A short letter inspired by the book The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Mademoiselle Reisz,

I am writing you to inform you that I intend on leaving. I am not going far, but I intend on going permanently. I am only letting you know because no one else understands this feeling in the pit of my stomach, this feeling at the center of my very being. I have chosen to write to you because you are the only person who has tasted these depths of isolation. You understand me.

We are outcasts for only the best of reasons. I plan to pursue a future without being owned and without living falsely. I will be completely true and awakened for the first time in my life. Somehow, I will fill this chasm inside of me.

For months I have felt exhilaration and confusion—I have experienced emotions I never knew existed. I am leaving because I do not know what I am doing with my life or what I truly crave. How can I be my own person when I was in such a stupor for so long? I have made my decision to leave and I am holding true because that is the only way I can be confident in who I am, confident that I am not allowing anyone else to own me.

Please let my children know I love them and that I gave them all that I could. Tell them the world is a harsh place and that they must be careful to keep their eyes open in order to stay afloat.

Please tell Robert I love him, and because I love him I must say good-bye.

Sincerely,
Edna
10.4.05

For Loved Ones Lost

Everyone who knew you, loves you.
Everything you were, lives on through us.
Your body is gone, but your life remains in our hearts.
You are in our actions and in our kindness;
Your benevolence will continue through us.
We will be strong for you,
Because you are our strength.
Because we can still laugh with you,
We know we are okay.
When we think of your smile, we smile.
And that’s how we know we have been blessed.

November 2010

Written for Matthew Ryan Dalling’s Memorial Card

Sisters of Mercy

The voice on the other end of a telephone always sets the tone of the conversation to be had.

Ms. Bubbico resides here in the main office, with a recent important transplant from the admissions office… Sister Janice.

Sister Janice, a Sister of Mercy, let my family feel comfortable and secure when she invited my other half, my sister Rita, to attend Lauralton Hall.

It was late in the year; it did not matter.

We had no money– she would arrange everything.

It was very dark; my father had just died a few weeks before in Nicaragua.

She showed us light.

She gave my family our first taste of Mercy Spirit.

She alone set the tone of the conversations that I’ll be having for the rest of my life.
April 2006

The Fountain

Ten years of age and all I can fathom are toys. Boxes upon boxes upon boxes, and no toys can be found. The heat is almost too much for my little bathing suit clad body to take. Every new box holds incredible promise; navigating each sticky piece of tape without my stuffed animals, without My Pretty Pony crushes my juvenile spirit. Leaving the box-swallowed room, I enter my parched paradise.

Surveying my exotic surroundings, it begins to sink in that I am really in Nicaragua. With an increasingly familiar Latin taste, it feels more like my last home, Guatemala, than my first home, Pennsylvania. Here, my grandmother is not making fruit salad in the kitchen anymore; she is in an air-conditioned bedroom with Alzheimer’s disease, exploring the world of Spanish Wheel of Fortune re-runs. My father is making everyone happy in a clothing factory, because he is the sweet, perfect father.

Wiping sweat from my forehead, I smell food. This food it is not pleasing to my palate. The woman cooking it only knows how to cook with outside fires—not ovens. My mother gently reminds her that black beans do not have to be served with every meal. My sister, fourteen, is following me discreetly to ensure my safety in this new world.

While exploring my new abode, I discover a circular fountain at the core of a beautiful garden. The fountain is pleading with me to partake in its jubilant dance. The fountain, sadly, is empty, but I remedy its dry and hot stone interior with the promise of water from a nearby hose. The water filling the fountain becomes a whirling cure for the sultriness of the day. I check on the height of the newly created pool approximately every 20 seconds. The first time I check my knuckles are covered with cooling water. By the 15th time, it has reached my elbow and my excitement overflows.

The water that runs from the end of the green hose fills the placid stone pool. I play a game of pretend—the hose becomes a snake, its nozzle hissing and its green scales growing wet and slimy. Venom spitting, the snake is unstoppable to any common man! Secrets of the jungle are known only to me, and as I turn the nozzle, the fluid ceases.

One toe at a time, my foot sweeps the top of the water, and I sit on the edge bracing myself for the moment that is inevitable. Overwhelmed by anticipation, I fully submerge myself in the fountain. The water eases the sweltering heat, and carries with it an almost baptismal like peace.

That afternoon of fountain dipping in Nicaragua is one of my fondest and most cherished memories of childhood. For a number of reasons, life changed after that dance in the fountain. My father died without warning only three days later and we left one foreign country filled with family to relocate to the United States. Life changed completely. When I recall the sleek, slippery, formfitting water, I feel alive, comforted, and innocent.

August 2005

Happiness is a Newborn

I find beauty in every human being I see,
but I have never been as amazed as when I saw a newborn for the first time.

A newborn tells you what heaven feels like
and is exactly what innocence looks like.

Pure innocence is rare and nearly impossible to see,
especially in a world so full of hate, pain, hunger, and greed.

A child is a new heartbeat beating on its own after a short nine months in the making.

Through nature, beauty is both created and born with every new child.
12.12.04

Hurricane

familyThis storm still has such a hold on me;

My head is clouded and I’m echoing,

echoing in my own head.

Repeating my own phrases again and again and again.

This full circle life we lead—

We live, we love, we leave. Never past tense. Always now. Always continued.

The movies, a party, a museum.

I promise I’ll say yes.

How many times can I wish I said yes?

A matter of distance, a matter of energy—

It just doesn’t matter anymore.

The memories we made will have to be enough.

You’re out of audible range, though I sometimes feel you near.

Now you’re everybody’s forever best friend.

Forever young.

The kind of love that belongs to a full-grown heart;

Eternal fondness.

This storm will continue to hold me.

Always now. Always happening.

Always love.

Because you are and always will be.

October 30, 2012

Kind Words

My feelings feed into the conversations that I have with myself for my entire day.
If I repeat my to-do list, my faults, and my hardships, where will my heart be?

When I wash myself in the shower and negativity does not wipe away,
I have to make the decision to change the way I’m thinking.
I have to take myself to the next step– a leap of faith.

These topics often feel like they can’t be avoided, but I don’t need to dwell on them.
I create unnecessary anxiety for myself,
because I simply don’t remember to turn it off.

Perhaps it’s my inherent nervousness, but I believe it’s mostly habit.
I know that when I don’t take the time to love on myself,
There’s no one else who can help me get there.

I alone make the conscious decision to think positively.

What about you?

Do you speak to yourself with the same love that you give to others in your life,
or do you unconsciously bring yourself down?
Move up, get up, stand up to yourself. You are in control.
How to get there is simple—think about kindness and continue with positivity.

Take the time to wash away your anxieties and encourage your optimism.
Tell yourself the things you honestly deserve to hear.
March 4, 2013

Birthday

On the surface, birthdays seem like math.
So many questions from people you haven’t seen in who knows how long;
This is a date in time for others to pulse check on your progress.

What year were you born?
When is your next big thing?
How long did it take for you to get from X to Y?
To others, a birthday is a balance sheet—it’s your life in numbers at a set point in time.

But your birthday is not your life, a day can never be your year.
Celebrating your life, no matter the number, is what matters most….
I’m just so glad you were born.

The truth is that it life is so abstract and counting should be discouraged.
Live by how you feel; life is not numbers on a scale.
How many loves, how many smiles, how many times have you wondered?
I hope the answer will always be infinite; to enjoy life you don’t need to stop and count.
March 4, 2013

Enough

familyIt’s been a year since you left me and I’m struggling to say

Exactly how much I miss you.

My heart feels weak and my stomach won’t stop turning;

I miss you this much:

Enough to keep myself together, so I can help everyone else stay together too.

Enough to try harder, to work harder;

Enough to do everything I can.

Enough to be the person you treated me like,

The person you were proud to love.
October 31, 2011