If patience is a virtue, it's not one of mine. Because looking back at decades of productivity sees good results, but not the results I wanted. My track record is 50/50 at this point. I get all the way to my goal but the return on the effort is only ever 50%. Hence that sickening spinning sensation....
Usually, I try for an uplifting/educational/proactive take on whatever subject happens to interest me at the moment. Lately, yes, lots of pieces on #LOVE dominate simply because of the material I'm reading, and of course, writing. But is it that simple? I'm not entirely sure. Much of what I write is reflective of my own experience. Okay, everything is. Secret revealed! Not really a secret, actually. All writers write what they know. Though I should probably add "good" to that statement.
For the fourth time in as many weeks, a friend has reached out to see if I'm "okay." It made me first think, "Is it that obvious?" Second, "How can I fix this?" Because no, I'm not. Not even a little. Happiness was mine for what felt like a nanosecond before it quite literally disappeared before my very eyes. No one would be okay after that. And, I lost a friend--not to the social network vacuum of "un-friends" (because that happened, too)--but to something much worse:
It's not the first time, I'm quite sad to say. Even sadder, it won't be the last. But this time was different. Maybe because I'm older and wiser. Or maybe because I'm not as old or as wise as I think. Regardless of why (which is always irrelevant anyway), I'm not myself. Perhaps the better way to put is, I never allowed myself to be me until now. The person everyone thought they knew was a tame/lame-version of me--the simpering human who will almost always put others before herself. The "mother" to all lost children in a never-ending siege of nurturing. The employee/friend/sister/daughter everyone can always count on, no matter how abused or neglected. The person who wittingly (even joyously) allowed others to walk on her for their gain at her loss. The victim of social smothering, that girl is gone now.
What, or who, has emerged in that poor soul's place? The actual me. The woman who can speak more languages than God. A genius who has read more than 10,000 years of literature, studied quantum mechanics for fun, and has a working knowledge of the long history of European vines, including the (necessary) developed palate. She is well-traveled, well-spoken, well-dressed, and determined as hell. A person who bikes 20-30 miles a day, EVERY DAY and barely breaks a sweat. A woman who has mind-blowingly endured domestic violence, teen pregnancy, two bouts with malignant brain cancer, a physical disability, and, enough loss in the last four years alone equal to a full military platoon, only to achieve four college degrees, five teaching awards, eleven teaching nominations, and a laundry list of publications that more than double my years on the planet. That's how I survived not being me for so long. I kept myself busy.
Sound like an improvement? To some degree, but the new-old me is stuck in the life of that perpetual victim. A life I don't really fit into because I never did. It wasn't until my friend chose to end what I suspect was a similar social pattern in a very permanent way that I woke up. Eyes. Wide. Open. And I'm not terribly happy with what I see. Is everything ultimately for nothing? All of those forays into life and back, for naught? I love with unparalleled ferocity, to what end? I live like no one is watching--but what has that earned me outside of derision, suspicion, and grief?
Today, I sit looking back at the expanse of my existence and know I have really lived--and not just because I can barely walk. But because I have clawing scars inside and out. Humans did that to me. No wonder so much of my recent work revolves around monsters. Despite the fangs, fur and claws, they're infinitely more humane.
For one fleeting moment, I had something to look forward to every day. Something small, it's true--but it was no less meaningful. Before that something small, life was mundane, yes, but it was mine. Now that I know what's possible, even if not probable, I feel lonely even when I'm not alone. Nothing fits. Everything is off, askew. Even me. It's not something I can "fix" either.
When I feel like this, I will often visit this meadow I love. It's about a half-mile down a trail that starts with marshes and becomes a living, breathing forest. I wish my friend could walk it with me. I wish many things:
Like being able to slip on a pair of ice skates again and skate circles around the boys playing hockey, stealing their puck with the branch I was using as a make-shift stick and blazing away to the goal to help the boy I had a crush on. Or wearing my toe-shoes once more and walking, on the literal tips of my toes, all around the house--simply because I could. Climbing rocks and trees and swinging from branches and fences, even after I broke my ribs doing so. Riding a two-wheel bike outside for hours, in the wind, and rain, and still making incredible headway. Running for miles in the shadowy woods, bright-blue spandex running pants reflecting dappled sunlight as my ponytail swings in the wind, dusting the tops of my shoulders with every new stride.
Ruthlessly seizing my happiness without a single concern about a single human being but me. Living for a full day of my adult life with no threat of cancer or death. Unapologetically wanting and enjoying sex without being looked at like a prostitute or a predator. Articulating brilliance without fear that, because I'm female, it will be taken the wrong way--even by other women. Seeing my friend's face, so forlorn, and instead of letting him walk away, I call out. He stops. Turns. We talk. And I never have to see the faces of his children at his funeral.
The wind calls. Can you hear it? I can, too. But today, I don't just hear, I listen.