I can’t slow it down. What if I just start typing it all? The whole river that’s coming through my head. Word after word after word–there’s no way to do it. The moment I start making sentences, organization begins. All those words, all those feelings I’ve learned to associate with sound conventions designed to transmit meaning to others and create a sense of communion–that’s why I write. It helps me.
Sometimes I talk about Writer Brain. If I never see another word of mine published, I still have it. The way I’m wired, I need it all to connect on paper, because I spend most of my time feeling out of order. Whatever diamond thread stitches 1995 to 2018, right now to last week, I struggle to find it on my own. I grasp at it running through stories, the narrative I construct in order to keep going in “the right” direction.
I’ve learned to live by the cardinal points. Am I going north or south? Up or down, and which way do I want to go? The devil is forever in the details, so sometimes I keep it vague. Other times I lay out an intricate plan so Satan and I can rendezvous and have a snog (I would like to steal this slang from the Brits–sometimes it’s just the word). And then I set things on fire.
I’ve junior high-daydreamed several versions of a Why I Write (that thing, that personal essay requested by an editor, that I learned as an undergrad to associate with Making It As A Writer), and I even have one pretentious stab at it on a story that a flash fiction site published (it was my way of trying to explain why I’d stayed with my daughter’s father after I realized his transgender thing wasn’t a thing, she was she and that was that–I should have gone immediately out of kindness to us all, but I stayed and let falseness mark our lives. I contorted myself and swung from one flaming treetop to another and pretended it was all right. I went nose-to-nose with strangers in stores who harassed my partner, then I hate-fucked them at parties weeks later). It’s not necessarily false, what I wrote, but I tried to make it slick and palatable.
Today the words are a stream in my head, but they’re slowing down. I’m technically on vacation; all of my children are with their fathers. I’m using this time to study the map. I’m using it to reconnect. Right now, everything feels shattered.
Boyfriend says it’s important to get up and shower every day.
He says, Leave the house for something. You have to or you’ll go crazy.
I tell him, No major life decisions when you’re manic, and he agrees.
We talk for nearly an hour, his manic chatter recognized and named, my seizure-like anxiety (it’s sudden and physical, every molecule screaming to my central nervous system Something terrible is about to happen to you) tamed.
Thank the stars that he and I rarely sync up on symptoms. He’s Italian with a temper, and we’re both good with words.
The risk isn’t yelling, I said. We were gliding south on Lake Shore, one of our first car rides together. It’s sadness. We’ll drown if we’re not careful.
So we are.
Some mornings I wake up to a message that says, Love, I’m not okay today. On a good day, I ask him what I can do and he tells me, Nothing, you’re doing it. It’ll get better. It’s just bad right now. And it always does.
But self-awareness binds us; we disintegrate without it. We make nooses of guilt and stare at one another across gallows on the bad ones. We hallucinate fingers of blame, carve black holes in the sky around us. Climb inside.
When we come back out to breathe, we confess and offer absolution.
It’s okay to fall off the edge sometimes. Just try not to. Unless you need it, love. Then I want you to float.