Thursday, July 31, 2014


My chest felt tight and unusually heavy as we swung out of Panera, coffees in hand, to make the 40 minute drive from Oklahoma City to my childhood home. This was the trip home that ended things, most things left being sold, my mother's house contracted for sale, the end of my time of having a place to land should I need it. This all ended long ago with my mother's death and our inevitable dividing of things and the eventual acknowledgement that our childhood home would be bundled up for someone else to own.

But it's been a tender couple of days. I walk past all of the tables in my mother's house that are laden with memories in the form of glass and silver and ceramic and oil paint and I feel a tug, a grasping for these items that remind me of my grandmother's home or of some piece of family history that I'm not quite ready to let go. I suddenly think that I haven't taken enough, that my parsimonious view when we were dividing things was short-sighted, that now I need these things to fill up a certain void left by dividing and new space and the time when my own children might want something of their own. I have a moment when I believe that I have bankrupted their future with a few fickle objects, which is total bullshit because these things mean nothing to them now and will mean nothing to them in the future because they don't know the people for whom these pieces had value. Still, I feel the tug and want and I sit in these feelings for a moment just letting them come and go, come and go.

The most interesting feeling that I am having is the feeling of grasping at something, fine threads of memory that are silken to the touch but so fine that they are hard to feel between the calloused fingers of my memory. I pick up my grandmother's wrecked suitcase, I take my dad's toy monkey, I find an electric razor that may contain DNA that would help me unlock who I am through where my dad came from. This all lands for me at a remarkable juncture in my life. I am losing the emotional security of my childhood home just as I have moved into a new place of my own to live. I am packing up a lifetime of memories just as I am launching into a new sphere of work. Never have I been in such a transitional space in my life, all by choice, all completely without a concrete plan or emotional safety net.

A strong vision or the predictive power of decision trees have been my family's way of managing through some of the shittier events in life. Have a vision, you'll know what to aim for. Map out the predictable outcomes, you won't be surprised when the worst outcome arrives at your door. There is comfort in knowing what is going to happen and in a family that has had such wildly unpredictable loss, it's been a saving grace.

But wrapping up pieces of your life and closing the door on spaces that house your memories is terrifying. It means closing off the one thing that you knew you could come back to, no matter what. It also means that sometimes you just have to sit without a vision for the future, that sometimes you have to just be in it. And you think back across those people whose things you touch: remembering what a kind woman your grandmother was, or what a fiercely strong woman your mother was, or what a generous and loving man your dad was, or how you look back over your family history and realize that you come from perserverant and courageous stock.

And the grasping slowly subsides and is replaced by appreciation. And you muster your own courage and think about working without much of a net. And you can let go, slowly, and move forward, slowly. And so be it. Amen.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Harold and the Overlord Brain

Outside it's hot and damp with a rain surely coming up this afternoon while inside I alternately strip off my shirt or shudder from the air conditioning, the variation in temperature caused not only by the wonky HVAC system, but also by the freaked out feeling of writing, pounding things out, dipping in for short attacks on my memory that is part of this week-long writing intensive.

But I can't write or recall shit, my memory is bland sandy beige like the land where Luke Skywalker grew up. Rich things happening underneath with miles of dry camouflage on top.

This is painful but helpful in its own way because every time I begin down a trail, my overlord brain smacks it down. I can't write things down that somebody else might see. I can't write things down that may hurt another person's heart. I can't just let it out, so instead I scribble furiously about how my brain is seizing up, how moments of clarity about my life are opening up in this fight. It's not writing, but therapy underlined boldly so that it will burn into my mind. I begin labeling things: that was a birth canal, this is a life raft, the other is a black hole. All of the images make sense of the past few months of my life, of my fears of the future, of the worry of unmapped space. My overlord brain is scanning for ways to discount and deny everything good that has brought me to this place, digging deep to unearth the reasons why people and situations cannot be trusted. But I know my brain, and like Harold with his creepy-ass crayon, I run in front of overlord brain. I map it all out, the memories, the people, the stories, in order to let it go, these phantom limbs and unclosed circles. And god, does it feel good to just let it be.

Because the truth is that you will never make sense of it all, because that requires a type of honesty with yourself and others that exists in a special state of grace. Sometimes others are capable of that space, most are not. Sometimes they are already gone and not able to respond, sometimes your brain is just searching memory for clues to make it all make sense.

Antilamentation -Dorianne Lau

Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook.
Not the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication.
Not the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punchline, the door, or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don’t regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
You’ve walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
You’ve traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the upstairs

window. Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied
of expectation. Relax. Don’t bother remembering any of it.
Let’s stop here, under the lit sign
on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.