Hello, it’s me

Hello, blog! It’s me. I’m back after a long hiatus that was actually just me having a real job, dealing with several months of mild trauma and being very tired all of the time. Now, I continue to be tired all the time, and fortunately I continue to have a job.

Prior to quarantine, I was able to separate myself from some of the major sources causing me pain. During quarantine, I am frequently overwhelmed by sadness, despair and fear thinking of the impact COVID-19 has had and will have on individuals and communities, the ease and ferociousness with which it kills, the way that it has further highlighted the strength of cruel ideologies living at the core of the current system: particularly that who you are and how much money you make determines how worthy you are of life.

On a personal level, I continue to struggle with generalized anxiety and some depression, but—yet another fortune in my life—I have been working with a therapist who I feel supported by, and who has continued to work with me via FaceTime during the pandemic. When I have needed it most, others have supported me, too. These people are so dear to me and have provided me with irreplaceable moments of joy.

There are some days when I wake up feeling balanced, even excited, grateful for the security I have and the possibilities that seem within reach. Some days this mood persists, and other days it crumbles by the time I’ve finished breakfast and remember the dishes I have to clean. Other days my spirit is crushed from the moment I open my eyes, as if I was woken up by the heavy stone being thrown against my chest, sending me sinking backward into grey and green waters that are disturbingly still. I cry very often, sometimes so much that I start to feel vaguely impressed by my ability to produce tears.

During quarantine, I feel that I have been pressed up against the habits and mental patterns I hold onto, ones that do not bring me closer to peace or happiness. In this regard, I feel very grateful that I have been given no way out, and nothing but time to see them in such detail, to touch them, to learn that I am not as helpless against them as I once thought—and, to be clear, still habitually think.

I feel that I have started to build the foundation of a more unwavering, genuine tenderness for myself for the first time. Or, at least, I am beginning to believe that I am undoubtedly capable of doing so. I feel determined. There have been several events that seem to line up with this sense of opportunity to move forward—for example, tonight is a new moon—but that is probably just coincidence. In part, coincidence is a fanciful costume that I can slip on, and pretend that I am a magical character with abilities I secretly hope rest just beneath the surface in real life, too.

I have been thinking about the elements of story, things that have been a part of my life even before I became a writer, throughout a childhood in which I generally found more comfort and excitement in books than in other people. I have looked more closely at the different stories that I have wanted to write into existence for myself. The guiding forces of these stories, of course, have been things that I have wanted. Images, ideas, versions of success and of myself, many of which I’m coming to understand were of a dubious source.

I have always liked to think that I am smart, and I have thought that part of being smart meant being unaffected by the sense of being invalidated, by family, and by the little girls on the playground with better teeth than mine, and later by boys, and later, again, by girls, this time ones with “thriving” social media presences and explicit “aesthetics,” and later, by whole versions of a happy life (or, in the age of inescapable branding, “lifestyles”). I have felt that I needed to be more of an artist, more fashionable, more adventurous, more docile, more vicious, more attentive, and on. Although I am terrified and preemptively humiliated to think that I am wrong, I want to consider the possibility that the hurt I have experienced does not mean I’m not smart. It just means that I am sensitive to the persistent message that I am not enough.

At times, I have become strangled by a force that I didn’t realize was an airless narrative. When you spend so much time devoting yourself to a blistering wanting, you lose yourself in the wanting, and become a collection of pieces that belong more to the wanting, to the story, than to yourself.

The pieces of myself have been so regularly placed on the altar of the story of my metamorphosis, of the beautiful vision of myself as a fully formed artist, creator, thinker, someone with masterful control over their internal and external environment, that I haven’t noticed the things I am sacrificing are, in fact, pieces of myself. I have spent so many hours turning my knuckles white, praying to myself and to a higher power for a more bountiful year before lowering my severed head onto a plate.

I don’t want to do that anymore. Before stories were my enemy, they were my best friends, and I realize how important it is to be careful with them, and to permit both them and myself infinite flexibility. With the help of solitude, I am looking to retrieve the pieces, and I do not feel regret. Before they were fuel for anything else, they belonged to me, and for good reason.

JH
A picture of a piece of art that makes me cry in a good way and will maybe make you cry in a good way, too. – Jenny Holzer, SURVIVAL: IN A DREAM YOU SAW A WAY TO SURVIVE AND YOU WERE FULL OF JOY, 1984Courtesy the artist and Sprueth Magers, © 1984 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

If you made it this far, thank you for reading! Goofier scribbles to come, in this new normal of “who cares what I write, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic.”

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