To Arrive

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I have arrived. It is an odd feeling, honestly, to have reached such an achievement at such a late point in my life, but I blame my somewhat nomadic lifestyle up to this point.

Today I successfully and completely confused someone with the word “pen”. I think he even unwittingly recited his actual pin number to me in response. I have lived in the south for almost ten years and it finally happened, people. Who knows what I might accomplish in another ten!?

I have also managed to acquire my first personally procured permanent residence. I have a cat. The dog is still alive and well, still helplessly adorable and still jealous as … a ridiculously jealous little dog can be. I am about halfway to two thirds of the way finished unpacking and am also about to pick up the venerable harp, hopefully to never set it down again. Please, dear Universe, don’t make me out to be a lyre.

I’m funny. Admit it.

I have obviously managed to set up my computer again as well. So while I’m swinging into the holiday season like George of the Jungle I’m also sitting at home practically giggling to myself because I’ve finally managed to achieve so much that was incredibly important to me. And because of those achievements I’m able to begin pursuing other achievements that were put on hold for so long, like pursuing music again, composing songs and writing this blog and getting back to my novel and making quilts and …

It’s a very exciting time, everyone. I’m so glad we’re all still around to see it.

When You Can’t Can’t Anymore

I fell off the face of the earth again. I’m sorry. My excuse this time? The same that it is every. single. time.

I was afraid.

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Anxiety has this horrible ability to get in the way of any and every daily function. It overtakes our priorities. It convinces us that we’re not up to the challenge.

Add depression and you might as well just crawl under the covers and never leave. That’s what your brain tells you. Not only is it all too big and overwhelming, but no one is ever going to appreciate your work. No one is ever going to like your results. No one is going to want your art or your music. Wah-wah-wah-wah-wah. It drones on in your head until, suddenly, you’re drowning. There’s a rational side of your brain back there tsking at you because it’s ridiculous. You have plenty of air. The dog and the cat are both cuddled up next to you as you make your way through an entire tray of Double Stuffed Oreos. You have a roof over your head you have managed to convince yourself to go to work every work day to pay for. There’s food in the cabinets.

But you’re still terrified.

Add social situations and then you pretty much wish you could just give up and die. People are hard. You keep hearing that you’ve offended someone or that they’re annoyed that you called out again this week because of a panic attack. You want to have people over because you’re much more comfortable in your space than you are in theirs, but the place is a wreck and, instead of cleaning, you’re glued to the bed or the couch, still eating those Oreos.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had weeks…months even, where I felt like if I moved I might fall off the earth. Everything was stressful. I was exhausted. Truly couldn’t keep my eyes open. Food was complicated. I ate like a 6 year old at a birthday party just so that I could say I had eaten something. Showers were stressful- am I going to accidentally cut myself with a razor again? Am I going to have a major allergy attack again? Should I plan to have an allergy attack? Should I get up earlier so I have time to have the allergy attack before I drive to work or should I take all my showers at night so that the physical weariness that follows an allergy attack will help me sleep through the night? Let’s not even get started on grocery shopping.

I used to be an honorary “member” of a local AA chapter. I drove a true member there 2-3xs a week because they’d lost their license for a term. They let me sit in and I’m going to tell you right now that some of the most valuable things I’ve ever learned in my life I learned from recovering alcoholics. Odd, since I’ve never been truly drunk. Tonight I’m sitting here, looking at the baby steps I made over the past year that have accumulated into such a huge difference in my life and it’s like I’m hearing them encourage one another around that table all over again. If you don’t think you can make it through the week, make it through today. If you don’t think you can make it through today, make it through the morning/afternoon/evening/night. If you don’t think you can make it through that. Make it through the next hour. Make it through the next 30 min. Make it through the next 10 min. Make it through the next 5.

I am still alive because I made it through quite a few 5 minutes in my lifetime. Now, I’m stepping it up. Instead of just existing for the next 5, I’m going to make something happen for the next 5. I’m going to clean a sink. I’m going to fold socks. That’s it. Just the socks. I’m going to clean out the kitty litter box. I’m going to put away 5 things. I think I’ve leveled up some way, because I look around my incredibly overwhelming and stressful apartment and I just can’t “can’t” anymore. I can’t handle another evening of just making it to the night so I can escape into the hopefully blissful darkness of sleep, only to awaken anxious the next morning because my apartment looks like a FEMA supported disaster area. There’s no room to have people over. There’s no time to go visit them because I’m coming home and fighting anxiety in an effort to clean it all up so I DO have room to have people over.

This is not a sustainable lifestyle.

I don’t want to miss out on the life I want and the things I want to achieve because I was afraid. It’s going to be hard. It already has been. But if I can go 5 weeks with less than 10g of sugar in my diet per day, I’m pretty sure I can wake up and choose that morning to get out of bed instead of hit “snooze”. If I can stay in a room where a man is yelling and throwing his arms around because he’s angry about something and I don’t run and I don’t flinch, I can choose to wash my dishes. If I can co-design/build a Wendigo costume for the local LARP, Badlands, in 6 weeks with a ridiculously low budget while working a full time job, I can choose to put away the laundry.

You have to remember that life is a series of choices.

Life is a series of choices. Choices have consequences. Are you genuinely exhausted or are you just really tired? There’s a difference. Get real with yourself and clean the toilet. Are you genuinely sick nauseated or are you anxious nauseated? There’s a difference and since you can’t really make the second go away maybe try washing 5 dishes instead of worrying about whether this nausea is going to get worse or better soon.

I suck at rebuilding my lifestyle. I’m not going to lie to you. But I wanted to post this to encourage you to make the choices. I wanted to do this together with you so neither of us have to do it alone. I want you to know that if you fail for 5 min you can win for the next 5. You can choose to not sink into that rut.

I want you to believe with me that it can be done.

Anxious

Someone please hug me
I can’t breathe
I’ve been drowning in nothing
For days

Everything’s fine
Nothing is wrong
Except this feeling I have
That I’m going to die

People are happy
They’re living good lives
There’s sunshine outside
And I am terrified

Of nothing
Nothing at all
Nothing I can put my finger on
And that scares me

More than any other reason
Possibly could
That this feeling is unfounded
And I cannot make it leave

Someone please hug me
I’m not ok
And I cannot solve the problem
Because there isn’t one.

This Is My Life

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Photo by Dave Goodwin of Green Doors Studio

 

I have to go home now because my dog needs let out.
I am afraid to go home because of what my mind will tell me when I get there.
I cannot go somewhere else because my dog needs let out.
I have been sitting in this parking lot for ten minutes.
This is life with anxiety.

I sit in my car in front of my house.
I cannot go in.
Now we both have to pee.

I cannot go in.
Life is made of choices.
I will go inside.
Maybe.
In a minute.

I try to go inside.
There are patches in the concrete of my porch where the paint is rubbed off.
I’m sure they happened long before I moved in.
Today they startle me.
I must have done something to cause them.
I unlock my door and go inside.

Everything is temporarily better.
My dog is happy to see me.
He hasn’t messed on the floor.
My housemate won’t be mad.
I don’t know why he gets so upset.
The dog uses puppy pads if he goes inside and the carpet was ruined long before I moved in anyway.

I am confused.
I was doing something.
I am standing here with clothes in my hand.
I have put down my bags.
I was going to pee.
I need to pee.
But I need to put away the things I have brought home from work.
I am frozen.
I cannot move.
My mind will not let me choose which I am to do first.

I am terrified.
A man’s voice yells at me from upstairs.
I have done something wrong.
I know not what.
He is angry.
I am unfrozen.
There are clothes in my hand.
They must go to… somewhere.
I wander into the bathroom, a slight scowl on my face.

I cannot remember why I am here.
In my daze and my fog my brain confuses my two purposes.
I almost put my clothes in the toilet.
At the last second I remember what I am meant to be doing.
At least I think I do.
There are clothes in my hand.
I put them in the hamper.
There is a man upstairs.
He sounded angry with me.
I should go see what it is I might have done.
I go upstairs.

I call as I go, trying to see if perhaps I imagined it all.
He has no reason to be angry with me.
There is no response.
I stand in the back room, confused.
There is a light on in the bedroom but no one answers my voice.
I am alone.
I don’t understand.
Was it all in my head?

There is no one in the lit bedroom.
I move to the living room, puzzled.
The front door is opened.
He re-enters the house.
Did you call for me?
No. Why would I do that?
He’s smiling.
It’s supposed to be a joke.
I want to cry.
It isn’t funny.
My brain is trying to make me understand that he isn’t angry.
Nothing is getting through.

I try to answer his questions.
I try to have normal conversation.
I keep getting lost.
My eyes won’t focus.
My throat is closing with tension.
Are you ok?
I don’t know how to answer this question.
Did I scare you?
Technically, no.
I disappear.

I open the computer.
I have to type.
I have to share, but I don’t know why.
No one wants to hear these things.
No one wants to read these words.
This poem started on Facebook.
People are checking in.
People need me to be ok.
I am not ok.
And I don’t know why.

He comes downstairs.
He is loud.
He is getting his laundry.
My dog barks.
My head hurts.
He is singing loudly and off key to make me smile.
My dog barks.
My head hurts.
He asks if there is anything he can do for me.
I want tea.
I never want tea.
He says I will have to be upstairs with pants on in ten minutes.
I’m not sure I can.
But I want tea.

As I type, my Facebook chimes
Over and over.
I am afraid to look.
Someone will be mean.
Someone will be mad.
Someone will tell me to suck it up.
Someone will be worried.
I am scared.
I cannot check my Facebook.
I cannot live my life this way.

Someone please make it stop.

Twisted Psyche

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I have wanted
I have needed
So many times
To spill the words on the page
To finish the thoughts that begin
But they drift away from me effortlessly
Like smoke of incense spilled into a draft

Philosophy pours from me
Thoughts deepen into me
Purpose struggles to find meaning
And meaning attempts to confine itself in words
So that purpose can be comprehended
But the fit is like pouring the mother
Into the maiden’s pants
While the crone sits by and chuckles

We are all made of water
But so few of us know
So they pretend to be made from wood
Or from stone, barely shape-able
Because they fear…
What?
What is it that they fear so intensely,
So intensely that they explode
In ultimatums and electrostatic detonations

They sear the atmosphere with their zeal
Demanding that all inhabitants of this world we share
Bow to their own interpretations
But the blind man feeling the elephant’s trunk
Has no real advantage over his blind brother feeling its tail
Neither is entirely wrong and neither is entirely correct
But they cannot possibly comprehend that
The only wrong here is to force their brethren to walk
On a path they were never intended to follow

How are we to judge one another, then?
How do we assert what is the right thing to do?
We do not. That is the point.
We may speak of our experiences and the outcomes of such,
But we must constantly view life with the understanding
That we were meant to be different.

Namaste
I wish to be one with you
And to celebrate our differences instead of condemning
Because it is this way that we can learn about the whole elephant:
Together.

I am trying to learn
That I am most discontent
When I am looking at my life
Walking my path with the constant fear
That you might disapprove of it

Apparently I do not need to accept your judgement
But I am afraid that if I do not
You will push me away from the elephant
And I will have to stumble darkly
Until I happen into another strange creature
Likely face first
And who’s to say that those already petting
This soft downy skin
And feeling these smooth conical teeth
Will not just push me away as well?

Perhaps I was made to explore
The extent of a being
Entirely on my own

People are exhausting.
People are hard.

So I’m Here

Now what?

I keep asking myself that question as though once you land in your chosen location the furniture magically moves itself from 7 hours away into your new apartment and arranges itself nicely with things neatly tucked away within. Food is supposed to stock your shelves without need for the money to purchase it and you’re supposed to begin baking and cooking wonderful things for wonderful people right away. The flu doesn’t show up just as you’re starting to get used to everything and wreck your Thanksgiving plans, killing a week’s paycheck. You don’t have to call up the only gig you have on the books for the season and cancel because you’re too sick to drive to the location…

Now what?

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In January/February of this year- this box and a very good friend are what helped me keep it together. Oddly enough, this box was given to said friend as a parting gift. It sits here, halfway through the process of painting and antiquing it, as a place of grounding in my life. As long as I’m creating beauty in the world, somehow everything will magically turn out ok.

Well the paint didn’t make it down here from Bristol, but the sewing machine certainly did. I have what I need to work the costume for my January performance, so that’s what I’m going to do. Ladies and gentlemen, the shop is now open and the artist is IN.

I couldn’t do it without you- your ooing and ahing and wondering what comes next. Thank you for being there for me.

No One Cared

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When I was a child I wanted to play dress up
But I was surrounded by boys
So no one cared.

As I got older I began to write novels
But people thought the humor and storylines were juvenile
So no one cared.

I started piano lessons and won competitions
But soon after that we moved far away from my teacher
So no one cared.

Then I began creating colored pencil art until my teacher was replaced
By someone who only did 3 dimensional art and painting, which I hated
So no one cared.

When my brother died I had to give up soccer because my father said,
“Don’t leave your mother alone after school.” I wasn’t very good anyway.
So no one cared.

I enjoyed making jewelry for a while
But I was still learning the balance between “too much” and “perfect”
So no one cared.

I was extremely intimidated by the talent of a classmate in college
Because he was gifted and I had to work, but no one knew
So no one cared.

After graduating from college I was supposed to have gotten married
It was really difficult to find a job and I wasn’t even dating at the time
As a result, I couldn’t stay where I wanted to be
But no one cared.

I started over in a new state and still had trouble finding work
I was lonely and I was hungry, but I hid it
So no one cared.

I finally grew the courage to record my first musical album
But a computer formatting accident deleted it before we were done
So no one cared.

I gathered the money and all the hope I could muster
And traveled in faith that a talent scout would want me
But no one cared.

I started over in a new state again when I got married
And that didn’t turn out the way I’d thought
I kept quiet because you don’t air your dirty laundry from your marriage
So no one cared.

I had to start over again in yet another state
But I got there and found out that my friend didn’t love me unconditionally and
No one there cared.

I started over yet again with a new group of friends who are wonderful
But that one day some guy looked at me and said,
“Why don’t you ever do anything with your life?”
Seething in frustration, I killed him and buried the body
So no one cared.

The above stanza was only what I dreamed I’d done in that situation
In and of itself that desire seems wrong, but because I didn’t really do it
No one cared.

So Many, So Much

So many talents
So many dreams
So many problems
So many ideas
So many desires
So many fears

So much obfuscation
So much waiting
So much effort
So much winning
So much anticipation
So much discernment

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Life took completely unexpected turns.
Sometimes doing everything they told you not to is the only way to find your own happiness…
Because, honestly, the way to your happiness is yours, not theirs.
Theirs is the way to their happiness.
And in a lot of cases I think that the path they took didn’t make them happy either…
Misery loves company, I suppose.
I don’t want that kind of company.

Off I go. I’ve finally gotten close to getting my feet back under me and I’m looking forward to spending much more time here with you all.
I’ve missed you.

Disgraced

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The rumbling monotone of breakfast voices carried an ominous tension as dragoons consulted their squadmates and discussed the ramifications of the loss of General Jodoc. Buzzing voices fell silent as Tyrel neared the entrance to the mess hall and eyes wandered the walls in an effort to see anything but her form. Tyrel snorted and rolled her eyes, pushing her way through the crowded door frame and switching her tail in annoyance. An aura of silence seemed to emit from her as effectively as though she’d inadvertently cast a spell. The more bold among them stared directly at her as though challenging her very existence.

Tyrel ignored the attention or pointed lack of it and entered the feed line midway, sighing. It was going to be a rough day and she needed coffee. A flicker in her peripheral vision caused her to cock an ear toward the movement as she carefully resisted the urge to turn her entire head. Two looming dragoons approached with the flowing cloaks granted to sixth years, marking them as nearly graduated. Their leather uniforms classed them as officers in training and their narrow faces marked them as upper class. A brief glance in their direction confirmed Tyrel’s suspicion as she caught sight of their much-coveted sharply angled legs: aristocrats. The scent of fir became overwhelming as they stopped inside Tyrel’s battle zone and stared at her expectantly.

Tyrel sighed and ignored them. Claudius and Blaze had bullied her since her first day here three years ago. She had no expectation that today would be any different. Other dragoons began to shift nervously away from the confrontation.

“You’re out of line, Ama,” Claudius declared far more loudly than necessary. All sound immediately ceased as dragoons and service staff alike froze to await the outcome. Tyrel continued to ignore the pair, staring straight ahead as though it was just another day. Claudius inserted himself directly in front of Tyrel, close enough that she could see no higher than the center of his chest without tilting her head back at a ridiculous angle. The smell of fir began to burn her sinuses as Blaze boxed her from the side.

Claudius hooked two fingers under Tyrel’s collar and shoved her chin up with his thumb, forcing her to stare him in the eye while stretching her throat to its full extension.

“Did you hear me?”

Tyrel sighed in annoyance. “Yes, I heard you. Dam’s name instead of sire. Very clever, sir.”

Claudius’ sigil finger flicked the broken link where Jodoc’s medal used to hang. “What do we have here? Broken link to your collar? Lose a rank in the yard scrabbling around with the stable boys, perhaps?” Claudius sneered, lowering his nearly equine face to the point of almost touching Tyrel’s distinctly humanesque nose. “You don’t belong here.”

Tyrel rolled her eyes over to the service staff on the other side of the counter. Without meeting her eyes, the nag nodded slightly in affirmation. Claudius’ sneer deepened to a grin as he shoved Tyrel backwards into Blaze. Blaze turned his shoulder away as though mere contact with her would taint him and she gracelessly staggered to freedom. A brief glance at those around her confirmed that she would receive no assistance here. Dropping her eyes to the floor she wove through the crowd into the tables beyond the dispensary. Murmurs resumed in her wake.

After pausing for a moment on the edge of the sea of tables, Tyrel unwittingly fingered the broken link at her neck then wove her way resolutely to the tables furthest from the door. Her wings stirred in agitation occasionally, realigning the black bars that marked her russet feathers. She gracefully threw a leg over the bench to an empty table and sat with her back to the room. Although she was technically where she belonged according to city hierarchy, the stable hands, service workers and dragoons of low rank at adjoining tables swiftly gathered their trays and awkwardly moved away. Overcome by the depressing circle of emptiness, Tyrel threw her other leg over the bench and covered her face in her hands. Leaning on her elbows she tried to shut out the world.

Her momentary relief shattered at the sound of a tray scraping across the table. Jerking her head from her hands she glared warily at the small group of dragoons that were purposefully joining her table. Brutus met her eyes, his thin lips jumping into a half smile as he lowered himself onto the bench across from her.

“No. No! Guys, don’t do this!” Tyrel shook her head in agitation and began shoving their trays away from her. “You’re only in third year. Don’t make things harder for yourselves.”

“Squad looks after its own.” Grasca grunted as he lowered his solid bulk to the bench on Tyrel’s left. “You’re still a squadmate.” Tyrel stared at him as he tore into a rotisserie chicken like a predator. The sound of a tray sliding in front of her caused her to tear her eyes from the spectacle, snapping her head to her right as a palomino dragoon threw a hoof over the bench and straddled it, facing her.

“Absolutely not!” Tyrel pushed against the warmth of his leather uniform. “You will not risk your station or your upcoming promotion because of me!” For the first time that day, panic began to surge through Tyrel’s limbs, causing her hands to shake as she continued trying to push away her larger companion. He calmly set a second tray on the table in front of him, then gathered both her hands from his chest, easily forcing them away from him and back toward the table.

“Eat.”

Tyrel gave up her shoving, aware from previous experiences this was a contest she was incapable of winning. “I am not kidding. In two weeks you’ll take the cloak and be a Senary. Thain, please don’t do this.”

Thain flicked an ear and turned his body toward his food. “I’ll be offered the cloak at the end of the season, just like all the other Quins. I’ve been here five years and have no intention of rushing into my sixth.” He stabbed a pick expertly into his greens and began to eat with it. Tyrel stared at him, then looked around the table at the rest of her squad. Aside from being far more quiet than normal, this could have been any other day judging by the way they were devouring their breakfast.

Tyrel felt the back of Thain’s bracer nudge her shoulder. His left hand gestured toward her tray.

“Eat,” he repeated. Tyrel stared at him, the shock of her morning conflicting with the normalcy of the moment. Thain swallowed and turned his full attention to her, lowering his voice so only they could hear. “Eat, Tyrel.” His sea colored eyes held her gaze for a moment, then he returned to eating.

Everything emptied from Tyrel’s mind and she automatically did as she was told. It was as though the world had suddenly continued to go on without her consciousness. She felt her hand grasp her own pick and food enter her mouth. She smelled the wafts of the chicken Grasca had nearly finished devouring and the pungent scent of spinach as it entered her mouth. She heard her squad murmuring to one another about the events of the day. The taste of dandelion greens mingled with the spinach in her mouth as she cleared her plate without looking at it. She even noticed the small group of serving staff that chose seats at the far side of a nearby table and proceeded to make fools of themselves staring at Thain and giggling.

Tyrel glanced at Thain to see if he’d noticed them only to realize that he was watching her. This time when their eyes met, her detachment collapsed like a wall. Something was wrong. Something was very, very wrong. She couldn’t breathe. Her senses flooded with voices and colors and the smell of food and the sound of teeth tearing flesh and the taste of metal in her mouth. She surged to her feet, stumbling as she tried to maneuver over the bench and thread her way through tables that had never seemed too close together before. Her wings caught against unsuspecting dragoons as they sagged against their leather restraints. Service staff sprawled in the wake of her mad dash to freedom.

Her flight through the well ordered paths outside left a similar aisle of destruction as she blindly shoved every impediment to the side. Angry shouts and the menacing rattle of plate armor melted into the high pitched chinging of chain mail and the insistent ringing of a smith’s hammer. The crashing of a half-finished suit of armor into a rack of swords added to the cacophony, but nothing was loud enough to drown out the memory of her dam’s shrieks as the full realization of the morning’s events blinded her in a brilliant and painful flash of clarity. Jodoc was dead. He had died at his own hand. Jodoc had killed himself. Her brother had killed himself.

Tyrel smacked full force into the stone wall behind the forge. Her body rebounded with a vengeance, legs splaying at awkward angles as her training fought to keep her on her hooves. Blood began pouring from her face. She twitched her head in confusion, then doubled over and wretched. Heaving sobs clawed their way from her core, collapsing her body to the ground in a helpless fit of spasms as her body continued trying to regurgitate long after her breakfast was emptied. Tears mingled with the blood on her face, her mane tangling into it and creating a sticky mess.

Heavily muscled arms swiftly collected Tyrel from the alley floor, pulling her into the smell of leather, teakwood and some foreign spice. Silver mane had escaped its leather tie and spilled into the tear streaked mess on her face, mingling with her own auburn snarls. Strong fingers gently disentangled her mane, brushing it from the mess on her face before guiding her into the curve of his neck. For a moment she fought the embrace and tried valiantly to stifle the sobs before collapsing from the effort. The slow and steady rhythm of a gentle rocking entwined with the steady stroking of her hair, creating a momentary sanctuary. Tyrel abandoned her last shreds of dignity for grief.

“It’s ok. I’ve got you. Just let it go.”

The sun streaked, then dominated the horizon as the soothing sway continued. Tyrel wept herself mercifully senseless, wholly unaware of Thain’s tears falling to blend with her own.


This is Part II in a series.
For Part I: It Begins

 

 

 

Pretty Things

Photo by Cassie Frese

Photo by Cassie Frese

Today I hung up my wings
And I cried to see them go
Into the back of the closet
Unsure of when next they might emerge.

Today I gently fingered the leather
Of the armor I loan to my friend
As I put it into a basket
Unsure if I will ever see her again.

Today I put away my sword belt
And I cleared the real money
And necessary things from my bags
While leaving behind coppers and tags.

Today I put away the warrior
That everyone can see
And instead I return to being the warrior
That dresses and reasons like me.

My fighting spirit cannot be hung on a rack,
My determination contained in a basket
Or my dreams left behind with the copper.
Even when no one else can see,
There is
And always will be
A Tyrel in me.

Today I posted my rings for sale
From a marriage that didn’t survive.
I cried to know I will soon see them go,
But I’ve bills to pay,
A dog to feed,
And nothing is so pretty
That it outweighs my need to fly.

I am still The Girl With the Wings