Fighting with the wind
The wind has been howling for two days now. There is a palm tree in front of my bathroom window, and when I was showering late this morning and the sun was behind the tree, the constant lightening and darkening of the room was making me feel emotionally queasy. Like I had a phantom headache and stomachache and raging anger, even though I wasn’t actually feeling those things.
I love the wind when I am outside, but when I’m inside it makes me crazy. The sound used to give me nightmares as a kid. I felt very unsettled by the inconsistency of the noise. Even the ocean drives me a bit insane sometimes, but at least the ocean has a distinct pattern to its crashing.
The wind forces me to be present. I love standing in the wind when it’s warm and sunny out. It feels like a wild animal wanting to play with me.
But when I’m trying to do anything else in the wind, besides being present, I feel a bit crazy. I cannot read or write outside because the rattling papers frustrates me. Inside, trying to focus, it makes me just want to get back in bed and go to sleep. The wind makes me tired. I love to drive but the wind makes me a little nervous on the freeway and forces me to use both hands on the wheel when I’m more comfortable just lazily slinging my left arm on it and resting my right hand on the gear shift or sometimes pretending there’s someone in the passenger seat and I’m holding their hand.
Maybe I should stop fighting with the wind and just do what it tells me. Get back in bed and read a book or go play outside.
It’s evening now, and the wind has calmed. I am writing letters to some friends. I would love a third cup of coffee and a fourth chocolate chip cookie. I like the look of letter-writing supplies on my desk.
My Emily Dickinson year
I’ve been calling 2021 my “Emily Dickinson year,” because I made the firm and intentional decision to be a loner and a homebody. I’ve been turning down dates, I haven’t gone out and made new friends, I’ve done very few “activities.” Basically, I’ve done nothing but sit at home.
Please don’t misunderstand: my decision to “stay home” has nothing to do with the lockdown. I have exactly zero fucks to give to the government.
But it was the quarantine orders that got my gears spinning around the concept of being at home, and wondering why so many people felt trapped there. Instead of fighting the system in a knee jerk reactionary way, I decided to go inward.
If Emily Dickinson hardly left her home her entire life and could fill her head and heart with so much wonder on the small parcel of earth she inhabited—why couldn’t I do that for a year? Why couldn’t I, too, partake in “the spreading wide my narrow Hands to gather Paradise,” as she wrote in her poem, “I dwell in Possibility“?
I didn’t quite have “become one of the greatest poets in American history” type expectations, but I did want to see what happened when I removed external stimuli and the “fear of missing out” from my body. It was a task that required much meditation and journaling, because external stimulation is an addiction and FOMO is a nervous system response.
It’s crazy to be able to actually admit this, but after several months of this I genuinely don’t give a shit what other people are doing or what they think of me and my life. Not a defensive reaction, but a deep settledness in my bones. It feels like a superpower.
I refer to last year as my V For Vendetta year. In an aesthetic sense, I did shave my head like Natalie Portman (although I was smiling giddily rather than crying). But on a deeper level, I felt like everything I thought I knew about life and the world had been stripped away. Everything opened up to me, layers at a time. Things are still opening up to me, but last year was my first fresh shock of “the world doesn’t work the way I assumed it did.” The head shaving was basically a physical marker to represent how different I felt inside, to represent the pivotal moment when I realized that losing everything wasn’t the end, but just the beginning of my new life.
This year, things are quieter. I’ve come to peace with many things. Even the things I desire to change and am actively changing, I’m still at peace with their current states. I’ve given myself a healthy dose of peace, stillness, meditation, and journaling—and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.
Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, was an absolute game changer for me. I began to implement her morning pages back in November (three daily pages of handwritten stream of consciousness journaling). It was like I suddenly had an answer for every existential problem that came up. If I could only recommend one book for the rest of my life, it would be this one.
Mediation was a huge thing for me too. Learning to shut off the live stream of thoughts, the barrage of information, the 24/7 movie screen. I came to realize that I was the source of everything I needed. Nothing external is what makes up me as a human being. I don’t need to be fed constant entertainment via social media, movies, friends, events, hobbies. All I need is within me, if I’d give myself a goddamn minute to tap into it.
And lastly just good old fashioned peace and quiet. Sitting in stillness in the desert of Nevada. The desert is a great place to sit in observation, because at first glance it comes across as lifeless. But the more you sit, the more you see. The desert is ablaze with life.
I’d find a trail of ants and follow it, looking for where they ended and where they began. I’d watch a hummingbird make a pass through the backyard flowers every afternoon until one day I realized I was a little bit in love with him. One day, after weeks of watching him, he flew right up to my face and hovered there for a second. I’d listen to the various bird sounds and I swear that one of them sounds like “AL-LY?” A high pitched timbre, the note rising at the end. I watched the lizards sneak out of the flowers and bushes and crawl onto the warm pavement to do push-ups. I went on long walks, in the afternoon in the winter and at night when it started getting hot again. One hour, two hours, three hours in the desert. I’d walk and walk, marching to the mantra “solvitur ambulando.” Latin for “it is solved by walking.”
And notes. Constant note taking. Filling notebooks and index cards. I finally began to develop my writing voice, finally began working on a couple books, writing poetry, looking to submit some things, started pursuing work as a freelance proofreader and editor.
I experimented daily. I would find what worked and what didn’t, and I had a system for actually making these realizations. Quiet, peace, solitude, a practice in awareness, note-taking and journaling. Creating what I wanted bit by bit each day by figuring out what I wanted, what I didn’t want, and closing the gap between them.
“. . . failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.”
—J. K. Rowling, 2008 Harvard commencement speech
Sitting at home, opening my mind, and taking note of the daily changes in my heart and brain has made me into the person I’ve always wanted to be. I’m proud of who I am. My younger self would be in awe of me, and a bit intimated. Some things are still in the works to fruition, but everything I’ve dreamed of for myself is coming to pass. Not even six months into my Emily Dickinson year, and she’s already changed my life. She knew something about living.
The home (even living at your parents’ home at the age of 25) is a wildly expansive place, if you let it.
The feelings are the meaning
Some people are overwhelmed with the concept of meaning, whether searching for the meaning or insisting there is none at all. Some people are overwhelmed with the concept of feelings, whether insisting that they’re nothing more than a chemical reaction or cautioning against them altogether because they’ll deceive and betray you.
I’m not out here chasing highs like an addict, but for me, feelings are the meaning. I can read a sentence in a book and be overcome with emotion. Beauty, sadness, resonance, joy. My insides feel like champagne and fireworks and stardust. My eyes fill with tears and I don’t know why but I like it because it feels like how you would explain to a robot what being alive feels like.
Jedidiah Jenkins wrote in his book, Like Streams to the Ocean, “I’d say life itself is meant to be our soul mate.”
I contain the entire universe beneath my skin, and the things I encounter through life are what crack open the feelings and connections. I love the concept of “i am the universe experiencing itself.” How else can you explain infectious laughter, reckless nostalgia, déjà vu, tears of resonance? Why is this song so beautiful that I have chills and tears? Why is this line of poetry giving me butterflies and nausea?
If that’s not enough meaning to be alive—the experience of pure crackling ALIVENESS—I don’t know what is.
Touch yourself, experience yourself, made in God’s image, love yourself.
untitled poem 04
Animal body. Computer brain.
And what of the heart, the soul,
the spirit? They must be guides
given to us from God. To give
depth to our animal bodies and
conscience to our computer
brains. Three different parts.
Strange combination. Beautiful
The motion, the feeling
I don’t want kids and I have dozens of reasons why not, but it’s partially for the mess. The disruption. I want my routine. I want things in their specific place. If an item gets rotated half a degree to the left, I will notice it.
But one time I had a long distance boyfriend and he visited me for a week, the month after we started dating. My room was organized particularly, but he wasn’t particularly organized. I’d find myself subconsciously trailing behind him, picking up his small messes and smoothing his wrinkles. I was annoying myself, I told myself to quit being a fucking kinfolk magazine, but I couldn’t curb my impulse.
After he left, the cleaning stopped. I went around my room, touching the little changes he made. The blanket he rolled up instead of folding. The guitar he leaned against the bookcase instead of zipping into its case. The little Hot Wheels car he found in the grass on his morning walk and proudly displayed on my dresser.
Suddenly wondering at how disorganization by his hands could feel so sweet and intimate. But maybe it’s the same thing as having a trail of tiny bruises down your body. Why do painful purple spots feel so romantic and tender?
I slowly eventually started straightening up my room to how I normally kept it, but felt a bit sad about it the whole time. The absence of a person makes you want to keep things exactly the same, as a shrine to them until they come back. Sometimes though, they never come back.
Lives are not meant to stay the same. We are not museums. We are nature. Movement is literally in our blood.
Sometimes the never-ending motion of daily minutiae makes me crazy, and that’s one part that scares me about having children—how the routines and motions stay the same for ages and I don’t know if this body wants to perform those motions day after day—but I do know that we are meant for motion in any case.
Washing a counter—moving crumbs. Sweeping a floor—moving dirt. Intimate sex—moving body parts.
Germs spread. Spittle flies. “Plums defy,” as Stephen King wrote in On Writing.
I suppose just it’s a matter of deciding what kind of movement your body wants to make in its lifetime.
Every time someone asks me what I’m doing with my life, it’s hard for me to respond. I feel like this book character from The Night Circus named Prospero the Enchanter. Retired from stage tricks that woo the masses, to complete seclusion, faking his own death so he could experiment with immortality in peace.
I’m here in the present, soaking up the sun and the sounds of birds and the smell of fresh brewed coffee, but I’m mainly existing in the metaphysical. Tweaking the codes of reality. Tinkering with the placebo effect. Rewriting the past and watching it change the future.
I came to the desert to set aside my fomo, to sit in my immortality, to dance with creation and time and resolution. In peace.
People ask me what I’ve been up to lately, and I tell them “reading and writing and stuff” but all I really want to say is, “concentrating.”
To translate the body
Sometimes my mind doesn’t have words to speak, but my body is writing absolute novels.
That is my current work. To translate what my body is saying. She’s screaming on the inside, and I barely know how to listen to her, never mind translate into words.
“Hush up,” I was taught to tell her. “You’re messy and not to be trusted.”
There’s a book inside me that’s dying to be written, but it feels like its fate is bound to my ability to find my way back into my body. It’s a pretty large order, after a lifetime of pure disconnect, of being reminded every week for the 23 years I went to church that “this isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.”
My mind continued to accept that as truth, week after week, but my heart knew what a relationship felt like and that wasn’t it. But they covered all their bases by also repeatedly telling me “Oh yeah, the heart is deceptively wicked, so don’t trust anything it says.”
Making me hate the wild feelings in my body. Keeping me fractured and confused. I couldn’t figure out why I constantly skipped church as a teenager and broke all the rules at bible college like it was a game. My mind believed their truth. Why was the rest of my body fighting so hard against me? I was never going to be any good at this religion thing if my heart was so determined to rebel.
“Come back to yourself. Stop thinking. Feel something, goddamn it!”
I may come across as tapped into my feelings—and I do make most decisions based on what feels good—but paradoxically I feel way more at ease living in my head rather than my body. The answers to everything can be found in reading or journaling, and I’m a very quick problem solver. But in things that involve letting go and opening up—alcohol, weed, dancing, sex, the beautiful pleasures of life—I often feel stiff and uncomfortable. The whole time I’m fighting my brain.
“Stay in control, don’t let go! NO, STOP OVERTHINKING AND JUST FEEL FOR FUCKING ONCE.” Over and over, circling circling.
It is a practice in letting go. No more knowledge or information or logic. Let go let go let go. Feel feel feel.
Listen to the heart, for it is the wellspring of all life.
I want life, over and over
The concept of reincarnation feels good to me, so I believe in it. I don’t have any proof for it, just subtle resonance. Like a boy I fell in love with, body, mind, and soul—after barely knowing him any length of time at all—because it felt like we’d been lovers in a past life. He was very familiar to me.
In my own body I feel ageless. Ancient. I’m not always the smartest person in the room, but on a cellular level I feel incredibly wise.
This is definitely not my first go at life on earth, I think to myself every time I consider myself.
I want to come back to earth when I die, live a thousand lifetimes. Experience new things, learn new lessons, punch bad guys, kiss good guys, make things lighter and brighter.
Fuck waiting on the sidelines for eternity, stacked up souls in heaven and hell, waiting for God to pull the plug on his earth project. Please don’t ever pull the plug. Let me go back to my home. I want LIFE, not a conclusion. I love life so much, the mystery and the magic, that I want to do it over and over for all of forever.
Changing all the time
I feel like I do all my living and breathing and dying on the inside, and by the time I finally feel ready to share what’s been happening, it’s already old news.
Charles Mingus, an American jazz musician, said “I’m trying to play the truth of what I am. The reason it’s difficult is because I’m changing all the time.”
Like how the cells on different body parts get replaced every few weeks or months or years. I feel like my brain restructures itself creatively and philosophically every ten days, so if I don’t hustle and share the rough drafts of what I’m thinking, it’ll soon be irrelevant. Stale old thoughts from a person who doesn’t even exist anymore.
Just gotta get comfortable with leaving a paper trail. No longer hiding ideas away in a locked drawer, but tucking them away into little nooks and crannies accessible to other people.
untitled poem 01
We sat on the beach and
drank the sea. Foamy
tops spilling over salt
rimmed glasses. Our skin
sparkled and softened in
the golden light. Drunk
on the waves, baked by