I have been trying to get back into a writing practice of some sort…and it’s slow going, because there is no urgency to say anything, though – certainly – there is a great deal that is urgent, immediate, dire…I don’t feel particularly inclined to say anything about any of it…the internet is full of opinions and analysis, outrage and platitudes.
Everyday, at least 30 times a day, I think about where I stand on mental health paradigms and legislation, refugee crises, and social justice movements…and I don’t feel like saying anything at all.
Do people who were my allies in various movements notice that I am not there? That I don’t show up to meetings anymore, that I don’t respond to messages posted to listservs, that I don’t write letters to the editors or comment in the comment sections…that I have basically dropped off the face of the planet as far as participating in dialogues and events relating to activism and advocacy movements?
Does anyone wonder where I went and why I am not there anymore?
I haven’t disappeared. I still exist.
I have been playing piano with my eyes closed, and focusing hard on making thin black lines over layers of paint. I have been baking vegan brownies and doing dishes, getting to work on time.
I have been going to bed early and laughing more and more easily.
Lately, the world has been hinting that it is still magic. I have known this, as an idea, a conviction, but I haven’t felt it in a long time, that powerful belief, that sense of proof. It is still there, that knowing and that seeing…and I am paying attention to when I am close to it, when it is close to me…in laughter, in painting, in music, while walking and feeling the wind, smelling the rain in the early morning, in listening to my children talk about their days…and in thinking about home, remembering where I came from.
Here are a few small poems from the past several weeks:
November 9, 2015The night that I sat with my co-worker at Crow and Quill up on Lexington, with my Two-Hearted in a fancy glass on the table between us, I said that I might write a letter. Tell the small story, ask for a free ticket.
“You could tell them that you already won, but then lost out when you didn’t check your voicemail.” My co-worker laughed, but I was pretty sure that he remembered how disappointed I’d been, how I almost cried when I found out that I had won, but then had lost.
It wasn’t only the winning-then-losing-the-win that knocked me down on that Tuesday two weeks ago. The day before, I’d found out that a student had died.
That’s what we call the people who come to where we work. Students. We don’t call them patients, or clients, or consumers. My co-worker and I were out having drinks that night, as a sort of remembrance for the student who’d died.
“You could play the sympathy card.”
“…and tell them that I’m an underpaid mental health worker and that I want to go to their show because…”
I’d already told my co-worker the story, about how during that long Summer and Fall I’d heard the song on my Pandora stream and then, right around the time I really started to lose my mind, I heard that very same song on the radio and it made me believe something about…
In the Fall of 2010, I took hundreds of pictures of the sky, because the clouds had begun to look like faces to me, like a language I used to know but had forgotten.
I saw the shapes everywhere, in the runnels of silt on the pavement after rain, in the silhouettes of trees.
An ache that spread from my heart down into my bones told me that something was watching me, that I wasn’t alone.
Nonetheless, I felt alone.
I first heard the song on the radio when I was driving into the tunnel, heading east.
How was it possible that the song I’d only ever heard at home, chosen for me by some algorithm that I don’t understand, was on the radio? It seemed impossible and strange, that a song I’d only listened to at home would play on the radio like a secret made public.
From then on, I listened for clues in the playlist and clung to the small reassurances in the similarities between lyrics and my own story, my own heart.
“It’s not about you, it’s just a playlist. Random.”
Still, for a long time, the radio was my best friend. The songs and whatever formula made them play knew something in me, something that nothing else could know. Those songs were a lifeline, a message saying, “Don’t give up. The world is a strange and beautiful place. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone. Of course they think you’re crazy. Keep going.”
Driving home from work, I heard the announcement. The radio station was giving away more tickets, stay tuned for an announcement in 12 minutes. I sat in my driveway and waited for the song to end, texted the word and went inside.
This morning, I remembered that today was the day the winner would be called. “Don’t be silly,” I willed myself to forget about it. I never did write that letter, didn’t ask for a free ticket.
Maybe I would just stay home on Tuesday night, and try to figure out what to do next. That would be alright.
Still, I kept my phone on.
It rang while I was eating soup at a friend’s house, bone broth and garbanzo bean flour, day-old quinoa and baby broccoli.
I knew as soon as I saw the number that I had won, again.
What are the odds of the same person winning tickets to a show twice?