On Loving and Writing

Photo by Dalal Nizam on Unsplash

Originally published in Aug. 5 Sunday Kind of Love newsletter

I.
Loving you is something like swimming in still waters and driving with the windows down. Easy. Calm. Even. Smooth. I once believed that love was more of a roller coaster, with skyrocket moments and precipitous drops. Perhaps that is why I was so afraid of it, convinced that any sort of love would come complete with complicated emotions and an ongoing rumble of anxiety. I only ever knew relationships that involved waiting with bated breath for text messages that only sometimes arrived and squeezing substance out of small exchanges. My sole sign that things had crashed and burned came from a stream of silence on the other end—forcing me to read in between the lines, pour a glass or two of Cabernet Sauvignon, listen to SZA on an endless loop, and pick up whatever shards were left.

II.
But, then I met you. I used to think people were full of it when they would say “And then you just meet someone.” It seemed to oversimplify the kind of shift I imagine would only ever be tangled, difficult, and impossible to find. But, everything I once believed about love shattered and is now being to rebuilt. I’m still putting the bricks together. I’m still remembering to stop holding my breath or waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m still savoring the taste of “I love you” on my lips. I’m still soaking up the way it sounds coming from your end. I’m still learning how to be kinder and softer, unarmed and not so sharp at the tongue. I’m still learning the responsibility that comes with holding another person’s heart in your hands. I’m still learning. My sweet love, I am still learning.

III.
I fell in love with you early on a Friday afternoon, in a one-bedroom apartment on the other side of the world. 74 Franklin Street in Adelaide, South Australia. It was gray and overcast, the kind of day destined for curling up in a ball and flipping through television. I would fly to Sydney later that night, but not before I sent you a voice memo, with the phrase “I’m falling in love with you” cutting in somewhere around the one-minute mark. We were two weeks in to the trip by then, with another three remaining before we would see each other again. The weeks we spent apart did not necessarily make us, nor did they break us. As we both would probably put it now, we survived and are glad it’s over. But, with an ocean and a 13.5 hour time difference between us, I learned that there is something unwavering about you. There is something that lifts me up and keeps me steady. Perhaps this is not the stuff that fairy tales are made of. But, I do believe it’s the stuff that lives are built on and upon which lasting commitments are forged.

IV.
The Buddhist says if you meet someone and your heart pounds, your hands shake, and your knees go weak, then that’s not the one. So often, my past relationships felt like walking across dilapidated drawbridges that could give way at any moment. High highs and ground zero lows. I’ve now learned that love is much more balanced and rooted. Love should not leave you flailing or fighting for air.

V.
I spent five years writing about heartache and aching for connection. It seems strange to say that finding love has now made it more difficult to write, at least in a public forum. It’s strange, but true. In fact I’ve been doctoring these words for a few weeks, afraid to relinquish them to any of the online spaces that I’ve abandoned for the greater part of the year. I’m trying to uncover where I go from here—how I transition from lovelorn to in love, from lost to a little more found—and still manage to tell stories that resonate, roar, and ring true. I’m not sure if I even want to tell some of these recent love stories, now that they have shape, soul, and another person I admire attached to the end of them. I want less of my life out there now. Some days, I wish I could collect every morsel I ever left on the Internet and take it all back.

VI.
And I wonder if some of the magnetism and magic of my writing from these past few years was because heartache is so easy to understand; pain is a story we’re drawn to because we can so easily identify it in ourselves. Sometimes I flirt with the idea of writing about past lovers just so I can still sound like the same girl and writer I used to be. I’m still learning how to write from the vantage point of the woman I am now, a woman who feels a bit more grounded, somewhat more judicious, and a lot less willing to surrender her life to the Internet. I’m uncovering the voice of a woman who is searching less and discovering more.

VII.
Joy and love aren’t always easy for others to access. But, isn’t that the work of a writer, to take any sort of human experience and distill it from abstract to accessible? Maybe that is where I begin again. Love is a much more complex language for me to write in—harder to learn firsthand, tough to scribe in, and even more difficult at times to understand.

Xoxo,
Tyece

The Allure of the Mess

I wanted to believe that we could live somewhere above labels and the law. When I think of it now, it all seems so juvenile and silly, two adults with deepening feelings for one another and a refusal to put definition around them.

“We’re both adults; we know what we’re doing and not doing,” I told you on our second date. But by the eighth or ninth date, only one part of that sentence remained true. Yes, we were both adults, but I no longer had any idea what we were doing.

Somewhere in the realm of 1 a.m. Australia Central Time and 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time, my boyfriend and I dig through my jagged relationship history. I tell him about you. I mention you and the lawyer who lived in the basement and the guy who flew in for the weekend. It’s the end of my first week in Australia, and he and I are on one of our longer calls, not limited by the confines of one of us needing to go to work or go to bed. He doesn’t understand it, the way I’ve willingly subjected myself to emotional mazes, mixed signals, and dead end roads with most of the men I’ve dated. I don’t quite understand it anymore either.

“Why are people drawn to messy situations?” he asks.

I try to explain it, almost in the interest of defending myself, until I realize that there is not much more than a heaping pile of dirt and bullshit to defend.

And yet, there is something alluring about the mess. At least that’s what I once believed. I believed there was something beautiful and boundless about an obscure relationship that still contained all of the vivid emotions of a defined one. I don’t know if I lived in the grey by choice or by default; looking back on it, I’m sure it was some combination of the two. Either way, that amorphous spot became my home and fueled the narrative I wrote repeatedly for five years. The mess became the magnet of my writing over the years, a gravitational pull for all of the women who had fallen for someone among a field of red flags. There we were, united on common ground with the burned love letters of half-baked lovers shredded beneath our soles.

Maybe we stood on that ground because we so hopelessly believed in sparks, even after they subsided and turned to ash. Maybe it was because we were convinced we could change people and the way they were wired, firm in our belief that the connection we forged with them would compel them to commit to us. Maybe it’s because we fell in love with the idea of bad boys, even when they proved they were still years away from being good men. Maybe it’s because the emotions pulled us under and we didn’t know how to come up for air. Maybe waiting for texts and holding our breath became reflexes, and we couldn’t learn how to live any other way. Maybe it’s because we scoffed at monogamy, realizing how on trend it was, and still is, to remain detached while sifting through an endless assortment of options. Maybe we were scared to admit that the idea of one life with one person sounded beautiful or terrifying or some blend of both. Maybe we were afraid to let someone in and show them our scars; maybe we only ever knew how to be someone’s sweet escape. Maybe we were even more afraid that our one life with our one person would never come.

I’d like to believe I redeemed myself from the mess. I’d like to think I walked away and bid it farewell because I became a stronger woman, resolute in what I wanted and the kind of affection I was willing to wait for. This is the story I like to tell myself.

But, I never really escaped the mess. Something greater and more solid just found me first.

Xoxo,
Tyece

Stories That Vibrate: Every Time I Want to Text You

Revisiting your old writing is less like looking in the rearview mirror and more like finding your way back home. Your first home. The place you grew up in. The space and land and grass and fences and hardwood floors that all remind you of a distinct era in time. You are not that writer anymore. Your sentences are cleaner; your voice hums with intention. You are not that woman anymore. Your life has more shape; your purpose now has testimonies behind it. You are not that human being anymore. You are a product of the way time heals old wounds and gives way to new evolution.

But, that is still your home.

Two years ago, I put this thing out into the Universe called a book. And at the time, it was my life’s work. Now, there are days when I’ll nonchalantly thumb through it and flinch at the blind audacity and ignorance of some of the things I put in ink. But, it’s still home. Those are still my stories. There are still traces of that woman I used to be hidden in my crevices. Hell, there are still parts of that woman taking up space at my core.

Stories That Vibrate is a limited edition series that revives five of my favorite essays from Twenties Unscripted: A Journey of Womanhood, Writing, and Relativity through audio. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share these on the blog. A huge thanks to my creative partner-in-crime Austin Weatherington (who produced the audio for last year’s Love Me Well project) for producing this series, and affirming this vision long before I even started recording.

It’s been a hell of a year, and I haven’t been able to visit this Internet home as much as I would like. But, I hope you’re still vibing with me and I hope you enjoy this first installment of Stories That Vibrate. Here’s “Every Time I Want to Text You.”

If you’d like to read the full essay, head over to purchase your copy of the book.

Xoxo,
Tyece

A Stupid Flick

donovan post

A Guest Writers’ Week post by Donovan Smith

We were locked in an argument coming down the steps of your front porch. I don’t even remember the topic, I just remember you being mad that I didn’t open your door after. Childish of me.

The ride there was like so many others we took that summer. I hated giving you the cord. The thought of jocquees squealing through my speakers made me nauseous, though I knew the harsh sounds of Nirvana b-sides, odd future, or satanic metal would do the same for you. I jumped track to track through Because the Internet in search of middle ground. No complaints, but no conversation either.

You were dressed for passion. Short shorts and a loose fitting shirt that cut off right at the belly button. I didn’t know you neglected a bra until we were already seated and it pissed me off. I was possessive that summer.

Jealousy couldn’t beat out my lust though. I copped a generous feel during a makeout session that was probably discourteous to the other moviegoers. It was an R rated movie; they’ll get over it. We had done much worse in the same theater.

You didn’t know I had already seen the movie with another girl the week before. We were “broken up”. You didn’t know that girl was my ex either.

It was a funny, stupid romantic movie. I didn’t plan on enjoying the movie or the date to be honest. Whatever I was mad about had already eaten up all the reserved space for happiness in the thought region of my brain. While I recycled my laughs to meet yours, there were times we looked at each other and your eyes met mine, holding my gaze with an entirely different pull. Softness. I was wearing you down that summer. I was too inward to realize that.

On the ride back you pressed the issue of us getting back together. I wasn’t into it. An argument we had multiple times before the date played out again at a much higher volume. I screamed. You laughed at me screaming. That pissed me off even more. I remember going above 70 on the interstate yelling at you while you giggled like an amused child. The thought of hitting you crossed my mind. I wouldn’t do it. I hated you with all I could gather, but I loved you even more.

You knew how to be mean and how to emasculate. Chalk it up to girl power. I could never match wits with you when it came to being hurtful. I never wanted to. But my uneven, mostly mute attitude always lent me a darker element. I made a comment about wrecking and killing us both as the truck barreled across the pavement. The words were sarcastic, but wrapped tight in dry delivery. You didn’t think that was funny. Neither did I, and seeing you become visibly disgusted with me made made me feel like the biggest asshole ever.

You didn’t want to go home with me anymore. I realized my mistake too late. I tried to lighten the mood and talk sweet. You wouldn’t let me touch you. It was silent when I pulled into the gas station to let you out. Your cousin waited in a parking spot to collect you and bring you home. I remember wanting so, so badly to hug you and cry and tell you I was sorry, but I couldn’t. Anger and pride and so much more underlying shit kept me from breaking down. You gave me a sarcastic smile when you stepped out and I finally moved. I flipped you off and drove away. I made my way home with no music playing and hot water on my face.

I never should’ve took you to see that stupid fucking movie.

Donovan Smith is a twenty year old from Chaneyville, Louisiana. He’s a depression prone young dude who takes refuge in twisting words in artful ways. Connect with him on Twitter @Lame__O and on Instagram @ _lord.nasty. 

I Must Confess, You Broke My Heart.

I wonder how it's possible that you could have completely shattered my heart while I was still trying to protect it.

A Guest Writers’ Week post by Lauren Harbury

For weeks I have sat in front of this laptop trying to find the right set of words. Words that would expose just how deeply you have hurt me, while helping me get over you. Words that would make you realize how badly you have fucked up… at least that’s what I want you to think.

I sit here and feel ridiculous. There’s the knowledge that whatever it was that happened between us was merely a blip on the radar. A short two month stint. Yet in those weeks you managed to wind yourself so deeply into my life that the mere absence of your name on my cell phone seems innately wrong.

How you could have knowingly lead me to open up to you, to share stories, scars and facts that not many people are privy to. How you could have lied in my bed, weary from “making love” at night, knowing that soon you would pack up your ever present backpack, never to return. How you could have met my friends and parents and how you could have introduced me to your people when you knew I didn’t really have a place next to you.

I sit here and wonder how you fucking sleep at night, but in the same thought, I wonder if I cross your mind before you fall asleep. I wonder if, like me, you wake up during the night and think of me, or if it causes a weird pain when Lil Dickey comes on.

I sit here and wonder how I let my guard down for you. I knew better. The words on your lips as you left, “I think you’ll find that I have been hurting you,” were as true as anything I could ever write. The way you brought me into your life and convinced me to stay is staggering. You made me feel safe, wanted, treasured, while simultaneously making me feel unstable, jealous and needy. You lifted me up, telling me that I was ingrained into your mind, sharing pictures and videos of your time with your son, talking about a future where I was there with you. You tore me down, waffling, waiting, playing games and pretending to be innocent.

You told me you were “leaning toward me”–something I should have recognized as beyond fucked up from the moment it left your lips. Asking if it was really “bad” to be lying next to me and texting I love you guys to someone else. Wrapping your arms around me each time a piece of my heart broke off on the jagged corners of your life. Convincing me that I was something truly special, not only to you, but to the world. Something cherished.

You knew that you were going to break my heart, yet you kept coming back because it was easy. I was nothing more than a vacation from what had become a hard life for you to live. I was a fun pit stop on the highway of life, a layaway where you could find adoration and support. A layaway where you could find someone to fuck. Where you could find someone to love you. Where you could feel safe.

There are so many worst parts of what happened, but the sense of being used is overwhelming.

You told me you were falling for me. You told me you wanted me to meet your brother, and more importantly your son. You spent so much of your time here, with me, holding my hand, kissing me, making love with me. You seemed so genuine, so happy. You seemed so honest, so caring. You seemed so funny, so brilliant.

You said you loved my mind, how smart I am. You said you had been looking for someone like me for so long. You said that you were ready. You said you loved that I was interested in your mind, in your stories, in your work, in the things that made you tick. You said I made you feel safe and wanted and important.

Was it just a lie? Was any of it true? Or did it just not matter?

Was it a game that you wanted to win? A trophy to put on top of your dresser? Was it nothing more than a joke, watching me make a fool of myself for you? Was it just fun to have a “rich girl” take you out for massages? Was it just a moment of weakness?

I hate that I miss you and I hate that I give a shit. I hate that today I read an article about the negative effects of giving your children melatonin and the first thing I thought about was Sean*. I hate that I listen to Sia’s House On Fire and Halsey’s Ghost and think that those two songs capture my feelings completely. I hate that every house I enter and every book store I pop into has The Goldfinch on display. I hate that you think you have the power to tell me that I can’t write about you, when you’re just afraid of the things I could say.

I hate that you think you know me, know exactly how I’ll react and what I’ll think. I hate that you had the audacity to say that you couldn’t have the pressure of knowing that I would wonder if you are coming back. I hate that you said you would miss me, but that you wouldn’t tell me. I hate that you cried. I hate that you made me feel like I needed to comfort you. I hate that you found me endearing, if your words are to be trusted.

I hate that you invited me into the relationship you have with your son, having me sit next to you while you FaceTimed. I hate that you played house with me; I hate that I know how you take your coffee and exactly how toasted you like your bagel. I hate that I know what your living room looks like and that on Thursdays I picture you sitting at the table working. I hate that after reading the first thing I wrote about us, you said that you never wanted me to feel that way. Then you did exactly the same thing.

I want to hate you, but I can’t. Instead I am trapped in this mind of mine, wondering where you are and what you are doing and if you are ever going to figure it out.

Lauren is a twenty-something who can often be found searching for the perfect IPA. An ex-Portlander, she is enjoying the warmth and sunshine of the East Coast, while acting as the glue to this network of amazing, talented individuals. She is the proud parent of a perfect rescue pup named Snugs, and just recently checked off the 14th country on her travel list. If she had it her way, she would wear lulu lemon every day, and always have a beer at lunch.

Connect with Lauren at www.twentysomethingliving.com and on Twitter @laurenharbury.