I've been falling asleep recently, clutching Michelle Zauner's "Crying in H Mart" on my second time through, and every line plants itself further into my heart. I need these stories to line my soul like arrowroot to nourish me. So something extraordinary can grow in the holes [isn't this why life has done all this digging? To make room?]. Knowing every harrowing tale, terrible loss, and night of inconsolable pain can still be miraculous because we also get to live into the total transformation [and need to make impactful art] that comes as a result - if we're willing.
Given the chance, I'd run through these thresholds repeatedly until I am unimaginably changed [all over again]. To be human is to know the terrible and beautiful things in each of us, and they want out! The things inside of me want room to run. They want a room with the golden hour for a wall and a waterfall for a door. More and more, I am coming to understand why every angel begins by telling us not to fear and why our salvation can only be worked out with trembling celerity. Since willingness is often the result of sustained crises [desperation and loss], perhaps transmutation can be the alchemy from which heterogeneous grace irradiates. That is to say - there is a burning mystery at work in each of us that we will not comprehend until it is completed.
I still believe in and rely on [deep] interrogation, but I don't think we should solve everything anymore. At least I don't need to. There is a point where knowledge will fail us, and I know this sounds insane coming from an apostate, but occasionally faith that surpasses all understanding can be the correct choice. Despite all the evidence, despite what I know, I believe this life is still both a miracle and an offering simply because I am still breathing.
If you know my story, you know that I am a statistical anomaly. Not just with the 3-4 times I've bounced back from the brink with my auto-immune condition or the long-term recovery rates for former heroin addicts, but the amount of violence I endured in active addiction. And I don't have any answers for why I'm still here and why I've been extended so much grace and time while others - arguably, more deserving of it than I [considering how much I've already been given] - were denied it. What I do know is it has endowed me with an infinite tenderness for everything and everyone in my life. As Jorie Graham writes in her poem "Prayer":
This is the force of faith. Nobody gets
what they want. Never again are you the same. The longing
is to be pure. What you get is to be changed.
Every time I read that, I get chills. I want to scream, dance, and cry all at the same time! Someone plugged my spine into a light socket. She stakes us with this surrender, the part of us that had forgotten what it's like to be pierced by the light. What it's like for hope to make room. I forgot what it's like to make room. Sometimes I'll stand outside in my garden holding a book by Marie Howe or Ada Limon to my chest - even though I've already memorized every word [currently, "The Spell" ] - because there's always a part of me that needs to be touched, hugged and held. The same part of me that's always searching for meaning and reason[s]. As Dickison said, aren't we all out with lanterns, looking for ourselves [and others]?
What I'm interested in the most is how people [continue to] live. I miss in-person 12-step meetings because I want to hear that first-person testimony - especially when someone stops asking to be restored and prays to be transformed. In the first chapter of Walden, Thoreau denoted that his book was going to be like every other book we've read, except there would be more first person singular in it. More "I" words, more "I" sentences. He said, "We commonly forget that it is always the first person speaking." And that is a wonderful tongue-in-cheek way of saying that individual subjectivity is deeply entangled within. Meaning is ever-changing, and it's also recursive. There are very few things that can hold that kind of quantum energy. Poetry and music, absolutely - but I want to hold them in my body, in my being.
I'm still learning how to write about wonder and delight. Although I am trying to take more than a few pages on these subjects from Ross Gay who wrote:
Among the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard anyone say came from my student Bethany, talking about her pedagogical aspirations or ethos, how she wanted to be as a teacher, and what she wanted her classrooms to be: “What if we joined our wildernesses together?” Sit with that for a minute. That the body, the life, might carry a wilderness, an unexplored territory, and that yours and mine might somewhere, somehow, meet. Might, even, join.
I know how to write about grief, struggle, and even desire, but I don't know how to write about blessedness or fear. Exhaustion is the biggest thing that silences me. And it's taken me a while to write this essay because I was exhausted from this round of biologic treatments and overwhelmed by the state of the world, like almost everyone. There were a few months when I was rejecting my treatment almost completely and bleeding internally so much that I became anemic. And for the first time, in the 9 years that I've been sick, I was able to actually tell some people [outside of my primary care team, and parents] that my health wasn't great, after some serious conviction and prodding from my therapist. And through that practice, mostly through sending voice memos over Whatsapp - what I was able to see, and hold onto, was that the world and my beloved are going to go on - and I can still be a lasting testament in your hearts. One day, hopefully, a long time from now, but one day I'm going into the ground, and you're going to go on without me. The trees are going to keep living - and something will bloom from my body, and when that thing dies, there will be more trees and mountains that are going to come. And that ongoingness of the world is really, in some ways, a relief. Because I want to be part of a system that's life-giving and breathing. I want to be part of something bigger than me, which means that I want to be a part of you.
So now, when I frame Jorie's kind of surrender, it means giving in to that timelessness. Knowing that I won't be here forever, but part of me will live on in others - and trusting whatever form that takes. So surrender means not clinging to this notion that I have to protect everyone from eventually watching my body eat itself, but finding some way to release my grip on how I want to be perceived [in the end]. And, of course, when you release your grip, you notice what you're attached to, the things you miss, and the things you love. And I think I need to start writing more out of missing, honoring, and wanting to bear witness to this life in a way that isn't, perhaps, as perfectionistic or hyper-independent.
And the only way I know how to do that is to close this essay with a [new] poem. Be gentle with yourselves and others; I love you.
Say we remain unlaced
by what we can never know.
Say we pray / to a crumbling glacier,
halved our grief, and ate the honey in the middle.
Say we breathed
the crescent moon
right into / our lungs.
Say the loss
never goes rigid inside the throat
when it's shared.
Say we cleaved our wings with a hatchet.
Say here is the hammer / we have time to build.
Say the light will rise like a flood
if we let it choose the window.
PS: I will be done with this round of immunosuppressive therapy in June and hopefully will be able to travel/rejoin the world.
I love you <3