Everything has crashed into a despicable pile of decaying moldy detritus. I learned that last word from a professor in a college photography appreciation class. I’m always looking for ways to use it. I’m not sure what the official definition is, but to me it means a whole bunch of messy unidentifiable crap. And that is the truth of my life at this moment. Or at least from my perspective.
Perspective is a funny thing. Any person could come along and point out a whole bunch of really good things in my life. My kid is healthy. I actually have a kid. I have a good job, a career that was years in the making. I have an opportunity to change people’s lives, and I do. I own a house and I’m not upside down in it. I’ve got money in the bank. And yet….fucking detritus.
It’s all such a train wreck now, I don’t even know when I began to slip off the track. Was it when my father died? When the ache in my shoulder turned into a twisted tree limb, spreading its branches into my neck, my head? When I started sitting with people witnessing their trauma, visions of which I now carry in my head? Or was it earlier, was it perhaps the moment I found out I was pregnant that I began to unravel? Or was it when it dawned on me that my relationship with the other mother of my son and I was broken beyond repair? Whatever the beginning, one thing is certain. A series of succeeding events have brought me to a place where I know nothing about myself anymore. I’m at times perplexed by my actions, embarrassed, and at others times horrified.
Who I was, I fear, is gone forever. Not that I want her back. She had her own demons. But the absence of knowing exactly who I am to become is daunting. My journey to self began somewhere around 1982, when this poster hung on my wall:
I Am Me
~ Virginia Satir ~
In all the world,
there is no one else exactly like me.
Everything that comes out of me is authentically mine,
because I alone choose it.
I own everything about me.
My body, my feelings, my mouth, my voice, all my actions,
whether they be to others or to myself.
I own my fantasies, my dreams, my hopes, my fears.
I own all my triumphs and successes, all my failures and mistakes.
Because I own all of me, I can become intimately acquainted with me.
By so doing I can love me and be friendly with me in all my parts.
I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me,
and other aspects that I do not know.
But as long as I am friendly and loving to myself,
I can courageously and hopefully look for solutions to the puzzles
and for ways to find out more about me.
However I look and sound, whatever I say and do,
and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time is authentically me.
If later some parts of how I looked, sounded, thought and felt
turned out to be unfitting,
I can discard that which I feel is unfitting, keep the rest, and invent something new
for that which I discarded.
I can see, hear, feel, think, say, and do.
I have the tools to survive, to be close to others, to be productive,
and to make sense and order out of the world of people and things outside of me.
I own me, and therefore I can engineer me.
I am me &
I am OK.
I can recall the sense of empowerment I felt when I read it then. I was young, I was inventing myself, everything seemed possible. I was a survivor and the world was going to know it! It was my declaration. When I read it now parts of it seem silly, childish, even hollow. For instance, how can I be authentic if I’m not sure what is authentically me? I’ve learned I can fool myself on this one. And I’ve learned that there are some things, many things, that defy sense and order. And about being OK. It was enough back then. Now I’m just not sure if that’s enough, or if on any given day I am anywhere near it. Right now, I am not OK.
And so I begin with a different poem, one I stumbled upon that was mentioned in a book by Dawna Markova, an author whose words have spoken to me in the past.
after chopping off all the arms that reached out to me;
after boarding up all the windows and doors;
after filling all the pits with poisoned water;
after building my house on the rock of no,
inaccessible to flattery and fear;
after cutting off my tongue and eating it;
after hurling handfuls of silence
and monosyllable of scorn at my loves;
after forgetting my name;
and the name of my birthplace;
and the name of my race;
after judging and sentencing myself
to perpetual waiting,
and perpetual loneliness, I heard
against the stones of my dungeon of syllogisms,
the humid, tender, insistent
onset of spring.
~ Octavio Paz ~
Please, Whatever, make it come soon.