I climbed the mountain not to reach the top, but to cross over,
marking each morning with a new little bracelet on my wrist,
with colors of ascending frequency to note the mounting chakras,
simulating an elevated state in the thinning air.
I love me, I want to be me…. but not this way.
This me can’t be alone with herself, this me is flipping through her hair, her phone, a box of cookies to avoid that awkward small-talk with the ignored inner self.
I didn’t listen to her, but I did dress her up, one braided bangle at a time,
with all the attributes of a happy soul,
if not a body to put them in.
Wasn’t it one year ago the stranger gave me that kite?
A symbol of my freedom, she said.
But she didn’t give me the wind, or the way.
And the girl I was rose with the sun in the place where the horizon flexed acute,
lifted her childish pennant and begged the coldest winds of Africa to do for her what that year had not.
And when the flag had failed her, she replaced it with another sorry charm.
From a man to a mountain- the talisman shifts shape
but is always rooted in the same hope: change me, heal me, make me whole.
They have all failed and they always will
unless or until the hope can become the desire to be me, even as I already am
clutching a soggy bracelet of sincere hopes faded in chlorine and concessions.
I don’t feel like swimming any more.
Maybe I want to write-
first draft, fuck it-
and to go nowhere that I am not already.
Somewhere between the meetings and the writing and the car rides, I learn something that surprises me– I don’t actually want to shave my head. I want to want to do it, but I don’t actually want to. I know that if I do it, it won’t be free– it will take some sort of emotional toll. I think back to my little prayer the other night and I just don’t feel the need to take from myself more than I’m willing to give. I don’t want to have to recover from today if I can help it. If the means to the end of balance requires me to imbalance myself, I don’t trust it.
I especially don’t want to do it now, on new years, for the same reasons that I did want to before. To perform an act like this, on a day and in a way so steeped in symbolism and expectation would all but guarantee my failure.
In the miniscule space between the question and my decision, I’m already almost floored by how effectively I distracted my over-conscientious mind into obsessing about this question. What a ruse! What a joke! I spun an impulse into a thesis statement. All the reasons I told myself were true to a point, but the core of this desire was sheer and sharp, razor blade desperation. I guess I’m not desperate right now.
Three years ago I started the path that began with a divorce and has stirred my restless soul around almost a dozen different residences (you can hardly call them all homes). When I lost most of what I had, I gave up the rest. I had nothing and nothing to lose. But I’m not there anymore. I have a life, I have a lot to lose. It’s taken a lot of time and a lot of work to build the shaky foundation I’m navigating from now, and I know firsthand how much easier it is to destroy something than to create it. Let me be gentle with myself right now, let me not throw away what I have, even if it is just, you know, hair. Continue reading “Volunteer State- Part 5 “Suffrage””
I drive around a lot, partly to get groceries, partly to explore Nashville, and most especially to resume my “reading” of Eat Pray Love in the car. I left the windows down when I arrived in the dark that first night and the rain that so soothed me on my marathon nap also happened to soak the interior of my car, which now smells mildewy and suspicious. No one hurt but me and me hardly hurt, no big deal.
I drive to Nashville and am surprised by my lack of curiosity. Maybe it’s the grey day, or the good book, or the pedestrian-free sterility I see all around me, but I have no desire to leave my car. I finally park but wait to withdraw my keys until the end of a chapter. And there, as I gaze out the window listening, a large metal sign loosely nailed to its post swings in the breeze to face me and invites me to read it. “Parking By Permit Only” it says. I smile. I didn’t want to get out of the car anyway.
I drive all the way back to the small town near my little cabin, and I pass a few easy at a coffee shop. A woman– apparently a regular– enters to compliments about her hair. She announces that this was the first day she’d worn her hair “down” in 5 years. She’s had cancer. She lost it all, and now it’s back. Such talk to announce in public! My ears perk. Everything seems to be about hair. I see it everywhere. I am self-conscious of mine already– I can only imagine how I’ll feel if I actually shave it. I am so thin-skinned. Will this make me stronger or pierce me? Continue reading “Volunteer State- Part 3 “Spiral””
Mom, Grandma and I drove back in less than two days. It was almost insulting to look out the window and see the great distance I had so laboriously covered roll by so quickly. I immediately chaffed against the new dynamic wherein I was not in control and had to make constant conversation. Grandma sensed that I wasn’t feeling talkative, and even her suggestion of “quiet time” turned into a discussion on the merits of silence. I drove the whole way to retain some semblance of power. Continue reading “Closing Thoughts”
A hard day- fitting for the last in what has been an incredibly tough year. Tomorrow is my birthday.
This morning I crossed the 45th parallel. For a long time I have been searching a way to differentiate the past from the future, a reason why tomorrow will be different from yesterday. I have made promises for tomorrow so many times, only to fall short. It’s like I’ve been saying “I’ll be different starting now….starting now…..starting now…” and after so many failures it’s lost meaning over time. I wanted a line in the sand between the past and the future and now I have one, an invisible but perfect line. Continue reading “Day 7: Landslide Lookout to Side of the tracks”
When I moved to South Africa, as a small-town girl from Michigan, I was intimidated. I saw myself as an easy victim in a dangerous country. I told myself that I would probably get mugged at some point. Accepting that possibility didn’t make it more or less likely, but it limited the potential of that event to traumatize me if it did happen. I had only marginal control on whether or not I was attacked, but I did have control over my attitude about it.
I had many fearful moments driving alone on a remote road, pumping gas in a tough neighborhood or walking with friends from a bar at night. I often thought “if it’s going to happen, this is it” but I went without incident for months.
Continue reading “Expect the Best, Accept the Worst”
If there something in your life
that hurts more than it helps,
that keeps you from yourself:
you must end it.
For years you told yourself it’s not that bad,
tolerated its intrusion,
found ways to coexist-
and so it persisted.
You felt you have control,
that you were winning the fight.
No need for a drastic overhaul,
why douse a candle flame with flood?
But time goes by and there it is,
only deeper now, more ensnared.
This stowaway has stolen years
and you have let it.
Do not tap timidly at its door
and request that it step aside.
It has shown you no such courtesy
and does not deserve your respect.
Are you afraid of becoming too cured?
Too healed? Too alive?
Or do you fear the sting of really trying
only to see you’re standing still?
It will take a running start.
Fly at it with all your might
Rip it, gouge it, tear it from your heart
Starve it of the lies its been feeding you
And don’t stop fighting.
Never stop fighting.
Even when it is just a sad memory
and you have regained your Self.
Already you have given far too much.
There will never be a better moment.
Over do it.
Transcript of my Moth Story Hour Submission, Subject: Vices
All my life I have been building: making plans, gaining knowledge, forming relationships, accumulating possessions. But for nine years there has been an insidious black mold in the foundation of my life’s structure that undermines everything I pile on top of it. My vice goes by a lot of names but you could call it perfectionism, insecurity, avoidance, addiction, an inability to cope.
For years, anything I didn’t like about myself or couldn’t handle got pushed down into a place where I wouldn’t have to deal with it. In time I created a “me” that was completely separate from the person I showed to the world. I had an entire hidden life.
I tried everything to cure myself of my problem: medication, therapy, rehab, self-interventions. Nothing fully eradicated it. And then, because I couldn’t fix it, I ignored it. But problems do not solve themselves and, untended, a cancer grows. Eventually it spread beyond containment.
Continue reading “My Vice”
When I told you that I was still sick,
and that I was going to get help,
we hugged and cried and you gave your support.
And while I was in treatment,
you sometimes inquired,
responding to my positive updates.
But after I left that place,
we never talked about it again.
You assumed the best and I let you
See, this problem thrives in darkness,
I hardly confront it with myself,
and even less with others.
I know it’s not that you didn’t care,
but the fact that you never asked,
If you had asked me straight
I might have lied,
but at least then you could say you tried.
There’s never time to ask the question
with one right answer,
the one that that you won’t hear.
And so it continued,
with you cloaked in wishful thinking,
and me hidden in my shame.
Until, once again, I intervened
tearing open that inner door
shining light on the destruction.
Its like I’ve always known,
that even with all the support in the world
this problem is mine alone to solve.