The cat and I have a ritual. She head-butts me, and I feed her. There’s more to it, really; she meows pathetically, and I apologize for the inconvenience of her hunger (even though I know she’ll only take two bites). I grab her food and pull back the tab–making a point to fashion a scoop from the lid, excavate the food into her dish, and drop the can into the trash. The whole process happens very quickly;
This morning, however, thoughts are fighting for space in my head; this blog post, the WIP, COVID, the Holidays, the DMs I’m ignoring, the DMs I should ignore, the question of my sanity–or lack of it. I should clean. Start some laundry. Drink something besides coffee. Maybe I’ll put the chicken in the crockpot and figure out what to make of it later. Did I pay the water bill? I’m sure I did– I think.
Pop. Plop. Drop…Thud.
I stare at the glob of turkey and giblets pate at the bottom of the trash can, the scoop-spoon still in my hand. The cat looks from me to the trash and back again from her elevated perch where we feed Her Royal Highness (to keep the yumminess away from the dog, Glutton McFluffybutt), clearly contemplating if I mean for her to jump in after it. Another can of food and another apology–except I mean this one.
Any levelheaded person would tell me that I can skip a day of writing, perhaps attend to my adult duties for a bit. Put on some lip gloss and a happy face. At least pretend to have some semblance of normality. Except this is my normal, it always has been. I have had my nose in a book for as long as I can remember; it was the way I discovered the world and my place in it. It was my escape, my refuge, and my sanctuary. My hidden tree-house in the woods, and my secret garden behind the wall. I could be anyone, live anywhere, interact with people, and never worry about saying or doing the wrong thing. Reading helped me make sense of the world.
Writing helps me make sense of myself.
I try to write every day, although to be honest, I’ve gone months this year without writing anything at all–outside of deflective Facebook posts and responses to impassioned texts about the current state of American politics. Those things’ culmination is probably what led to this state of inner-chaos; too much absorbing and not enough purging. It’s almost like I was waiting for permission to acknowledge the awfulness around me, to stop believing all those anxiety-inducing motivational posts meant to decrease the anxiety of a global-pandemic. When I did create, I fought to write happy things lest I speak my fears into reality. I needed to focus on staying positive and upbeat, and unafraid. It turns out this is not a beneficial course of action for me. My creativity suffered. I suffered.
A few weeks ago, I decided to write every day–no excuses. I decided to go on archaeological digs in the emotional wasteland that sometimes doubles as my personality–just to see what I could find. I unearthed both treasure and toxin, and I started writing it all down. And not that safe kind of writing you do on the off chance someone might stumble across your word vomit and have irrefutable proof of your derangement. No, I stopped aiming for the safe middle ground between the crap we bedazzle in an attempt to make ourselves seem not-quite-so-awful and the sob-stained passages of writing exercise-turned-exorcism. I wanted the shit to stink and the tears to flow.
Let me tell you–it did. And it felt good.
The thoughts I’d been carrying around for far too long stayed on the page, only a couple boomeranged back to lurk in the shadows of my mind–and their days are numbered. My fears didn’t manifest–they got smaller when they hit the light of day; their roots shallow, their yield small. I stopped worrying about being “all in this together” and instead focused on some self-care that didn’t include putting on a happy face. It’s a damn pandemic; there are days I’m happy if I manage to wash my face. Please don’t take this wrong–I haven’t abandoned my humanity or my fellow humans altogether, but they do say the in the event of a crash landing–you need to put your own oxygen mask on first.
That’s what writing is for me–it’s honoring the world around me and my place in it. It’s exploring the darkness instead of succumbing to it. The kids aren’t going to starve, the house isn’t going to fall, and I will eventually do the laundry–albeit most likely while wearing little more than a marginally dirty t-shirt and my last pair of clean underwear. Understandably, I’m a little scattered and weird right now–the whole world is a little scattered and weird. What’s important is that I’m starting to find my voice again after months of being too afraid of what I might say.
I put my oxygen mask back on.
And then I picked up a pen.
That’s about as normal as I’m going to get.