On home, and tea

acs_0133Thanks to Erin Boyle I stumbled across a beautiful mediation on home, travel, and belonging in Candace Rose Rardon’s essay, Home is a Cup of Tea.  She combines sweet sketches with simple musings about traveling, moving, settling, loving, and living — and how we define “home.”  Like Rardon, I have fond memories of drinking tea.  The tall, narrow cupboard in my childhood home full of tea tins, the fun of choosing a flavor for that particular afternoon, and the steamy, milky sweetness in my cup.

Even though the world may be extraordinarily challenging and difficult right now, we can pull strength and resilience from a sense of home, whatever that might be for each of us.  Some days, a cup of tea and a quiet moment to recharge are exactly what is needed.  Then we can jump back into the fray, renewed and ready to face the day.

missing vocabulary

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I wish there was a word for that feeling of wishing you had a part

in the happy memories of someone you care about (perhaps too) deeply.

 

It comes with a surge of envy for those that do,

and a queer ache in the chest,

and sometimes even a pricking of the eyelids.

A stab of sadness that feels utterly at odds with the happiness of their memory.

 

I’d hand you that word with my palms wide open — like a gift —

to show you my aching, and how I wish to be more/closer/deeper a part of you.

–Charla M. DelaCuadra

 

 

the challenges of feeling empty

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Depression is a difficult thing to talk about.  I know, because I suffer from it.  Lock, stock, and barrel, I deal with depression and anxiety both.  I do think the stigmas around mental illness are slowly beginning to change, but preconceptions and judgements still linger.  Even when people mean well, it can still be a challenging topic to deal with.  Especially since these disorders are largely invisible.

In some ways, I think some of the difficulties surrounding depression (and anxiety) can be attributed to the language we use.

“I’m so anxious about my meeting today!  I can’t wait until it’s over.”

“Ugh, I’m so depressed they got rid of the pumpkin spice latte already.  It’s my favorite!”

Sound familiar?  The fact that we use the same verbiage to describe both fleeting emotions AND majorly debilitating illnesses often makes it difficult to be taken seriously, no matter how well-meaning someone might be.  No, a walk around the block will not make me less depressed.  Unfortunately, encouragement to look on the bright side will not make my anxiety any better.  But someone listening, just being there, or simply acknowledging how difficult things may be can sometimes make a world of difference.  And if you aren’t sure what might help?  Ask.  It’s that easy.  A very dear friend recently asked me what helps when I am feeling bad, and I felt so seen.  His kindness in that moment made me so grateful.  Similarly, I almost cried when my doctor described panic attacks as one of the most terrifying experiences out there.  Up until that point, the episodes I had experienced were described to me as “only” panic attacks (as opposed to a cardiovascular issue).  The validation and relief that came with that simple shift was staggering to me.  I felt seen.  And I felt understood.

Perhaps the most difficult thing to explain is when people say you can “just ask” for help:  “Just reach out — I’m here anytime!”  Unfortunately, depression is insidious in that way.  It isn’t simply feeling sad. To me it feels more like emptiness.  Like inertia.  All the color drains from the world, I can’t appreciate any of the good things in my life, and I want nothing more than to curl up into myself and cease to be, for fear of being a bother to anyone.  As much as I try to “logic” myself out of negative self-talk, on the bad days, you can’t convince me I am anything other than lazy, weak, a downer, a failure, and a burden to everyone I care about.  It takes an immense amount of willpower to even get out of bed some days, much less send someone a text that I’m feeling a little down.  (I won’t ever say more than that, for fear of being a burden.  Or a downer.  You see?  Insidious!)  That being said, if I can get there, if I can send that little text, I am forever grateful if someone says, “Hey, you’re not a bother.  I know it’s hard, but you’re strong.  I believe in you.”

I had a rough day recently, which made me think I should put some of this out there, in the hopes that maybe someone sees this and feels a little bit less alone.  Sometimes, that can make all the difference.

Then and now

Very recently I had the pleasure of visiting with a friend I hadn’t seen since high school.  We had a lovely afternoon catching up and laughing at the antics of her small son.  Life took us on our own paths, and then somehow dumped us out into a fortuitous afternoon — one where we could just walk and smile and enjoy a moment in time together.  It got me thinking, about thens and nows, and about the people we become.

Certainly I am not the same person I was 18 years ago.  It was more than half a lifetime ago, and since then I have experienced joys and sorrows, victories and defeats, pain and love.  But in some ways, I think I am still that girl, too.  Idealistic, quick-witted, a bit self-conscious?  That girl is still there.  She is deeper now, though, and more multi-faceted.  Hopefully a little wiser.  Maybe a bit more of a realist, but no less a romantic.

The way we grow, the paths that we carve towards change — these make for quite the journey.  I get caught up in the day-to-day so often that I forget sometimes how far I’ve come, and how far I still can go.  Thank you, C, for unwittingly prompting this meditation on self.  It was lovely to see you.  And to see me, in a slightly different light.

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bowl of cherries

cherries

dark and sweet
as your kiss
the one I want and cannot have

but right now
I have this taste of summer
on my tongue
feet bare
in front of this kitchen sink
spitting seeds as the sun slants
liquid-slick and ephemeral
as the bitter finish on my tongue
so pink and so lonely
for the company of yours

cherries in summer
(just like you)
always leave me wanting more
slightly dissatisfied
but also grateful
for the sweetness they bring

a skirt and a bra, honey
and I’ve got a mouth full of summer
so melancholy for the memory
of this moment
before it is even gone

 

–Charla M. DelaCuadra
Photo via WolfBlur

Fates, Furies, and Florida

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A couple weeks ago I had the immense pleasure of attending a book talk by none other than the amazing Lauren Groff.  She was at Vroman’s in Pasadena promoting her new book Florida with grace, poise, and temporary tattoos (!) for all of us in attendance.  As a huge fan of both Fates and Furies and Arcadia, it was a delight to hear her speak about reading, writing, politics, and a love/hate relationship with Guy de Maupassant.

Groff treated us first to a reading from the first story in Florida, “Ghosts and Empties,” followed by a refreshingly direct Q&A session.  When asked about a writer’s responsibility and political engagement, for example, Groff deftly explained how she abandoned a recently finished draft just after the 2016 U.S. elections — that it was a kind of book we could no longer afford to indulge in.  She does not write overtly politically, but rather tries to work sideways to get to the things that really matter right now.  She finds she is writing less and throwing more away, as I am, so I found immense comfort in her assurances that it is okay to admit we are struggling as writers in the current environment.  I was likewise pleased by her encouragement to spread empathy and be kind to each other.

Groff’s writing shows great consideration for words, so I was intrigued but not surprised by her ability with languages.  She spent time in France as a teenager where she discovered and loved the work of Guy de Maupassant, that master of the short story form, before beginning to hate him as an avatar of toxic masculinity.  To this day she tries to read in French at least once a week, and admits that French has deeply affected her English.  She self-deprecatingly says she is terrible at writing in French, although she she’d love to do so.  Or Italian.  Or German.  (I find written German to be deeply satisfying from a grammatical perspective because I am such a nerd, so I can relate.)

An anecdote about reading to her son, and how it created a special bond between them, really resonated with me.  It is amazing how reading together gives you the same points of reference.  You share and can understand each others’ canon.  It crystallized for me how much I enjoy reading the same books as a close friend, or watching a show with someone dear.  It enhances your ability to speak each others’ language.

As far as her new work, Florida is where she calls home, so the stories she weaves in this collection are steeped in a sense of place all the more authentically.  The women she writes about are her but not her.  And while she lives with her novels every day, her short stories orbit in the back of her mind until they demand to be written.  Personally, I can’t wait to see what comes out of her orbit.

Thank you, Lauren Groff!

 

 

Cravings

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San Francisco, 2018

 

Empty.

 

Yearning.

 

She craves the raspy-nothing of sandpaper

to free her from

 

skin.

 

To open her to the light flash whiteness of wider, more infinite

skies

plains

roads

heavens

twilight

living

being.

 

Sun to bleach her bones.

 

Cravings unsated, raw.

Itching for release

 

and

 

redemption.

–Charla M. DelaCuadra