Hi Friends, how are you? It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Certainly feels like a good solid forever since—. I am alive and doing well, albeit tired. I’ve been working as part of the VONA2018 staff; and each moment at VONA is a discovery that prompts me to re-engage, and imagine a “what’s next?” for myself—which is at once exciting (this newfound stirring!) and terrifying (these newfound stakes!).
Today is my first full day off since June 13th. I am spending it at home, in my sweatpants. No makeup. No filter. Just like the old days. I wanted to find a way to address this creative rut in which I find myself. (Is it still just a rut if it’s been months since I’ve made anything I’m proud of??)
I am told writing, even terribly, is the way out—
So, And, However, But...
Here I am, sternum splayed, ribs thrown open, peering at the blackened heap of all that needs unpacking, understanding. Here I am, unavoidably contending with myself. I suppose this is what re-engagement with the world does to a person; what it takes. Gotta clear a path to the front door. Gotta dig through the snowdrift on the other side.
And once out? This world feels different than the one I remember. This world is different good and different awful. This world is a colder summer than last. In this world, they put babies in cages. This is not the world I have held, at pause, in my little corner of gotta-get-through-it. Although that world, too, is no longer proving sustainable.
Meaning: inside and out, something's gotta give. Because what I've managed to Scotch Tape together isn't holding so well, anymore.
I suppose it’s time to consider pressing play?
Almost a year ago, I made the decision to cut ties (for good-good this time) with a man I loved, through many battles, in order to save myself. The details are an essay, I suppose; but, by the end of that dismantling, I could barely recognize myself. Worse, I didn’t want to.
Since then, I’ve heaved my way through a whole year of balloon and stall, the desperate reach and retraction of time, breath. I've been lonely. I've looked over my shoulder. I've erased and blocked text messages meant to draw me in, to cut me quickly. I've missed him.
I suppose this gasping, halting, stop-and-go is how I’ve managed to muddle through and stay. Fresh out of everything, my heart kept going on fumes. I shoved much aside, buried much more, to get past the heartbreak and show up for all the good this past year has offered me: community, opportunity, independence, salvation. The good stuff was worth it. And I am fiercely protective of what I’ve regained as an individual, a woman, a lover, a friend, a writer.
All this to say: I have blossomed, as flowers do, as bruise does. My heart beats on; and for this I am proud and grateful. But I am quieter now, more careful. Some days, I’d prefer to feel much less than I do. After all, it is by shuttering myself to certain feelings that I’ve made it this far. I’m not sure I would have survived, had I stayed spongey and open to the world. And, when feelings rise up from some old foggy corner, I don't know what to do with them. I am out of practice.
But isn’t a writer’s heart supposed to stay “spongey and open”? Maybe this explains my current inability to make good with words. Just like I can't seem to handle the ones that come around on their own, I don't remember how to conjure feelings that I miss. I mean, I understand they're in there somewhere. I understand that I am capable of feeling; but, I am too often at the mercy of their ebb and flood, rather than captaining the dingy.
Anyway, all this to say: I think my task is to unlearn this shuttering that no longer serves me; to access feeling, to unfurl—
But unfurl into what? No idea. (And for what? To what end?)
At VONA, in the literary community at large, I am surrounded by people who have braved the world and come back with stories to share. Voices, ideas and discourse circle rings around my brain fog—a strange Saturn, swarms of flight, of fancy.
None of it, mine.
Instead, here I am staring deep into the chasm in my torso, wondering how far it extends. I haven’t even begun to take inventory. My eyes are adjusting. I am only beginning to see the light leaks, the ghostly flares across memories that I thought were photographic, beliefs concrete. Now, I am told this is not how memory works. And, in this way, I am starting to understand what they mean when they say that absolutely nothing is as it seems. Turn your head to the left and back. Has everything changed for you, too?
Unreliable memory aside, I'm afraid that I’ve held onto concepts too faithfully, for too long. I’ve learned that concepts are not Truth; and that love is a concept. (I don't know what that means. I just like the way it sounds in my head.)
I see now that who I am today is not the person I thought I would be, months, years, decades ago; and, at the same time, is—
So, now what? I don’t know. This is as far as I’ve gotten: everything is nothing, and everything. Dichotomy is the most stable structure I can currently fathom. Something itches for change. Something else aches for growth. And so on.
But first, I suppose I am to sit here in my sweatpants, with my stillness, a little while longer. Maybe this is how it works: inventory before expansion, expression. I know I can’t just go throwing everything away, right? I can't keep all of it, either. One needs space to process.
One also needs stillness, quiet.
(Maybe one needs lonely, too—)
And, as I clear space, I will open windows, plant new seeds. Things will grow and green. I will be moved to interrupt these postures, ideas held; to seek out that which stirs me, wakes me, gets me writing, whirling, takes me dancing—
(Dancing! I haven’t been dancing in forever…)
So heres to the stirring, I suppose. Here's to the tiniest itch, the hungry rumble. Here's to all my flights of fancy. Here's to my Jupiter.
Here's to all the first and next feelings that come my way—