I act so free and knowing and brave. But I’m not. I’m scared shitless. Of the demons of my past. Of paths I forged because of them. Of roads I didn’t take. Of parts of me that shut down to keep out the pain. Of how they all might converge at some shadowy bend on the horizon of my future and run me off the road as the regret monsters on a deserted life highway lurch out of the darkness and gobble me up.
I’m no surer of anything now than when I was a speck of hydrogen dust on the universe’s windshield. Or maybe that’s when I knew the most. Maybe we all did. Maybe the curse of being born is forgetting all the secrets we knew before because the earthly baggage gets piled on top of us for so long that we can’t remember how light we were when we first came in. The fear sets in because we’re sitting at the bottom of a goddamned cargo hold when we’re meant to be gazing out the window.
I find myself constantly wanting to dig past the shit, hoping to get to the end of the compartment, where l’ll hit something solid. I’ll knock on it like a door. I’m not just searching for what feels sturdy, but looking for the me that’s hidden somewhere inside that overloaded vehicle. The me that started as that speck of awareness barnacled to the windshield watching the whole of the galaxy hurtle past. The me that truly is free and knowing and brave.
I’ve been writing my second novel while I try and get representation for the first one. This time feels different. I’m on the same road, still trying to light a path in the dark, but now I know I’ll get to the end of it because I’ve done it before. If finishing a book the first time was like driving at midnight in a hailstorm with broken headlights, this time is like driving at midnight in a hailstorm with at least one janky headlight flickering. It’s still messy, but it’s also just enough to know you’re gonna get there.
This second time around has also taught me trust. In the storymaking process. In the profound importance of what I’ll call the “adhesive” phase; when you exist in an excessively heightened state of awareness and openness and presence. In this phase, word counts might still be uncomfortably modest, and no idea feels holdable or articulable or maintainable yet. It can be frustrating because you’re essentially just operating as the human version of a sticky trap, catching every curiosity or fascination as it buzzes by and letting it bind to you like a freshly splattered gnat on a sweaty summer night in the subtropics.
Nothing is to be wasted, nothing is to be thrown out at this stage, because though it may seem like you’re now just some flat piece of useless glue with a bunch of random insects ensnared in you, the truth is that somewhere in that buggy graveyard is the story you will tell. The adhesive that is holding together all of the as yet unrelated parts—through some strange inconceivable alchemy—becomes conductive, inducing a current of word electricity within you. The lesson is knowing that the story you’re meant to tell will likely start as an almost imperceptible gnat stuck in the glue of your psyche. But you’ve gotta get sticky first.
Tear-jerking ambition. Agonizing, pulverizing doubt. Unwavering effort. Cavernous labyrinths of insecurity. Glimmering clifftops of inspiration. Boggy sinkholes of confusion and paranoia. Abject terror at thought of exposing deepest truths. Wildly inflated self-image. Unabatable joy over one flawlessly chosen word. Divine contentment knowing one perfectly constructed sentence is somehow going to save the world. Even if only my own. Lurking suspicion that I’m a hopeless impostor. Inexplicable rising confidence. Doubt again. Paralyzing fear of eternal rejection. Continued effort amidst creeping progress. White-knuckling any escaping belief and willing it to remain in my clutches. Preparedness. Overpreparedness. More work. More doubt. More fear. More hope. More joy. More criticism. More words on the page. The courage to submit. The desperation. The hope. The rejection. More work. Hope. Hope. More work. And hope. And clutching. Clutching. Believing.
Look, people are nice enough. They’re not trying to ostracize.
But it’s what happens to a woman when she steps outside of the culture of expectation and into the wild of her own making. She becomes a lightning rod for judgment, hostility, and suspicion.
Luckily, some women are obsessed with lightning. I love everything about it. A bright, coursing light from some celestial place above chooses to make contact with us and then a near instantaneous passage of energy from one atmosphere to another produces an electromagnetic pulse of unearthly power and force. It’s the very same phenomenon in the medical field that’s used to restore a normal heartbeat and wake people out of their cardiac unconsciousness.
The science of lightning is the science of the human soul in my opinion and I think of it like a high-voltage surge of life for what’s dead.
I don’t just want to see it, I want to be it.
We’re not the shooting star, we’re the sky.
We’re not the avalanche, we’re the mountain.
We’re not the wave, but the inclement sea.
We’re bulk, not fragment.
Our vastness cannot be fathomed.
Someone handed me their judgement
So I flushed it down the drain
Didn’t bother even looking
Let it wash away like rain
They tried to hand me doubt too
And its troubling cousin fear
I threw them all into my porcelain bowl
And then casually necked a beer
Took the expectations I was given
Flushed them like a terd
This time I watched and smiled
Their whooshing descent all I heard
Now I can’t stop flushing things
I’ll be doing it ’til Summer
My disinterest in other’s plans for me
Might soon mean I need a plumber.
We’ve been roamers since the caves
Human ants emerging from our sandstone burrows
Scurrying across Earth’s surface like grains on a breeze
Step after curious step we seek what’s outside us
Or flee what harms us
A perpetual migratory quest
There is no stopping it
The world will orbit again
The ant hills will open
The roamers will roam
You can’t unfling the already flung
The scattered cannot be unscattered.
Change is an awkward guardian. Knocking on the door when you’re cozy and comfortable. When you could stay as you are forever. Letting it in brings uncertainty and discomfort, a gut punch of fear. It smiles but it also swings. Open the door. Let it at you until your blood runs clear and clean.
We make our best stuff out of the bones, out of the empty rotting carcasses of pain and despair. Life’s sewage becomes our aquarium. Gazing through the murky slop we catch glints of gold and retrieve them with care, knowing they’re the only things that will keep us alive, and sane. We collect them and make something; a shield, a map. Our ceaseless quest for beauty is found blossoming in the unbeauty, where it grows, on the dark side of the rocks. We go there to make dazzling light from shadow. Creating becomes breath itself, darkness no longer a threat because it contains that which gives us life. We learn to see the sheen glimmering on the surface of shit. Nothing is wasted.
Ten years ago the day was warm and blue and untouchable. There were sunflowers and smiling faces and bad church music and perfect candlelight and us, light as air as we held hands and made promises and giggled and twirled around with our loved ones. We laughed so hard at the speeches we thought we’d die of joy and wiped each other’s tears with the backs of our hands and closed our eyes hard willing time to stop forever inside that old lantern lit building by the lake. We clambered up boulders on the water and everyone joined and held hands and swayed together in a gem-toned haze and shoes got stuck in rocks and no one cared because they were only holding us back from more rollicking and when we danced you broke out into a theatrical solo number and everyone cackled uncontrollably and I could hardly feel my body from the bursting of love that filled every crevice in the room and we didn’t want any of it to stop so we took friends from both continents with us to the ocean where we ran into the water at dawn wearing glow sticks and splashed about together telling stories that had no end and there was no time for sleep only picnics and waves and sun and rapture.
Ten years ago. But it’s been a decade of giggling and twirling since.