Instructions for Helping It Feel Better (or at least different)
1.Rest, don’t just lay there with your eyes closed.
2.Don’t self-advertise, leave some things to be enjoyed by you and you alone. Take the stickers off of that water bottle. Rethink your next tattoo.
3.Try to come to terms with the realization that nothing lasts forever, no one actually gets a stone statue of them erected in the middle of the square, and most of your life will be delivering exposition for another story playing out in the background.
4.Hold onto the fear that somewhere, out in the middle of the forest, they are losing their battle with forgiveness, and don’t know how to return home.
5.Put on a long skirt and feel the way that it grazes your ankles, is it comforting? Could you go shorter?
6.Resist the urge to cut your hair, it doesn’t matter who last touched it.
7.Save the hair for your garden, you heard it was good for the plants, or held the rain more gently than the soil could alone.
8.Scream in your car as you drive home from work. Wonder if the person in front of you can see it in their rearview mirror. Put every bit of pain you have into that howl, do it until your throat is raw.
9.Sip green tea with honey and lemon, for your throat.
10.Remind yourself that this is real, and that you are farther along than thirteen-year-old you thought you would be by now, you like fruit a lot more than that version of you used to, bleu cheese too.
11.Cry to Jenny Slate’s “Stage Fright” comedy special.
12.Look at yourself in the mirror until you decide to change something, like plucking your eyebrows.
13.Think about booking a flight to Brazil.
14.Start eating meat again, your friends are noticing how your hands have been shaking, it’s probably from iron deficiency.
15.Take a run outside, no matter the weather. Use dollar store headphones so you don’t ruin the ones you bought as a pick-me-up.
16.Notice the warmth of the lights inside someone else’s home, and as you turn away, think about the number of people who saw you, how many lives your small existence has entered and exited for the first and only time.
17.Become desensitized to video game violence, it is a safe outlet for people who move spiders outside in salvaged glass jars.
18.Accept that this won’t be linear, sometimes the steps will be different. Sometimes you will roll your windows down so the whole street can hear your playlist. Sometimes you will feel relief when you get an ear infection because it means you won’t have to show up anywhere until the antibiotics clear it up. Sometimes it will feel worse, and you’ll let yourself be run by the idea that everyone can tell. Until one day, you will breathe in the air, humid or crisp, and realize that you don’t feel the weight on your shoulders. Not in that moment.
19.Let it be enough for now.
What was the question? Who am I now? Well, how should I know any better now
then I did when I was eight years old
holding a yellow flower to my chin.
I’ve seen many more winters and watched the tulip bulbs I planted get gnawed to scraps by chipmunks, and I’ve grown out of wanting to be a doctor, the idea of holding a life in my hands terrifying.
I can’t help but chew the straw when my friends convince me to order a chocolate shake, and lately I’ve been wearing lip-gloss even though my hair always gets dragged through it when the wind blows.
There isn’t any version of me who lasts for more than a few minutes reflection.
Who have I been, I think,
is the better phrasing.
Because I still remember what it felt like to have his eyes burrowing into me when everything went wrong. I was her, but I’ve also been bigger than her moment.
I’ve stood on top of hills that felt vaguely like mountains breathing in the cold November air, flown down the street in the middle of a summer heat wave on a skateboard that I didn’t really know how to use yet.
I’ve wrapped myself up in blankets sewn by hand, avoiding turning on the radiator. I can afford it, but I remember December nights at my home and I still sleep better when I’m a little freezing. Fighting the chill is in my blood.
A scratchy plaid wrapped around my neck for generations.
I never thought I would stay the same, or that I’d be the one baking the apple pie, but here we are, always in the present.
Pushing helplessly forward, endlessly pulled up by the stalk or reaching our hands as far out as we can, then reaching one millimeter more, because the right person asked.
Who have I been? I’ve been the one with my ankles in pond water. Looking down and closing my eyes and listening to the sound of the breeze. The one answering questions with images, dried petals lost in books I intended to read. Scattering pieces of myself throughout, like raindrops or maple tree seeds, or minnows
flittering through open space.
I spent a month sewing a quilt, my family telling me, “one day it will be an heirloom.”
For now, it is simply soft on my cheek, but I can’t help but wonder how it will feel in twenty years. Will it be threadbare from use? Stained from the picnics? How much of my aliveness will it betray?
I’m not confident enough to audibly hum,
or to wake to see the early sunrise above the soft green hills. Still, I want
to feel the comfort of light washing my shoulders and the space
between us charged, knees quietly knocking.
I can only follow the mantras, in a year it will be…, in a year it will be…, in a year…
I have felt the rush of plummeting down the hills of my tiny town, hear the cows mooing in the field across the way.
The whole time conscious of the quilt bundled up in the back seat.
Its right corners are newly lightened by bleach, my fault.
During the last eclipse to be visible from my home, I looked up and couldn’t shake the feeling that it was for me.
Hundreds of others did the same, the rays of sun feel my softened and uplifted heart, my headphones buzz in my ears. There is a tear in my eye, the same eyes that hold onto the memory of light for hours after the star goes back to normal, and no one will remember how I felt. That moment once vivid begins slipping through my fingers, as the dew is absorbed by the quilt below me.
The sun will return to its normal shape, and I will go home. But when I think of how different everything could be in a year I wonder if I’ll see another sign or not, and
if my quilt will have a new patch.
Artist Statement: As far as how my writing relates to intersectionality, not only is my work deeply informed by my experiences as a woman, but also through my experience with economic class. I go through life with a fear of losing everything because of the way I was raised. My mother was the first person in her family to go to college, and she grew up very poor. Her mother spoke absolutely no English when she emigrated here, and only had herself to rely on. This consciousness of poverty, coupled with the expectation to be self-reliant will likely persist in the women of my family for generations, and it is something I feel often comes through in my work.
Bio: Gillian Bullock is currently a senior English Major at UConn. She lives in Coventry, CT with her family and her dog, Gus. When she isn’t writing or reading, she enjoys various handicrafts from painting to sewing to woodworking. Her favorite movies are Howl’s Moving Castle and Moonstruck. Gillian hopes to continue her education with the goal of one day teaching English literature. Her main area of interest lies in 19th and 20th century female authors.