How Ryan O’Connell saves my life everyday

Like most people my age, Thought Catalog was the site, when words went to die into a pile of emo. Or get emo about absolutely nothing. And so I avoided it like the plague.

My life was seemingly happy and I had friendship and love and pretense. I bought expensive coffee and sat at stores and read books of princesses and distraught heroes. Sipping my coffee as I turned the pages of my life. Laughed at little children running around me and talked to them about fairytales and high fives.

I went out on weekends to drown my stress in alcohol and stayed awake until the wee hours engaging in drunken repartee about dreams and hopes and parents who would be pissed because you stayed out all night. I went out on week nights because I was that friend who you called as back up when none of your first circle or best friends had time for you.

I went because I had no friends otherwise.

I fell in love with men and women. I made love to men and women.

And then one day, I fell in nothing.

It enveloped me in pity and self-loathing. It embraced my emptiness and filled it with a void. This was the beginning of the end. I cried for days that translated into weeks and eventually months. I cried for nothing. Nothing ate at me every day until there was nothing more to eat.

One morning while wallowing in last night’s leftovers, Ryan O’Connell popped up in one of my blog feeds and told me how to be the best version of myself. The year was 2011 and I was ready for change. And so I listened to him. I printed out all he wrote and it became a manifesto. RYAN O’s MANIFESTO.

I put it up on walls, under my pillow as I cried myself to sleep, in my wallet as I bought groceries, in my head as I began to live and not just survive. Ryan O had made me a better version of myself. And then I read everything he wrote.

Even if it were 2 lines in fine print under a life insurance document.

Ryan O thought me how to survive a broken heart and how to be gay even though I wasn’t. How to live in New York city and in denial. What my shoes, my favorite magazine and soup says about me. Anything they say is fantastic because HEY talking soup! He told me what kind of Twitter user I was before I even had a Twitter account, he taught me to appreciate silliness and crave magic. He taught me to accept rejection gracefully and how questionable eye-shadow can get me the wrong kind of attention. He taught me about healthy living and unhealthy relationships, forced beginnings and happy endings.

He still teaches me every day and even more, he keeps me alive.

And humbled.

Happy Birthday MAMA!

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My Mother taught me LOGIC…”If you fall off that swing and break your neck, you can’t go to the store with me.”

My Mother taught me MEDICINE…”If you don’t stop crossing your eyes, they’re going to freeze that way.”

My Mother taught me TO THINK AHEAD…”If you don’t pass your spelling test, you’ll never get a good job!”

My Mother taught me ESP…”Put your sweater on; don’t you think that I know when you’re cold?”

My Mother taught me TO MEET A CHALLENGE…”What were you thinking? Answer me when I talk to you…Don’t talk back to me!”

My Mother taught me HUMOR…”When that lawn mower cuts off your toes, don’t come running to me.”

My Mother taught me how to BECOME AN ADULT…”If you don’t eat your vegetables, you’ll never grow up.

My mother taught me ABOUT SEX…”How do you think you got here?”

My mother taught me about GENETICS…”You are just like your father!”

My mother taught me about my ROOTS…”Do you think you were born in a barn?”

My mother taught me about the WISDOM of AGE…”When you get to be my age, you will understand.”

My mother taught me about ANTICIPATION…”Just wait until your father gets home.”

My mother taught me about RECEIVING…”You are going to get it when we get home.”

And, my all-time favorite – JUSTICE…”One day you’ll have kids, and I hope they turn out just like YOU — then you’ll see what it’s like.”

10 things I know at 28 (in no particular order)

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10. Heartbreaks aren’t fatal

9. Age is just a number. I know a 33 year old who doesn’t mentally seem a year older than 19 or look a day younger than 60.

8. Fish hearts can glow in the dark. I swear. I read it somewhere, not sure where. But they have phosphorous and if you make/write something with a fish heart, it will glow in the dark.

7. The banana-toffee-whip cream extravaganza at Suzette is the best damn dessert out there.

6. Finding someone to love, who meets your standards, is painful.

5. Antidisestablishmentarianism is the longest word in the English dictionary.

4. I’ve witnessed friendships that have last a reason, season and a very few that will be lifelong.

3. The first sentence in Ulysses is written in dactylic hexameter.

2. The longest English word is Titin. It’s a giant protein that functions as a molecular spring in humans which is responsible for the passive elasticity of muscle. Its scientific name has 189,816 letters. Click here if you want to try and pronounce it.

1. Sex that has no inhibitions or isn’t forced and is fun and you can laugh out loud during it, is often the best sex there ever was / is.

When I was 16 I stood as straight as I could

She sat at her desk drumming words onto the table 

She couldn’t put it to paper she wasn’t able 

Her story was dark and her body was bruised 
 
How could she let go she was already used 
 
When I was 16 I stood as straight as I could 
Because he said I should if I loved him 
And I did as his hand swiftly fell across my face
 And it stung like a bee on my hand that lay dying as his sting seeped into my veins and rose to the burning in my cheeks And his knuckles pressed into my stomach like a bulldozer digging into the earth to lay a new foundation on illegal land 
 
When I was 16 I stood as straight as I could 
Because I knew if I didn’t he would do all he could 
To break my heart, my strength, my growth, 
my nose, my hands, my legs, my little left toe
 
I loved him with all my heart 
He loved me with all his strength that transcended into his fingers and onto my body 
He loved me all night and right upto dawn despite my face so bloody 
I traded my pride and dignity for dank car seats and bomb diggity’s 
I traded my nose and thighs for bruises and sighs 
I traded my family and friends for slaps and threats 
What did I know when I was 16 and I stood as straight as I could
 
Love is a gift a silly child a little high a little low a little swift a little slow 
A little wise a little show a little fun a little lame
 He was the hunter and I was his game 
When I was 16 and I stood as straight as I could 
 
You see I grew up in a neighbourhood that taught me to love Love like I’ve never been hurt before 
Work like you don’t need money 
Dance like no one is watching 
Sing like no one is listening 
Live like there is no tomorrow 
There was no tomorrow 
When I was 16 and stood as straight as I could 
 
This went on for years and also ears 
Hospital visits and interventions and broken bones later 
I was pulled away from love for a bit of time 
I was pulled away from a life of beatings and crime 
But I loved him and he loved me 
He hurt my knees and my back and my head and behind because he loved me
 
I wanted him back I wanted him now 
he loved me 
Always wanting him wanting more than being locked in 
Clothed in promiscuity and living on cheap pick up lines 
 
I went back and clothed ourselves in false hopes 
That he would get better than we will love harder 
That we will love truer 
That we will be newer 
But what did I know When I was 16 and stood as straight as I could 
 
For years I let him try to change and I could hear the voices in my head 
Say no over and over and over again 
But we didn’t speak the same language 
Every no was met with a blow 
Every stop meant a slam of the door 
Into my stomach onto my hand into my face 
Until my fingers could no longer trace 
 
Could no longer trace the innocence of my skin 
The purity of my soul, the contours of my cheeks 
The laugh from my belly, the dimple in my chin
Could no longer trace me 
 
And so he loved work more than me 
He loved dance more than me 
He loved music more than me 
He loved life more than me 
He loved her more than me 
I LOVED HIM MORE THAN ME 
 
When I was 16 and stood as straight as I could 
I didn’t believe I was beautiful 
Because from me that’s all he took 
Until I hit back and hit harder than I knew I could 
I ran as fast as my legs would 
 
Away from this monster away from his arms 
And into dark alley ways and suicidal barns 
For I was the daughter of Geb and Nut 
For I was as beautiful because I was made from gut 
 
15 years later I no longer allow 
Disrespect in relationships or fleeting ploughs 
Into my insecurities because really that’s not fair 
If you knew my past you would know you should 
Because I was once 16 and stood as straight as I could

When i was just a little girl

When I was just a little girl I asked my mother what I will be. Will I be pretty will I be rich here’s what she had to say You will be hurt you will cry you will break your wings before you fly You will love you will care you will smoke in public so people stare When I was just a little girl all the trees seemed so way up high And the tea in my teapot was just like bit to bitter and I don’t know why Maybe it was the dirt that hid under my nails from digging the soil As I crumpled my white dress and smiled my first crooked smile

 Why are the stars so bright and the ocean so big Why is the moon so white and the smallest branch a twig Why when I clench my fist and rub my knuckles  do my hands tingle and my heart chuckles Why do I have to go to school mommy can’t I stay home Why do I have to learn mommy let me sit here here’s the comb Talk to my mommy tell me your tales let my hair be your canvas and my scalp feel your nails where’s daddy gone will he ever come back will he sit me on his knee and let go of his burlap will he tell me of his adventures and travels galore will they be interesting or is he a bore

 Daddy did come home with stories and tales from far away but what I remember most is what daddy’s eyes had to say love tenderly Michelle he said to me love unconditionally Michelle while I sat on his knee your heart will be broken and your head all messed up you will always feel like you’ve been given a slightly small cup and when you meet a boy you feel is just right for you size him up and divide your time for when he breaks your heart you’ll have a reason to rhyme

Why will he hurt me daddy why will he make me cry because we are human Michelle and our limits the sky and while he may hurt you he will also love you he will love your smile and your eyes he will not tell you of his untruthful lies but you take of your heart young girl because your heart is made of gold and all things nice with a pinch of sugar and spice

It’s equally important to listen as to speak Michelle my mother chimed in no one can tell your story unless you believe from within for the clouds are roads and the butterflies your endings your fingertips your guides and your beliefs and fears for the mending

And so off their laps and into the world I strolled head in the sky and curls on the ground there was nothing I couldn’t do or nowhere I couldn’t go for my mom and dad had shown me the world, you know

And I learned something new every day and I failed a test in every way I passed my grades and bunked college I was the youngest junior at junior college I was class valedictorian but never prom queen I knew how to light a flame but never an eyelash to preen

I sat in a lab all day and all night because boys couldn’t possibly be more interesting than this light I played with the chemicals and almost set myself on fire and oh me oh my nothing more I could desire I went through university the smartest girl there so smart I wouldn’t ever kiss a boy eww gross no never I wouldn’t dare

And now it’s all over and I’ve done all I could I passed all my tests and now I am good I’ve lived a good life and had a wonderful childhood with a mom and dad who always had a lap I am old enough to write you a story of college and friends and breakups and glory a story about boys and men and warriors a story of tears broken hearts and terriers.

He was but a boy trapped in an older man’s body he was but a child scarred by shoddy relationships and girls that had broken him to pieces hi my name is Charlie and i am wanted for reason hi i am Michelle no one ever wants me neither do you I know it dear Charlie I am a little girl trapped inside this body but I hurt just as much as you 12 ways to Sunday

I was raised a catholic but now I don’t know what I am will you help me dear Michelle be the best I can why Charlie you sweet little boy I will help you and you will help me get by and so they walked hand in hand until one rainy Christmas eve nothing went according to plan he loved her but couldn’t tell her because what would his friends think she loved him and paraded him around when she needed a drink

Because how could this be they were perfect for each other finishing sentences and lines one for another where would he find someone who’d look beyond his personality where would she find someone who didn’t call her ugly but he did one fateful night at the door the same night that her heart crashed to a million pieces to the floor

But I love you how can you let this go we’re not meant to be Michelle not now not ever not before but Charlie you promised forever and a day but Michelle I needed you only to light my way and on he went into the world he shattered picking up the pieces to meet another she fell to the ground and never got up this was that overflowing feeling from her very small cup

But she remembered to love tenderly and unconditionally and cheerily and forgivingly and all the other ly’s that were available she still yearned for him as she wrote this at her table but he couldn’t be hers because he didn’t know what was good for him she lived her whole life depressed and on a whim but tomorrow is a new day and she will survive a fire a broken heart anything she desires

This story she will write many more a time it isn’t over not yet just this rhyme

To This Day by Shane Koyczan

When I was a kid
I used to think that pork chops and karate chops
were the same thing
I thought they were both pork chops
and because my grandmother thought it was cute
and because they were my favourite
she let me keep doing it

not really a big deal

one day
before I realized fat kids are not designed to climb trees
I fell out of a tree
and bruised the right side of my body

I didn’t want to tell my grandmother about it
because I was afraid I’d get in trouble
for playing somewhere that I shouldn’t have been

a few days later the gym teacher noticed the bruise
and I got sent to the principal’s office
from there I was sent to another small room
with a really nice lady
who asked me all kinds of questions
about my life at home

I saw no reason to lie
as far as I was concerned
life was pretty good
I told her “whenever I’m sad
my grandmother gives me karate chops”

this led to a full scale investigation
and I was removed from the house for three days
until they finally decided to ask how I got the bruises

news of this silly little story quickly spread through the school
and I earned my first nickname

pork chop

to this day
I hate pork chops

I’m not the only kid
who grew up this way
surrounded by people who used to say
that rhyme about sticks and stones
as if broken bones
hurt more than the names we got called
and we got called them all
so we grew up believing no one
would ever fall in love with us
that we’d be lonely forever
that we’d never meet someone
to make us feel like the sun
was something they built for us
in their tool shed
so broken heart strings bled the blues
as we tried to empty ourselves
so we would feel nothing
don’t tell me that hurts less than a broken bone
that an ingrown life
is something surgeons can cut away
that there’s no way for it to metastasize

it does

she was eight years old
our first day of grade three
when she got called ugly
we both got moved to the back of the class
so we would stop get bombarded by spit balls
but the school halls were a battleground
where we found ourselves outnumbered day after wretched day
we used to stay inside for recess
because outside was worse
outside we’d have to rehearse running away
or learn to stay still like statues giving no clues that we were there
in grade five they taped a sign to her desk
that read beware of dog

to this day
despite a loving husband
she doesn’t think she’s beautiful
because of a birthmark
that takes up a little less than half of her face
kids used to say she looks like a wrong answer
that someone tried to erase
but couldn’t quite get the job done
and they’ll never understand
that she’s raising two kids
whose definition of beauty
begins with the word mom
because they see her heart
before they see her skin
that she’s only ever always been amazing

he
was a broken branch
grafted onto a different family tree
adopted
but not because his parents opted for a different destiny
he was three when he became a mixed drink
of one part left alone
and two parts tragedy
started therapy in 8th grade
had a personality made up of tests and pills
lived like the uphills were mountains
and the downhills were cliffs
four fifths suicidal
a tidal wave of anti depressants
and an adolescence of being called popper
one part because of the pills
and ninety nine parts because of the cruelty
he tried to kill himself in grade ten
when a kid who still had his mom and dad
had the audacity to tell him “get over it” as if depression
is something that can be remedied
by any of the contents found in a first aid kit

to this day
he is a stick on TNT lit from both ends
could describe to you in detail the way the sky bends
in the moments before it’s about to fall
and despite an army of friends
who all call him an inspiration
he remains a conversation piece between people
who can’t understand
sometimes becoming drug free
has less to do with addiction
and more to do with sanity

we weren’t the only kids who grew up this way
to this day
kids are still being called names
the classics were
hey stupid
hey spaz
seems like each school has an arsenal of names
getting updated every year
and if a kid breaks in a school
and no one around chooses to hear
do they make a sound?
are they just the background noise
of a soundtrack stuck on repeat
when people say things like
kids can be cruel?
every school was a big top circus tent
and the pecking order went
from acrobats to lion tamers
from clowns to carnies
all of these were miles ahead of who we were
we were freaks
lobster claw boys and bearded ladies
oddities
juggling depression and loneliness playing solitaire spin the bottle
trying to kiss the wounded parts of ourselves and heal
but at night
while the others slept
we kept walking the tightrope
it was practice
and yeah
some of us fell

but I want to tell them
that all of this shit
is just debris
leftover when we finally decide to smash all the things we thought
we used to be
and if you can’t see anything beautiful about yourself
get a better mirror
look a little closer
stare a little longer
because there’s something inside you
that made you keep trying
despite everyone who told you to quit
you built a cast around your broken heart
and signed it yourself
you signed it
“they were wrong”
because maybe you didn’t belong to a group or a click
maybe they decided to pick you last for basketball or everything
maybe you used to bring bruises and broken teeth
to show and tell but never told
because how can you hold your ground
if everyone around you wants to bury you beneath it
you have to believe that they were wrong

they have to be wrong

why else would we still be here?
we grew up learning to cheer on the underdog
because we see ourselves in them
we stem from a root planted in the belief
that we are not what we were called we are not abandoned cars stalled out and sitting empty on a highway
and if in some way we are
don’t worry
we only got out to walk and get gas
we are graduating members from the class of
fuck off we made it
not the faded echoes of voices crying out
names will never hurt me

of course
they did

but our lives will only ever always
continue to be
a balancing act
that has less to do with pain
and more to do with beauty.