Little Tow-Headed Girl

I am not as crabby as I am today. These are exceptional circumstances. I am taking deep breaths, and large sips of wine and trying to remember that everything is fine: perfection is not a goal.

I worked only two and a half hours yesterday, and it took everything I had. No lectures, not pressure, but just being there was difficult. I came home to find a message of one of the students wrote to me. It made me cry. It reminded me that the majority of the people in the world are kinder than we want to believe. And by that I mean it is easier sometimes to blame our problems on other people’s callousness, or cruelties, or inconsideration. But no. Sometimes life is just very hard. And the why’s don’t matter as much as the dusting ourselves off to standing tall and try again.

If I were to paint a self-portrait right now, it’d be a small girl with gravel in the bleeding heels of her palms, in her raw knees. Sunburned and dusted with the desert grit. Tear-tracks caked like mud on her cheeks. You don’t give up, you take that red rubber ball of anger in your gut and slam it against the cinder block wall. The same ball the kids use to play cannonball. Sanctioned bullying during P.E. class. The same cinder block that blurs every apartment building from Vegas to L.A. into one porous memory.

I think what I’m getting at is that the world is still unfair. And sometimes I wonder if I have ever learned to cope with that reality.

It has been too long since I’ve run. But I’ve promised myself to begin this week. To give myself that. Sometimes what looks like laziness is deliberate self-destruction. When I do begin running, I wouldn’t be surprised if I wound up with bleeding hands and knees. It takes a lot to remember to lift my knees high enough on those dark mornings. Just in case there are fallen branches. And this body as it is now, is unfamiliar. In the way of itself. I keep telling myself this is a liminal season. Accept and move on. All the bodies I have inhabited. Just now I think of the photos I’ve seen: me at the age of 6 or so, sunburned and bleached. Now I get the occasional flush of red on my face, and my hair, now gray, is pretty much the same kind of pale as then. And I am that kind of rubber-ball angry. You can throw it as hard as your body can manage, and it still is not satisfying.

There are times I wish there were someone else to remember this girl. To tell me about her. Today I am missing my grandmother. As sticking as she could be, she did always teach acceptance. Perfection is not a goal. On the other hand – it wasn’t a goal because one should stay in one’s own lane. There are consequences for over-reaching.

Yesterday I found out that the paper I’d chosen for the paperback books wasn’t good enough. The quality of the actual printed book wasn’t acceptable when taking into account the photography and acrylic prints. I spent the day and evening taking new photographs and then reformatting the book with new paper choices.

It’s all a learning process. A humiliating, frustrating, never-ending learning process.

If you are reading this and have already purchased a paperback copy, please contact me asap so that I can get a high-quality book in your hands (at no extra charge, of course!)

a paper cut
a tiny wound, where pressure
gaping, electric
a whole body singing
in dissonance with itself


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  1. It’s all a learning process. A humiliating, frustrating, never-ending learning process.

    Yes. It is. And so easy for me (personally) to attempt to avoid the world in order to avoid potential disappointments and challenges – but that never leads to anything good for me. I think I can relate to what you’ve written here, Ren, at least somewhat.


  2. One of the teachers I most respect walks full face into what he hasn’t mastered, all the more making invitation for others to be at ease and join in discovery. Very generous – how he feels to me. You too, and appreciated.

    • Thank you! I think we should all be so brave 😉 One of my very best friends said yesterday that it was about time I had a little self-confidence. I like that – not self-confidence that I will be great – but that it won’t break me if I’m not.