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are you on your way?

Dearest, Things are still good. I can still notice the little gifts, and the Light I told you about still shines on me (I am grateful). I even have some hope regarding a condition I've dealt with my whole life. Fingers crossed that my insurance will cover it. American healthcare system, etc. Anyway, I hope some version of "I'm doing well" crosses your lips sometimes, and that you get to mean it. Did you find ways to make summer your friend? The days go by quietly, but summer brings everything to a simmer underneath the surface. Back when I was in school, summer always meant freedom and a loose spool of time I could unravel almost forever. But it's been a long time since then. (I've been out of college for over 5 years now. Can you believe it?) And now that I have a full time job that goes year-round, summer hardly means anything special. Summer only means unbearably hot 90 degree days in South Florida. The ubiquitous stickiness of skin, the burning brightness like tigers, a wave of heat washing over you like flame. But this summer was the first that's been elevated in a long time. You know what I mean, don't you? Summer actually being something special. A warm hearth you can dance in, finally fireproof. I hope this summer gave that to you, and you squeezed every last bit of life out of it like a crisp, cold orange. But I have to admit, I've been feeling restless in the day to day. I like my job. I really do. But sometimes I get lost fantasizing about a small cottage by the sea, with a Light and a salty breeze filtering in through the window. My cup of coffee is large and hot, but not too hot. I'm writing my 7th or 8th book when I get an email from you, telling me about your life. You've been dating someone for a few months now, and it's going well. You think you're in love. You also finally figured out what you want to do with your life, and you've just landed your dream job. Life is calm and exciting all at the same time. I can see your big smile between the lines, your teeth not perfect but still shining brighter than they ever have. It's the smile I always thought you deserved. You tell me you and your little family are going to be in town soon, and we should all go out together. "Of course," I reply. "I'm so happy for you, friend. I can't wait to see you!" Honestly, it's a comforting fantasy. Because you know what? It's entirely possible. It won't happen automatically. After all, things don't just magically get better. But it's definitely within reach, as long as we keep moving forward. As long as we stick around. I've seen close friends with depression achieve that dream firsthand, and I'm so glad I get to be a part of that, even in the background of their happiness. You'll get there too, and we'll celebrate together. So yes, I'm restless. But I found a new short chapbook idea to work on, and having a larger project to put my energy toward has calmed my mind a bit. I'm thinking about publishing it myself once it's done, as a limited edition artist book. I'll see if I can put it on Amazon so it's easy for everyone to get. And now that I've been putting together a fictional-poetic story based on my recent life, I've been thinking about how we humans construct narratives in our heads describing our lives, and those narratives usually aren't 100% accurate. Sam, the A.I. in the movie Her, says, "The past is just a story we tell ourselves." I agree, except for that word, "just." How we tell this story to ourselves is so important. Stories like "Bad things always happen to me" erase the good things you've experienced and set you up to see the bad things more easily. Our entire futures are built on top of these stories, like that installation, "The Impact of a Book," by Jorge Mendez Blake.

Our lives aren't a bunch of separate episodes strung together. The events are woven together, and we build the story in our heads one layer at a time. In the end, where we start and what kind of bricks we use make a huge difference. So it's important to realize that we build our lives and identities on top of stories that only reflect part of the truth--our side of the story. We're neither 100% bad nor 100% good. We tell the stories we need to in order to survive. This has the combined effect of having more understanding for other people as well as pinpointing where you need to grow. I'm getting teachy again, aren't I? Sorry about that. Just trying to share what I've been learning! Let me tell you a story. Last weekend, I went to my favorite bar to celebrate their one year anniversary of being open (I'll take you next time you visit; they have video games there). I had fun with my friends, who left after a few hours. I stayed behind to finish my drink and just chill out a little. After I closed out my bill, I sat outside to answer a text before going. Right as I was about to leave, a portal opened. I fell into the lives of a group of about 10 friends sitting at a table near me. They ended up being friends of the bar's owner. They shared their stories with me (one about how at one point, way too many of them had shared a one bedroom apartment, and if anyone brought someone home, they were allowed to have the bed; one about a party where another guy--who was actually at the bar that night--put someone's mother in a headlock; one guy told me about his infant son, who's half-Korean like me; and several stories about falling in love). I could tell they cared deeply for each other, and it was heartwarming to see them celebrate their friend's success in such a pure way. These friends welcomed me in, and even invited me to stay after the bar closed to celebrate with the "inner circle." I think there are little pockets in the world we are meant to find. They tend to open when we least expect it, in those quiet times when the person you're dating is out of town and your friends have all left the bar. It's easy to feel alone in those moments, but I learned that if you stay open, there are nearly infinite worlds swirling around us, each one a galaxy we rarely get to look into. When you get the chance, you realize there's so much going on all around you, and all of it feels so familiar. All the stars and asteroids and planets are made of the same stuff. Most people have the same kinds of stories, and most people hurt in the same way, and because we're all so similar, you can offer up your stories and pain in return, like a cosmic meal you're all sharing together. Even the most abrasive people have at least a rice-grain of purity and softness at their core. You can find a way to connect with anyone if you sit and listen for a bit. Love, bread, and antivenom, Lex