When I Said I Only Write What I Know

I’ve wanted to be in love many times. I’ve only been in love once.

I was fresh out of high school. Impressionable. All-in, yet detached.

There’s something about youth that makes you want to make excuses for saying you were in love. Diminish it. Like what I felt as a girl could never be as legitimate as what I’ll experience as a woman.

That’s not true.

It feels like it’s true sometimes.

There’s a chance the person I loved grew older, as I have, and realized they didn’t love me then. That as they dated, as they became an adult experiencing life and new affections, they realized the time they’d spent with me as teenagers was simply time spent.

I can appreciate that.

I used to write poems about it. Being in love. About him. What I learned.
They were the kind of poems that went viral. It felt good, validating, seeing thousands of people tell me they could relate, they felt what I was saying, that they too have loved.

Those poems kept me in love with him, or perhaps the written version of him, or perhaps the him I never pushed away but only loved loved loved. Those poems made it hard for me to leave, long after I’d left.

Do you know what I mean?

It’s embarrassing to admit I still think about poems I wrote six years ago, I still think about a boy I last kissed at 19, I still fear being truthful in writing. What if the people I’m writing about read what I have to say?

What if the people I’m writing about don’t read what I have to say?

I’m 24. I’ve wanted to be in love many times. I’ve made the mistake of judging every relationship on whether they make me want to write.

I once saw a guy who made me want to write after we had ended. I wrote ugly, honest things that made me cry. There was no love in those poems. There was no love in me for him and my frustration at not being able to reanimate ghosts of feelings past spewed from me in sharp lines and rough cadences.

Those poems were popular too. I read them out loud at a spoken word gathering and imagined he was there to hear them. The closest humans will ever get to secreting poison is break up poetry.

I can appreciate that.

I stopped forcing myself to create love where it wasn’t, to write about it when I couldn’t. Trying to recall what it felt like to be immersed in someone started to resemble sitting under a lamp in the dead of winter and saying “This is what the sun feels like.”

For the someone who asked “why don’t you write love poems anymore?”…this is my answer. Because I’m not in it. Because the one time I was, seems so long ago. Because love makes me think of him, and he is somebody else, and also somebody else’s.

Because when I do write another love poem, I hope it’ll feel like the first storm of spring, like the midday sun in June, like the last few days of August.

New and familiar, all at the same time.

On Pets and Anxiety

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When I went to the Humane Society, my hands were shaking despite the fact that I was very certain of the type of dog I was looking for. Not breed-wise…I didn’t really care about that…but that I wanted a quiet, medium-sized pup that liked to cuddle and was at least 8 months old. My therapist had given me a written letter prescribing me an emotional support animal, and I was thrilled. And terrified. Going to a shelter when you have a specific idea of the kind of dog you want can be hard, because it just might not be there. I couldn’t tell if I was more worried about going home without a pet, or going home with one.

However, as I walked along the kennels, a dog caught my eye that seemed to fit every criteria I was looking for. She was 40 pounds, ten months old, silent as the dogs around her barked their heads off at the visitors, but still came up to lick my hand when I walked up to her. She was beyond cute.

I flagged an employee down. “Can I visit with her?” They gave us a small, concrete room to play in, and this pup walked up to me and set her head right in my lap like we’d done this before. She looked up at me with mismatched eyes — one was blue with speckles of brown, the other brown with a blue streak coming out of the iris — and I fucking melted. I put a hold on her immediately, and took her home a few days later.

I think it only fitting that an anxious person ended up with an anxious dog. Or fearful? I can’t tell which one it is, but listen…Nova does not like doing new things. A list of things Nova was scared of the first couple days after she came home:

  • Going into the car
  • Walking into buildings
  • Going up stairs
  • Going down stairs
  • Playing with toys
  • Going into her kennel
  • Going into the hallway
  • Walking past cars

You get the idea. All of these things seem ridiculous when you’re an adult human, but I tried to imagine being a creature that was low-to-the-ground and possibly hadn’t spent much time outside of a cage…it became easier to be patient with her.

I quickly learned that “patient” does not mean “without anxiety.” Every time she didn’t listen to a command, my pulse would rush. Even though she’s now doing a good job at all of the things she was initially afraid of, there are still moments when she misses a command, or doesn’t want to go into her kennel, and my brain goes wild. What if she refuses to ever go in her kennel again? What if she gets loose and doesn’t come when I call her and gets hit by a car? If I bring her to puppy training, will she be okay? How come she didn’t do this thing? Is it my fault? Should I have a dog? What if I can’t take care of a dog? What if I can never take care of anything except for myself for the rest of my li-

My brain on its anxiety setting is the actual worst. Imagine thinking this way about…literally everything?? I’m a goddamn mess. I haven’t written on this blog for about two months because I was anxious about it. In fact, I haven’t written anything, not even just for myself. What if I’m wasting my time writing? What if I’m actually a terrible fucking writer? What’s the point of practicing writing if I suck so much that I’m never going to do it professionally anyw-

Again. You get it.

But having Nova, and working with her to get past the seemingly-silly things she’s anxious about, has been nothing short of amazing for me. I look at this puppy and think, “If you would just get into the kennel, you’d see that nothing bad would happen.” Then I look at myself and wonder, oh shit…what am I avoiding that, if I just did it, I’d see that nothing bad would happen? What’s the car I’m afraid to jump into because “what if?” When Nova doesn’t follow a command, am I anxious because I always expect perfection in my life, and that’s unreasonable with a puppy? Why am I uncomfortable and anxious about imperfection?

My therapist has fucking loved our last few sessions.

Nova’s done some amazing work in the past week. Repetition and forcing myself to stay calm when she doesn’t want to do something has resulted in a scared pup turning into a pup who loves her kennel, enjoys meeting people when we go on walks, comes when I call her, gets into the car (as long as there is a treat involved), and runs up and down the stairs like she was born to do it. All my anxieties about her were just that…anxieties. Thinking of “what ifs” in a loop doesn’t make them true, and she’s helping me realize that every day.

So here I am, in my favorite cafe, writing my first blog post in months because my beautiful, lovely, anxious puppy got into her kennel so I could have a couple hours to write and read.

Cheers!

she’s got something to say.

“I’m gonna mess your life up. Gonna wanna tape my mouth shut. Look out!” / Loveless / Lorde

If you ask my mom, she’ll probably tell you that I write because I have an opinion on everything: from pandas (sure, they’re cute, but they’re garbage and we spend way too much money on keeping them alive), to olives (green or black, they’re amazing and do belong in pizzas and salads), to capitalism (I can’t even come up with a succinct opinion here besides to say it fucking sucks – #DaddyMarxForever). People often tell me they love seeing my writing in the form of Facebook statuses about, well, most things. Yesterday, a friend told me she loved my writing because it seemed honest and effortless, like I wasn’t trying to be a writer – I just was (which is a phenomenal compliment that I struggle to believe is true but my god thank you anyway).

Honest? I mean, yes and no. I try to only type things that I would say in person (at times with a few drinks under my belt), but there’s always an element of confidence that comes with saying anything behind a screen, or a sheet of paper. Does that extra confidence created by the format of my writing undermine my initial honesty? Up to you.

But effortless? Ooh, child.

This seems to be the general thought around my online presence: Dionne is good at words and types them then hits send and watches as her blogs gain followers and her tweets get likes. This makes me crack up to think about, but also makes me really fucking anxious. When it comes to writing, nothing I do is without effort. It took me a long time to feel like I owned the things that happened to me, or even that I was entitled to my opinions. It took years of practice, of pulling myself up and shaking off my doubts, to get to a place where I believe my thoughts and experiences to have any worth. When I first started writing publicly about my experiences, especially when it involved another person, there was always backlash. Hell, I still get hatemail on social media when I speak my truths. People hate hearing things that conflict with their personal reality, and there’s little I can say as a bisexual black woman that’s not going to conflict with dominant voices.

That’s something I have to think about every time I go to hit send. And sometimes, I don’t. Y’all only see the things I can convince myself to not delete.

When it comes to more personal things, I struggle with this a lot when it comes to writing about my exes. I get it, y’all, honestly I do. I wouldn’t want my ex-girlfriend writing poetry and think-pieces about me for thousands of people to read either. But you liked when I shared my love poems. Should have known I wouldn’t stop writing once I wasn’t in love anymore. (To my exes’ credits, they do not comment on my writing despite following my social media accounts, which I think makes them decent people. My first love, especially, is someone who has had every reason to block me on every website ever, but has not, which always makes me feel things when I see his username. Mostly sad and nostalgic. But at times, grateful and naive.) (Lorde has an entire song about this concept called “Writer in the Dark,” please listen to it.)

It was, and still is, hard to write about any of my experiences, especially those that are closely tied to a person. It can feel like I’m swaying public opinion about someone / something, when in reality, I’m just trying to own what happens to me. I have to. No one else will.

I was thinking about all of this because yesterday the hashtag #WhyIWrite was going around. I write because if I don’t, it feels like wave after wave of my thoughts, and the hard winds of my emotions, are eroding my nerves. I get jittery, anxious, upset. I think a single thought, and keep thinking about it until I have the chance to put it into words (perhaps eloquent, perhaps in the form of “lol tha fuck is dis”). But once it’s down, once I’ve hit send and offered it up to my friends or the rest of the world – it’s gone. I write because it frees my soul up to grow, and my heart to feel. It’s a strange, wonderful thing.

That is, when I can actually bring myself to hit send.