of what it had come to now represent.

I went on to publish two books about the case, which earned me national recognition. The girl and the boy were married ten years after the epidemic. The wedding ceremony was held beneath the tree and the whole town was in attendance, including the mayor and his new wife, a tall woman with long brown hair and a great sense of humor.

There are rumors that the mayor’s new wife is, in fact, the woman in the tree. That the mayor fell in love with her and begged her to come out so he could marry her. And that when he slipped the engagement ring onto one of the leaves, she laughed and emerged from the tree as the woman we now see. These rumors are of course untrue. Though, I will say, when I first met the mayor’s wife, she winked at me.

 

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