Still Here

How do we repent the fact we live on stolen land that we cannot give back? How do I reckon with the constellation of privilege against a sky so black?

Tonight, working on my dissertation (I am working on my dissertation) I googled a phrase: “I understand myself as a series of stories.” And it brought me here, to my own blog, to memories that don’t feel like mine, like the day in May when I wrote about swimming, and feeling so strong.

These few months passed, I have been brought low by my own body. I am recovering from a surgery that I had in September, a procedure that gave me back my life, is giving it back even now, day by day and little by little. I fought hard to strengthen what remained. I have never been so determined. And even now, tempted to write about my disappointment, the hope holds sway. I believe, absolutely, that a year from now I will be the best I’ve ever been.

How did I learn to hope like this?

It’s been a hell of a year:

been scared and battered.
My hopes the wind done scattered.
Snow has friz me,
Sun has baked me,
Looks like between ’em they done
Tried to make me
Stop laughin’, stop lovin’, stop livin’–
But I don’t care!
I’m still here!

Yeah baby. Still here.

1st and Goal

I read recently that those who speak their goals out loud are less likely to achieve them. This runs counter to the advice in every running magazine and blog I’ve ever read. The runner is encouraged to sign up for the race and then tell people about it, as insurance against skipping training sessions or putting off a goal.

I wonder. Last year, when I wanted to run 1000 miles, I didn’t tell anyone until I was in the 900s. 1200 wasn’t a goal until 1000 was a reality. The goals I named aloud at the start of this year have been replaced with ones I speak to no one, but cherish in the quiet hours and imagine in the pages of my journal.

And there is a vision I am bursting to share, but I hold it in a gently closed fist, feeling its wings beating against my palm. I want to show it to everyone — everyone! — but I know that they will not be gentle, and I need to wait until it doesn’t matter that they are not gentle, I need to wait until it is too big and too strong and too heavy to hold in my hand, until it can stand on its own in the world.

Means and Ends

It’s been raining on and off — mostly on — for several days. I’m at the library tonight, a better place to escape to than most others I could name. It’s a public private space, a protected space, a sanctuary in many ways.

I come seeking solace.

There’s no sunshine anywhere in the forecast for the next seven days, and I feel so out of sorts and broken down. I need — crave — sunlight. I’m pricing tickets to Phoenix. I don’t want to live like this.

I have other things to to write about (hence the title of this post) but they are slipping away as I contemplate another week of days like this one. Rainclouds clog my throat and I can’t breathe.

Please.

“Wait a minute.” That’s what they say, isn’t it. Don’t like the weather in ___ ? Wait a minute. I just checked the forecast again. And suddenly, I can breathe.

The Things:

1. Swimming has become my go-to cardio workout when it’s too icky outside for running. This morning, while I was swimming, I thought about what it’s going to take to change my name, and I asked myself: do I love my new name more than I hate the hassle it’s going to take to change it? The answer is yes, but the question has other implications.

A lot of what we do is a means to an end. Exercise, for instance. I thought about how lucky I am to love exercise, how I don’t think I’d do it as a means to an end only. It is an end in itself. Not true of all exercise, and I wonder if the people who “hate” “exercise” just haven’t found the right one yet. If all exercise was like most cardio classes, or Cross Fit, orĀ  rock climbing, then sedentary I would be. I hate that shit. I like to be free to move between being in my body and being in mind. Flow.

Swimming today, I felt so strong. I felt the full effect of these last several weeks of regular strength training, felt it in every stroke. I want to feel that when I’m running.

Means and ends. X and Y. The ratio of work to reward.

I keep accidentally closing this tab. This post will be a ghost. I think I better publish lest it perish.

Baltimore

There are still stories that need to be told, there are still truths we must uncover. I do not want a hollow happiness. I never have. I want — and have — a hard happiness, a happiness like the blade of sword, happiness like fire, which both illumines and consumes.

“Since I’m going to die anyway, I’m going to be a poet.”

Since I’m going to die anyway, I’m going to live first.

And since I’m going to live, I’m going to live like a fire.

One Me

I thought a hundred happy hectic thoughts as I was driving home from the Mercury Cafe tonight, the most insistent and important of which was this: what if *this* is what I did to unwind every night, instead of watching TV? (Alternate title for this post was “TV Land Pt. 2”). I think that’s what I was really trying to get at yesterday when I said I’d like to see myself watching less TV — that was the half I was right about about. But it isn’t reading that I really hold up over and against watching TV. It’s writing. I’d like to see myself doing less absorbing other stories, and more creating — expressing — my own.

1. I saw it happen. I saw the young woman — perhaps a poet already, perhaps about to become one — go up to the feature after the show, teary-eyed, shaking, having been touched. And I know that moment, and that moment didn’t happen for me tonight (almost, but not quite), but I got to see it happen to and in and for someone else, and that was worth it.

2. I remember. It’s not the accolades or applause I desire. I want to be the one (I want to be someone) whose words reach across a crowded room and breach the barrier that separates Self and Other, the one whose words say, without saying so “you are not alone. I’m here. There’s a pair of us. Maybe more.” Because god. What else are words for?

3. Unicorn vs. rhino. White woman beauty vs. black woman beauty.

4. There was more. I’m sure there was more. Speeding home in my little car, words and ideas crowding up against one another — god, why didn’t I just pull over? I kept on thinking “A light! A light! My kingdom for a light.” Meaning a red light, an opportunity to safely stop and grab for my phone so I could capture some — any — of the hundred hectic happy thoughts I feared I’d lose.

5. Sometimes, after an experience of the profound, it’s nice not to have to talk to anyone. Sometimes, after an experience of the profound, it’s not so nice, not having anyone to talk to. And that is the dualism in which I live.

6. One Me. There is only one me. But not alone. Return to tell the tale.

TV Land

Today I was talking about my life, telling a friend how good it feels to be choosing the things I value: wholesome food, time outdoors with my dog, exercise, theatre, poetry. I commented that I would like to see myself spend less time watching TV and more time reading.

As I was driving home tonight after a poetry event, I realized that what I said isn’t exactly true. The truth is, I value stories, and some of the best stories that are being told right now are being told on TV. I’ve accepted a popular but false premise: that reading is somehow intrinsically, objectively “better” than watching TV. But the medium is not the message. It never has been.

There’s junk on TV just like there’s junk anywhere else. And the truth is, we’re living in a golden age of TV, and have been for going on 10 years now. We have new and emerging myths, healthy competition, more ways to watch, and more opportunities to discuss what we’re watching with friends and strangers. These conversations create community.

(I guess I’d rather publish unpolished early drafts … that’s a topic for another post, in and of itself …)

Sometimes When the Light

Sometimes, when the light strikes at odd angles
and pulls you back into childhood …
What did I want when I was a child? I wanted good books to read, and for summer to come, and to go to the beach, and to be left alone to think and write and daydream.
I read what I used to write as recently as just a few months ago and I be like, damn. I see the world so differently now. I have joy like a fountain and a love like an ocean and peace like a river and hope like snow, which, when it’s persistent, covers over everything, and then sinks in deep, disappears into the landscape to do the secret and wonderful work that later on will bring us Spring, the secret and wonderful work that is a necessary precursor to Harvest.
What happened to me? Nothing less than conversion.
I’m trying to write a brief personal bio so that someone will know enough to pick me for a beautiful opportunity. I lean in to offer my dog an “Eskimo kiss”, even though I know that the likely result will be a licking that I won’t like. She’s so sweet and cute that I can’t help myself, or I can, but I don’t want to.