* I have great taste in music. * I make awesome instrumental playlists. * I'm a good cook. * I'm a great mommy. * I'm loyal. * I'm trustworthy. * I'm kind. * I have a big heart. * I'm creative. * I make nice jewelry. * I love my poetry. * I love how passionate I am. * I also love how deeply I feel. * I remember little kindnesses. * I have pretty hair. * I love fiercely. * I'm compassionate. * I have good taste in plants. * My eyes are a nice shade of blue. * I have freckles on my shoulders.
Today is one of those barely getting by kinda days, the days when little kindnesses go such a long way, when you’re grasping at straws when you really need either a hand to help pull you up or for someone to sit with you on the floor and pass you Kleenex while you cry or listen while you rage.
Today is a slouchy sort of day, the type of day when the heat slumps over on you like a drunk person who falls asleep next to you on a train. Not that I’ve ever had a drunk person fall asleep on my shoulder. But somewhere, years ago, someone did fall asleep on me, and I imagine the heat to feel something like that weight and also the caution with which I sat still so as not to wake him.
I’m reading more lately, learning words like outsize and tumid, words that are large and swollen, words you can use to describe a sex scene if you want to put a literary spin on it. I read as a sort of shield, a way of lying to myself that I’m actually working on my writing by seeing what other people have written. I tell myself that I’m contributing to society by reading books, by slowly eating my way through them the way I’d want someone to devour something, anything, that I wrote.
I write here because I don’t have anyone to write letters to. If I could have any little thing right now, I think I would choose to have someone with whom to exchange letters, someone with whom I could exchange book reviews and scraps of poetry, postcards and drafts of short stories. I fantasize that I will miraculously turn into a person of letters (whatever that means) simply by writing this nonexistent writer friend of mine over and over again for decades on end. In my mind, this person is someone whose brilliance is underestimated, someone whose work I would read with delight, exclaiming over all the sections in which I could see myself.
It’s silly, isn’t it? To wish for someone to write letters to when no one writes letters anymore. We blog. We text. We email every now and then when we can’t get away with sending a series of texts. But we hardly ever, practically never, get out a piece of paper and a pen and sit down and write someone a letter. It used to be that I could recognize my friends’ handwriting. Now I rarely know what any of their handwriting looks like. If I close my eyes, I can still recall Amy’s bubbly letters, Christina’s blocky text, Ethan’s messy script. I’m not in touch with any of them anymore, but I still remember the way their writing looked on a page.
When I hold a pen now, my hand cramps up. I have been unused to writing by hand, everything being letters on a screen. But on this humid day, I want nothing more than to go down to the end of the driveway and look into my box and find a letter from a friend. I want to curl up in front of the air conditioner with a glass of sweet tea and savour each paragraph that my friend wrote. Alas, no friends of mine write letters. The box, when I checked it, was full of junk mail and magazines, and I remain very much not a lady of letters.
During the week, I am almost free, close to unencumbered, a lighter version of myself. Then the weekend comes around and H comes back from work, and it’s like I’m under a guillotine, waiting for my head to be lopped off. There are drastic changes in me from someone who is mostly happy to someone who is mostly panicked and on edge. The see-sawing back and forth between being okay and being so far from okay is driving me insane.
I want to be permanently free. I want to be free of him, free to be myself, to dance in the rain like I did once all those years ago. Naked, bare feet digging into the sand. I want to be free to learn again, to sharpen my mind and to wake up from this intellectual and emotional slumber. I’ve spent too many years pretending to be okay, spent too many years lying to everyone I love about who and how I am.
I come here because I am a coward, because it’s easier to put things down in words when no one you know will judge you for saying that you’re miserable in your marriage, that your life’s become a sham, a sad shadow of what it once was and of what it will be. Because that’s just it: I know that this isn’t the end for me. A friend of mine told me recently that, although this section of my life is ending, it doesn’t mean that my life itself is ending. This is just the beginning of a new chapter.
Who will I be in my next chapter? Still me, but more compassionate. Still me, but kinder. Still me, but without the ceaseless challenges of trying to please everyone in my life. Still me, but more spiritual. Still me, but writing and submitting my works for publication. See? Still me, just a more vibrant, more alive me. Hopefully also still me, but a better cook. I say it partly in jest, but I would like to eat better in the next chapter of my life.
I’ve decided that I’m going to work my way through The Daily Writer by Fred White which is a book of writing exercises. 366 of them to be exact. Every morning, along with my morning coffee, I am going to flip this book open and tackle one of the exercises within, either the one for the current day or another one if that one doesn’t seem to fit me very well. I’m excited about it because I haven’t known how to break into writing, how to ready myself and begin to write something that’s fiction and not autobiographical. Believe me, I’ve got autobiography down, but even I get tired of hearing about myself all the time. It’s time for me to branch out and write fiction instead.
I am hesitant, because I wonder how much I have to say. I wonder if there are any stories inside me and, if there are, what they are and who they’re about. I want to write beautiful things, to construct dream catchers out of sentence strings, to create a world where good triumphs over the rotten, the ugly, the mundane. I want to create a magical place where anything can happen. Maybe that is too much to ask of myself, but all I know is that I have to try. I feel that, when the words start coming, the world will open up as if a black walnut shell with a hinge, and inside will be this perfectly wild nut.
I have spent too much time doing what’s good and necessary, too much time shaping myself into what other people want me to be and too little time being the strong and independent, zany and liberal woman that I am on the inside. Why do I try so hard to fit into a mold? Why do I fight against who I am? Why am I always so afraid of standing up for myself?
It’s this sick and twisted fact of my life that I try so hard to please everyone that I once said “yes” to a marriage proposal and spent 18 months engaged to someone I didn’t want to be engaged to simply because I didn’t want to turn him down when he asked me to marry him (after 6 weeks of dating) on Valentine’s Day. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but what about my feelings? What about me? When do I stop putting other people first and put myself first?
I know I should be in therapy to deal with all of these issues. There’s not just the engagement. There’s also the next man who came along, to whom I got married when I was pregnant because, god forbid, my family would be upset that I was pregnant and not married. I mean, seriously, what is wrong with me?
I need to make myself a manifesto, a credo to live by. I need to make a promise to myself that I will stop living for everyone else and start living for me. Other people do it. Other people stand up for themselves. It may be scary, but it’s possible. I know it must be possible. Terribly scary and difficult, but possible. And really…is there any alternative? I’ve pushed myself to the limit. I’ve gotten married for my family. I’ve stayed married for my children. I’ve given up on my education for my husband. I’ve dropped all my dreams, my wishes and my hopes for the people in my life who say they support me but manage to cut me down any chance they get.
What’s left to give up? I’ve become a shadow of myself, a wraith, a soulless woman without any hope for the future. If I am to get my hope back, if I am to dream again, I must start by being true to myself. I must start by standing up for myself. I must start by taking one little step at a time, toward escaping, toward freedom, toward love.
The oddest thing happened tonight. I was sitting at a traffic light windows rolled down waiting for the green. I hear this guy in the next car over. This is what he's saying: Hey! Hi! How you doing? What's going on? And I'm tuning him out. Not even turning his way. I figure he's on the phone with someone, but I didn't turn to look. Right about then the light turns green and I pull forward. As he's pulling forward, he yells, "I love you!" and I finally turn to look at him and I realize that, all this time, he's been talking to me. He yells, "I fucking love you!" and drives off. I laughed the whole way home. It was hilarious. I've never seen that guy before. I'll probably never see him again. Sure was funny, though. (: