if this is what crazy is…

I called him in sobs, crying about how everyone would think of me as his crazy ex-girlfriend. He replied that it wasn’t the time to worry about such things, and while it probably wasn’t, what I got from that was: it was true. People already thought that.

Then I spent the next year of my life worrying about what people (who I actually no longer talked to) thought about my mental state. Turns out I was only crazy when I was worried about whether or not I was crazy. It’s an ugly, never-ending cycle.

It’s not so much that I want the word crazy to be diminished from the English language, because that could turn into a slippery slope – insane, nuts, etc. They would all have to go, too. And, after all, they are just words – letters put together in black and white on crisp paper. Words don’t mean anything, so I often wonder what it is about the word “crazy” that I hate.

Recently, after a long heart to heart with one of my truest friends, I understood. It’s not the word; it’s the way it made me feel. Speaking about a particularly rough period of my life, she pointed out, “You were never crazy, you just thought you were, and that’s what made getting better so hard.”

Crazy.

I have dark drawings of fucked up girls in my sketchbook with the word crazy scribbled underneath.
I have poems written in tattered notebooks with central themes about what it felt to lose my mind.
I have scars, both visible and invisible, that prove to show just how “crazy” I really was.

Or maybe it’s not “how crazy I really was” but more so “how crazy I really felt.”

Knowing what I know now, I would chalk up my behavior to poor coping skills rather than the loss of my own mind. In other words, I was never really crazy after all. I was just a girl who needed so badly for others to validate her.

If I had an idea, I needed validation from another human being that it was good.
If I was upset, I needed someone else to tell me, gosh darnit, I deserved to be upset.

And if I didn’t get those things, it turned ugly.

Did I scream? Yes.
Did I cry? Yes.
Did I spit insults? Yes.
Did I act out? Yes.

It turns out when people don’t validate your feelings, the end result is crazy.

But was I crazy? No.

I never really was, but I did know my behaviors were off.

Too much.
Too           dramatic.
Too                         intense.

I didn’t know any other way to cope with how out of control I felt, it was what I had learned.
Still, recognizing that my behaviors made ME feel shitty meant I needed to do work.
Believe me, I did.

After the work is done, the final and most important trick is learning that you don’t need the approval of others to live your life.
If you can get that skill down pact, you’re golden.
Crazy is no longer a thing.

See, what’s hard for me to understand is: What does crazy even mean?

cra•zy: (adjective) mentally deranged, especially as manifested in a wild or aggressive way.

Hmm… okay. That definition means nothing to me.

Mentally deranged?
Nope. Not even on my worst day.

I guess I say things other people don’t.
I explore my feelings and put them out there and love and care.
Some people choose not to do this.
Neither one of us are crazy.

I have come to realize that it is so easy to be manipulated when you think you are crazy. At least it was easy for me to be manipulated. You’ll do anything not to be crazy, which is such a waste of time, because the process of doing your best not to be “crazy” turns into you doing a bunch of stuff you don’t want to do, which actually feels crazy. You following?

I’ve seen many articles about how awful it is that males throw around the word “crazy” and how terrible it makes females feel, and I agree. The problem is it’s such a vague word, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes it hit home. It’s not just males, either – females use the word in reference to other females, too.

Really, we just all have a different perspective of how to handle situations. While I agree that there are healthy and unhealthy ways to express negative emotions, there’s no crazy and not crazy. It’s just what people have learned.

It’s a hard concept for me to write about, because it’s complex, but I guess what I’d like to say is that crazy is one of the most debilitating things to be labeled as.

For a while,
My writing was CRAZY
My need to share was CRAZY
Any expression of emotions was CRAZY
My feelings for other people were CRAZY
And so it goes.

So I locked myself up in a cage and tried to be as perfect and as non-crazy as I could be.

Guess what?

I never achieved perfect or non-crazy, so hence, I was just left in a cage.

It was boring in there.
I’m glad I’m out.

Whatever word makes you feel caged up and controlled, I hope you learn a way to let it go.
People can think anything in the world about you and it just doesn’t freaking matter. At the end of the day, you have to live with yourself.

I guess I just realized that whether I was crazy or not,
I was still breathing.
I was still waking up every day.
I was still walking through life.

And there was an easier way – letting go of what others thought and thinking more about what I thought about myself.

That’s freedom.

crash.

she thought about the time at the party in the room that was upstairs,
where she hid, waiting for him and they laughed and kissed and forgot                                    life
and responsibility and that morning would come as they consumed alcohol and
smoked everything they could get their hands on as if life stops, it                                           doesn’t

there was the time in the corner bar with too many cheap shots and too many
beers with people she no longer knew, who felt they didn’t need to                                                wait
for anything in life, not even someone’s body, and before she knew it
there was a basement and she was scared and he wasn’t and                                                      she

gave in to the idea that she had no way out, and after that she was
a little more cautious about guys at parties and the rooms she                                                     thought
about waiting in, all the while remembering times when it was enough to do
simple things like watch movies or build things out of snow, times of down-                                right

naivety, but that mindset turned quickly from a best friend into a worst enemy,
as it created mirages that disguised ugly things as beautiful things, and                                    before
long the beauty turned into a vulture that nourished its body with her purity and
soon she couldn’t get the simplicity back, wasn’t sure if she wanted it; after all,                          she let

the question-less nature of her existence lead her to the mess in first place, so she
gathered her things and planned to leave town and packed up                                                  everything
and left, taking nothing with her to trigger memories, if that was at all
possible, and when she realized she’d never forget, all she could do was                                    crash.

-m.noelle

stay

It’s too easy to remember snow covered cars in parking lots
That sat on a hill housing a castle, where you could
Hear the tallest man on earth sing love songs and
We trekked across the icy campus in snow boots and
Ratty sweatpants with messed up hair and the sight of you
Standing in line for an omelet and me making a waffle
While drinking coffee that was never really warm enough
As we talked about our drunken escapades the night before
And whether the sex was good and whether I would leave
Now or take a nap and dream about what it would be like if I could just
Stay

It’s too hard to remember hot sweaty days when I lay glued
To the hardwood floors in my too big apartment when you were
Busy writing a dissertation and planning spring break with friends and
I was busy writing a tragedy of loneliness and pain and real life
And we fought about things like how much time we spent together and
If we were really in love and we gave into the notion that we weren’t
While screaming and crying and icing each other out with complete silence
Only to return to each others’ arms, giving our hearts whiplash and our brains
Too much to handle at once while we pondered why life was projecting
Us into directions that were opposite and far when all we wanted was to
Stay

It’s too simple now to get lost in both the future and the past
Knowing I’m not glued to my floor in utter heart break and addiction but also
Not pushed by the bitter winter wind into your arms so I could sleep
So peacefully while you watched shows I hated and finally drifted off only
To be woken up by the sound of my laughter or the heaviness of me laying on top
Of you kissing your neck or just breathing in the smell of you;
Rather I see the future without the venomous, screaming insults I let flow
From my rotten mouth that needed so badly to be cleaned but could only
Be cleaned in your absence and is finally clean and controlled by the filter
I decided to install the day you said once and for all that you wouldn’t
Stay

-m.noelle

Scranton, with a silent “T”, for better or worse

There’s a tiny road that follows a dirty river with run-down buildings tracing its edges. Even the buildings that are in perfectly working order are eye-sores; ugly squares in desperate need of new paint, new windows, new everything. On particularly gray days I mumble miserable phrases about how they managed to get uglier, if it’s even possible.

The river is a mockery of nature; a polluted, brown stream of running water that is only good for flooding and ruining houses. Nothing good can come from that river, and as a result, even the most beautiful of places that are scattered along its trail are over-looked, tossed aside by some off-putting joke about the smell of it or the darkness of the water or the pollution.

I never wanted to stay here – not in this town that is rapidly losing any chance it had to corruption, poverty and bankruptcy. My childhood home is now surrounded by carcasses of houses that have been rendered unsafe, just skeletons of buildings waiting for the city to send someone to tear them down. The lucky ones, the buildings and houses that were already torn down and exhausted of any memories their floorboards held, have been replaced by nothing but soggy earth or patches of weeds. No one builds here. Not among the meth addicts and children with dirty faces playing basketball in shorts in the dead of winter.

The irony of me coming back here has not been lost. I mocked my college boyfriend for wanting to build a life here and yet, here I am. Stuck, or so it seems. Stuck alongside all the others who are desperately planning their escapes, the ones who complain of harsh winters and decaying buildings and rising taxes that only resemble the empty promise of a one-night stand. Nothing comes from the optimism of pooling the community pot, not really.

There are the others who have confidence in the culture and character of an old coal town, who speak about how it is a grand place to raise a family, but deep-down there’s no denying that Scranton will never be “up and coming.” It had its day, I suppose, although I don’t know anyone who was around to see it. The only thing left is history, and much like ex-lovers with a history, no one is interested in the story because it never went anywhere. We’re all just holding on to something that was gone a long time ago.

There are enough woods and abandoned houses around that people try to keep secrets; with nothing but the trees as their witnesses; people go missing, get murdered, get high. The roots all connect, though, and nothing stays secret for long. This small town spreads rumors like wildfire and continues to let it spread until the ground beneath us shakes with drama. No, high-profile murders and suicides don’t happen often, but once they do, there’s a community digging their claws into the atrocity of it, trying to secretly solve it from behind their computer screens on their quiet little streets, seeking revenge for the death of one of our own.

Still, the fumes of a rotting city are not enough to keep the good people away. People leave and come back, some people stay forever. There’s something about the dodgy corner bars that serve chicken wings just crispy enough and keep Coors Light and Yuengling Lager at just the right temperature. Maybe it will never be known for its health-conscious restaurants, but small businesses pop up and deflate just enough that people are grateful their dreams can somehow, maybe, still come true – if only just for a little while.

People know your name, and while they might only grumble it in a hasty hello, holding onto a grudge from years past, they still know it. It still means something. People will beep at you as you log your mile runs in the morning, not caring if you know what their car looks like or not. They will report back to relatives that they saw you, and that in itself is enough to make you feel safe. No, your new next door neighbors may not be friendly, but the people born and raised here always have their eyes open, they know who you are.

If you ask people why they stay, they might mention their family is rooted here or it’s the only place they know, except underneath there is an invisible cloth that weaves us all together. There are the three bars you go to when you want to dress up, the corner bars you go to when you don’t, and either way, there will always be an older drunk there waiting to speak with you about Joe Crocker and how that man could carry a tune. There are the mom-and-pop hoagie places and pizzerias that no big city restaurant can compete with. There are two high school rivals in one small city, which is enough to get even the most angst of teens excited.

Having moved away for a brief period of time to see “what else was out there,” I found myself fiercely defending this little town with its stingy politics and smoke-filled bars, its small universities and numerous hospitals that even the natives can’t tell apart. No, we weren’t all naïve or racist. We do things… we know things.

If nothing else, we unite in the humor of the local city hall meetings that make uneducated characters into local celebrities, and, hey, at least they’re speaking up. We unite in our pure boredom, for the skimpy ski hills and aging movie theaters are losing their magic. We unite in the name of drinking, in the name of small businesses, in the name of pizza and food, and in the name of proudly pronouncing our own name wrong. We have a weekly high school reunions at our local bars. We are a mixture of city people and hicks and general confusion. We are hopeful people in a city of broken windows and sinking buildings. We are Scranton, for better or for worse.