Ashley Wilda

Author

Month: December 2017 (page 1 of 2)

snapshot of a day well spent

some days are like a cold drink of water. a deep breath of air after it rains. most days I wake up and wish I could’ve just stayed asleep. but days like this, I’m glad I woke up for them.

grey morning. footsteps in a house still sleeping. biting cold of leather steering wheel. two cars full of people I don’t really know. somehow still comfortable. somehow not overwhelmed. bluetooth music, throwback pop to broadway musicals. no shame. coffee cup in my boot. dusting of snow on highways and cars and quiet roofs.

a gym that opens up to receive us, walls yawning and stretching and branching in the best way. feeling that giddy child wake up inside me, like someone’s pumping me full of carbonated bubbles. like a toddler in a candy store. bright blue, sharp white. rough texture on skin. new holds like pleasant sandpaper. rope spooling through fingers, higher and higher, clip after clip, feeling the jitters in my limbs as ten feet turns into twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, the overhang pushing me toward gravity’s embrace. adrenaline. I’ve missed adrenaline. feeling the pump build unexpectedly fast, forcing me to try harder. lowering, dangling. holy crap. landing yards away from where I began. a tiny tail of rope sits where a pile used to be.

we are all a little bit in awe of this place, and a lot a bit excited, to climb and flail and fall and fail and succeed and summit. the point is in the process, in the experience, not however high or hard the end point. I remember how I used to feel a kinship with people like this, people who share this kind of crazy, and the memory makes sense again. the longer I let myself enter into the moment, the less like an antisocial, angsty hermit I feel. I find that I actually can talk. laugh. the sound effects which used to be so much a part of my ridiculous personality make a brief reappearance. for these few hours, it’s not painful to be me. I am not constantly uncomfortable with just existing. I actually feel like I’m living. I feel like I can just be. I curl up in my flannel somewhere beneath the looming overhanging and alternate between dozing and watching people interact, climb, laugh, goof off. the empty space in my chest is still there, as I know it will be – I don’t expect it to be gone, when I’m still missing a piece of me – but in this moment, I can accept it as part of me. I am okay with being me. I. felt. happiness. today. no one but myself can understand what an enormous thing that is.

red hands, bruised toes, grumpy callouses, stinky feet, we all pile back into cars in the dark. pleasantly physically exhausted, feeling satisfied. as the tires and engine whir and a few errant flakes of snow drift down, I feel the sadness quietly begin to trickle back to fill me again. I knew it was going to come, I am ready for it. I try to continue the day’s trend of acceptance. I look up at the moon, so bright, spattering of craters clear in the sky. it’s a few days shy of being full. I am somehow comforted by the fact that when you look at the moon, we’re looking at the same one. it is a small connection, but still, it is something to hold on to.

which walls could come down

alone rather than together

surrender rather than struggle

radio silence rather than contact

a decision that perhaps holds up

when I view it from afar

but when I take it into my hands

it falls apart

maybe because it isn’t mine.

but still there is nothing I can do

because it was always yours

to reverse.

yes, I built a wall

a towering structure that I hated

yet needed

but I always hoped we could one day

tear it down

and I don’t know how to stop.

remember, there is yet light

some days panic wraps its hot hands around my throat and squeezes. it mixes a cocktail of sadness and fear and missing and worry, pinches my nose, and forces me to drink. I push away the looming cloud for as long as I can, distracting myself with music and movement, but I can’t keep it at bay forever, and when it catches up with me… the world feels like a hopeless place.

so often I feel trapped within myself, living in a suffocating atmosphere of thoughts and emotions that just won’t let me go. no matter how I try to escape from myself, there is another layer, a box within a box within a box within a box, and I’m just trying to get out into the clean air and take a deep, clear breath. sometimes it feels like I’ll never get there. when I’m so trapped in circumstances I can’t change, when I’ve done everything in my power to do, when there’s still no ship on the horizon coming to rescue me from my island… well, only metaphor comes to mind to explain what that feels like. I am a whirlpool. I am a mess of scribbles. I am a wild thing curled inside a rubber ball. but I guess in the end, I am just me–a girl with a lovesick heart–and that is the problem. I can be no one else but me, and I have to learn how to live with it.

and so here I will try to compile moments from the last few days that carried some release, some beauty, some hope. moments which reminded me that there is a world that exists outside of me, and I can still interact with it. moments that said, you won’t be like this forever, no matter how you feel. moments which reminded me that it’s worth it to keep on pushing through.

the quiet rush of a river in the mountains. steel patterning the sky, holding up the bridge I stand beneath. Sweet Frog somehow still refreshing on a cold day. two pairs of footsteps on wood. the unexpectedly wise words of my fifteen-year-old sister. art galleries. songs in the car.

pushing myself on a new route, white pinches and burly moves. remembering my body still has the power in it to do hard things and come out on top. feeling my mind clear for those few moments. being successful at something I like doing.

Disney cartoons. hearing myself laugh. letting myself laugh. allowing myself to enjoy the childish ridiculousness of a fruitcake falling on a talking snowman’s head and sleighs spontaneously combusting… only in the world of Frozen. creating new inside jokes with my mom.

the tradition of Christmas Eve services. the rare blessing of feeling something, of knowing that my prayers are heard and I am cared about. the big brown eyes of baby Gabe staring at me from the row in front, obliviously sticking his tongue out in the adorable way he does. a fierce hug and present from Hilton that made me laugh out loud… a giant fake butterfly knife, perfect in utter ridiculousness.

feeling like a family on Christmas day. a dreamcatcher ornament, metal feathers silver and tinkling. the happy anticipation of giving and opening presents. the satisfying tearing and crinkling of wrapping paper. tea in a new mug with dark chocolate mint Tim Tams. playing Scrabble on a mini board.

the thrum of an electric guitar against my stomach. messing around with volume and chords. the squawk of the amp makes me smile.

the crackle of a fire. a soft knitted blanket. my mom’s heartbeat. my question, “you still praying with me?” her answer, of course, “I’m still praying.” beef stew in a gingerbread man mug. watching characters play out their antics across TV screen.

squishy movie theater seats. superheroes and their crazy adventures. the smell of extra buttery popcorn. the darkness that envelops me in story when the lights go out and sound and color shake the huge room. the ability to get lost in another world and emerge feeling like I could be more than I am. like I could fight for something that matters. like happy endings are possible.

written down this way, these moments seem more than I remember. in the flood of stretching days, of waking up and immediately entering the struggle not to drown in myself, I forget about the shafts of light, where panic eases up, when sadness consents to sit more quietly in my chest. but whether I remember them or not, they are there. and even as I hope and pray and breathe and feel and be, I will try to remember them still.

longing

wrapping presents just isn’t the same this year,

perhaps because I know what I truly want

I won’t find under the tree,

that my heart hurts because of a missing piece

no wintry magic can fill.

the greatest gift would be for you

to reach across this space and hold me,

to be honest with whatever your heart speaks,

to give me nothing less or more than truth,

because all I want is you.

musing… another spiral.

I live my life in cycles.

I’ve realized this about myself of late… I pursue things with a frenzy until I don’t, and move on to something else, just to pick up that same original thing days or weeks later.

I’ll read for a few days. I’ll read and read and it doesn’t really matter what I’m reading, as long as I’m reading, and as soon as I finish a book I immediately pick up another one, not pausing for breath, because the craziness in my head doesn’t stop for breath so why should I let my attempts at distraction pause for breath either? That would just be giving myself room to think, which I do not need to do. I don’t have any new information to think about, although I wish I did.

But there’s a limit to any human’s ability to put up with one activity for an extended period of time. There comes a sudden moment when I’m sick of reading, I can’t read another page, so I just stop. But the space needs to be filled. Maybe I’ll listen to an audio book for a day and color. Maybe I’ll research jobs I don’t end up applying for, or do apply for and even interview and then realize I probably won’t ever take it because it exists on the west coast. Maybe I’ll go and climb every time I feel like being myself becomes too much, and keep doing that, until I’ve climbed everything or I’m sick of climbing alone or I’m sick of climbing in general and then I just quit climbing for a week or so. And then I take up walking and listening to music. I drive to a pretty, quiet place and just walk and walk until I’m done walking. And when I don’t know what to do with myself, I’ll do it again. Except now I think my feet are trying to tell me they hate my boots because it kind of feels like the shin splints I created during my short, ill-fated quidditch career are trying to resurrect themselves. I hang out with people every so often, but even that happens in shifts, like two whole days of being with people, which feels like a lot of talking, which is very, very good in the moment but by the end of the second day I’ve had my dose of social interaction for the next two weeks and I’m done. Doesn’t mean I’m not lonely anymore, but I’ve just reached my limit. The hole in my heart that just needs to be around people is all filled up, making the hole which really just needs to be around you, and you only, hurt that much sharper.

I wonder what my next cycle will be. The content of my cycles keep on reappearing, because they are part of the layers that make up me, the things that I enjoy doing. But even juggled, these cycles get boring when you’ve repeated them for months and months. I think about the things I used to do and don’t anymore, think about trying to pull them into my life again. I remember the smell of bone dust, and the rhythmic motion of sandpaper, and the deep satisfaction in just following the intuition of my fingers and watching something come to life beneath them, something which just used to exist in my imagination, and the cool kiss of newly polished pendant resting against my skin. I remember wrapping my hands and wrists, with extra padding over the knuckles, throwing myself into punches and palm strikes, breaking choke holds and blocking knife strikes, allowing my inner tendency for fierce motion to erupt through me, grappling with friends while training for the day I may run into a foe. I should work to reconnect with these moments, push to add some newness to my days. Rekindle a bond with these pieces of who I am. I should feel more alive for it.

Some activities I struggle to return to, even as I feel desire pulling in me… like singing along to the strumming of my guitar, or lying in the grass and looking up at the stars, or eating gummie bears while watching TV, because for some reason they all remind me of you. And in the absence of you, that’s just too much to carry.

to be, I wait

fear and hope war inside

the cage I call a heart

fighting an endless battle

to be myself is to love too much

to be myself is to hope against

the impossible

to be myself is to wait

for a response that may

not come

to be myself is to love you

what a thing it is

to turn myself inside out

to reveal everything

oh everything

to know I have nothing left

to give

how freeing and terrifying

to put myself in another’s hands

to sing and write and pray

to send off into the unknown

to listen to the silence

until my ears bleed

and still wait

not knowing if I will hear

your voice

yet still hoping with every breath

because to live

to breathe

to love

is to hope

and I know no other way

to be

I see you too.

I get her text, and pull myself from my nest of quiet and stories, built to erase myself from the world. Brownies for breakfast, empty mugs of tea, coloring pages of fawns and armadillos, pencil peelings lost in my sheets. Piles of books I haven’t read, audio stories of Mistborns burning metals, vigilantes in hoods shooting arrows across my computer screen (Oliver is way hotter than Barry, in case you were wondering). I’m all too good at ignoring the world, and the world is all too good at forgetting about me. But hours wear monotonous and lonely, and I know I need her.

She’s there, smiles and long curly hair, the same smell I remember from childhood, when we’d get our team hoodies mixed up and I’d know which was hers. A hug catapults us into conversation, like we’re picking up in the middle of something already started, still familiar with the language only we have shared for over six years. Our feet move as we talk, picking up speed, following the mirrored blues of the river beside us, propelling us across dirt paths, over bridges, balancing on roots. We’ve always talked best on the move, in the places we love, letting nature tease out our happinesses and hurts, easing the process of sharing and connecting.

Like a breath of sweet spring wind, the remembrance of how we talk the same, laugh the same, finish each other’s sentences, speak the same words at the same time. How something integral about our souls is the same. I let the feelings and thoughts that have been building up inside of me just spill out, and she does the same, affirming, questioning, just being there. Accepting. Caring.

There is so much I keep inside. So much I hide from everyone around me. I feel so much and share so little. I think so much that I only allow the journal by my bed to know. I hide behind the anonymity of screens and the privacy of a closed bedroom door. I bottle up who I am, the good and the hard, because it’s less scary than venturing to let another human being in. And yet I forget how the unspoken, the secret, eats away at everything that is alive inside of me.

But now, I let it all flow free, feel a safe space to welcome all that I am. I don’t need to hide here, and neither does she. We aren’t trying to fix each other, because we know we cannot. We aren’t trying to be exactly alike, because we can’t do that either, although we are insanely kindred. We aren’t trying to explain or prove or dissect. We just need to be understood. To be heard. To be loved. To be seen.

Finally feeling unalone opens my eyes again, and I feel something inside me trying to wake up. I see the forest, see it’s beauty. Green and brown arches, delicate and reaching. Clouds mirrored in water. Earthy scent of the air. Calm expanse of silver and blue. My fingers reach out to brush bark as I walk, daring to touch the world again. Laughter feels good. Honesty feels better. Embrace feels best.

I thought I had lost her once. We’d made it through high school, but college broke us apart. It was the greatest hurt I had yet felt, and it floored me. It took travelling to another country on the opposite side of the globe in order to feel like myself again, and still I missed her. Still, I hoped. (I have found that hope is something that sticks closer to me than my own breath.) My heart knew she couldn’t ever truly be replaced. What we had was too special, too unique. We meant too much to each other. Even as I didn’t understand, I made sure she knew I was still there for her. I always would be. And miraculously, with God’s help, we made our way back to each other. Now, each of us is walking through the darkest times of our lives. And she has been one of God’s greatest gifts to me through it all. We have needed the reassurance of the other’s hand in the dark. We have needed someone who sees the true self and the struggles and is not intimidated by the mess. Someone who says, I feel it too. Who says, I am not going anywhere.

Love and pain, climbing and questioning, hope and fear, waiting and following our hearts, we talk about it all, no holds barred. Minutes bleed into hours, light fades from the sky as cars hum over the bridge, and we could talk through the night if we wished. I wish I could have her every week, instead of a handful of days a year. I wish we still lived in the same city. I wish we were fourteen again, running out into rainstorms and spinning beneath the thunder. But we have this moment, and the promise of years of moments to come. She sees me. I see her. This is how we’ve always been. This is how we are. And with God’s grace, this is how we always will be. I’ll return to my world, and she’ll return to hers, but we have this to hold on to–

I see you too.

bracelet

tonight I felt the braided strands

gently pull apart

and fall…

the  bracelet happened to catch

on my finger as I stretched.

I knew it would happen

someday

knew that string can’t last

like memory can.

but still my left wrist

feels unexpectedly bare

and I don’t like it.

I knew I’d wear it til it broke

because I still cared

and it kept me sane

when the storm inside made me wonder

had I made it all up?

I remember the night

you tied it on

the two of us sitting on my bed

leaning, talking, laughing

up much too late.

I reached for a hug as you left

and you pulled me clean off the bed

and the light of that moment

I want to carry with me

always.

to be myself and nothing more

my top two fears have always been this: (1) losing people. (2) being trapped.

(although drowning is also somewhere on the list, which is ridiculous and incredibly improbable but explains why water and I have never thoroughly gotten along. oh, and cave crickets. I really hate cave crickets. I mean, an insect that looks like a spider but jumps and has no sense of direction? um, no thank you.)

I think this is why most of this year has sucked so much. because both of those things happened, although perhaps not in the way I originally feared them to. and realizing that losing you is connected to my two biggest fears has helped me explain why I feel so darn scared sometimes. I never could figure it out. it started last semester, as I tried to figure out what the heck was going on with me. as I thought about losing you, something would start to happen. it was a feeling that started in my heart and then made its way to spiraling thoughts in my head and then crept into the body. and then, later, it would just boom, be there, out of control breathing and wanting to press myself into corners, and I’d wonder, what the heck is happening to me? there’s no physical danger. nothing to materially fear. so why do I feel so darn terrified? body and soul?

well, I guess it was because my number one fear was happening. and my body knew it. weirdly enough, losing someone feels a bit like drowning. and so does being trapped.

I remember a moment during my last weeks travelling in New Zealand. My friend Meg and I were kayaking in the insanely turquoise waters of Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve. The wind was making the water kind of choppy, but the sun was strong, and the rocks and the islands were just so sharp and colorful and present, and there were lots of people snorkeling in the water. We even saw a purple jellyfish, just float right by us. And I was in the front of the kayak and feeling the freedom of being alive and independent in this world and just being me and living outside and just engaging with life and people so fully and freely… and I voiced to Meg my fear about going home. going back to people who already had fixed perceptions of who I was. going back to a society that I didn’t feel like I belonged in. going back to rules and a known world. I was afraid I’d stop being the true me I had found on these two islands halfway around the world. I was afraid of being misunderstood and allowing that to limit me. I was afraid of being trapped, geographically and emotionally. And Meg, wonderfully wise and blunt friend that she is, said that knowing me, she couldn’t ever imagine my spirit being trapped. that I would never let that happen to me. it just isn’t who I am. and hearing that from someone gave me the courage I needed to try to believe it myself. and I went home… and I met you again. and so many other people who became so much to me. I found a space to be me. to belong. I was the least trapped I had ever felt at home.

I have realized that my fear of being trapped isn’t just a physical fear. yes, I do fear being trapped in a material space, who doesn’t? but just as real is my fear of being trapped situationally. emotionally. of being able to do nothing. of being forced into a choice I don’t want to make. of being forced into that choice by myself, by the own realities of my world. I have always been the girl that finds the people and things she’s passionate about, recognizes what she values most, and then doesn’t stop until she reaches that place. that’s a confident and powerful feeling. the feeling I was scared of losing when I came back to the States. and I didn’t lose it then. but I didn’t realize how losing people you care about, even just emotionally, makes you realize how powerless you really are. how little I actually can control. thank goodness Someone still has control. because I sure don’t.

what I never understood until now is how I can be my own worst trap. how my desires and emotions can be the prison, the straitjacket, keeping me from the emotional or physical freedom that I want. how I am my own worst enemy. I am the thing holding me back from what I can have, what I can control. yes, there are circumstances I can’t control. and to be honest, I don’t want to control them. I want you to be true to yourself, and what you feel, no matter how I’d like things to be. free will is a good thing, if a hard thing to understand. but without free will, there is no real love. God understood that when he made us. our love would not be true if he did not give us a choice. if he did not let us pick our own paths.

my fear traps me. my love traps me. my sadness traps me. my hope traps me. and yet, all these things come from me. my decisions create them. who I am creates them. I guess in reality, I’m not trapped, even when it feels like these feelings just happen to me sometimes, overtake me in their hugeness. I feel these feelings because I am me, and no one else. I can only make the decisions that are truest to who I am, and let the consequences fall where they may. and I think I am. I think I’m being as true to myself as I can be. I think doing that, and doing what is right, is all that anyone can ask of anyone else.

I often feel like my musings lead me in circles. or spirals. but at the end, writing helps me arrive at a better, or at least deeper, understanding of myself, even if it doesn’t give me answers. it helps explain myself to myself. and to whoever reads this, I hope it does the same for you.

take a walk

sitting at home lends itself to introspection. however, this is something I have an abundance of. and when I wake up especially sad, I work myself deeper and deeper into it just by sitting still.

so lately, I’ll just up and decide to take a walk.

get out of my house. get out of my bed. get out of my head.

sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. but it’s never worse than doing nothing.

so today I hop in the car again and drive to the river, a place I’ve always been drawn to when my heart is hurting or frenzied. summer or winter, spring or fall, the river is… well, the river. it has a special magic to it. and so does the forest, the ivy and the trees and the woody vines. and hopefully sunshine, if I’m lucky.

it’s especially cold today. my toes are numb in my boots, hands huddled in down jacket pockets. but the more I move, the more I warm up. the river rushes by as always, blue, constant, unmovable, dynamic, beautiful. I push my headphones in, turning the shuffle on random.

music. gosh, am I thankful for music. when I listen, to almost anything, it feels like it takes over for me, for my brain, my body. it becomes my heart, the thing pumping blood and keeping me alive, and I don’t have to think so hard about existing. I can lose myself in it, or let it feel for me, breathe for me.

and it keeps my feet moving. the more I walk, the less numb I am, in all ways. I wish I could just walk forever. I need this constant, purposeless motion, movement for the sake of movement. I’ve wanted to achieve this through climbing, pulling off lap after lap… but you can only live on an autobelay for so long before your will to keep going just gives up and quits, along with your skin and your wild heartbeat and your limbs. there’s a limit, which frustrates me. I wish my body was stronger. I wish there could be this endless wall, easy and fluid, where I could just climb and climb forever. become movement. feel like I’m doing something other than walking in circles, or just wandering wherever I feel like it before turning around whenever I get tired.

but still… walking is good. running would be better, but my lungs hate me too much for that (thanks a lot, asthma. jeez.). but there is something about walking, about my legs propelling me through the world without much thought. there’s a rhythm to it, a mindlessness, but because I’m actually going somewhere, it doesn’t feel utterly pointless. and it’s physical. it forces me to look outside myself, and not drown in all the things going on inside, all the things I can’t fix, all the things I can’t control, all the worries I have about what I did and didn’t do or what will or won’t happen.

I suck at waiting. especially when I don’t know exactly what I’m waiting for. I just know that I hope something is coming, anything other than silence, and I can’t help but wait for it. but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to do something. my brain and heart tell me I have to, this is too important not to, but there’s nothing more for me to do. and so I walk.

and today, it gets better. the air is freezing, but the sun lights up the path in golden, shining through ivy leaves. I begin to notice things about the world. things other than me and what’s inside. patchy snow on dirt and brush. slivers of ice in a puddle. vines as thick as my bicep twisting, hanging in a mass beside a tree. I remember climbing those vines. I remember sitting in hammocks and throwing gummies at friends. I remember playing the push game on a rock in the river, always losing but never minding. I remember polar plunging in February with a bunch of friends as crazy as I was. I felt so alive, pumped full of fizzy joy, electric. I miss being crazy. I miss feeling like I am home.

rocks and whushing water. dogs excited to see me. a thick pipe across a dry creek – I balance across. wooden bridges. paths branching off paths. crunch of gravel. quiet steps on dirt. smooth grey bark with white splotches – birch? ivy. lots and lots of it. a hollowed stump. a whole haven that exists with or without me. alone or with others. I snag a knitted hat with two braided tassels hanging from a tree peg. it was there yesterday too, so I don’t feel bad about taking it. I pick off the crunchy leaves… it’s warm and soft. my heart feels quieter. I take out the earphones, pray as I walk. like I’m talking to a friend, someone who cares about me. who understands me. I feel a closeness I haven’t felt in a while. I feel like I can trust Him, no matter what happens. He knows what my heart wants, and can do everything I hope and more, if that’s best. and He’s faithful. all the time. that’s all that matters.

I think about hope. about what I could compare it to. maybe it’s a sword, because it is so double-edged. sharp. maybe it is sunshine, or the comforting warmth that comes when I cup my hands around a mug of tea. something vital and beautiful and powerful. or maybe it is the cold that comes with a winter day, something you can’t avoid or let go of even as it hurts to hold on to. maybe it is both, the warm cup of tea and the cold gray day. maybe it’s a burr in the woods… you don’t notice you’ve picked it up, until it’s there sticking to your clothes. you can’t seem to get rid of it,  but its sharp prick on your skin reminds you of who you are and who you love. maybe hope is the smile of the person dearest to you. maybe it is memory. maybe it is dreams. maybe it’s your breath or my heartbeat.

I think it’s all of these things.

I think everything is more complicated than we think. and more simple.

I think that love makes all of these things worth it. even the things that feel impossible.

I think a lot of things.

but thinking them here, breathing fresh, cold air, as my feet move me through the forest and as music pumps blood through my body for me, is much better than doing it almost anywhere else.

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