Running Season

The weird chill is upon me,

and I see you’re lacing up your running shoes -

not minding the snow blanketing our small earth

or the probability of slip and fall.

But there are whiteout conditions out there!

Surely, you’ll freeze to death.

Shivering outside love’s shelter.

And why the straitjacket?

We both know it can’t keep you warm -

no matter how tight you pull.

With no finish line in sight,

how will you ever know when it’s time

to turn back towards this woman who’s missing you?

Or will the bell-like peal of her laugh

fade into distant memory like the sound of the starting gun?

But you’re already off.

The cold penetrates me -

icy wind blowing in from the screen door

that I can’t get to shut

as I realize it’s me you’re running from.

I knew when the icicles resurfaced on my bones

that you were pulling at the laces.

Making them taut.

Readying for another journey where I am not welcome.

This chapter I tear from the book

that always reappears

just when I think it’s safe to say running season has ended.

Are those shoes new?

You’re faster than I’m used to,

or is it my exhaustion holding me in place?

Oh, barefooted, naked me -

it’s not my job to chase you

in this sprint faster than Cupid’s arrow

that dares an avalanche.

How it rocks the boat of our bond,

almost willing it to tip over

as the lines in my face deepen.

Watching you take off with my golden heart in-hand.

Held high like the Olympic torch.

And the imprint of yesterday’s kiss upon your frostbitten lips.

Estimated time of return — unknown.

© Julia R. DeStefano

I think, as women, asking for what we need is always a vulnerable thing. To ask for what you need is to expose yourself. Sometimes, it can feel more naked than if you were to expose flesh. Whether you've gotten hurt repeatedly or if you fear getting hurt for the first time, you're still scared it's going to happen. When you love someone, you don't want them to think less of you if you show them who you really are, or talk with them about what you really want - not what you're supposed to want. It is my road. It is my destiny. It is my travel. Sometimes, I set myself up for disappointment even when disappointment hasn't come yet. Great literature has called it a "self-fulfilling prophecy." I've come to call it, "just being me." Why is this? I wrack my brain to try to understand that missing chromosome or serotonin level that always results in me anticipating when the other shoe will drop, so much so that I find it difficult to trust or revel in pleasure. Because pleasure never stays too long in my world. For so long, I have been trying to understand what seems to be a phenomenon of self.

Yesterday, another birthday came and went. I used to love my birthday. But this year, hours before the day arrived, I began to feel a significant sense of "oldness" that I couldn't quite put my finger on. I know it was likely in my head, having managed to complete my hour-and-a- half workout each day this week and feeling stronger physically than I have since the summer months. Maybe it's just me, noticing the lines on my face much like Lucille Ball did in one of the first I Love Lucy episodes. Another year older, she is sitting at her vanity and points out her "crow's feet" to Ricky who, in a moment of quintessential Hollywood magic, kisses her cheek and tells her that she's beautiful. The image always stuck with me, not her perception of her oldness, but that there could be someone - this other half of her - who loved her so much, someone so perceptive of her inner uncertainties and internal feelings of anguish, and yet still call her beautiful, and that she could represent the same for him. Maybe, at this stage in my life, I'm waiting for someone to tell me I'm beautiful and actually stay. Of course, I'm not that vain. The "beautiful" part doesn't matter. But the "stay" part is everything to me and always will be. No, "beautiful" is more a state of being. Ricky thought Lucy's soul was beautiful and recognized they were more powerful together than apart. Recently, my friend Gary was telling me about a "must-see" television series called The Chosen. It slipped my mind until I saw a pamphlet the other day that read: "What does it mean to be chosen?" Though I knew it was to be taken in a religious context, I felt something stir inside of me. Of course I would relate it back to interpersonal connections. At this point, I've come to recognize that that is just what I do. I've always pondered what my purpose is in life. Maybe my purpose is to touch something deep inside my readers and in the process, become closer to myself. Maybe my purpose is to encourage others to feel. My friend Dan used to say this to me. I don't know and ponder on the thought. I mean, I am not some guru.

Lately, I have been thinking much on the concept of twin flames. I don't want to call it "hokey" or dismiss it as such, but some aspects of it are too much for me to buy into. You could say that the concept of the twin flame is one that I have always been intrigued by but have kept at arms length and for good reason, I suppose. Though I am fascinated by the world around us and its ever-increasing unknowns, the only real dive I have ever taken "into the mystic" is through the Van Morrison song of the same name. But then again, there is the title of my new book and the accompanying "right place right time" photograph taken on a friend's patio in Maine - the upright flame that eerily resembles a finger pointing upwards if you look closely enough. My father's words, not mine. Even my recent writings have had so much flame imagery, the majority subconscious. Where does it all come from? I would like to believe that it comes from some place deeper, a higher place, perhaps.

Almost involuntarily, my mind circles back to the theory of twin flames, this belief that two people can feel so familiar at the onset, be magnetic, and feel like they are mirror images of each other - often to the point where you feel like this person could even be you. It shakes you up a bit, this thought that you are looking at yourself in this other person but in different bodily form - and I think of someone I have been close with for so very long; someone whose presence I feel sitting next to me as I write this; someone who I can hear cheering me on and encouraging me to keep writing despite the tears I feel welling in my eyes because to write is always to crack my heart wide open; someone who asked me, just last night, "Are we twin flames?" Surely it would seem so, for my soul doesn't know the difference between "goodnight" and "goodbye" and reacts accordingly, sometimes embarrassingly. But then, something hits me. Twin flames aren't only about love. They are about truth. The hallmark of a twin flame relationship is two people who see straight through to one another, far beyond the "surface" of what the world sees. "Challenging" and "healing" are the two words most often used to describe this connection that is not a walk in the park but rather, a catalyst for love, growth, and harmony in each other's lives -

and also, maybe, the realization that you can have the very thing you've always wanted but never could attain,

and feel safe to revel in a pleasure that stays.

Burn, baby, burn,

The Red Queen

  • juliadestefano

Updated: Aug 28, 2020

   Ever since I can remember, I have loved pudding. As a little girl, I muddled around my grandmother's kitchen, watching her make chocolate pudding on the stove. My grandfather would sit on the stool, watching the goings-on from the countertop as he always did when she and I were in the kitchen together. I can still see him there in his knit tan sweater. Grandmother would serve the puddings hot in sundae cups. The tops were significantly thicker - "pudding skin singles" as George Costanza once affectionately called them in an episode of Seinfeld. I had a bit of a love-hate relationship with the tops. To say that homemade chocolate pudding became a sort of a thing is an understatement. Though exclusive to grandmother's kitchen at the time and therefore, a delicacy, I came to associate pudding with comfort food.

  At some point, we graduated from pudding in cups to the no-bake pudding pie. It was a wonder to behold - chocolate pudding pie with Cool Whip nestled in graham cracker crust. I had always been a s'mores girl, and this dessert seemed to marry all the ingredients together. Best of all, it didn't have to be made on-demand like the s'mores did. As I never could achieve the same level of satisfaction from store-bought pudding, the caveat remained the same: it had to be homemade. At this, pudding pie became the dessert - made by my grandmother, then my mother, and now me. You would think that, for Italians, we would have a more elaborate and heritage-oriented dessert. While those certainly exist in my family, the pudding pie has remained a fixture throughout the generations - perhaps for its ease, versatility, and the fact that it tastes even better the next day.

  As I began sketching out this piece last night, I had just finished my last spoonful of that melt-in-your-mouth chocolate, the fluff of the Cool Whip upon my tongue, the crunch of the graham cracker, the chocolate sprinkles serving as garnish and somehow pulling it all together. Every now and then, I hear a call for chocolate that refuses to be ignored. Lately, I have been singing that Spandau Ballet song in my head. If this is indeed, the "sound of my soul," then you would think my soul would be sweeter! Instead, it just feels uneasy.  To be fair, though, I don't know of a soul right now that doesn't feel some degree of uneasiness. I find myself thinking of the quote, "know thyself," and what that looks like at this time in living history. If I am wise, it is because I know who I am, what I need, and what triggers me. If I am wise, it is because I know that the whole of me matters. I know that I am the Pie, every inch of me worthy of being savored like a pudding pie or that apple pie I will no doubt transition to making come September. 

 Because I am the Pie, I know the importance of passionate prosperity. I know that real richness - true value - lies in applying focus to our relationships with each other. I didn't always know this, and my thoughts trail to a friend who passed away by suicide one year ago today. I had so many opportunities to spend time with him that I did not take advantage of. I had lost myself in life - in things that I thought were major that ended up being trivialities in the long run. That's not to say such "things" weren't important or even big in their own way, but I never should have traded my relationship with my friend - or potential lover or partner, (who knows?) - for them. Our story went unfinished. I don't want any more unfinished stories, as I realize now how important it is to prioritize special bonds. My friend never knew what he meant to me because I didn’t show him my heart through my actions - in this case, by making the time for him - and he wasn’t the first. Having always been on my own quest for self-improvement, I struggled with channeling energy into my relationships. I didn't realize that relationships are part of self-improvement in that they allow us to experience love and to know love, among other things.

  I carry some degree of pain inside. I think we all do. But I can’t help but think of it as another lesson in not letting something important slip away, and I am reminded of “Wild Horses” in which Mick sings: “I just can’t let you slide through my hands.” Joy is the harmonizing of two hungers, two smiles, of eyes that talk to each other - desirous of living because we don't last forever - and we yearn to feel it. Only when we focus on the relationships that bring us joy and make time for them do we increase security and stability in our world, which serves to influence everything else - and I think about the emptiness that comes over me at the end of every August, and how I just don’t want to go it alone anymore. I think about how much better I am when I love and am loved. I think about my emotional tank and how it feels so very empty when I am not getting my basic needs met - often when connections become sporadic. Affection and support create stronger foundations, worth their weight in gold. Reciprocity is one of the most valuable things that we can offer another, yet the natural push and pull of life can challenge even the strongest of connections.

The Pie knows and accepts this. But I also know that it’s what we do in the face of challenge that matters most, especially where love is concerned. A lover needs to see this effort from us, just as a dear friend would also need to see it. I know the importance of the phrase "each other" and what it should look like to be present for someone I love - even on my "off" days because I need that consistency and believe that the other person deserves it, too. Anything less hurts my heart because I don't know where I stand amid the red light-yellow light confusion. I strive to find the sweet spot within a meaningful connection, and remain where the light is steadily green. As we were designed for connection both inside and outside, my soul wants fullness, freedom, and union. Reciprocated connection is the thing.

  It isn't about the desire to "lasso the love" out of someone but rather, the quiet comfort in knowing that someone is choosing to be present because you matter to them - because they have decided that they can live without you, but they don't want to - because while there are no doubt other things going on in their life that you may never know, they recognize that you are also an important part of it. Let us not forget that silence can speak very loudly. The Librarian - I mean, the Pie - should know. There comes a time when the scariest thing isn't to take a risk to change but instead, to sit back and allow things to remain the same. Clarity prefers clarity, and I find myself re-working that line from Hamlet in my head: We shall not look upon each other's like again.  

Let's find the time

to do the things

that we only have time to do once

because the love is there,

and we matter. 

There will never be another you

or me

or you and me. 

What turns you on?

If it's me,

then hurry up please.

It's time.  

"Take your seaside arms, and write the next line,"

The Red Queen

2021 © Julia R. DeStefano

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