Inside my chest, underneath my breast plate, it feels like a million little fireflies are dancing around, all converging trying to find their own space in a too crowded room, bodies stacked upon each other, flickering their dying lights one at a time like one of those ridiculous crowd waves at a college football game.
It’s anxiety and it’s killing me
It’s crippling me
I want to cry but I don’t know what for
The tears well just behind my eyelids but I don’t let them fall. One or two manage to escape but I hold the others hostage. They don’t get to leave this prison just yet, not until I know and understand what they’re escaping for.
This morning I did a 10 minute meditation guide for anxiety and it helped while I was breathing and my eyes were closed. As soon as it was over and I opened them, the fireflies in my chest resumed their scramble and buzzing and the tears returned to pool behind my eyes.
The world we think is the world we create but…
How do I not be sad when I feel everything so deeply it bruises my bones way down inside where the marrow runs?
I am paralyzed
I am not numb
I am an oasis in the desert where you can bring your canteen and let my love like water nourish and sustain you, ever flowing, an eternal spring
Except my own lips are cracked, like fissures in the ground after an earthquake. Tongue swollen, throat like sandpaper
I have a pair of pink socks and some maroon shoes and I think I should put them on and go for a walk but these fireflies in my chest make it hard to breathe.
Admit and submit to your unhappiness. Get down in the deep dark depths of your unhappiness and roll around in all that gunk until it fills up your nose holes and your ear holes and your eye holes….. until it gets down so deep into your lungs that you can’t even take a tiny sip of air through a straw as small as toothpick. Once you’re all gunked up inside and in a state of somewhat paralysis from all the junky unhappy, then and ONLY THEN, must you attempt to find a tiny sliver of light in the air above you.
Remember, you are rotting at the bottom of your well, covered in mud-like chunks of pity and shame and despair and neverending hatred for yourself. You can barely open your left eye, your right one is sealed all the way shut. But somehow, if you’re able to pry it open just a tiny little slit, perhaps you will witness the miracle of light and can grab onto that motherfucker with all you have left in you, which is basically nothing at this point, but no one can ever call you a quitter because you go down hard with everything you do and goddammit, you’re going down with this too just so you can say you pulled yourself back up into the light.
You went all the way down into the darkest part of the well and you lived there and you ate the fungus and the decay and you thrived so well on its bruised flesh until it sat inside you and festered and rotted and smelled of all the dead things along every highway in America and you welcomed its necrosis like a tiny baby all made up of dumb words and bad choices and regrets too many to give breath to. You brought it to your breast and you let it suckle the life out of you until it had grown strong enough to set free in this tiny dark well where we came to shun the light and grow in our despair and restlessness because we know that is the only way to know beauty and love and all the things that aren’t the mad-gunky that we gave our very own heartbeat to.
We had to do that, you see.
How else can we see light if we’ve never been lost in the darkness?
How can we feel the music so deeply if its melody plays for us all the time?
How do we know beauty if we only ever see the roses in bloom but never when they wilt and die?
The rot and decay breathes life.
Did you know that when you die there is a place that will take your body and compost it so that your dead flesh and bones can give life to trees and shrubs and worms and bugs?
When I die, take me there and let me rot until I have fed myself back into life.
I don’t imagine there’s a better way to think of death than that; to know that no matter how small and insignificant you feel here, that someday your flesh and bones will be the reason something else lives.
I am just one among many.
I live down here at the bottom of a well, you see. It’s dark and dank and there’s only this little tiny sliver of light and I don’t know if I’m ready to climb up out of here yet.
Just let me rest here for a bit longer, would you?
Anyway, I’m typing this to you on my phone (technically our phone) from the couch because I don’t feel like walking into the dining room where my (our) laptop has sat dormant for months just waiting on someone to open her up and discover the wonders she holds inside.
Truth is, I’ve been all wondered out for the better part of a year. The games on my phone that want me to connect dots and make words and match tiles are the only things getting my attention lately. But you already know that, obviously. Since you’re me and I’m you and whatnot.
But back to being a non-slut. I think we should work really hard on slutting around in 2022. It’s almost over for us, bitch. Use it or lose it, am I right??? Besides, we’ve got lots of lost time to make up for and let’s face it, no one is coming for us. No one is gearing up and readying their stallion for the dangerous and perilous journey to our door. No one is coming to throw us over their shoulder and set off into the sunset to some tropical island to eat coconuts and then fish and fuck all day, all the while reveling in the wonder of our love and making tiny babies that will one day stand at our grave side clutching their chest at the memory of our union.
Shut the fuck up if you didn’t seriously believe that was going to happen someday. Maybe not exactly like that but, yeah, you totally thought you were gonna get a happily ever after.
Well, tits, you’re not. This is it for us. It’s time to stop daydreaming at the window for our Prince Charming and open the front door and let Jimmy and Junior in already. They brought us some box wine and their Aunt June’s onion and cheese casserole. It won first place at the tri-county potluck. That’s a big deal. There were 35 entries in the Casserole category alone. The winner, Jimmy’s Aunt June, got a years worth of fried onions from Millers Grocery (everyone knows they make the best topping for casseroles) and a ride on the Christmas float in the yearly parade. She’s practically a celebrity. Now get in the kitchen and whip up a meatloaf to go with that famous casserole. Jimmy and Junior are hungry and they want you (us) for dessert.
We both know we’re not gonna lose our slutginity for Jimmy or Junior, so get your panties out of a wad, sis.
Listen. Remember how mom always calls us “the come back kid?” Well, now’s our time to shine. 2022 is our coming up party. We never knew we needed one but we’ve been locked in here staring out the window our whole damn lives. It’s dusty and smelly and I can no longer breathe in here.
I’m opening the door.
Are you coming with me?
Let’s blow this joint wide open and never look back.
The world is one giant dick and its our turn on the ride.
6 since I saw you 5 since I heard you 4 since I read you
6, 5, 4
4, 5, 6
Numbers. Time. Distance.
The other day there was a package on my doorstep. I didn’t remember ordering anything.
I hoped it would be from you.
How absurd. How silly.
What do you suppose I thought might be in it?
A rabbits foot. A song. A poem. A hope. A dream. Some piece of you sent with love and care all the way down here to me.
I live inside my head most of the time. It’s wonderful and scary in there. There are hallways filled with rainbow flavored gummies that lead to cobweb covered corners where dreams pile up on top of each other until they’re oozing with the rot.
I dwell in the rot for too many minutes of the day, I know, but when I emerge….. there is always a rainbow.
I don’t know how to not love you so I don’t even try. I just let the thought of you wash over me whenever it wants to and I don’t bother trying to stop it from consuming me for however long it wants to hold me.
I wanted to be your best friend your most insatiable lover your wake up thought your good night kiss your coffee break smile your dinner and a movie date your RSVP plus one
Forever and a day.
There’s still time, she says. My mom. There’s still time for you, Stephanie. You’re still young, Stephanie. Anything can happen, Stephanie.
I know all of these things are true if you stand them up alone and by themselves. You can’t go piling them on top of each other, though. They don’t belong there all crowded in on each other with barely the room to breathe or stretch or claim their space.
Those are wide open spaces inside which all the life you will ever live is confined forever in tiny time capsules buried sixteen feet below the deepest part of the ocean and you will never remember the coordinates or which sea to sail to get back to them.
Yesterday, on the way home from the doctor, I pulled up to a stop sign behind an 18 wheeler with Iowa plates. His mud flaps said Des Moines. I thought about following him but he eventually turned left and I kept straight. Several weeks ago, as I was leaving Wal-Mart, there was a 4-Runner in the parking lot with two kayaks on the roof. I instinctively looked at the license plate. Iowa. For a split second, I imagined it could be Wisebutters, come to profess his undying love to me. I imagined he was in the store, searching for a cheap bottle of wine and chocolates and would show up at my door minutes after I got home. We’d drive down to the river and float around on the kayaks, eating the chocolate and sharing the bottle between us.
Sometimes when I open my mailbox, I hope there will be a letter from him.
Sometimes I think about that scene in Brokeback Mountain when Jack tells Ennis “I wish I knew how to quit you.”
I wish I knew how to quit Wisebutters. I wish I was someone worth not quitting. I wish he wished he knew how to quit me too.
When will my heart stop aching for you, Wisebutters?
At the doctor, my blood blood pressure was so high I thought I might die. The nurse brought me a pill and when the doctor walked in and looked at me, I burst into tears. “Please, can you help me? I am drowning in my own sorrow, pain, and anger. I can’t breathe.”
He took one look at my face over his bifocals and said, “You’re headed for a trainwreck, aren’t ya? Let’s get you some help so you don’t get derailed,ok?” Then he rubbed my back and told me a story about the time he was depressed. Then I cried some more. Then he prescribed me the entire pharmacy. Then he said, “Stress kills, sister. You’ve got to let go.”
I tried to sign up for a dating app this afternoon. By tried, I mean I filled out the 20 minute questionnaire and attempted to say kind things about myself that some other person might find appealing. I was feeling just sort of ok with the whole process and then the app wanted me to upload pictures. Suddenly, ‘just sort of ok’ turned into an immediate ‘abort mission.’
And then I deleted the profile.
I don’t know why but I’m so terribly ashamed to put myself on a dating app even though I know it’s perfectly ok and normal and there’s nothing wrong with it. I really do understand this. It’s just that I live in this antiquated spot on the map with a population of Hi, Neighbor! and I don’t want anyone to know I’m single and lonely and looking for love through an app on my phone.
I mean, why don’t I just go to church?! Everyone knows Pastor Brown’s son is divorced and in need of a god-fearing woman to help raise his three boys. Have you seen those boys?? Davey, Rod, and Jimbo sure could use a haircut, a hot meal, and bed-time prayers.
Bless their hearts.
I honestly can’t remember the last time I stepped foot inside a church and haircuts, hot meals, and bed-time prayers are beyond my scope of expertise. I’m not exactly step-mom material even though I have a kid. It doesn’t make any sense, I know.
So what am I looking for? What do I want?
I should know. I’m supposed to know! Everyone knows you’re supposed to know what you want in a relationship and out of life by the time you’re 4 decades into this thing but….here I am! Not knowing!
Fucking Daredevil. That’s me. My middle name is Knievel. My mom named me after Evel. It was a tossup between Marie and Raggedy Anne and one look around her in the middle of that blue van on the way to the hospital in Selma, and my mom knew. She just fucking knew. She knew in that way that you know what you know but you don’t really know how you know it, or even when you finally knowed it….. ya know? Wait. What? Anyway, my mom took one look around her. There were my sister and brothers, all snot nosed and yelling; my dad, one hand on the wheel and the other on his Coors Light. Then, she looked down at her swollen belly, down at me under all those veins and tissue, warm and snug inside the same womb that held my sister before me and my brother before her and then my other brother before him; all of us coming to be inside this tiny little hut inside my mom. She put one hand on her belly and the other hand over her eyes and said “you’re either gonna be the dumbest little bitch out there or you’re gonna be the bravest. I can’t claim dumb for you,Butterbean, so brave it is.”
With that, she took her hand from over her eyes and in the loudest whisper she could muster declared an end to the middle name debate between my dad, who picked Marie, my sister, who was really hoping for Raggedy Anne, and my brothers, who didn’t even know if they were getting a boy brother or a girl sister.
“KNIEVEL!”, she whisper shouted. “KNIEVEL! Stephanie Knievel. That’s Butterbeans’ name.”
And so it was.
Stephanie Knievel Butterbean was born.
SLAYER OF LIFE. BAD ASS BITCH TO THE BONE. Chapter 1.
You would not believe how many people don’t believe that story when I tell them. It always amazes me. As if I would lie about a thing like my own middle name. Come on!
I’m totally lying.
None of that actually happened except my sister really was hoping I would be named Raggedy Anne. I mean, I kind of do too now. Sure,my formative years would have been tough, no doubt. But fuck yeah, I could rock the shit out of Raggedy Anne now. Imagine being someone’s plus one to a formal event.
“Mom? Dad? Senator Kirkland? I’d like you to all meet Raggedy Anne.”
“I’m sorry Bartholomew Junior…..did you say Raggedy Anne?”
“Yes, father.” Bart-Holo (my pet name for him) would answer. “This is my girlfriend, or, as she likes to be referred to…my Shack Job, Raggedy Anne.” At which point, I, being Raggedy Anne, would smack Bart-Holo’s ass hard enough to make him jump.
Later on in the hotel room, Bart-Holo would turn Raggedy Anne ragged for displaying that very defiant claim of ownership. But, Raggedy Anne being Raggedy Anne, would welcome her punishment like the good little rag doll she is.
Raggedy Anne’s are fearless and feral and brave.
Stephanie Butterbean’s, though?
Stephanie Butterbean’s wake up forty chapters into their life and realize they’re stuck in Hi, Neighbor! with nary a Bart-Holo in sight.
There’s just Pastor Brown’s son who is recently divorced and really needs a step-mama for Davey, Rod, and Jimbo. Those boys could really use a haircut, a hot meal, and a bed time prayer. Or two.
“Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.” “Stop crossing oceans for people who wouldn’t even jump puddles for you.” “Don’t be someones second choice.”
Why not? How come? What if I don’t mind?
Oh, that’s right. I forgot. I’m supposed to set boundaries and junk. If I don’t set boundaries, I might get triggered and if I get triggered it’s game over. Game Over, Bitches.
Sometimes I think we’ve all gone a bit overboard with all these rules regarding our hearts and emotions. I mean, sure, we can’t go running around naked and crazed all over town looking for you after you’ve declared us unworthy of your special Love Kool-Aid. That would just be uncouth and embarrassing. Especially at our advanced age. We should have figured out by now how to have a little decorum and not be tempted to take the electric razor to our luscious locks like Britney Spears circa 2007. But come on! Even 36 almost 42 year olds still dream of tattooing your name in hearts across their lady parts. We’d never do it, of course. Definitely not…. Probably not…. Well….maybe…. I’m not saying yes but I’m not saying no either.
Listen, just because we’re old and have hips that go out on the regular (even in our sleep) doesn’t mean we don’t feel all the feelings our 22 year old selves felt when our hips didn’t lie and we could shake them better than Shakira.
I know! I know, I know, I know. Boundaries are important. Triggers are bad. Got it.
I’m not going to drive to the middle of the map and show up at your doorstep with a caramel apple I made from scratch and a carving of your name in clay for Valentine’s Day. I’m not! Besides, I already tried that and you thought I was batshit insane and that was only one day after we’d said goodbye to each other and were still in love. Or so I thought. Imagine your reaction now! Hilarious!
In all seriousness, this composure stuff has gotten way out of hand. I’m not really interested in keeping my composure all that much when my heart has been ground up and turned into shredded beef and left discarded on the butcher table for the flies to lay their eggs in. It doesn’t really interest me to pretend like I’m not just standing over there in the corner staring at my stringy heart, all bloody and broken and prone to decay after you so carelessly tossed it aside.
Forgive me if composure and sensibility and pomp and circumstance are not wells from which I can draw from at the moment.
Love is everything we are but mostly what we don’t want the other to see.
I saw you.
I don’t have it in me to get over you yet. I know I should. My brain understands this is a dead end and I need to turn around and start walking back the way I came. My heart, though. My heart just keeps pushing on this brick wall in front of me, hoping beyond hope the love stored inside it will be enough to make the bricks crumble all down around me and you’ll be standing there on the other side.
Love is the good bad ugly dirt underneath your fingernails and a fresh coat of paint on top.
A shattered heart is a jigsaw puzzle and every time the pieces get all mixed up and put back together, a different portrait appears.
“Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.” “Stop crossing oceans for people who wouldn’t even jump puddles for you.” “Don’t be someones second choice.”
I don’t want to live in a world where the only time we give grace is when we receive it. I don’t want to live in a world where the only time we swim across shark infested water is if someone else does it first. I don’t want to live in a world where we don’t understand that sometimes being second is better than being first.
I was rummaging through the warmer, looking for a sweet potato casserole when Brenda Faye called my name. She was standing by the stove, watching me quietly. She knew I had been down for far too many days in a row.
I paused in my search and looked over at her
“I love you,” she said. I quickly looked away and grabbed the casserole.
“I love you, too,” I said as I closed the warmer door.
And then promptly turned around and left because the tears were already pooling in the bottom of my eyelids and I knew I was going to lose it all. My composure, my dignity, my goddamned mind. It was all going to come gushing out right there onto the floor of that kitchen in that store on Highway 80 in some town no one has ever heard of but where the story of my life keeps unfolding. Or unraveling. Faster than I know what to do with. I want to scoop up all the pieces of me that are floating all over this town I’ve never loved and pack them up in a suitcase and take them somewhere…anywhere. Away from here. Away from this. A hotel room in the city, a cabin in the woods, a shack on the beach, a tent in the desert, a sleeping bag under the stars.
My Life: The Series
Bad Decisions Failed Attempts Wandering Lust Half Attempts Daydream Realities No Attempts A Too-Sad Heart
“All I’ve ever learned from love was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you.”
A cold and broken hallelujah.
If I could carry your grief until it was light enough for you to lift it, I would.
If I could take your pain and expunge it from your heart and bury it in the farthest corner of a place you can’t find on any map, I would.
The time it takes to say “I love you” and choose not to cry for the sixty-seventh time today. How much time is that? A minute? Thirty seconds? Maybe 7.2 seconds and it’s lights out forever. Maybe it’s only a journey as short or as long as a sentence. From the first capital letter all the way to the period. Question mark? Exclamation point! Commas are just baby heart palps along the way. That hardly seems fair, does it? Maybe if I don’t punctuate any of the sentences things will never end and we’ll just go on and on forever and can stay here on the surface and not get sent into the abyss the void the nothing the eternal darkness the nether the nor the final fade the last curtain 7.2 seconds and it’s lights out forever and ever amen hallelujah and do you think there’s a god in the universe or a place to see light or just this darkness that eats away at the lining of my stomach and sits on the far reaches of my soul until I can’t breathe and I want to drown in my own misery just to stop feeling all the feelings when a simple thing like “Stephanie I love you” threatens to unleash all the tears as I try for the sixty-eighth time in one day to choose not to cry but it’s never a choice not really it’s never a choice, I am a hostage inside my mind inside my brain inside my heart inside these fingertips inside this mouth that speaks words of love but hurls words of insult against the aching breaking heart of a nine year old little boy who’s whole world is built on acres of broken glass and burning coals where the threat of disaster looms with each unsteady step he takes and I don’t know how to clean up this mess we have created for him in his one and only life that I tried so hard to keep together but it all just fell apart and I don’t know how to put it back I don’t know how I don’t know how I don’t know how and in 7.2 seconds it’s lights out and he’s left there in the destruction as I fall into the abyss his nine year old face looking out over this scorched field of glass and coals my own personal hell I’ll live in for all eternity forever and ever
seven point two seconds
maybe not even that long.
I did my best, I know it wasn’t much I couldn’t feel, so I learned to touch I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come here to fool ya
I don’t know why but I told him all about Noah and how awful it felt that someone could like me over the airwaves for a whole year and then meet me in person and decide I suck. And what a complete mind-fuck it was that Max’s dad actually found someone who thinks he’s a catch.
He asked what the new woman looked like and I told him I didn’t want to know because there’s a massive wound festering on my self-esteem that’s threatening to open any minute now.
First Gerard, then Noah, now my baby daddy.
Fuck my life.
This shit is too real.
Hello! My name is Undesirable Nancy and I like taking long walks in the moonlight with a paper bag over my head so you can’t see my hideous face, fucking with my clothes completely on so you don’t accidentally barf, and sitting in the corner with one of those safety cones around my neck; you know, the kind they make the dogs wear after they snip their nuts so they don’t lick themselves? Just make sure the velcro is tight as fuck so I can’t talk or even breathe really because I might scare you away with the way my breath is so goddamn dramatic on the exhale. Can you just stop breathing now, Undesirable Nancy? Or at least hold your head out the window? God! Your hot breath is all over the car.
I mean, I didn’t even want a man until I got drunk that one night back in the summer of 2019 and decided I was tired of watching Bruce sing The River on YouTube and wouldn’t it be fun if I found someone to talk to? Heck yeah, it would!! A quick Google search later and I drunkenly stumbled into that music chat room and declared to the room that I would love to visit both Seattle and Washington state someday. Obviously, I know Seattle is in Washington state so my sentence didn’t make any sense at all but I was halfway through a bottle of red by that point and making sense hardly seemed like a priority. I guess it wasn’t totally cringe because someone named Grump messaged me and thought it was rad. We chatted back and forth until I finished my bottle. I promptly logged out and stumbled off to bed.
I didn’t give him any way to contact me other than through this random music channel that I may never remember how to get back to. I logged back in quickly and he was still on so I gave him my email address because I am 800 years old and had never talked to people on the internet before him and didn’t know I was supposed to have some kind of app or somesuch something in which to converse with strangers around the globe. It didn’t matter to Grump because he was also 800 and us old people know how to make shit work.
And make shit work is exactly what we did.
Damn, that was a fun ride with Grump.
It truly gutted me when he disappeared. So much so that I revived this dead blog to write to him almost every single day in the hopes he’d come back around. Yeah. I did that. He’d read everything I’d written back in 2009 when I first started writing here so he knew the blog existed. I had no way to contact him except on these pages. So that’s what I did.
I don’t even know if Grump is dead or alive.
How I stumbled on that Reddit post a couple of months later where some guy was asking for advice about his dating profile, I’ll never know. I don’t even know why I clicked to read the comments but I did and there was Wisebutter. Just commenting away, being a total smart ass and a total good guy all at the same time. I laughed and thought ‘awww this guy is something else’ and then checked out his profile and read all of his post history several times over. I thought about sending him a message for 4 days before I actually said ‘fuck it’ and pressed send.
I had no idea that Wisebutter would turn out to be a total Casanova and would feed me his elixir almost immediately. I’d never had anybody treat me the way he did, like I was both a goddess and a whore, both strong and weak, complete and incomplete. It was a heady force that left me feeling dazed and beautiful and so incredibly feminine. He seemed to instinctively know that women wanted to be both cherished and commanded at the same time. And the way he talked to me! No man had ever said the things he said to me. It was intoxicating. Totally mystifying. I was still crazy about Grump and hoped he’d come back around but Wisebutter was a different breed. He asked me things like “who owns you?” and called me a “good girl” and talked about my body as if he knew it like the back of his hand. He could be so rogue and unbelievably scandalous but then turn around and send me walls of text detailing the most tender of emotions.
I was consumed by him.
He seemed to be consumed by me too.
Until he just….wasn’t.
There’s no other way to describe it. It’s like a faucet that he just turned off suddenly. Without warning. There was a usual morning text one Monday morning in December and by that afternoon he was gone. I could feel it when he left. We had been texting for a year by that point and had met in person in October. I could feel the exact moment the shift occurred. I knew it was over Monday afternoon at 1:30. Here that morning, gone that afternoon.
No explanation. No reason.
When I asked what happened several days later, he seemed genuinely baffled. To him, nothing had happened.
Now here I am. A month or more later and I still don’t know how to process it. I don’t know if I ever will.
He’s just up there in his spot on the map, completely oblivious to me now.
It’s mind blowing and mind numbing all at once.
First Grump, then Wisebutter……
Now a happily ever after for the baby daddy too.
Undesirable Nancy has left the building. She’s going back to watching Bruce sing The River on YouTube.
Naked. Without a paper bag on her head. Breathing with her mouth wide open.
It’s long and drawn out and I’m not going to post it here. It was an attempt to make sense of the last year of my life. But after I wrote it and tied it up all nice and pretty with a shiny red bow, I realized I wasn’t really interested in making sense of the last year of my life.
Why do we feel the need to make sense of things?
Sometimes things just don’t make sense.
You can find an answer or a reason for anything but it’s not always the right answer or the real reason. It’s just a thing we latch onto to make ourselves feel better.
To ease our load just a little bit.
The truth is, I’m not interested in easing this load yet.
When the load eases so do my memories and thoughts of you.
Maybe none of it was real for you.
Maybe you made the whole thing up.
It was real to me.
I loved you.
And that’s all that truly matters in the story of my life.