the void

i look for you in everyone i see
but i’ll never find you

i look for kind eyes
pure souls
and empathetic words
for this is everything you are not

i don’t know how i’m longing for something i never had
but my heart aches every moment of every day, waiting for you to be what i know you should
but never will be

so i walk alone
but am i really alone?
i have so many who fiercely love me
but all i feel
is that you do not

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19

i am from pigtails and plaid skirts and penny loafers with a lucky penny slipped inside
i am from therapy sessions and pill bottles stacked up in the closet

i am from sleepovers and ice cream dates and striving for perfect scores
i am from wet pillowcases and puffy morning eyes

i am from long walks with good music and running to pound away my thoughts
i am from scales and calculating the caloric value of a grape

i am from family dinners with jeopardy as background noise
i am from grieving three losses and praying i wouldn’t be the next

i am from writing and target runs and sleeping til noon
i am from whispers and name calling and sweeping sorrows under the perfect expensive rug

i am from shopping and reality tv and historical debates
i am from covering up the damage i have done to myself with sleeves and a smile

i am from the light and the dark
i am from always waiting for the sun

gravity

my whole life,you’ve wanted me smaller

my ambition is too much
my thighs are too much
my brain is too much

you try and try to shrink me
but i refuse to get in your box

i can only imagine how much you hated that i made you heavy
weighed down
burdened

you carried me those nine months
but i’ll carry this demon a lifetime

             -i’m sorry, mom

conditional

guilt suffocates me like cellophane
each layer clinging tightly to my body
one for each year of heartbreak

she says her love wraps around my being
what she doesn’t know is
it fights so hard to break through the barrier she has built
it pulses against me
unable to penetrate the 19 layers of pain she has provided

and through tears
she whispers,
“you know i love you, right?”

despite all her cruel words
she expects me to know this
to wholeheartedly embrace it

i can see it,
but i cannot feel it
for guilt and shame overwhelm my senses
and suddenly i am drowning in my memories
admitting to a love i do not feel

wrapped in this godforsaken cellophane,
a gift from my mother
i am bursting with emotion, yet empty

wrapped so tightly
desperate for love
i walk around suffocating
desperate to feel
something she cannot provide

         —i know you did your best, mom

it ends here

at one year old, i giggled and toddled around,
and at 5 years old, i began to understand.
at 6 years old, i proclaimed my need to lose weight off of my thighs.
time came and went, but the message remained the same.
as other mothers passed down a love of baking or hiking to their daughters, my mother held my hand and walked me down a self-destructive path.
at 14 years old, i began counting calories.
at 17 years old, i found my finger down my throat and lines on my wrist.
at 18 years old, i crumbled.
& at 19 years old, i learned how to walk away.
how to run away.
escaping the lies that had been fed to me along with a 900 calorie diet.
i learned that strong is all that matters.
i learned that words said to try to shrink my thighs and my hips can be silenced by the fortitude of my own thoughts.
most importantly, i decided that
this ends with me
when I have daughters of my own, i will pass down a love of running, not because it will make their bodies thin like bending branches, but because it will make them strong.
i will show them the wonders of writing and emptying out every nook and cranny of their brains.
i will expose them to different cultures, exploring new food, excited by the flavors and not trembling because of the calories
i will show them how to love themselves, and hold their hands when they do not.
i will never comment on their bodies,
only their brains, their hearts, their spirits
above all else, I will love unconditionally
because
this ends with me

run

a moment on your lips,
a lifetime on your hips
better run!
don’t run from your self-loathing,
run from the calories
but never run to me.
thighs, tummy, arms
smaller, flatter, stronger
eat this, not that
tell me about your new diet,
but keep quiet about your dreams
a body is made to be skinny,
forget strong

why did i find your finger down your throat
attached to an arm with marks made out of anguish
how could you do this to me?
where did i go wrong?

—words from my mother