I've been doing a lot of reading, lately.
A LOT of reading.
Anything and everything, really; a pile of books has built itself on an end table in my living room. The threat of the pile causing the whole table to go tumbling down grows daily. Books on body motion, books on religion, books on healing, books on feminism; fiction of the fantastic, historical, and horror persuasions. Drumming circles, self-journeying, and some Stephen King, oh my. I'm reading all of it simultaneously in this ADD-word-lust-binge for knowledge.
I've been writing a lot, lately.
I'm always writing a lot, really, but recently in addition to the fiction, I've been trying to journal. Privately, you know. Or privately-ish.
You know how this goes: at some point in whatever level of public life you may lead -- be it semi-internet fame, real internet or otherwise fame, or merely the notoriety that comes with your friends and family knowing you and your words can be found online somewhere -- you eventually want a private space to express your thoughts where nobody knows you.
This journaling business is harder than I remember. I'm getting stuck, there. Totally stymied. I can't crack off two entertaining words, much less two words that express how I'm doing.
It was starting to bother me. Deeply. In that, "There's somethin' goin' on here" kind of way.
Then last week happened. Let me just tell you about last week, (Kelly says, while waving a YOU DON'T EVEN finger through the air in a zig-zag that would have made Gay Blade Zorro proud).
My mother's stove went out. My favorite ice cream parlor is closing. I went to the ER with a friend who is in pain, and I'm scared and sad for her. Another friend is struggling with a stomach/iron/who knows issue and tests are incoming. Another friend is struggling, nay, battling depression and trying to work through her pain in ways that don't hurt her loved ones without realizing that merely by seeing her hurt, we hurt. We ache for her. We're rooting her on while we cry crocodile tears, because we've been there and we know precisely how dark that darkness is. My partner is up for a new job. The interview was Thursday.
I had a masturbation incident. Yes, I said that. Yes, it was real. It involved a ridiculous sex toy and a hand position that led to a burst blood vessel and a purple finger that freaked me right the hell out while in the shower coming down off of coming, (talk about ruining the afterglow) and of course, my partner's out of town. My rock isn't there to roll-boulder-over and offer me support and a warm place to rest, and tell me that a purple finger doesn't mean death, just strain, and for God's sake, be careful with the orgasms, kid. I can shake down ME as much as I can shake down the house.
My second thought, (after WHAT THE FUCK) when my finger was purple, was, "I'm not supposed to feel good. Not now, oh Lord, not now."
Because, in addition to and more than the sum of all of the above...
My aunt, who is my second mother, is dying. Slowly. Painfully. Tumor-ridden after a ten-year war against enemy cells. She is dying too young and too weary and working two jobs while undergoing three rounds of radiation a week.
She tried to kill herself.
She did not succeed.
We found out well after the fact, and there is a piece of me that had to come to terms with the idea that she may very well wink out of existence one day. I will wake up and she will be gone, by her own hand or by the cancer's, and I cried... and I cried... and I cried some more.
But then I stopped crying because there's a dog to be fed, and errands to run, and people to hear, and things to do, do, do. There's an editor to hear back from and a book (okay, a PILE of books) to write and more to read and to learn and I must go, go, go.
I've been experiencing a lot of anxiety, lately.
Some of it is PTSD related. Minor. Tiny in comparison to some. Another reminder that medic nor war is for me and reason to be grateful that there are some for whom those things are for. I had an incident on a freeway wherein I was trapped for two hours and had to be sick on the side of the road. And by "sick" I mean, "Shit in a ditch." And I had to get to that ditch because this bitch blocked me in during a traffic jam.
I had a chat with this bitch. She got the hell out of my way. No four letter words were involved, but I told her if she felt the need to take responsibility for the emergency lane, then she should call 911 in 20 minutes if I'm not back, as I might be dead or hurt in the ditch. She saw my point.
But that didn't stop me from exploring the finer recesses of a drainage ditch. Thank Goddess for trees. Thank Goddess for grass. Thank Goddess for Puffs Kleenex and being prepared.
Some of the anxiety, however, refused to resolve itself.
I've been a student of psychology and humanity all my life. I've read, I've studied, and I've learned. I keep my circle of women who know more than I do, (always), close to me. I've been diligently and relentlessly battling this anxiety beast. Exposure therapy. Discussion. Rinse, repeat, and remember to breathe.
It's been working, but not entirely. And I knew, in the same way I knew that there was something up with my lack of ability to journal, ('cause yo, since when can't I talk to myself? I'm my best friend in the night in the dark in the dreamland in between and also in the day in the chaos in the hours of mayhem and pure energy).
I had a monster hiding in the shadows. Looming. Waiting for me to see him.
What that monster didn't know, though, was that Shadow and me? Man, we're tight. We're yin and yang. We are symmetry of the color spectrum. We get down with our bad selves.
The thing is... I have to embrace Shadow to see the Light.
And Shadow... hurts. I don't fear pain like I used to, but I don't go lookin' for it, either.
Or, better said, I forget to look for it, and it comes to find me.
Yesterday I was reading. I was reading the book CUNT, which is excellent, oh by the way, but I'm reading the part about rape. I'm reading the part where it talks about her mother's rape. I'm reading two generations of brave ass women tell the whole world that a mama was hurt long, long before the daughter ever came along, and her whole life was shaped by an event those animals that hurt the mama don't even remember.
But it made me remember.
A story told to me by my mother... a story I cannot tell, but a story that made me think, "Oh God, I couldn't save her. It was decades before I was born, and I wasn't there. I couldn't help. I couldn't stop it.
"And then, later, there was my father, and he hurt us, he hurt her, and I couldn't stop him, either. I was fifteen, but I was brave. I was fifteen, but I was tough as iron nails and rebar and wrecking balls. I'm stronger than all the Atlas' holding up all the worlds. I'm built to carry. I'm made for battle. Reality fucking bends for me, in the wake of the power I know I can wield...
"But I couldn't...
"I couldn't... I couldn't...
"I can't... oh God, I can't..."
I fled to the shower, the place of peace, and I cried not even knowing why I cried. I calmed down, and I washed my hair, and I breathed.
I didn't have time for this, you see; I had an appointment to make.
So, I got in my car, telling my anxiety that it'd be okay, that I was safe. My guts didn't need to react, my head didn't need to panic, it was just a drive just to a friend's. I was going to visit one of the Savior's of My Life, AKA, my massage therapist and close friend and occasional guru. I was safe, it was okay, I was safe.
I managed to make it about halfway before I was crumbling.
Screaming anguish for no reason in the car, I was suddenly a soul trapped in a body for who-knew-how-many more years, and that soul was beating down the walls trying to escape the prison.
It'd had enough. It was takin' its toys and its wisdom and going the hell home.
I was driving recklessly to get off the Interstate and to someplace where I could break the fuck down into tiny pieces. They were so small I couldn't make any sense of them. There was nothing big enough of me left to sort it out.
I wept my guts out in a Walgreens parking lot, and I called my Savior Friend and asked her to be a rock and to put on her guru hat. It's iridescent and purple and plum beautiful.
I told her through my tears about the ER, the friends, the Aunt, the finger, the battles ongoing, the battles being lost, and I told her about the book I'd read, the passage that had broken me, and she said, so gently,
"Sweetie, do you see the theme?"
"No," I said. "I can't."
"So many people you love, and there's nothing you can do to fix them. You want to, but you can't. You're doing all you can, and that's more than many and also enough."
And suddenly... my pieces flew back into their whole and we all snuggled in together feeling fresh and sort of sniffly-okay for the first time in months.
The shadow was all around me and the light was upon me, glowing within like the little ember who always could.
See, two years ago, I lost someone whom I loved. Not to death. That would have been easier. But to something else. Fear. Pain. Grief. Loss. One of those forces that form the reason we can say, "So many things worse than death."
But for the last, oh, six months of that relationship, I threw everything I had into saving it.
I was all in, man.
I was ready to cut an arm off so she could have a spare.
I was ready to carve out some soul and hand it over, just so she could have something that glowed in her perpetual night.
It didn't work. Of course it didn't. We broke because the parts of us trying to find a cure were broken, themselves.
Along with a multitude of lessons and scars, the experience also left me with an imbalance that I did not have before. The idea that in order to help I must sacrifice all of me to make the difference. I believe in the end, I became a mirror showing her what she did too often, and it was too much for either of us to take or bear.
And so, when faced with the long-ass list of pain and suffering in which I'm trying to light candles and keep hope alive...
I was throwing myself all in, and, in doing so...
I was forgetting to Surrender.
We cannot fix each other. We can only fix ourselves. We can listen. We can give advice. We can hug and hold and drive friends to the ER and we can buy our mothers new stoves though that is a drop in the bucket of what must be done for a menopausal house with hot flashes that flip circuit breakers.
But after the work is done, it must go into the bucket of, "Though I Cannot Fix This, I Did Enough."
The pain and the sorrow must go into the inbox of, "Listening Is All I Can Do, And All I Can Do Is Enough."
I don't have a formal religious education of any sort, which is damned rare when you consider I was raised in the heart of the Bible Belt South; right squarely on the buckle, really.
But I do remember this phrase, "Render unto Caesar what is his, and render unto God what is His."
Now, I'm not sure what this actually means, but to me, it means:
Don't hang on to what ain't yours. Give it up to the proper department in the mega corporation that is Dealing With Life, Inc.
I thought I had to hold on to everything in order to fix it. By hanging on, I could examine it long enough to figure out the puzzle, solve it, pass on the solution, and FIX the situation.
Oh my Lord... how... inconceivably arrogant and just plain dumb of me.
Lordy, I should know better.
It's been eating me alive, guts up. It's been giving me dreams and making me twitchy and causing me to wonder where the hell I went.
It's been stifling the words. The ones that were about me. Because I was making all of me about other people in the name of doing the impossible.
Which, ya know, kind of makes doing what I CAN do for other people with all this Atlas-ass-kicking-sword-wielding-fear-my-vengeance-oh-yea-of-lesser-will power I got coursing through these veins.
It is the same power, by the way...
That you have.
We all got it. We have to excavate it from beneath our own piles of shit sometimes, but it's there, my loves. It's THERE in your heart of hearts, to care and to listen and to hold hands and give hugs and light candles against the invading darkness trying to steal into our loved ones' souls and have a snack.
YOU are a thunderous ass kicking maniac of righteousness.
YOU are a purveyor of all things good, clean, clear, hopeful, bright, and wondrous.
YOU who are my fellow slingers of words, my peers in the word craft, are stars in the darkness, giving voices to those who need them.
YOU who are my readers, my fellow enjoyers of words, are brave sojourners into the land of wants and wishes who bring back pieces of wisdom working to build a better world and a more positive humanity.
WE are the lovers, the fighters, the dreamers, the doers, the thinkers...
WE are all each others' saviors.
... ... which is why I couldn't put this in a journal where nobody would find it. Because it's not enough for me to remember that I have to surrender to find power.
It's not enough to remember my job -- ALL our jobs -- is to be a conduit of the Universe's great design.
It's not enough to remember I must give up the pain to the Great Beyond and listen for the truth, the answers, the solutions which only the Universe, the collected consciousness of all peoples and all times, can give me. Give us.
I must read, I must write, I must think, I must never stop learning, for I must cultivate my brain-goo for wisdom when my loved ones need it.
I must tell you, remind you, show you...
This is my hand coming out of the darkness and being grabbed, tugged, and the whole of me being hauled up and into awareness, again.
These are my loved ones, drag-showing me the way.
This is me telling you that you, too, are both the lost and the found. The seeking and the sought. The Fool and the Star.
And should the world be willing, and I ever get the chance, I will grab your hand as it gropes for light. I will haul you out and I will hold you. We will hold each other. We will speak of what we learned and we will cry and we will laugh and we will grow.
Should the world be unwilling that we two meet, may these words do good unto you, in some way, great or small or momentary.
The words will be enough, for they are all I can do, sometimes.
Light and love to you and yours,