Monday, May 2, 2016

The Red from Me

I left a stain on her bed, the first night I slept over. I saw the color spread over the white sheets as I discovered the moist between my legs. I left a stain on her bed.

She was tall and pathetically skinny with a big nose. I was tall and bulky with a big belly that I wasn't exactly ashamed of. She brought Jesus to our campus by the beach - a small community of intellectuals hiding outside of the rush of Miami, nesting in the trees and swamps of south Florida wild life. Miami brought with it two major colleges. The University of Miami is where all of the rich (Jewish) kids went. For those of us who couldn't afford it, Florida International University is where the rest of us went on our bright futures scholarships - free tuition given to students who graduated high school with a certain grade point average. I went to FIU but the main campus was too vast and big for me. With over 30,000 students a day visiting that campus, parking was the least of my worries.  Instead, I settled for majoring in English so I could spend the next four years in isolation along the beach with the rest of the book worms and introverts. But there she stood in her skinny legs, cheap t-shirt and short auburn hair. I don't remember when I started attending her small group but each time I did we prayed and discussed "current events." One time she showed us a documentary on Israel and Palestine. Or on how Israel did everything it could to demolish Palestine people who lived along the border. It showcased the extreme destructive tendencies of the Israelites, who wicked they lived, taking what was not theres covered under the protection of an disgusting ancient argument. Watching a bulldozer push over perfectly competent homes makes you rethink right and wrong even in spite of the divinely sanctioned role the Jews held in our global community, in our history. I shuddered at the thought that perhaps everything I had been told about God and the world and how I as supposed to live was wrong. That perhaps nothing much has changed since trench war fare and that up until that point I was fed lies and lies and more lies concerning everything from what it meant to be a woman to what demographics truly made up the Jewish nation. Like a naive babe, I hated myself for willingly settling for what was told to me instead of asking questions. She saw that. She saw the change take place in me as I listened and watched and learned and hid from the one who saw me.

The Miami bay breeze would creep through as she opened up her weathered pocket sized Bible and read to us. It was the first time since I had fallen from grace at my home church that someone looked at me with eyes of warmth and amazement. I was amazing again.

"You're awesome." she said. Not just once or twice but several times with her lips and her eyes and her hips in the way she tilted them toward me when I walked in under her pavilion each Thursday at one. I tried to ignore what it did to me inside when I felt her close to me each time. Every morning I would beat the traffic and drive out east toward the beach to be on campus as long as I could to see her and listen to her and memorize the shape of those slender hands. Little did I know that the eclipsing escape brought me closer to a certain home as it brought me further away from the house I had known my whole life.

She said there would be a conference for groups of college kids like us. College students who followed Jesus. I wanted to go if only for the thought that there would be more like her, more tender souls in adoration of a divine Savior. I could do without her tender beauty. I just wanted to be around people like her.

That month I saved up what little cash I had and swiped my debit card to attend the conference. She was again, mystified by my commitment, the commitment of a commuter who lived one hour away. I told her I came for the community and I didn't lie. There were parts of me that shut off when my church shut me out. Little did she realize when she looked at me she was looking at dry bones. God was blowing off the dust. I was rising again.

I don't remember her name but we were assigned the same hotel room and the same bed. I vowed to keep as still as could in hopes that my whole being didn't explode right on top of her next to her on the bed. I dropped my bags and looked at her. She seemed busy in her mind and busy in her eyes and so I left my things and ran away to the conference without her.

She was right. There were songs and stories of truth and new visions - new visions in particular of the Christian and the artist. I learned about the gift of the complex heart and how important it is to navigate our culture - not avoid it. The fusion of reality and Christian engagement was paramount. We did not need to only listen to Christian music. Holy could indeed be in the eye of the beholder. The conservative ideas of a hyper evaluative culture simply was another form of legalistic righteousness, a righteousness that did more harm that good when it came to living authentically in an increasingly shallow world. I was right for wanting isolation. The heart of an artist needs isolation. And love. I was home. It was a healing.

That night I got back to the room before her, as I was sure she was still networking, I mean fellowshipping, with other Intervarsity leaders in the conference. My soul was still mending walls and so I decided to go back and sleep lest I forget the reality of what was said that day. I forgot to brush my teeth. I didn't care to shower. I just slid into bed and let my hand cover my abdomen which spoke of impending pain. Cramps. They were tight. It started to hurt. But I was too tired to care.

I woke up to the sound of the air conditioning vent. It was loud and noisy and roared like an aging lion with only one more song to sing. I swung my arms wide open, not realizing she was already sound asleep next to me. I had forgotten she was there, that we were sharing a bed. I pulled my arm back mortified and cradled into a fetal position under the sheets. I turned away. My left side would quickly become numb since the bed was hard and I didn't want to turn to breath in her face. She didn't need that. I've been told my breath is quite harsh at this hour. I suppose sleeping with me was enough for one night.

I drifted asleep but woke up again soon at the feeling of her feet touching mine. I quickly moved my feet. As if on que she rapidly pulled her feet back! I laid there mortified at my hormonal urges. For a moment I seriously considered getting up and sleeping on the floor. Who knows what else could happen given the chance to slip into deep REM? But before I could close my eyes in prayer, prayer for divine self-control, I felt her feet slide over to mine again. They didn't stop sliding until her toe-to-heel was touching my feet. I looked over and she was finally asleep. My eyes drifted up to the ceiling as my anxiety to pray diminished. I closed my eyes letting the warmth of her touch permeate my entire body.

I woke up again. This time, she was looking at me. I saw her eyes and as if in a dream, she pulled the unruly strands of hair away from my face and leaned toward me. Before I could speak she reached over to my other side with her leg, saddling me in the dark. I laid there beneath her stung, looking up into her now large and glossy eyes. Before I could reach for her, for my arms now felt heavy and full of weight, she leaned in an kissed my nose. Then she kissed the corners of my mouth before she parted my lips with her tongue and went in.

I reached for her bottom and pulled her in deeper. We shared several moments being lost in the trance as we embraced. Finally, I pulled her back on her side, inside of my arms and held her for I quickly fell fast asleep.

That morning I woke up and saw a puddle of blood. It was almost three feet wide and just as long - a dark red stain on the sheets. I stood up mortified and checked my underwear. Red. Moist. Everywhere. I quickly rushed toward the bathroom, tripping over her ripped jeans and well-worn sneakers. I grabbed my bag and shut the door. I locked it tight as I leaned my head against the door and sighing.

About an hour later I had showered and shaved and scraped every ounce of female purification off my body. I had felt so whole so quickly just an hour before. Now I felt dirty, disgusting and I panicked. How quickly everything unravels. I finally garnered the courage, tightening my grip on my bag lest she confront me with my embarrassment. I opened the door. She was there waiting, standing with her Jansport backpack on her shoulder.

"You ready to go?" I nodded my head and we left.

She never brought it up - the stain on the mattress. The ensuing days simply brought clasped hands and long prayers by the beach and Psalms. She loved to read Psalms. When I think upon that night and wonder at the site of  my blood I wonder what it meant to her for there to be no mention of my stain? How she could see it as not that dirty, not that messy. Part of me.

For everyone else I ever known was quick to remind me that I had fumbled and fallen and messed up their perfectly thought out plan and that the only place for scoundrels like me was in the wilderness - alone, away from site less someone else catch a glimpse and learn from me. So I commuted away, back and forth from the concrete suburbia in search of breeze at my feet with her arms and soft lips. I learned to turn away from what my fear and the scraping of myself clean and think on back into what caused the stain -  the red so powerful. The red from within. The red from me. Each time I look into her eyes it only grows. The things that she can see.

And then I remembered that her name was Ivy. And she grew up among tall trees.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Two Queens

A friend of mine who lives in DC and who has a special eye for discernment has commented on my writing and suggested that I find healing in love. That is perhaps, why I write about it. In my mind, love heals. And not just any kind of love. Not love from parents or love from friends or love from strangers. Love from lovers. Love from romance. And she's right! She couldn't be more right. When I realized that was the driving force behind a lot of my writing it gave me a clarity of vision that I didn't have before and questions. Lots of questions. I began to think about:

1) In what ways am I being healed in my current relationship(s)?
2) Why is it only in romance that I feel healing?
3) What makes romance special?
4) What needs to be healed so badly that I keep writing about it over and over?
5) Why do I over think things?!?!?!

As you can remember, I felt a personal betrayal when Caitlin Jenner came out. I felt hurt. Like I was lied too, along with all of America. Which is ludicrous. This isn't my Dad. This show could very well be the most well fabricated lie in all of American television but I still felt hurt. And maybe it's because I cut my own hair and now look so very much like a man (instead of a woman) but my thinking has changed and now I've been considering gender a lot lately and it's place in relationships - romantic relationships.

I've been asking friends and trusted fellows around me about what they would have done if that was their husband or wife. It's hard. Most say they would be okay with it. Only the brave confess would-be anger and resentment. Which is to be expected. But what isn't expected is when I suggest of course, my new thoughts on the situation: the idea that perhaps, Kris and Caitlin could work this out together. I have this idea that perhaps in some alternate universe people could move past gender and it's very important place in their lives and find their way back to each other again. BECAUSE, dear reader, I do indeed believe that when we love we love the secret hidden person. The person behind the eyes, the human and their mind. When forced to experience someone separate from the gender that you fell in love with them in, you are forced to experience people for who they truly are.

And so I'm writing a play. It's called "Two Queens." Maybe, this new writing adventure has a lot to do with me reconciling who I am now with who I once was with all of my long hair. I got away with a lot with my long hair. Now who I am is undeniable. Or maybe it's just a fantasy about how I need the world to be better because my tv mom and dad are having issues. Who knows. Time to write!


"That's Not Us" (2015)

I saw a terrific film yesterday on Netflix about three couples who all live and love under the assumption that they are better off than others. At least that's what the title suggested. The story was really about how three couples fought to connect while fighting against the pretense and suffocating expectation that they are supposed to have it all together. They were judging themselves, not other people. Which is what we tend to do, right?

It was good. There were precious moments. I think this film gets the award for visibility because again, we don't see men fight for each other and women battle intimacy issues with other women. But we do here. There was a scene in particular that  I very much enjoyed. It reminded me of themes that constantly come up in my own writing.

It was a scene between a couple that was trying to work through "lesbian bed death." As if straight men never struggle with wives who's desire for them has dimmed :) What made it touching was how gentle the scene felt. How intimate the longing seemed. The blond in the film was expressing how "rejected" she felt by their lack of intimacy. The closing shot was the confusion and subtle frustration of the brunette. I literally stopped the film and watched the scene twice. It hit me so close.

Unfortunately, the rest of the film wasn't as fulfilling. They sort of found their way back to each other by realizing their need to be "intentional" and to speak their "thoughts out loud." Which is what I thought the blond did in the beginning? The script lived very much on the surface.  Let me remind you friends, that any time a woman doesn't want to have sex for a prolonged amount of time, usually something is wrong. There is hurt there or confusion and discord. Something needs to be worked out, talked out, quickly or it just broods and grows. Trust was broken. SOMETHING more than what was said in this film.

But again, this director gets points for visibility for it showcased situations and people we don't see to often. And I loved their love. These two are beautiful together.


"You are the whole in my head
You are the space in my bed
You are the silence in between
what I thought and what I said.
You are the night time fear
You are the morning when it's clear
When it's over you're the stars
You're my head and you're my heart."
-No Light, No Light Florence & The Machine

Google, domains and suffering

Google is selling domains for dirt cheap. I mean DIRT cheap. $12 a year. Wix costs $145 a year for a domain. I might go with Google. I'm looking at domains for this site and my personal site. I'll keep you posted.

I've been thinking a lot about suffering lately and it's place among our personal growth. It's been hard, really hard, enduring my personal circumstances lately. I feel like God is shaping me and chiseling away at things He doesn't want to be there. And I trust Him. I do. But it's hard. Every day feels so fucking painful. It's been a very long time since I've felt so trapped and resentful. But I'm learning that what is good is not always apparent. I'm learning to see my circumstances with new eyes. Let me explain why.

Since life started to twist and turn and squeeze the living daylights out of me (since late February 2016):

-I've begun taking long walks. 6 miles a day walks up and down Chandler parkway from Burbank to North Hollywood.
-I've called my grandmother's more. Opening up my own heart with it's fears and all.
-My mom and I have grown closer.
-I've taken a good look at my anger and it's terrifying position in my heart. I don't get angry often but when I do, it burns. No more burning. I want only love.
-I've written more.
-I've begun to lift weights with as heavy as a weight as I want. Letting go of the fear that I'll be too masculine.  My body feels weird and strangely more connected. But I love it. I will not stop.
-I've connected with a friend with the ins and outs of my job search whose kindness has meant more to me than she could ever imagine. She reminds me that I'm loosing a lot but gaining so much more. Thank you Kristen.
-I've begun to reassess my finances asking God to help me to be happy with what I have, to help me live with what I have.
-My focus is sharpened.
-My identity strengthened.
-My happiness shaken.
-My faith is growing. Slowly. But I can see it's change.

I wish these life lessons were priced as cheaply as Google's domains. But I suppose in real life, nothing worth having comes easy. No pain, no gain.

Grateful.

Ashley

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Recruitor

I met a woman today, that I've met before.

Except, I can't remember from where? Or how? Or who she is. Or was to me.

It all felt so intimate. Her first glance. She knew it too. We've met. But from where? Her reaction to seeing me stand when she walked in, one head full tall over her, came with the same intimate casualness shared by old lovers who left each other with words unsaid. A lot of words. But I think I would have remembered that. So I didn't date her. But the feeling was there even long after I came to the foregone conclusion. As she shook my hand and we sat down I suddenly had this feeling like I held her in my arms once. But I couldn't remember where.

I tried looking into her eyes. It worked for me. My hormones began to settle. But only for a moment because she immediately looked away. It was hard for her to look in my eyes. Directly. For longer than a sentence. I looked for a wedding ring on those soft caramel colored hands of hers. There it was. Large and in charge. PROOF! I had never met this married woman before.

I let her talk. And she talked about the company I am currently applying for and instead of practical information that would be useful - it felt like an confession. Or a gentle plea for mercy.  She's considering me for an administrative assistant position for a paralegal at a cemetery. "The company tries to make the office a happy place so it doesn't reflect the business outside of the four walls." That's what she said. I was already chuckling in my head about the idea of working among the dead. I do not care. Or mind really. "More inspiration for my writing!" I say to myself. She tried to smile but it didn't come the right way. So I gave her mine. I tried to memorize her face so I could take it back with me, the contours and her nose, her small lips and her tight 44 year old frame. I suddenly felt less stout and more powerful. Powerful enough to make this gorgeous married woman divert her beautiful brown eyes.

I was walking a fine line. I know. That's why I left.

I nodded my head instead of taking her hand and walked outside of the glass doors toward the hallway. The sound of the elevator ding brought me back down to earth, down the first floor but not without leaving my head up much higher and my heart more firmly in my chest.

I walked back to my car smiling.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Case for Holiness

I've learned that so often we want all the benefits of being a Christian without paying the price for being holy. Without being separate from the crowd. It's the same feeling and experience of wanting all the benefits of a safe and loving and satisfying marriage without paying the price of monogamy. I imagine it similar to being happy and at peace and "glowing" and when someone asks you for the reason behind it,  we ignore who exactly that person is, or that they even exist. We don't want to be holy. We don't want to be committed, restricted, or set apart.

Because?? Being set apart or exclusive disconnects us from others?? It keeps us from having all the fun? Is it selfish to want ALL the fun?

My taste for buffet food is dwindling. I used to eat for comfort - to fix something. I'm slowly but surely learning to avoid the fast food lane and drive the extra mile for fresh fruit. To read Yelp reviews in search for quality food.

Because I want what is best for me. I want the top shelf product. The exclusive experience. I was designed to be holy - we all were.

Let us not fear the seperation of all of our worldly pleasures but fear instead any kind of seperation from our divine Creator.

I want to be holy. Set me apart, oh God. Set me apart for You.

Ashley