diversion tactics, averted. this is what I’m afraid of

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Believe me when I say I had this whole morning planned. Ignore the jet lag, read the Internet so the rest of the world doesn’t have to, book fitness classes, schedule meetings, send emails {and send some more emails} — basically, a map with an itinerary, and then I read this post, which put my heart on pause. It’s rare that a stranger’s words would knock me off course, disrupt, break through this sometimes impenetrable wall I work so assiduously to build and maintain. I’m a difficult woman, I know this, and sometimes the kind of difficulty I’ve cultivated has a way of shielding me from what’s raw and honest.

I spent three weeks and a lot of money from a fixed income to go through darkness, and I barely made a dent. I got as far as a window, peered in, and then got on a plane and made my way back to this. A home still flashing no vacancy. Closed for renovations. This is reconstruction. There are ordinances. Papers that only live to be lifted by air and circulated from one desk to another, and another, and on it goes.

James Salter offers this: In the end, it [life] finally all seems to have been a dream. Only the things written down have any gravity to them. The other things are ready to disappear. I write because I’m not able to articulate the world, the whole of it, the way I see it, the way I wish it could be seen, when I speak. I need to observe, digest, and give you something which is different than what you see before you. If that sky is blue, I need you to understand why it’s so goddamn black: how I see it that way. how the sky came to be. I write not to lose anything. To catch people in the frame, and keep them there as I remember them. That altered love that broke me in one place can’t been loose change falling out of pockets. That tearful applause can’t be reduced to bills shredded and recycled in plastic bags.

BUT I HAD A POST PLANNED! CUE THE PRETTY FLOWERS, THE PARADE OF PEONIES AND TULIPS FRAYED AT THE EDGES! But I thought I’d be brave, really brave, and commit to paper (?) the things that terrify me. Here goes at attempt:

1. My writing will never be as good as I want it to be. It’ll be pretty, certainty, there will be an arresting phrase here and there, but I’ll never have the skill to write the kind of books that I truly want to write, the ones that consume you, choke you, disturb you, turn the whole of your body inside out.

2. I’ll never let someone in. All the way, in.

3. At some point, I’ll die, and I can’t control this. Sometimes I get real panic attacks over this. It’s gotten better over the years, but still.

4. I’ll never be able to drink again and not have it mean something. For years, it’s been easier to tell people I’m an alcoholic (technically, I’m not one) than to explain the concept of binge-drinking. Years ago, when I closed on a decade of therapy, my then-therapist (aided by my doctor), told me that there may be a day I could drink again, but they’d have to observe if that glass of wine had a three-piece luggage set attached. I’d have to observed like a little mouse. I’d have to deal with friends who would think, FUCK! Is she going to be the person she once was? I’d have to explain it all over again to people who nod, who don’t really understand, who reduce it all to, she relapsed. Then again, part of me wants to say, fuck you, and carry on.

5. My mother, randomly appearing, somewhere. I’ve actually re-enacted this in my head (confronting worst fears and all that), but it never is what you expect it to be. Never.

6. Never look at pictures of myself five years ago and think, you were so much thinner then. Logically, I get it all (it’s about being strong, punching people when you’re 90, etc, etc, etc), and I’m shades past the woman who thought a body was a thing that needed to shrink. But this body is my house, I’ve paid the mortgage, invested in the maintenance, so it’s sometimes hard not to look at pictures and think…

And why is it that we always compliment people when they’ve lost weight, as if it’s their badge of honor? Everyone envied my size 2 frame and tiny waist, but I had a coke problem and subsisted on Lean Cuisine and Starbucks. Where’s the honor in that?

7. I know leaving my job was probably one of the best (and healthiest) decisions I’ve made in my life. But I sometimes legitimately think, what If I end up homeless?

8. I’ll always be somewhat impenetrable.

9. Losing my father. To say that I don’t handle loss well is an understatement. Randomly I’ll burst into tears in PUBLIC PLACES thinking about the moment he’ll pass. Thinking about losing him is more devastating than my own death.

10. There is no god. That it’s all a sham. That we return to darkness, to ether, to air. That all this faith has been for nothing. This quiet devotion will be the ultimate joke played on me.

11. I’ll never see my own greatness. Before I resigned, a mentor said, Do you know how amazing you are? To which I responded, Are you kidding me with this nonsense? I writhed in my seat, attempted to switch topics, but my mentor was relentless. Your biggest obstacle is you, and it will always be you, if you don’t see your own greatness. Naturally, I burst into fucking tears.

12. The past, the weight it has, and its ability to ghost.

13. People will never get me beyond the surface and the pictures. They’ll never make an effort to understand the subtext, the layers. They’ll never actually read between the photographs and lines into the white and then the black and then to the truth.

I’m sure there’s more, but this is what I was thinking about during three weeks of pretty photographs and eclairs.

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9 thoughts on “diversion tactics, averted. this is what I’m afraid of

    1. Thanks, C! I’m hoping that by saying these things out loud, committing them to type (as it were), will make them always-present, always a reminder of what I need to conquer and overcome. We’ll see. -f.

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  1. You don’t know me, so I’m not sure if this will make any sense or difference at all. I didn’t make a list, but many of what’s on yours would be on mine as well. I know that when I walk into my classroom to teach (we’re reading your book now as a matter of fact; I read it all at once on an airplane a couple of years ago), my college students will look at the scars on my arms before they look me in the eyes. My wall refuses to come down. Why is it so fucking hard to allow yourself to be loved? I ask myself that question every single day. When my mother does reapper, it’s only for money or to remind that I am the one she’d wished she’d aborted. I left my job and have no money. I live day by day outside of Boston. I was hospitalized 10 years ago for anorexia and still covet what I looked like then even though I know that it’s fucked up. Books are where I find solace. I am a writer. I am far from perfect, but your postings give me a sense of belonging in the world. I could go on, but there is so much that it’s difficult to find the right words to name the darkness. So, no, we are not the same person, but know that you are not alone.

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      1. You’re welcome. My hands were shaking as I was writing, but I felt a need, a pull to share. I appreciate the warm wishes. My students think that your writing is beautiful, as do I. I forgot to add that. Best wishes to you as well, Jessica

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  2. Many of your points resonated with me. I am going through a few of the things you named, mainly lack of self confidence, and weight issues, and I think it takes a lot of courage to post something like this for everyone else to see.
    Thank you for being open to people and letting us read this.

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