Pinot, Buddha and the End of a Journey – the Aftermath of 10 Months Spent Writing on Abuse
June 19, 2012 § 2 Comments
“Make of yourself a light”
said the Buddha,
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal-a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
- Mary Oliver
A friend of mine used to regret the year he lost his religion in college. He told me he once thought that without the guiding light of the church he’d turned cold.
On Friday, I was in bed at 3:04 PM, drinking Pinot Grigio out of the bottle.
I’m not a lush. I mean it.
I took two swigs, and I put it down and stared. I was grumpy as hell, and the Pinot was just to take the edge off.
A piece of my life went missing on Wednesday. By Friday, I was experiencing some kind of post postpartum depression.
I got out of bed at 7:13. I finished a meeting and shipped a wholesale order to the Northwest by 9 AM. I worked non stop until 3:00 pm.
3:04 hit, and I was done.
I guess I needed space to grieve.
I wanted to write when I was a kid. I used to buy all these little notebooks and pens with cash I made from selling eggs to my grandmother’s co-workers at the department of agriculture.
Nobody told me that writing would feel like being pregnant – carrying around a live something inside you that’s coming out, one way or another. And, I’ve been carrying mine around for ten months now.
I finished it Wednesday. Come Friday, I was anti-climaxed the fuck out. I’d bid adieu to this purpose – this relationship with google docs. Ten months it had been me and this thing – me returning again and again to acknowledge a story that needed telling, to send another draft to an editor that kept driving for the epicenter of my being – what is it that needs to come out? He was right, over and over and over, when he told me I hadn’t hit it yet. These were all false labors, the drafts I kept sending over.
I wanted my writing to matter – for women, for men, for me. I wanted it to be a healing vessel for all the women I don’t know that have walked into the place I’d once found myself crouching in – small, hidden, believing that I was somehow still standing straight when I was lying down. I’d ended up on the bottom when I’d wanted to be on the top.
I’d found my solutions in my words. Words were my compass, while I tumbled over them and I figured out exactly what it was I was trying to say about this giant thing I’d lost myself in.
With my words, I discovered that I had been a hypocrite of the worst kind. I had been a woman writing about and seeking to empower women from a place where I had handed over all my power to something else. I had handed my power over – all my power – like a casual spliff outside a dive bar, without thinking.
Suck, pull in, hold.
Cough and release. Cough again. And again.
I had left behind any kind of self awareness.
It didn’t get done to me – not really. That’s the worst and the best of it. It’s the worst because it’s an admission of guilt. It’s the best because its only in the admission of guilt that one can be free.
Four months, draft two – I thought I’d been wronged. Six months, draft three – I’d done the wronging. Month eight, draft five, I was able to recognize that I used to be a boundary-less woman – free for the taking. I didn’t love myself enough to protect myself. I said yes, over and over and over. My methodical, minute by minute pushing out of my right to refusal left me drowning.
By draft eight, month nine, Google docs was on fire. I found solidarity both in owning my part, and in letting go of the parts that belonged to others. And I started coming back alive.
After a good, long 10 months, I finished my literary pregnancy this week. I finished the story and half the Pinot in a go before I sent my story to an editor that let me know I’d finally nailed it. My reality had been released on paper. It was ready to live, to breathe, to take its part in the world at large and to change the lives of the people it came into contact with, like anything does that’s alive in this world.
I felt wonderful.
8 hours later, I woke up panicked and empty. I had reached the end.
Without the guiding light of exploration, I turned cold.
I thought and I thought and I thought, and I ate too little. Then, I ate too much.
At long last, I called an old friend. He answered in the check out line. My voice on the line – for years – and he knows in an instant when something’s awry.
“Let me check out and call you right back,” he said.
I went to hang up and his voice stopped me.
“I love you.”
He said it like a driving force – a great, big pounding reality, set to take over other realities. Love. Wrapped around. Wrapped behind. Love, in my room and in my writing, and in the life around me in the city.
Love – bigger than the monster of control that I don’t want to risk running into again. Love for fellow man, love for pancakes and for mornings and for coffee and for sunshine. Love for summer in New York city. Love for time with a friend six blocks North who tells me to live in the present with him and to drink deeply of this life – and the champagne I’m handed, with a wink. Love for another that greets me with a hug in Soho. Love for a sister that’s learning English. Love even for those who turned out creating toxicity with me, instead of health.
In love – for myself, for my fellow man, for the woman I’ve become instead of the woman I was – I put the piece of writing the chicken girl had only hoped to craft someday into a private document, out of reach, and I walked away.
I let go of my story after that – the writing of it, the publishing of it, the re-living it every time I sit down to visit with the ghosts of my past again.
I thought back on the conversation with my college friend again. It was a month ago, in a bar in East Village.
I remembered that he’d explained, on beer two, that he’d come back alive when he realized that the religious system he’d used as a guiding light had never been such anyways. He told me that it was in caring for others that he found direction again.
“I used to be a selfish bastard,” he said.
He told me that it was only when he lost his fixation with his personal journey, and opened up to the world around him, that he began to feel life in himself again.
When he said that I felt the sudden awareness that – in all the years we’d known each other – this was the first time he’d ever made time to sit and drink a beer with me.
Friday came and went. Pinot. Depression. Grief. I went to bed early to sleep off my funk.
Come Saturday night, I was eating ribs and drinking white wine with a new friend.
As I listened to him laugh and I felt my heart warm up inside, I was quietly aware that, just two days prior, I would have been home diving through my dark past, instead.
“There’s a present,” someone told me recently. “You know, there’s a present, and it matters. Don’t get so caught up in what was for you, that you can’t see what is for you, now.”
It was then that I realized I hadn’t really lost anything when I wrapped up my self exploration through the written word.
I hadn’t turned cold, after all.
In fact, in letting go of my literary obsession with the darkest period in my own past I had, quite possibly, come that much closer to being a light, myself.
Not to mention, I woke up on Sunday ready to write – this time, about what life is for me now.