The Burden of Proof

Throughout the final week of 2015, I found myself chatting at all odd hours of the day with friends and strangers alike. Conversations ranged from the mundane and unremarkable to life-altering and thought provoking. Through each conversation, however, there was a common thread; I found myself wondering Have I effectively managed to get across the nuances of my personality in this interaction? Do they understand that there is so much more to me than this?

A conversation among friends.

I should mention that this internal struggle is not a recent development. Rather, it’s a pesky question that has followed me through most of my life. Usually, it’s paired with the even more frustrating Where do I fit in? How do I make myself fit into the spaces I desire to occupy? Each and every relationship I forge is always skirted by a halo of doubt that somehow, I will be misconstrued. That this individual will take a parcel of my person and assume it to be my whole.

I would argue that this fear is not unfounded. From coworkers to bosses to even (and especially) friends and loved ones, I’ve found a tendency to generalize, stereotype, and simplify people based on appearance, habits, or actions. In one of the conversations I had this past week, I was told that people want to be judged for their intentions, but judge others by their actions. I, too, am guilty of this behavior, which only serves to bolster my fears. Perhaps I can save my hypocrisy by saying that my simplification is a defense mechanism or a preemptive strike?

Maybe it’s a classic case of chicken or egg, nature or nurture. Which came first? The habit of oversimplifying or the experience of being oversimplified? Does it even ever matter? At the end of the day, I’m still left wondering what I can do to convey all the facets of my being; what can I do differently, how can I work to be understood?

I haven’t yet found The Answer™, though I highly suspect that there is none. What I have come closer to understanding, though, is that we can apply an (admittedly bastardized) concept of the Burden of Proof to this issue. What I mean to say is that the burden is not on you to prove yourself whole to the world.

You are a whole person. Every morning, you wake with blood pumping gloriously through (hopefully unclogged) arteries and a host of interests, fears, questions, and desires. Those do not go away when another refuses to acknowledge them.

The burden of proof that you are somehow less, somehow too weird or too excitable or too loud, rests with the other party.

They are the ones tasked with rifling through the boxes of your personality and finding enough proof that you are somehow not worthy of their time, attention, etc.

It’s a strangely comforting conclusion as, despite having absolutely zero impact on the way that people continue to judge and parcel you, you begin to develop a core belief that it isn’t some inherent shortcoming on your part. The burden shifts away from you convincing people that you are worthy of the life you’re living to just, well, living it. Going out and doing and being and allowing that to speak for itself.

Surround yourself with those willing to take on the burden.

Is this a cure-all for insecurity? No. Will I finally feel 100% comfortable in my skin and my surroundings? Uh, hell no. But it’s a step. I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but this time around, maybe just this time around, I’ll resolve to absolve myself of the burden of proof.

I deserve this life I’m forging. I deserve to be multi-faceted and I deserve my complexity. And I hope you know that you deserve the same.

Custom Vans Canvas Shoes

Materials:

  • (1) set of white canvas slip-on shoes
  • Crayola fabric markers
  • Mod Podge (Matte finish)
  • Reference photo/inspiration
  • A hell of a lot of patience and guts

The biggest suggestion I can make regarding designing custom shoes (mine were a gift to someone I love dearly) is to consider not only what design might look great, but also what vibe they might be feeling. As you can see, I originally wanted to have designs in all panels, but upon finishing the toe panel, I realized it was too busy and so I blacked out the side panels.

Mod Podge serves as a great sealant and finisher, giving the product a blended, solid feel.

A Year in Reflection

The end of 2015 is the

emptying of a handbag, worn down

with wear over the past year, faux leather

strap cracking into fractals of time. In it,

what do we find?

 

Crumpled paper containing

smudged numbers forming lips on

the other end of the phone,

lips that form names I once scratched into backs

and whispered under hot breath.

 

Leaves with caked on mud from a rainy overnight-

sat under the large tent, a vivid memory of an

apology for saying “fuck” in front of a

group of twelve year old boys.

 

Several condom wrappers with dried red

lipstick on seams where I tore the

package open with impatient teeth.

 

Mechanical pencils with erasers that look

like chewed up dog toys and a sketch book

filled with postures and half finished faces-

erased gazes.

 

Guitar picks stowed in crevices that hide

the words to songs I haven’t set to

melodies I haven’t created yet.

 

Breath mints and chapstick and

a small diary containing calorie counts

of roasted peanuts. A tube of fruity lip gloss.

 

A small vial containing a perfume that

perfectly mimics her scent. A few loose

pieces of gum that taste like him.

 

A small wallet containing ticket stubs

and a copy of the WMATA bus schedule.

 

A business flyer with some advice about

biking around D.C. scribbled on the back

with an apology regarding legibility.

 

Some lint, dust, and a scattering of

orphaned letters of words that

never came to fruition when I sat

down to write.

 

A note scribbled on the back

of a bank receipt;

“Next year I’ll do better.”

Leave Your Mark

I keep asking you to bruise me with your lips.

…So that when I’m adjusting to the new lights

streaming through my bedroom window, I’ll

remember how bright and red

my skin was when you left it.

And maybe, with that,

I’ll remember the taste of your mouth

after it ran down my neck

and the brush of your tongue

on my inner thigh.
Leave me with the physicality

so I can remember the sound of your voice

and the nebula in your eyes

as you stare hard, wishing you didn’t have to go,

wishing we had more time.

Leave your mark on me so

when it’s 12 am on a Friday and

I’m lost somewhere in the city and

feeling a little sad and lonely…

maybe this time it’ll be enough

to stop me

from climbing into a stranger’s bed

and sneaking out stage left

in the early morning’s rays.

Maybe this time it’ll be enough

to stop me from finding empty pleasure

or from searching for you in other’s eyes.

One Week

And you feel like a stranger in skin

Stretched thin over bent knees

There are cracks on your hand
You’ve noticed before
But you want to peel them apart
Tuck yourself in
And fall asleep.

You want to fall in love
With yourself
With your flaws
With your skin
With your ass
And forget your incessant
need to ask
Pretty boys and girls to notice you.

They don’t. And they won’t

And that should be fine
You should entwine your
heart with the love given
willingly. It should be enough.

But it’s not. Why is it not?

Why do you grow trees in your heart
Is it to climb the vines
Hide amongst the branches
And saw off your own limb?

There is a forest fire growing
Underneath a coffee cup
And it won’t be contained for much longer
It’ll E X P L O D E
in fat tears that can fit the galaxies
and the ocean within.

When you were younger
You’d cup your arms around your legs in the rain
call yourself a ship
And sail away.

But this time the current’s too strong
And the cracks are torn wide
And you’ve cut all the branches

It’s not a question of sink or swim
It’s how long do you hold your breath.

Her

I’ve got no structure to the worlds

I visit when I touch her when her lips

graze mine, pink stained cheek flushed

like wine on the sheets of the beds we share

and the way I stare when she sleeps like

a dream I once woke up from, grasping for air

And I sometimes double tap my phone screen,

late at night hoping it’ll somehow wake her–

make her smile, closed eyed, and think of me.

Even when she’s wrapped in my arms and

the alarms are shut off before they begin,

she’s already running away, abstract art

I’m off to this late start and I stumble over

hurdles I had placed months ago,

pacing myself to breathe, and to

note the finish line quickly approaching.

Months turned to weeks

soon we’ll be faced with days

and precious hours to press our

faces against my apartment window and to

flash strangers and to

smile until our gums hurt and to

whisper, hair brushing fingers and to

lock our elbows in grocery store aisles and to

get ready and to

get set and to

go.

I’m afraid

arachnophobia helps me understand

why I’m afraid of the crawling sensation

on my skin but within?

I’m not equipped to handle

the sensation

of a tickling behind my elbows

and at the back of my throat.

I want to lose myself in

the elevated name that hides

a basement show

some almost adults throw

dreaming of bigger stages

and faceless crowds.

I want to nurse a drink or two

and forget who it is

that knocks on my cheek

asking to be let in and in again

My home is not tidy

it is in disarray, senseless.

It’s not that I fear you’ll mind the mess

it’s that I’m afraid you’ll look for the sense

in the whorls of clothes on my floor-

look for meaning behind the torn-up loose leaf

in my waste bin I haven’t emptied in a month.

I’m afraid that you’re looking into a mess

hoping for a clear space to call your own.

I’m afraid I’ve forgotten how to clean.