Assets and Barriers

This morning, driving to work right after dawn (which is something I have come to enjoy doing, driving as the sun comes up, listening to the radio, that familiar space of being alone on the road), I was thinking about you, the letters I’d gotten and the ones that were returned to me months ago, those weeks of not knowing what had happened to you, where you had gone. The envelopes that came back to me were stamped, “No Longer in Custody.”

As I read the first pages of the first letter I received, I recognized that I was taking your stunningly well-composed verse personally…like it was a message for me, a letter to me, that all the imposters and failures of humanity in the text were my name spelled differently. “This is fair,” I thought, and settled myself into the sort of numbness that I reserve for absorbing criticism as objectively as possible. “It’s true…and I did tell him that I’d been decommissioned, that I was floundering and failing in my part of all this, that I had gotten quiet, that I didn’t know what to say anymore, if there was anything to say. I told him that nothing seemed quite so urgent as it had before, not quite so real.”

What she doesn’t tell him, hasn’t told him, is that he also doesn’t seem quite real to her anymore, that she feels disconnected from the fact of his realness, his teeth gone bad sitting in a prison out in the beautiful land. (The long aftermath of the big wave slowly snaking and pulling and weeping into the waters, changing everything in ways that we won’t see for years to come, at which point it will be too late, as they say…and have been saying…for years.)

Her life before, and the people that she was before she was the person who greeted him at the Greyhound station on Tunnel Rd, on a Tuesday in early May, after she had dropped her cat off at the vet for them to tend to his badly infected leg. That lady wearing red cowboy boots, a soft metallic dress, butter gold. Her children were still so small the day she took them up to the mountain across town from her porch and set dozens of large blue paper cranes into the trees and in the ground, nested them into the grass and left them to show you on your very first morning in this town.

The person who filled a yellow room full of balloons for you, and left you notes on the sink, notes on the toilet, sometimes a flower.

All that seems like it happened in someone else’s life, like it was a story I read or something I dreamt, not quite real, not quite mine. I think that my connection to memory is strange because my brain has changed. I don’t feel memories the way I used to.

I cry a lot less now.

Wed, May 17, 2017 at 9:52 PM I could write a whole letter, a whole book, about “do you remember this…? What about …?” Just because I feel disconnected doesn’t mean that I don’t remember.I am not going to go into all that right now.As I was saying, I was thinking about you driving to work this morning, and how that first part of the letter – so stunningly composed – (I am aware of the redundant use of the word stunning…but that was the effect of the writing, the recognition of beauty and brilliance, the reality of you sitting out in a prison by the big, big ocean, because you are a genius in that way that makes it impossible to live in this world…not to turn you into a trope, which is precisely what the first part of the letter was accusing me of, both turning life and beauty into a trope and being a trope myself, becoming a trope…and just feeling stunned, and seeing how impossible brilliant and beautiful you are…that you write at all, that your heart is not dead, that your mind is alive…) – was very much what I would imagine a call out composition from the postmodern gods and goddesses and operatives of time might be like, in regard to all the great failures and stubborn spitting beauty.I could absorb that, sit with it. Recognize the threads of my own so-called madness – which is really just a propensity for having moments in which I am able to powerfully imagine alternative worlds, and it’s fun, and only becomes  any sort of true madness if one forgets about this world, the world that most people agree is the real world.I play with the text as I read, pulling and leveraging for meaning, slipping into the framework of understanding and experience where – dang – maybe time travelers really do exist and the world is ending and there is something I am supposed to be doing that has to do with telling a story and being a friend…some curation and sharing of beauty, not because the world needs more beauty, or because anyone would find what I find to be beautiful actually beautiful in an impactful way (because beauty does something, it makes a feeling, and from that feeling more beauty is born), but because…something about beauty wants to be shared…or I, maybe even desperately, want to be able to share my experiences of beauty...and then there is the struggle to circumnavigate the barriers and glitches that divert my attention from the reality that, in every moment, there is so much that is astounding…and I think that is a human sort of struggle.

I feel repulsed when I realize that I have the capacity to even think that the terrible, the truly atrocious, could also, based on the criterion of beauty relating to it being a phenomena, incredibly common and yet each beauty unique in that no two events or occurrences will ever be the same, so astounding tragedies could also be considered beautiful, in their raw humanity, their testament to the flaws of men and the determination of spirit, of beauty, to keep living…to strive to heal…but, my god, those lives, so many lives…that feeling of awe that tilts toward overwhelm and dread, an inkling of terror, the shock of the real, the sheer gore of it, the horror, the waste…let me not mistake that for beauty.

That is the feeling of tragedy.

I thought, as I was writing this, about a piece of political philosophy by maybe Walter Benjamin, about war and carnage being beautiful to those in support of war, and I thought maybe I was singing that passage in this old video, but it is another passage I am singing, by another writer, another man.

I can hold the perceived admonition at arms length, and I can refocus on the fact that your writing is beautiful, alive, and this is just writing, poetry, because here, on page three is another letter, less strident, explicitly for me because you used my name and said the things that I know you say to me, like that you loved me and that maybe that was all you had lived for, for those few months in the mountains, just around this time of year, when the nights are still cool and the fireflies aren’t quite out, but the dark is waking up and humming, buzzing and thrumming with wings.

So, maybe the first couple pages weren’t to me at all.

Maybe they were to everybody?

Thank you for sending writing.

As I was saying, I was driving and I passed exit 33 and the new Lana Del Ray song, which I think is called Love, came on the radio and I turned it up and wished you could hear it, there at dawn on the highway, the trees ten shades of green and thin fog folding into the crevices of the hills and mountains, settling on the fields, the sun a glare and my arms and legs and inside of me all tingling and alive, dopamine and oxytocin, a little adrenaline.

As she drove, the song moving in and out of verse and chorus, she wished that she could send him some of the feeling of that, to where he was hopefully asleep in the still – dark very early morning.

She remembered how she had written that he could hold his own hand and pretend that it is hers and that maybe this will do something, would he do this thing for her, to hold his own hand like it was hers.

She wonders if that was in one of the letters that was returned.

She doesn’t know.

There is much more to say, to tell you about.

I am glad that you are still out there.I am still out here.

I know that I changed from I to She at certain points in sharing my experience.

I get tired of I sometimes.

[Verse 1] Look at you kids with your vintage music Comin’ through satellites while cruisin’ You’re part of the past, but now you’re the future Signals crossing can get confusing[Pre-Chorus] It’s enough just to make you feel crazy, crazy, crazy Sometimes, it’s enough just to make you feel crazy

May 7 (11 days ago)

to me
This is not a brain. 
So, this idea about wanting to create a diagram of the brain, wanting to draw a brain, but not just any line form brain, not an outline, but a map – with some suggestions of what different areas of the brain do, how they might interact with other parts of the brain…and our bodies, our experience as it plays out through the lenses of our cultures and personal histories, ways of meaning making.
I have decided to use this mode of self-documentation to support the process of discussing and documenting my effort to create a functional graphic representation of the brain. If I had a best friend that I could geek out about art and neuroscience with, I would probably just talk about this project with them. However, not too many people in my life can riff with me about brain science, although I do acknowledge that there are a couple of folks that get it, that think about experience in these frameworks of having a brain, a brain that does things…
I will probably talk with them about this some. However, there is a bigger reason that I am self-documenting these experiments in creating a functional diagram of the human brain. See, when I say functional, I mean that the diagram adequately and accurately conveys information…and I want to convey information, about the brain, about how it works…and stuff…
I guess at this point I should probably acknowledge that I am not a neuroscientist. In fact, I am a high school dropout. I do have a Masters Degree in Psychology, but I am definitely not a neuroscientist. I do have an interest in the brain, and how what’s happening in our neural networks and physiological stress/trauma responses might be impacting ones mechanisms of bodily systems. I work as a Peer Support Specialist in a state – funded recovery education center. Every person that I work with has been told by somebody ( sitting behind a desk, someone with letters behind their name, a professional) that they have a brain problem, a disease or a disorder. The reason I am a Peer is because I was told, and my family was told, that I have a problem with my brain, a disease, a disorder.
One thing that is stunning to me, absolutely stunning, is that for several decades I was repeatedly told that I had a brain disorder, but nobody –  not once – ever attempted to explain to me what that disorder might be and how my brain, specifically, did not work correctly.
                                      * I don’t know if I will ever get around to doing these things. *

May 9 (9 days ago)

to me
What an impossible day
With the early morning dark and my jaw tight, teeth still clenching and grinding as I moved through the house
A blur of eggs sliding into the pan
Hiss at the edges
Dogs skittering, keening
Wanting to be fed
The cat’s meow
More food more food
Everything wants to be fed in the morning
And then the closing door
After wiping floor
And counter
The beep beep beep of the timer on the stove
34 minutes
Calling out goodbye
I love you
And some truly terrible songs on the radio
I should’ve known that something was awry
And might still be
On the full moon night
After a whole day of life
And death
The clouds striated over the fields
The light was just like God blood
With the truly great song on the radio
Playing between the airport
And the supermarket
That little bridge that curve of road
As I listened to the words
The chorus
The verse
And it was kinda autobiographic
Even though I know it wasn’t
But for a moment it was
The backdoor left open
All the trouble that followed
(And yet the song is joyful
Composed before the trouble)
A message misread in the glee of the parking lot
Australian band on the radio
Not even near work yet
It’s just too much
All the things to remember in a day.

May 11 (7 days ago)

to me
The last time I tried to write about my day
I didnt make it past the drive to work
Never even mentioned that small life flipped
And broken on the road in front of me
The feel of the woman’s hands as she held my own
Cradling the bleeding mouthed baby
Standing on the grass
The car door left ajar
Caution lights on
She said a prayer out loud
I did not
I don’t pray out loud much these days
At least not around other people
I don’t
Now, two days later
The night insects are singing
And it really does always come back around   to that
Doesn’t it?
And I’m thinking about how
There is never enough time
That scarcity that is a pulling soreness in my eyes
A weariness in the curve of my spine
The blunting of my mind after a very long day
The proof of scarcity in the fact that
I am tired

May 16 (2 days ago)

to me

“So, it turns out there are 4 subtypes of people,.” My coworker is leaning toward her computer, wearing the yellow dress they wore the other day. Them wearing that dress again makes me feel better about the fact that I am wearing the same pants I wore yesterday, but under a different linen dress, the apricot one with the pleating across the bodice. I hadn’t worn the dress in years, but remembered wearing it in the springtime in Portland, taking the bus up to Interstate, walking along Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd with my baby in a stroller. Big sunglasses that reminded me of Mary J Blige and I liked them because of that, because of how I felt in my hand-hemmed peachy dress, like a peach, a girl from Georgia walking on a sidewalk far away from where she was from. (Is from…?)
I wore the dress again on Friday, and again on Saturday, with grey linen pants rolled to my calfs, my hair in the long braids.
Some days I look like I am from somewhere else, or from some other time, anachronistic. I don’t particularly intend to present in this way, but the clothes I prefer to wear because they feel comfortable on my body and congruent with my sensibilities and sense of spirit*…well, they sometimes make me look like I am from somewhere else…or some other time…or they make me look like a modern middle aged woman dressed in slightly wrinkled linen, suggesting a particular politic, a subtle longing to be somewhere else, or to be from somewhere else, to be comfortable. I like to think I achieve a slightly disciplined or formful edge to my wrinkly linen.
All winter long, I looked like a Cossack with my pants knotted below the knee, billowing my thighs and hips into shapelessness under the fabric.
I haven’t looked at the Jules Breton painting, Song of the Lark, in a while…only briefly glancing at it as a thumbnail in the downloads folder on the computer whose H and N keys were damaged badly this morning, when I shifted my chair to the right and smashed my keyboard, which was on the floor, because I was taking notes by hand, and also drawing a picture of a basketball court in the middle of a field, a brick of tall grass set right at courtside, a strange rectangle in a mown field. I wanted to show the picture to a friend, an ex coworker who is a painter and who has admired the basketball – court- in – a -field.
I think something about that dress, the apricot dress, reminds me of that painting, or the light in the back field behind the woman makes me feel the same way wearing that dress makes me feel. It’s pretty, but there is something brooding at the edge. The dress is also a variant of the color of a bad bruise healing.
My coworker’s dress is the color of goldenrod, and I am glad that they are wearing it again. I like the grey pants I am wearing, the split in the hem that I made  because I like pants that feel like sails when I walk.
“There is the night owl, and the – I will never get this – the morning person, then there is the person who has energy all the time and the person who is tired all the time.”
“I’m the tired one!” 
My coworker also identifies as a tired person, and knowing this I feel a connection with her that I did exactly feel before.
I sat down to try to work something out in my own head about this conundrum of the impulse to write, and to write a book specifically, that will not go away and the challenge of carrying out this seeming vocational drive to complete a project that will do something out in the world. I say vocational in the sense of a vocation, as this word might be used to describe a calling – or a sense of divine or values -based responsibility that impel work or purpose in a particular area or in a particular way.
Barrier 1: I don’t know how to write a book. I only know how to email myself.
Barrier 2: it is really freaking hard to try to figure out how to write a book when one is exhausted by the events and responsibilities and expenditures of mental, physical, and emotional energy required by the day.
Well, that’s good…there are only a couple of barriers…
…and I do have some assets.
I have been trying for a long time, and I am bound to have learned something in that time, if only a familiarity with the feeling of deep satisfaction when I know that I am writing well, an appreciation for the feeling that writing sometimes creates in me, a dancing singularity of mind and voice.
As I was beginning to attempt to describe the sensation of effortlessness, the act of writing took a turn toward effort.
My alarm will go off in 7 hours and 7 minutes.
It looks like a weird sort of writing in the field, where another species of grass appears thicker than the other, more green and dense, but not so soft. Looks like writing. Everything looks like writing to animals that write?
Note: Hummingbirds use spider silk to build their nests. I am increasingly concerned about the reality of nuclear weaponry.
Oh, another note: I asked someone what compendium meant today, because I wanted to check that it was the right word to use in the way I was using it, and the person got huffy or edgy or something with me about using “GRE” words and I felt a little stung, apologized, said, “I’m sorry. I can’t help it.”
I don’t know how not to get excited about words, to use the words that come into my head to use. I can change my language for a lot of people, and do – constantly – but, I didn’t like the thought that this person doesn’t like when I speak with big words, or words with big meaning, precise words, interesting words, words that have a nice sound…because this means that this is another person in my life for whom I have to adjust my voice, my way of speaking, the language that best expresses my experience and understanding, strip it down, make myself accessible and accomodating to someone else’s personal ego struggles about language. It’s not a big deal. I do it all the time.

One thought on “Assets and Barriers

  1. It occurs to me that maybe – in the comments section? – I should leave lists of what I did during my walking/talking life on the days that I post here…because the presentation here is woefully misrepresentative of my actual moving around activity and focus of attention in my participatory life, work and home and community. Yesterday, I went to work, interviewed a person, made homemade pizza, and went to a community meeting at the library with my youngest child. We checked out library books. I walked the dog at sunset. It was a million moments of fun.

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