Day 3

Still doing this, for now at least. Hooray!

I have a bit of extra time this afternoon due to a last-minute cancellation, so I’m taking advantage of the pissing rain to stay inside again until I’m absolutely forced to go out later this evening. I didn’t get to posting here this morning, but I still did my freewrite so all in all, not terrible.

It’s funny, I told my boyfriend the other week that I wanted to start recording my dreams again. And like that, I started remembering my dreams more vividly and was able to recall them. I didn’t even start writing them down until this morning, but it seems like even creating the intention helped me start recollecting my dreams. Since I set that intention, I’ve been having dreams where my past worlds get confused inside one another. I’ll have a group of people that I used to know in a setting from another time in my life where they were never present. Or I’ll have present-day me in a past setting, like grade school, encountering someone from yet another time in my life who never crossed through either the present realm or the way back.

That was what happened last night. Someone I try not to think about but who occasionally haunts my dreams and leaves me fearful and ashamed was very clearly present in my dream last night. I suspect I actually have more dreams about this person than I realize, I just don’t remember them all or they’re tucked and folded among other, more pertinent or flashy dreams. This happens with a number of people, the memories of whom I try to suppress but who used to be the subjects of obsessive thought patterns that made it difficult to function in daily life. Now that I’ve claimed enough distance from these people and events, and have worked to break the cycles of fear and self-loathing brought on by relationships with these people, they don’t haunt my waking days as much unless they’re summoned by a triggering person or event. They do, however, take more of a role in my dreams and appear from time to time in those subconscious films as identifiable but non-threatening characters. In other words, I’m not having flashbacks any longer for the most part. In my dreams they’re just another person, and while I recognize them and have a feeling towards them (disgust, fear, anger) they don’t act aggressively in my dreams. In fact, they’re often pitiable characters and in dreams I get the opportunity to see them for who they really are- sad, lonely men. They’re stripped of their power.

Last night, a person who I hope I never see again found me at my elementary school. As I pretended not to see him and began walking away towards the enclosed grassy field we had recesses and had to run laps around in PE class, he followed me. I was fully exposed on the flat green expanse and even though I walked towards a fenced-in area with no exit, he stopped following me after a while and he disappeared. I never acknowledged him and I never turned around, but I felt him behind me until he wasn’t. The glimpse I had of this person, who I haven’t seen in years was what I would expect him to become if the world were fair and made sense. He was, in reality and the last time I saw him, an extraordinarily beautiful man, something that distracted from his manipulative and abusive behaviors and enabled people to constantly forgive him his addictions and crimes. In my dream, however, the drugs, the lying, the self-destruction and the illness had taken their toll in the way you would expect them to. He was thin and sallow, acting erratically and blabbering madly. When another person in my dream told me he’d been here looking for me, she described him as ‘ugly.’

This stuck with me through coffee this morning, when I took some time to write down everything about the dream and what it brought up, because for anyone who didn’t know him intimately like I did, that word would never be used in conjunction with his name or any description of him. He was, like I said above, absolutely beautiful in a way I don’t have the words to describe. Physically. And the way he acted when you were just getting to know him, or when he was trying to be polite, matched his exterior. But there was something so severely dark inside him that quickly revealed itself. He was a maniac, someone who was capable of (and did commit abroad, in the military position he held and at home) horrendous atrocities that you would never, ever believe someone who looked like he did could commit. The beliefs he held were hateful. He had no qualms about hurting others, in fact, he may have enjoyed it. He was ugly. And here, in my dream, was someone besides me recognizing this and validating it.

I have not written about him since I started to understand what he really was. I wrote plenty of poetry when we were together, trying to justify his behavior because of the beautiful soul I was convinced I saw. But the past few years have been too painful and raw for me to even talk about it, because I was duped in a way that you couldn’t even believe. Until a few years ago I had no idea people like him existed in this world. I had simply refused to believe it, thinking naively that most men who did bad things were just misguided souls who still had goodness in their hearts somewhere. But this experience turned my entire reality upside down and let me know that everything I thought I knew was wrong. And I’m different now.

And with that, I think I’m finally getting ready to write about it.

Day 2

Day 2 of starting over. Doing the work, or trying at least. I’m not sure what constitutes work.

My routine in my recent unemployment, I’ve decided, is this: wake up (at a reasonable time, and don’t press ‘stop’ instead of ‘snooze’ and fall asleep for 2 more hours like I did today) and get the coffee going. Make breakfast. Pour coffee. Prepare the table with notebook, coffee, breakfast, computer, pen. First, eat the food. Then, time 10 minutes on the timer app and freewrite longhand in my journal. Try to ignore the cat taking this opportunity to do all the things she knows she’s not allowed to do. Only intervene once she’s in the sink licking all the dirty dishes or digging up the soil from the potted plant. Return to notebook. Finish 10 minutes, and if needed due to feline interference, tack on another minute or so to make up for lost time.

Drink coffee throughout all of this.

Then, open laptop. Do not be drawn in by Facebook or news. Go straight to WordPress. Make a post. Start writing. Write for 750 words. Afterwards, you’re finished for the morning.

This seems easy enough, right? I can do this. 2 forms of writing, but both in manageable doses. I’m not writing for anyone here, I don’t advertise my blog, and the few times I have it hasn’t been as anything other than a place to figure out my writing by getting it out of my own head and onto a technically public but probably unfrequented public place.

It seems easy enough, but I can’t even tell you how strong the resistance is coming from my own self. I have every permission to write. I have waited for this permission for so long, questioned, antagonized over whether I have the ‘right’ to write or whether my stories are worth writing. I’m still unsure about the latter, but I know that everyone has the right to write. I can do that. I can sit in this blog and in my notebook and make ripples with my hands and gaze at my own reflection and sigh and maybe wish for a prince or for a bird to come and do my hair and tell me my writing is the best writing and never to worry ever again and also your depression is gone now. Thanks, bird.

But the people giving me permission to write are the writers I know. I would have thought, a year ago, that that would be plenty. That was all that was needed and I could take off, launching forth with all the coiled up energy that I’ve kept inside me refusing to let it out, refusing to write it out. I thought it would explode out of me once someone said the magic words. It’s the same thing that used to happen with procrastination when I was in school, and later with leaving relationships that were toxic. I would wait, and wait, and wait, and feel the pressure building up and the information and ideas and realizations swirling and changing into something close to whole until it became so unbearable or the deadline became so inescapable that I would release it, fully gestated, onto the page or onto my own life. This pattern is addictive, I know, because to say I didn’t get high from the sudden 180 in my life, the sudden reformulating of my persona and my beliefs and my being, or the beautiful explosion of words onto the page and ideas so full and juicy they couldn’t hang on any longer, would be a lie. But what happens when you rely on this pattern for too long? I think I’m proof.

Alchemy becomes obsession, becomes repression, becomes reabsorption. Thinking that my ideas would make an exit of their own is like thinking that fruit won’t rot after going unpicked too long. All things have a cycle, and holding on too long creates toxicity, or a decomposition that once again becomes a part of where it came from. We know this. I should have known this. I live in a city where I’m pretty sure it’s illegal not to compost. I sort of know how it works in a ecological sense, and now I know how it works in a psychological, emotional, and spiritual sense. I could even throw ‘physical’ in there too, because I don’t think the heavy feeling in my body, the aches and pains are a coincidence when I used to believe that writing was the only thing saving my life.

Writing used to save me. Now I feel like a shell of me. I haven’t been writing. Do we really want to go ahead and assume this is the connection? I don’t want to be dramatic but I don’t think I know who I am when I’m not writing. I think I become all the shit that I don’t put out, that I don’t shed or get rid of like heavy fruit or dead hair.

Here we are.

Here I am, over a year later.

I  haven’t written much, I’ve been busy pretending to do other things. Last year’s NaNoWriMo was enough to convince me I should never write again, which I’m pretty certain is the complete opposite of what it’s supposed to do.

I get it: you’re supposed to throw trash on the page, it’s just about the doing, it’s not about the content. But still. I couldn’t separate myself from the judgment. I had maybe a few days of feeling excited, proud, but then when I looked back (you should never look back) my heart completely sank. I hated what I wrote.

Here I am again, and I don’t know what to write anymore. My own stories are weighted down in my mind and heart by the stories of the world, the pressing, soggy, tragic, sharp stories that are rushing like water from a broken dam through our news feeds, through our conversations, through our psyches, through our dreams.

I love reading, and I love journalism. It’s really hard to separate myself from the news, from the articles, from the reading, reading, always reading. Almost every conversation I have now with peers either starts with or shortly after its beginning uses the phrase “I was reading this article…” It’s become how we relate to one another. And it’s not horrible, because there is so much good writing out there right now, and I’m happy to hear people say they’re reading. But when the reading isn’t making us happy, I’m not sure what we should do.

Staying informed is important. Flexing critical thinking skills, questioning what information we’re receiving and where it’s coming from and whose agenda spawned it is even more important. It sets the precedent for how we perceive the entire world. Information is the theme of this election, of the last 10 years, of our generation. Our lives and the world are completely saturated with the stuff but it feels like our brains and bodies are struggling to catch up with the rate of input they’re experiencing. You know how screen sickness is a thing many people experience? I think information sickness is a thing, too. After days of gorging myself on news, features, op-eds, the world is ending, my body is aching and exhausted and my heart is heavy. I don’t want to leave the house, why would I, when everything out there is so horrible?

We are still learning what effects information overload has on us. We know, for example, watching the news on TV can cause anxiety because it’s mostly fear-mongering bullshit, but with this surge of fake news/propaganda that may partially have steered our election comes a parallel surge of wonderful and honest journalism. Anyone can tell their story. We get to hear directly from the mouths and fingertips of those people most deeply affected by the issues that make us nervous and closed off instead of speculating about what they may be going through. The honest news, though, is still not necessarily positive. Many times it reflects the true pain of the people who write and create it. Just because it is more honest does not mean that it’s going to affect us as consumers any less significantly.

While the essentiality of critical thinking in a time of information is apparent, what’s not as clear and what I’m currently struggling with is feeling like it’s ok to shut off the honest and courageous voices as well. There’s an anxiety that I’m sure many of us share that by shutting down or turning off we will miss something very, very important. That to remain politically active and aware we need all the facts, all the perspectives, all the stories. That if we miss something we will no longer be thinking critically, and will no longer have credible opinions and voices about what we think we believe. That we will make fools of ourselves.

It’s more than compassion fatigue, this thing I’m trying half-heartedly to express through writing because the other half is sunk deep in the cement of today’s atrocities. It feels like survival. It feels like our very ability to be intelligent humans is at stake, a true threat to our impression that we are autonomous beings. Like if we don’t keep fending off false information it will invade our bodies and obscure our sight until we can no longer tell what’s real, and that includes our selves. It feels existential. It’s an egocentric battle, based on maintaining some false sense of independence from one another, but how can it not be when we’re being told from every angle that we are in danger?

My goal this winter is to shut off. When I was younger I could do this. I didn’t understand as much the gravity of what we’re shutting off from when we choose to go off the grid. I can’t write when my mind is clouded like this, and all I want to do is write again.