What I Wish I Said

“Put it in a bubble and blow it away.” My mom says this phrase when something we can’t control gets us fired up. It is usually something said by someone, who I am sure has the potential to be very kind, but in that moment I judge to be a complete dumb dumb. A question from a person who didn’t let me answer, a person who tells me advice for my own good, or something a stranger yelled from a car window. Something that a dumb dumb said in complete ignorance, and I hold onto it, and perseverate, and let it muffle my ears so that every other thing I hear that day comes through an ignorant, dumb dumb filter. My strategy for cleaning out this noise is to remember to put it in a bubble and blow it away, because I can’t control other people or what they do and say. All I can control is myself, practice kindness, and keep on moving, letting the things I can’t control blow away.

There have been times though when I think I have practiced kindness to other people’s benefit when I should I have thought more about myself. Times when people have said something to me and I should have fought for myself, because self preservation is a form of kindness. Instead I wanted to make sure I didn’t hurt another persons feelings, so I let their comment slide.

I don’t want to be bitter, I don’t want to feel like I’ve held grudges, but I have some noise stuck in my ears which I have held onto and I just want to say what I wish I said.

The Time My AP History Teacher Made Me Feel Little

I was sixteen, it was a school day, and AP History was going to start. I didn’t belong in that class. I don’t think I belonged in that school, but I definitely didn’t belong in AP History. I didn’t learn the way the other students did, and academic success was a major factor in social status, so my many failures were my identity. I failed a lot in AP History. I knew that I was supposed to want to be in this class though because all the students with high GPAs were in it and because the teacher, Mr. DumbDumb, was one of those teachers that all the students craved the approval of, as well as many faculty members and parents. He had a cinderella story to his name; came from an impoverished background, worked his tail off until he got into an ivy league school, and now he was working at a highly ranked, affluent, public school. To make his shadow even bigger, he had been named a teen heartthrob. Who knows if I authentically agreed with any of this, but I knew I was supposed to drink the koolaid, so I did.

As students are gathering from lunch, a popular thing to do was to stand around the teacher’s table and tell jokes and personal anecdotes, and laugh and feel approved of. I was standing at the table. Someone said something that triggered a story of my own. It started with, “This morning I had to clean because the cleaning lady is coming today,” which was a situationally ironic pun that we laughed at. Mr. DumbDumb laughed, but not at the pun, he laughed at me and loudly said, “You have a cleaning lady?!”. His classist judgment poured over me, hardening like a sour candy shell, stinging me so I couldn’t think quickly enough to have a retort.

What I wish I said was, “Excuse me? Oh, I am so sorry to have brought up the fact that my hard working, single mother of two daughters has a cleaning lady. I did not realize it was going to offend you and your humble roots, and you know— you’re right! It is shameful for my mother to employ another hard working, independent woman to make sure that our house has some form of maintenance. Even though she is still trying to manage a slew of recent trauma that isn’t any of your business, you’re right. She is not working hard enough, and you know, neither am I. I should be getting a second job to add to my first job I already have, so that when I am a successful adult like you, I can use all of my suffering to judge a child. Thank you for this realization, I could not have gotten here without you, Teach.”

The Time A Woman Told Me My Future

I was twenty-seven, it was a Saturday night, and I was at a family house party. I didn’t know anyone there really, but they all knew me because a our personal business is what family gets to share with people who are strangers to us. I was talking with a couple about my recent employment as an art teacher. They are both in education as well, so we had a similar vocabulary to work with. They were asking me about the culture, the faculty, and the salary, and I was gushing, because I could not be happier. It’s really quite amazing how excited I am about this job, something I never saw for my future. I’m sharing all of this with them, and I say, “and the administration is amazing and really works to meet the employee’s passions. When I was hired, it was phrased as ‘We know we don’t pay as much as public school, so hopefully (enter a myriad of benefits and opportunities) kind of balances it out,’ and I actually find that more valuable than a higher salary, you know?”. The wife then laughs and says, “Well that’ll change when you have kids!”. My throat clenched as tight as my hands around my mug of cider, which I thought might break, and all I could muster was an eyebrow raise to frame my eyes as they looked down at the counter.

What I wish I said was, “If you would get your head out of my uterus for a second, so you can hear me letting you know that what you meant to say was ‘if I have children one day,’ but this is assuming that you meant to tell me about my values changing at all, because I’m pretty sure that should I decide to have a child I wouldn’t want my established values changing very much at all, because if I’m bringing another person into this world, my values better be in-effing-tact. So I hear you projecting some of your own issues onto me, but I’m going to let your problems be just that, and instead pretend I heard what you meant to say, which was, ‘that’s great, it sounds like you’re really finding a great community,’ because I am.”

The Time When Time Was Not On Our Side

I wonder about how so many things might be different if I had actually said what I wish I said. I was twenty-one, a dumb dumb, and in love. I was in love with someone who was a year older than me, also an artist, and also a dumb dumb. We had an un spoken, uncommitted relationship because two scared dumb dumbs don’t know yet how to be open and honest with each other. It’s why we break our hearts so much when we’re young. Because he was a year older than me, he graduated and went home. We kept in touch at first a lot, and he would visit, almost like we were continuing our unspoken, uncommitted relationship. Then we stopped keeping in touch and we moved on. We would at times, while we were together, talk about how unfair it was that we were in two very different places in life. Being a year a part in age, at the end of college with as much drive as we had can make a big difference. As we grew a part we both had different relationships and opportunities so our lives took form into what they are today. I have reflected many, many times on how every conversation in which he told me that it was too much work to keep a long distance relationship alive, my throat closed, and shallow agreements fell from my voice. I agreed, because it is what he was saying and so I believed him. Now I don’t know why, and later I learned from a mutual friend that I apparently broke his heart as much as he broke mine, most likely because I let him be right.

What I very much wish I said was, “I don’t care if it’s too much work. I would rather work hard at something I want than be stress free with the road most convenient. I love you, and I think there is a way most inconvenient and unconventional that we aren’t seeing but should at least try to find. I’m not fighting with you because I want to be annoying, or nagging, or clinging. I’m fighting with you for myself. Because something about this makes me so happy, and challenged, and excited, and I’ll be broken when that’s gone, and I don’t want to have to fix myself without having tried to keep it.”

I have put these in so many bubbles, so many times, but they never fly away. To quote Amanda Palmer, “even if you never hear this song, somebody else will know.”

In perpetuity,

Hannah

PS: new logo! Peep it below.

PPS: Sorry for so much shade, but sometimes you gotta have a catharsis to get present.

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My Grandfather's Dress

It’s the hazy end of a summer dinner party. Emptied dishes lay across the table setting, hollow bottles are scattered, cheeks are rosy, and laughter is the song that holds the humidity around us. It’s the events of last night and the ones of tomorrow. The conversation moves from family anecdotes to tales of lineage, and the people around the table discuss the traditions of Irish step dancing, Jewish holidays, and sweat lodge gatherings. Fear of missing out sets in and I desperately cling to the scant Italian traditions my family practiced.

I grew up thinking I was mostly Sicilian because that is what I was told. Though, it was never clear to me how much of me was Sicilian, and how much Irish, and am I really Danish? What does it even mean to be French Canadian? Though despite the ambiguity of where I am from and what makes me up, it was always clear to me that I was Sicilian. This always felt more fact than belief because my goombah grandfather was living proof, and even though he’s never told a tale that wasn’t tall, everyone else in his family was sure of our heritage as well.

But we were Long Island American Italians, which is a completely different kind of Italian. The two cultural traditions that my family practiced were eating seven fishes on Christmas Eve and yelling regular conversations. Even though that was the extent of our customs, my Sicilian identity was something I held on to and exaggerated at times for my own comfort. I took such pride in being Sicilian, and growing up on Long Island around so many other American Italian families, I felt I was a part of a family larger than I knew.

As I got older it became clear to me that I was not as Sicilian as my grandfather persuaded me to think, and my Anglo-Saxon surname was not such an ill fitting dress after all. Just because it fit though, didn’t mean it wasn’t uncomfortable. You see, this dress was handed down to me from a family who I just don’t know very well. It was made and worn by a descent which I have never felt the descendant of. The fabric has unknown origins, the style is vague, and the colors appear faded. My goombah grandfather’s dress, however, is bright with embroidery, made with a regional linen, and sewn by people with faces and stories. I so wanted that to be my dress.

A month ago I received the results of my Ancestry DNA test. It told me that I was roughly a third English, a third Western European (probably German), an eighth Irish, and a tenth Sicilian.

One tenth.

My identity and connection to the family I know best had been reduced to a tenth. I know that’s a silly thing on which to focus, because obviously my genetic makeup doesn’t erase memories and love. What it did do was legitimize the gnawing feeling of always knowing I wasn’t as Sicilian as the rest of my family. My hand-me-down dress became itchy. It was proved that I needed the very few traditions my family practiced because it was the only way I knew how to be Sicilian. The rest of them simply were.

In the DNA report there is a “low confidence” portion that details your heritage with very low percentages. The report told me I was three percent European Jewish. My mind flashed back to when my father was married to his second wife, and her family shared their many beautiful Jewish traditions with me. I flashed to another memory, when my three Jewish roommates invited me to participate in their Rosh Hashanah celebrations and say prayer with them. All of a sudden the fiber of my fabric felt less arbitrary as I recollected the strong sense of belonging in those moments.

Then I received an updated version of my DNA report. AncestryDNA does this as they receive more DNA samples and gather data from more regions of the world. My updated report now tells me I am roughly half English, a third Irish, an eighth French, and a very small amount of Norwegian.

I’m not even Italian at all anymore.

Or European Jewish.

My sister, who only shares half of her DNA with me, asked me why I’m so obsessed with finding out my heritage. “Why can’t you just be here now?” which I don’t think she said knowing there’s a book titled Be Here Now, but she was getting at the very soul of its message. She’s right, I absolutely could not care and just be who I am with the appreciations and passions that I have. If I let go of this though, I won’t have a hand-me-down dress, and I like hand-me-downs. I like traditions. I like culture and heritage and ethnicity and the stories of how families came to be. I especially admire when a person’s culture is so intrinsic to their identity that it feels like they’re living up to who they know they are meant to be. It’s a kind of fate that was created before manifest destiny. It’s the steps that were taken on earth’s soil long ago that led to my footsteps here. It’s our people’s origin. Not everything happens for a reason, but there’s a reason I’m here, and I want to feel connected with it.

It’s connection. It’s knowing that my connection is real and belongs to me. It’s the feeling that the stitch and weave of my dress matches that of many other dresses. It is to know the story of my dress. It is to know the meaning of my dress.

In perpetuity,

Hannah

Nutrivi. Chalk Pastel on Paper. 2018.

Hannah and Her Sisters

"How 'bout you, Hannah, do you have any siblings?"

"I have three sisters."

"Oh wow, that's a lot of women. Are you all really close?"

I never know how to answer that question. First of all, let us acknowledge the "Oh wow, that's a lot of women," comment. This brazen and equivocal response always makes me jagged and so I want to say something flippant like, "Well, right now we're close in proximity," as I am living with my family while I wait to move into my new apartment. The closeness of our relationship is a tricky one to explain though, because when I think about emotionally close sisters I think of- well, I think of The Virgin Suicides. Maybe a less morose example is Lizzie and Jane in Pride and Prejudice. You get the idea though. I think of close sisters and I think of brushing each other's hair and hand-me-downs. I think of secrets, mistakes and tears made together, and a kind of love that keeps complexions dewey. 

My middle sister has only just begun being able to wear my hand-me-downs and my secrets, because she was born when I was thirteen. My younger sisters, the twins, would never cry for the same reasons I cry because they're making mistakes that I made eighteen years ago. We're all in completely different places in life. We all know different things. We are all experiencing drastically different childhoods, teenhoods, and adulthoods. So our closeness is unique, because it had to be. 

I have always played with the boys. I'm not really a "tom boy", I just always preferred the company of male personalities, even when I was younger. This is a weird thing to think about, trying to define the kind of friendship dynamics I have had in my life, considering the current climate around gender. What I know, though, is I grew up in an age of "boy or girl," and so looking back, regardless of who they are today, in my memories I notice that almost all of my friends have been male. What's even weirder to think about is why that may be. What is it about the societally defined male archetype that showed me a friend? 

That is a question for another blog post (or therapy session) maybe, but it's relevant to me when I think about how I relate to my sisters. Because now that I am at that age where I hear my female friends tell me about their soul sisters that they met when they were three, or see my Instagram feed transform into what could pass as stills from Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, I don't relate. Instead, I feel jealousy. Which is shallow, I know, and a waste of my time, but the relationship between female friends is deep and long lasting, and something I can only hope will happen for me soon because I want to learn the things that can only be taught from those bonds.

My middle sister is fourteen now. Not only can she finally relate to the things that I have to share with her, but I find myself finally able to relate to what she's going through. To make things even cooler, she is a part of a different generation than I am. She is the technology generation. She is the age of the social. She watches reaction videos, uses slang that doesn't translate to me, and comes from a time that when asked the riddle, "A father and son get into a car accident, and when they get rushed to the hospital for surgery, the doctor walks in and says, 'I can't operate on him, he's my son.' How is this possible?" she would have the popular response of "Well, it's either the mom or the other dad." Back in my day, this stumper was mind boggling because family dynamics were a certain way and only men were doctors. This transformation is so cool, and that is the kind of mind that I get to call my sister, but also my new friend. 

Hanging out with her is a time warp. Everything she knows at fourteen is different from what I knew at fourteen, so I get to do it all over and she learns 90's trends from a real 90's kid. It's finally secrets, and hand-me-downs, and french braids, and mistakes. She listens to my advice and hears my stories and understands my perspective. I listen to her feedback and ask for her stories and understand her perspective. It's going to be so interesting when the twins finally get there.

Of course, we yell at each other, and are both very stubborn, and have those moments when instead of trimming her split ends I want to make a "mistake" and cut off  a huge chunk of her pristine, never been dyed, thick hair. I don't though, because she trusts me, and that tempers the envy. One of the things taught by female friendships is how to not compare myself to other women. This is a lesson that is at the base of a lot of my anxiety and I'm sure most other women's as well. Female competition is a plague which plaques our hearts and warps our bathroom mirrors. I wonder what I would see in my reflection today if I let myself become vulnerable to a female friend growing up. Maybe I wouldn't feel like I have to use oil to keep my complexion dewey to boost my self worth. Maybe I would just see high self worth because I knew that all my life I had that friend that gave me that kind of love in trusting, platonic, intimacy. My sister is teaching me this.

A couple years back I was in a bar, and sitting at a table with some people I did know and some people I did not. It was a weekly LGBTQ night and The Orange Devil had just been elected. Among one of the people I did not know was an older woman, and she started out solemn, but as she told her story of her best friend voting for Trump because it's what her husband told her to do, she began to cry. Her sobs became punctuated with gasps and her arms became limp, and her story closed with the end of their friendship. To have been so close for so long, and then divided. This woman was grieving, and all I could think was how lucky she was to be so sad, because they must have had a profound sisterhood.

In perpetuity,

Hannah

PS- Here's a dog video I really enjoy

PPS- This is a still from Stella Simon's surreal film Hände: Das Leben und die Liebe eines Zärtlichen Geschlechts (Hands: The Life and Love of a Gentle Sex) 1927–1928. It's beautiful, and funny, and weird.

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"My mother is my best friend."

This is a real quote from many conversations in my life, and it is also true. One of my favorite things about humans is that a common topic that comes up when people are getting to know each other is our mothers. "So, what's your relationship with your mom like?" they will ask, or I will, because I'm nosy, and this is hilarious because it is so telling of who a person is. Even if it isn't all that telling, that in itself tells me a lot about you just by contrast. It's also hilarious, because we, as a species, are aware that this relationship is insightful to who a person really is. 

 

So, when a person is getting to know me, and I have just said something funny about my mom, or something raw about my mom, or something inspiring about my mom, and the next question is "oh, what's your mom like?", and I say, "she's my best friend," I know what it makes me sound like. 

 

A slight narcissist with attachment issues. 

 

This isn't totally untrue, I don't have attachment issues. What I do have, though, is companionship. I have a person in my life who has been my rock. She has seen everything that I have been through and still likes me (love is assumed, but liking is different). My mom is the person I go to when I need redirection. She once had a dream that the earth's poles were flipping, and only she knew because she was magnetic north, but no one believed her. I laughed relentlessly when she told me this story, and maybe this shows where the slight narcissism could be genetic, but when I sit here and reflect upon how my mother has shown me clear paths and guided me through the absolute darkest hours (literally, we once had the electricity shut off on us) I can believe that she might be at least my magnetic north.

 

Today is my 27th birthday. It is also the 27th anniversary of the day my mom gave birth to me. It is also Mother's Day. Every seven years my birthday is shared with Mother's Day. When this happens, the energy between us is like that of when the world is expecting a rare, total solar eclipse. Tensions are high, emotions are deep, and although it's something that has happened before, we have no idea what it's going to be like. On Mother's Day in 1991, it was the day before I was born, my mom was in her third day of labor (no I'm not kidding), and was soon to be admitted for an emergency cesarean section because I was too fat to be born (again, no I'm not kidding). Even though I was technically there, I can only imagine that being my mom was like the anticipation of a rare, total eclipse. It has happened before, but never to her, and she had no idea what it was going to be like. 

 

I think being a mom is probably pretty cool. Mother's Day in 1991 wasn't so cool for my mom, but the day after probably was. The 27 years following have been boisterous, including many ups with many downs, and calming lulls in between. I think of the relationship my sisters have with my mom and will have when they are 27 years in. I know she'll be just as close with them because she's an excellent mom. She is understanding and nurturing by nature. Our relationship is different though. My sisters will probably never know the experiences that my mother and I share. In a way, we grew up together. She was young, as was I (because I was a baby), and life was coming to her the way it was coming to me. New and startling. She stood strong through all of it, though, and very elegantly so from my perspective. 

 

The other day I was in a store trying to decide which pair of shoes to buy. The green ones or the grey ones. The salesperson (a teenager who looked like a punk James Dean) was hovering, waiting for me to make a decision. I was hemming and hawing, making a fuss over a decision that should have little impact on my life, but aesthetic is everything to me, so if I chose the wrong color the sky might fall. He said, "so whatdoya think?". I said, "I'm going to send a picture to my mom, because 'mother knows best,'" with a sarcastic intonation. He laughed and gave me some space. I totally wasn't joking though. 

 

Happy Mother's Day. Even if your mother isn't your best friend, and even if she's not very good at being a mom, I still wish her a happy Mother's Day, because you are here.

 

In perpetuity,

Hannah

 

PS: Thank you, mom.

PPS: Yesterday, I graduated from Maine College of Art with a Master of Arts in Teaching. Yet another of my mother's brilliant ideas.

PPPS: This is a really good article about the earth's magnetic poles flipping.

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A Belated Valentine's Day

To My Valentine,

 

I have absolutely no idea what love is.

I don't know what it looks like. 

I don't know what it feels like. 

I don't know what it sounds, smells, or tastes like.

 

I know that I've seen it.

I know that I've felt it.

I know that I've heard, smelled, and tasted it. 

 

I love love.

I miss it at times,

Pine, even.

 

I know a love.

I know the kind of love

That is born with me.

The kind of love

That gives rosy cheeks 

And my veins 

Their crimson pulse.

The kind of love 

That shows me what it looks like

To have my heart outside of me.

The kind of love 

That has context and generations.

The kind of love

That has my name.

 

I remember love,

Vaguely.

The kind without my name.

The kind of love

Which is found and fostered.

I remember how it filled me

With a proud rush 

Of a feeling that resembles home.

I remember how it kept me feeling fifteen.

I remember hearing colors,

Seeing music,

And thinking in iambic pentameter.

I remember knowing its finality.

I remember fearing its mortality.

I remember how the pieces faded

After it was broken.

 

That love, though,

Is a love I will never know again.

I'll never know its details as clearly

As I once did.

I will know its name.

I will know when it happened.

I will know

It came, I saw it, I loved it.

 

Each love is different,

Never to be replicated,

Never neat nor tidy,

Never what I think it will be,

So I cannot go searching for it.

 

I have loves 

That remind me of 

The kind of love

That I cannot remember.

I am so grateful for those loves.

They are as spontaneous,

Brief while everlasting,

And unattached.

They teach me 

How to love.

 

We don't need to know what love is.

I don't think there is an answer to that.

I just want to understand it.

Love is the kind of quality

That leaves me speechless.

Love is the kind of variety

That keeps me willing. 

 

I cannot wait to find it again.

I wonder what it will be like.

 

In perpetuity, your love,

Hannah

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Me Too

I often skirt around this topic when it arises in conversation. It's amazing, because sexual assault/abuse/harassment, whatever hat it wears, is one of the issues I feel the most strongly about. That, in itself, is exactly the phenomenon that needs to change. The immediate sensation a survivor feels when given an opportunity, the rare podium from which to deliver their story. That's why the #metoo campaign was created; to remove the stigma. 

Why I dislike the #metoo campaign:

Every time I tell my tales of sexual abuse and assault, I am forced to relive events that, quite frankly, I can barely remember because the trauma has embedded itself so deeply in my memory that I cannot recall it clearly. My brain did that amazing thing it does when something so awful is happening that it immediately hides it from your conscious thinking. However, regardless of the details I am able to recall, I know what happened happened, and that is something that I have to live with and think about multiple times a day. So, to say #metoo is one more moment during the day that I am forced to remember events which make me question what my life would be like, could be like, if I wasn't in places at times or knew people I now wish I didn't. 

Which isn't productive. Being present is productive, and wondering (wishing, really) what would be or could be is a moment of being present that was stolen from me. 

I, also, don't want to tell people about my survivor stories. I realize all we have to do is write #metoo, but that in itself is a story. I'm not giving any details, not that I could, but you, the social media scroller have seen enough graphic movies or read enough horror stories to ascribe the series of unfortunate events yourself. 

So between the reliving of events, which I compare to what I imagine dying is like, and purely not wanting to share is a a lot of good reason for not wanting to engage in the #metoo campaign.

Because it's not a survivor's job to educate.

Because this happens so often to so many that #metoo feels like a sad last resort of an effort.

Because a hashtag feels too much like a medal, and when I say "I'm a survivor," I don't feel honor.

Why I like the #metoo campaign:

After the first time I became a survivor my mom did exactly what she should have done; she maintained normalcy. I have had the privilege of seeing a myriad of therapists through life so far, and every time I share this part of the story with them, first they want her to know she's an amazing mom, and then they agree, she did exactly what she should have done. 

What my mom did:

1. Noticed a dramatic change in my disposition and habits over a period of time.

2. Dragged out of me what had happened.

3. Told me it wasn't my fault.

4. Did everything in her power to make sure it never happened again.

5. Maintained normalcy. 

At the time, I'm really glad she did what she did. Something occurred in my life that I wasn't able to comprehend (sometimes, I'm still not sure I comprehend sexual abuse), and I was young, and she kept the rest of my world functioning. I went to school, I played field hockey, I made dollhouses out of cardboard (that was the art phase I was going through), and I went to sleep, and every day I woke up again. Some people don't do that last part.

I don't wish that anything had been handled differently. For future survivors, though, I want to find a new way of dealing with life after trauma. Because part of "maintaining normalcy" is never talking about what happened. I don't mean talking to my mom, or to a therapist. I mean publicly talking about the fact that sexual abuse is happening to so many people that I pretty much assume that every woman is walking around with very similar looking baggage to mine.

Something I go over and over and over again with my therapist(s) is the fact that people openly grieve death. It's another kind of traumatic event that happens in peoples' lives, and we wear specific colors and have ceremonies and, in my society, dedicate whole plots of land (ironically killing the earth in doing so) to the process of grieving death. Why I revisit this so often is because something I feel is a lot like death occurs more often, and we sweep it under the rug. As I get older, and what happened lives with me every day, but fades for so many around me, the reason for bringing up that I'm a survivor feels more and more arbitrary. Some call that healing, I call it compartmentalizing. 

Why do I do that? Why do I shy away from saying, "This is what happened, and some days are a struggle, and I wouldn't wish this pain on even the person that made me this way." 

That's why I like the #metoo campaign. Because it's not my job to educate, but the people that are lucky enough to not have the stories I have aren't going to be the ones to stand up either. They don't have the same fire. It's not my fault that I'm a survivor, but it's my reason to stop it from happening.

In perpetuity,

Hannah

PS: This is a bull I turned into a linocut. It feels right for this.

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B*tch, Be Humble.

When I was in my freshmen year of high school, we had to read Homer's The Odyssey. My lack of reading comprehension skills aside, I found this to be a tedious read. The tiny print, odd formatting, and dated tone all left me feeling unattached. Our own odyssey, though, came when we had our socratic discussions, and it was then that I learned about hubris.

hu·bris: excessive pride or self-confidence.

It was Odysseus's foil, and mine as well. Ironically, my poor reading comprehension and frustrations led me to decide not to continue reading the book. I used the internet to research the different chapter assignments, which worked for the most part. However, when I didn't do the assigned reading and was surprised with a chapter quiz, I succumbed to deceitful behavior. I cheated. 

What was I to do? I was in my first year of high school, pimple faced and pubescent, and the competitive nature of traditional academia left me with very little to keep me standing tall. I was the daughter of an English teacher; I had been involved in the gifted and talented program, and sitting there in my Honors English class, I decided I was too proud to come forward and say I didn't do the reading and needed more time. Too proud to admit that reading had never been easy for me, and I found this book to be particularly challenging. Far too proud to ask for help. I cheated.

Then I had been found out. My oh-so-clever teacher had mixed up the questions on the quiz, and my oh-not-so-clever, panicked mind didn't realize, and I copied all of the correct answers to a different quiz onto mine. It was painfully obvious what I had done. Yet, when my teacher asked to see me after class, and confronted me with my poor decision, I was even still too proud. I lied. I said that I must have just gotten all of the answers incorrect and it was a complete coincidence that I had all of the same answers to the quiz of the student that sat next to me. Instead of admitting that I was wrong and needed help, I quickly decided to be a liar, a cheater, and a voluntary idiot. One class period later my consciousness felt as heavy as lead, and so I returned to the classroom, my inferno, and admitted to my sins.

"Bless me, teacher, for I have sinned."

"You must accept a grade of 0, and confess to your parent."

Confess to my mother. The English teacher.

"Mom, I have something I have to tell you."

"What is it?"

"I....I, um..."

"Yes?"

"I did...I got..."

"Dude, spit it out."

"I cheated."

The words "I am very disappointed in you," are always worse than punishment, even when they just fall from our parents' mouths without effort or sincerity. This time though, it most certainly was honest and true. Her disappointment was everything that I was not in that moment. 

That is how I learned about pride.

I've learned much more since those (hardly) complicated years of high school. Humility is so important. We take ourselves so seriously, everyday, with very little room for foolery. We must balance our seriousness with some jest, and our achievements with failure, and our strength with weakness. We're an amazing species, and capable of so much, and we're so brilliant.

We're going to fall sometimes, though, and we just need to accept that. It's when we learn.

In perpetuity,

Hannah

PS- I'm notoriously late to the game when it comes to cool, trendy stuff. Even art, I'm always on the tail end. For the record, I was on top of when Kendrick Lamar's DAMN was released. I just didn't get around to listening to it until recently. I love this music video. I think DNA is better, because Don Cheadle, but this is clearly more relevant. 

Living in Vacationland

I've moved a lot. It's funny, because I definitely don't consider myself one of those people who you meet and think, "I bet they never stay put." There's nothing particularly adventurous about my affect, I'm not a thrill seeker, my life doesn't fit into a bag, and I don't own any shirts that read "wanderlust" in some aged cursive. I'm actually fairly introverted, my nesting gets pretty hardcore, and I'm a collector, which translates to "I have a lot of stuff." Nonetheless, I have moved more than the average person of twenty-six years. 

It started with my mom moving us; apartment to house to apartment, to grandparents' house, repeat. We lived in this one apartment that had paper thin walls, floors and ceilings, and our neighbors, among others, were a loud, flamboyant couple. We once overheard an argument that concluded by one of them storming out and the other yelling after him, "YOU CAN'T GET MAD AT ME, I BOUGHT YOU SHOES!". We love quoting that line. We've moved around Syracuse, Oswego, Long Island, and Maine. The only true effect of this is, aside from that first great storm that cakes the world in feet of frosting, I hate snow.

Then it became time for me to go do whatever it was that I was going to go do. Schooling brought me to Delaware, then back to Maine for a few months, then down to the Hudson Valley in New York. During all of the geographical moving, my personal life has taken a few trips as well. I gained a cat, lost a cat, gained a dog, lost a dog, gained three sisters, have separated and reconnected with a father, have gained and lost more step parents and families than you can shake a stick at, got to keep my favorite of all the step parents and families, wish that another could have stuck around for longer, but they're just a phone call away. I've lost an uncle and two aunts, have mistakingly called my grandparents mom and dad because that's what they have been to me, gained another dog, kept my mom, and gained a best friend.

We've all got our baggage, and that's just the tag on mine. 

What I've learned is that it can be really easy to move. Move in any direction. I'm not a person that perseverates for long. Like I've said before, "got a problem? Fix it." Change is important and a constant, especially for me, so leaving places has never really been a bother. I can leave a friend in the middle of a conversation and years later pick it right back up. I don't say "goodbye," I say "see you soon." I can be a stubborn ass, but I feel I'm pretty adaptable. Goodbyes are just not such sweet sorrows. Here's a mantra for you, my great grandmother used to say, "always leave the party laughing."

Well, this time I left the party laughing, and I made the move back to Maine, and this time it was a bother. I miss the bananas out of the Hudson Valley. Not the mountains, I would never take mountains over the ocean. Oh, but everything else. Mostly, the people. This world is a godless rock that refuses to die (thank you, FJM), and it has hardened me so. I may not seem like a person who has seen some shit, but seeing as how we all have, you can trust that I have as well, and what it created was a jaded cynic. The Hudson Valley, though, expresses some of the strongest and most necessary compassion that I have yet to experience anywhere else. I'm sure that place in New Zealand is a decent rival, and actually Seattle is unsettlingly pleasant-- now that I'm thinking about it, I get the feeling the whole pacific region is probably pretty great, but if I'm talking close to home, the Hudson Valley is pretty effing nurturing. In my brief six year stint, which is too brief, I softened to an extreme. The attitude of the people in the Hudson Valley is contagious, and it left me feeling present.

Keep an eye on those folks, because they're good people. 

I've been back in Maine for a little over a week now, and here's the abridged version:

- I don't recognize anything. This place is definitely cooler than I left it, and seeing as how I just moved from New York, I want to call it gentrification, but the great pine tree state is predominantly white, middle class folk that can still, for the most part, afford to live here. So let's be real, it's just more of a tourist trap.

- I do recognize some things, and luckily the things that are important to me. The coffee shop I worked at for eight years is here. My favorite deli is here (If you're ever in Yarmouth, hit up Claytons, it's delish). My favorite swimming spot is still here. I went to my high school, and that place still smells the same. 

- I've made more artwork being here than I have in the entire time since I graduated art school. I feel like I'm doing an artist retreat. It's pretty rad.

- This place is different, and I feel different. Good different. All around.

- I haven't lived here for nearly ten years. That's a long time. Out of the optimal hundred year (yeah right) lifespan, that's ten percent (let's be realistic, it'll be about 12.5%). Ten years is just under half my age. That time went by so quickly! I didn't realize it until I went to drop in at the yoga studio I used to frequent, and the person working at the counter asked,

                  "Do you know if you're in our system?"

                  "Oh, I doubt it, it's been a while."

                  "Well, let's just check. How long has it been since you've been here?"

                  "Umm..holy shit--sorry, pardon--it's been, like, almost ten years"

                  "Wow, time sure can fly."

                  "I guess so..."

                  "Oh, look at that, you're still in the computer."

- I have seen some pretty, seriously gorgeous skies. 

- It's weird being in a place I spent so much of my life being angry, and now I'm here being happy. 

- I still feel like I'm only visiting. It hasn't really sunken in yet that I'm not just vacationing in Vacationland.

- The pizza sucks. still.

In perpetuity,

Hannah

PS: Hudson Valley, I'll be back.  

PPS: This video has been coming up a lot lately. If you don't know Bill Viola's work, check it out, it's pretty extraordinary.

PPPS: I believe in signs from the universe. When I was seven or eight, and my mom was putting me to bed, I wanted her to stay longer, so I said, "wait, mom...sometimes, I just feel like a puzzle piece of me is missing. Like I'm an incomplete puzzle." This would haunt her for years until it would later be revealed that I pulled that line from the Rugrats episode when Chucky gets a girlfriend at the playground and loses her in the same day. Fast forward, a few weeks ago, I'm sitting on the curb, waiting for my stepdad to show up to help me move my stuff up to Maine. It's a Saturday morning, and I'm inspecting the nonsense of the last night that has washed up to the side of the street. I look down, next to my foot, and I see this:

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Well played, force-larger-than-me, well played.

The First Swim of the Season

I grew up in a dinky beach town on the north shore of Long Island. Streets were wide, and speed limits ignored, but the homes along those roads were humble. The lawns were well maintained, though small. Properties were crammed together, and half the lot was pavement. Then down the road was a peach farm, and beyond that a flower market. My grandfather was very good friends with the owner of the pizza restaurant we ordered from every Friday, and went by the name "Paco" at his dart bar. The family next door was only around in the summer. We would get all our basic groceries from The Handy Pantry. All of these details are important to me. It was a special kind of suburbia. 

My Long Island is not the one people think of when they hear that name. It was small, and there were families, and a locally owned ice cream parlor everyone went to and saw each other at, and there was scenery that you can't imagine. The Long Island Sound is my haven. It's warm waters were my first taste of the ocean's salt. My mother and I would spend whole summer days with my cousins on Scotts Beach, and bake in the sun, explore the shores, collect seaglass and pretty rocks and charcoal remnants from an extinguished bonfire, fraternize with our neighbors, and swim for hours. We would tread water until our toes were pruned, only breaking to visit the ice cream man. 

I established a connection with water in those years. Even during the colder seasons, my mom and I would walk down to the shore and breathe in pastel, gray tones, looking for even more seaglass, and staring out at the blurred horizon. 

We went swimming in November once. It was an indian summer, and it was late in the day, but an otherworldly, yellow glow was hovering, making our swim feel apocalyptic. If we didn't swim now, we might not ever again.

In Maine, the ocean is the only good thing. It's cold, but beautiful in a different way. My favorite summer spent with the Maine ocean was when my work schedule was from 5:45 am until 1 pm. I would wake up at 4:30, go to work, then speed to my spot on the beach, sleep in the sunshine and smell the salt without noticing until 6:00, go home for dinner, then out to spend time with my friends, and go to bed at 1:00 am, rinse and repeat. For five hours everyday, I was a mollusk on a rocky coast. It was divine.

Every spring, I have the tendency to get very existential. I'll assign more meaning to insignificant occurrences than I already do. I will meditate more. I will slow my life down. I will be patient. All of those thoughts are punctuated with the first swim of the season. It'll still be a little early for swimming, but it's such a hot day, that all I can do is maintain a steady, shallow breath. I'll be on my way to or from somewhere, and decide then and there that the moment is right. I will find a place that isn't too populated, go into the water up to my waist, and then dive. Then the cold water hits my face. That first moment every season is like waking up all over again. Then, just like collecting the seaglass on Scotts Beach, I'll funnel some of the water into a perfume bottle on my necklace, and keep it until it evaporates or spills.

Today was my first swim of this season, and it was quite the joyful punctuation on a week of happiness. I'll spare you the gratuitous symbolism.

In perpetuity,

Hannah

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IT'S BIRTHDAY MONTH

Birthdays are the most important days of the year. When people don't get into their birthdays the way I do, I respect it, but I still put the effort into making them feel special. Here's why: BECAUSE IT'S YOUR BIRTHDAY, DUMBY. It's the day you were born; the day you started existing, becoming a person with a future and a chance to be a part of whatever this is. It's the day your mom did something incredible. It's the day the people around you were given a new reason to love. 

I make a big deal about my birthday. On the first day of May, birthday month strikes. The anticipation builds and builds, and the twelve days leading up to my birthday are more exciting than popping the cardboard doors on an advent calendar. I do special things for myself everyday, even if it just means napping. Then, at 11:59 on May 12, my eyes are glued to the nearest clock, and I count the seconds into my own international holiday. 

On my birthday, the first thing I (try) to do is call my mom to say thank you. Then I do whatever I want, eat the yummiest things, see everyone I love, all while wearing a special, new dress. I end the night by partying like Cinderella, loving every moment, knowing that the clock will strike midnight eventually, and the magic will dissipate. 

My mother is the reason I love birthdays so much. She is the queen of birthday parties; each one had a theme, homemade foods, and she came up with unique games for us to play. The luau themed one was great, and my mom went so far as to make a pig shaped ice cream cake, which gave my eight year old friend, Ben, the opportunity to ask "Can I have more pig butt, please?". Classic. 

My favorite birthday party, though, was the best and the worst party all at once. For my thirteenth birthday, my golden birthday, which fell on a Friday, my mom asked me what I wanted to do. Because I had finally become too cool for school, I described a low key night of going to get pizza with some friends and then a sleepover at our home. She said, "Okay, just give me a list of the people you want to invite, so I can make a reservation." Just give her a list of names, she said. Little did I know, that was the key to the best/worst birthday ever. I then went around school, asking my friends if they wanted to join me for my birthday festivities. All of them, except for my best friend, said no. They said they had other plans, or they just couldn't, or practice, or blah blah blah. So, feeling rejected, my mother and I went to the restaurant to meet with my friend and her mom to have a small get together. When we entered the dining room, there were all of my friends that had turned me down for my birthday party, screaming, "SURPRISE!". My mom had individually called my friends and convinced them to turn me down, with the intention of creating a sort of surprise party. It was awesome, but man, that week leading up to it sucked. But it was awesome.

Your birthday is special, because it is yours. To be so small in this giant world, knowing that what you leave behind could be everything and nothing all at once, and that we were put on this planet not deserving anything-- it's true, I don't believe we deserve anything...except our birthdays. 

In perpetuity, 

Hannah

PS: thanks, Mom.

PPS: I finally made it to a Yayoi Kusmama exhibit and experienced eight, count 'em, EIGHT infinity rooms. I cried. 

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