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#75 - keeping the heart open
Even during the struggle.
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THANK YOU, LOVE YOU.
I started the day off by responding to Writerly prompts - thinking that a few 6-word stories might get my engine started.
Writing has been a struggle since I took time off in the summer…announced I was back…and then disappeared again. These are moments in creative practice that can really send you into the throws of self-flagellation. If you are neurodivergent, you are used to asynchronous cycles, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult or confronting in a normy world. I’ve tried to write about my reflections on co-living, censorship, freedom of speech, degrowth and rites of passage, but they are all fragmented thoughts with no through-line, like washed-up debris along the beach.
I’m having a hard time making sense of anything. Presenting rationale thought feels foolish. Admonishing the gross decisions of the elite feels worn. And analyzing the austere and violent actions of right-leaning and conservative government forces all around the world feels like a ‘hell loop’. Maybe I am just grouchy. I do have my period.
C says that this time of the year is harder than the winter because everything around us is dying. Death is in the air, mulch is on our shoes, and our coats are not warm enough for the grief.
We often think of seasonal cycles based on a 365-day solar year, but these atmospheric phases map onto so many units of time - from the semesters of a growing embryo to monthly menstrual cycles, the phases of coming to age, the news cycle, the configuration of planetary movements and the eras and ages of human existence.
In Hinduism, for instance, the history of humanity is divided into four yugas or eras that last 432,000 years (what??) and then each yuga is divided into four more cycles that vary in length, and each of those cycles is divided into a main cycle, and flanked by shorter dusk and dawn cycles. It is cosmically deep and generally difficult to wrap your head around the enormity of time it covers.
This means, at any given time, we are negotiating different and sometimes conflicting seasons and cycles between the bodies we breathe into and the universe we exist in, impacting our general orientation. When retrograde meets your period, which meets darker days, you’re in for a trip. It really is a surprise to me that we are as collectively productive as we are.
I realized that writing has been a struggle because I feel pretty numb. My heart has a paperweight on it. And when I breathe, it is like weight-lifting my cardiovascular system. For a while, I just figured I was really calm. Numbness can be tricky like that because if you don’t stop to tune in, you can miss the memo that nothing is moving, even if life continues in motion; there are still meetings, we go for photo-worthy hikes, plans for Diwali and Halloween are brimming, and they are all wonderful, even if muted. Once you do tune in, it can be pretty odd and terrifying that our heart, the beat and rhythm of life, can close.
I’m not really sure *what* the numbness is.
Maybe it is staring at pictures of young Iranian women who have been killed in brutal retaliation, and how headlines, tweets and IG squares are so necessary to mobilize, and so abstracted from the unbearable seconds each day must take on to lose a daughter, a friend, a sister, in this way. Observing suffering up close and far away is disembodied in the wrong ways.
Maybe it is the way we joke about how absurd inflation is while buying a matcha latte for $7.00 (!), making a sly pass about the shit-show that is Britain while staying awake a little longer in the evening worrying how instability will look next week, next year, next decade and forging misty plans to grasp control.
We stand in the kitchen and discuss how no one knows what or who to trust anymore and it feels like reality is slipping through our fingers. Friends are moving through the sludge of break-ups, and heartache, and there is a loss for good words that are sure and hopeful, and little space to just sit with one another inside of the hole.
But even this feels like skimming the surface.
How do we keep our hearts open during these times - these cycles washed over by personal and collective death, destruction and transformation? How might we feel connected during phases of profound hopelessness or overwhelm?
My sadness has always felt like a burden and a vibe killer. You can probably feel the way I wear it, but I rarely talk about it. It is a lot for me to hold, let alone anyone else in our full and over-scheduled lives. Writing helps. Laughing until it cracks open into ugly tears really really helps. Digging my toes into the soil helps. Timelessness helps. S tells me to reframe it as ‘sadness has arrived’ instead of ‘I am sad,’ and that feels like something new to try. Lately, I can see my sadness as a throughway to compassion, but only if I allow it to move and transmute. Otherwise, it turns into rock.
I know the sadness is not all mine and that in some ways it is an invitation, a call, a responsibility. I know that we are all better with our hearts open, even if it is excruciating, exposing. I know the revolution can’t happen any other way.
Over the summer, I told C I was ‘literally dying’ to go to BC. I needed trees: old growth, ancient, 800 years standing and steady trees. A few weeks later, C was asked to go to BC for work (!) which is pretty uncommon for him these days, and we decided to turn it into a longer trip (this is how your gal manifests). We spent 10 days driving across Vancouver Island. I turned my phone off for 9 days. And I hugged the trees until I merged with them, allowed them to take my weight, feel their fullness and denseness, honour their surrender to the elements, the ever-changing conditions, and their public declaration of their need for interdependence.
Something began to thaw.
It will take time.
I will keep trying to write.