Building strength. Buy coffee so infrequently that every tip must be at least five dollars. Considered a scone or a muffin or perhaps a croissant. No, I do not need it. The money goes into a jar.
Monday. My life has changed so infinitesimally from the lockdown that I forget that anything is different. What a contrast with March. Feel on the verge of some kind of release. Listening to music—the new Phoebe Bridgers, Big Thief.
Each song raises something that I have lost. How could I have missed for so long my own chatter? But every day I attempt communication, writing in my little book, speaking to another self.
Tuesday Ruth reports hearing what she describes as a shift in tone. A difference. Thursday after group it feels like something large has happened. But I am so tired. I go to sleep at 10:30, wake up at 8 in the morning, uncharacteristically late.
Lately I have been waking up even earlier than normal, at 5:30, at 6. Have in fact counted on it, though it is not intentional. I am glad to be free of this, to be forced to skip an early appointment, to consider where I am putting my time.
In the mornings Noor has been texting me from Egypt. When I wake up, we work over Zoom. It feels absurd that it has taken us so long to figure this out.
Dreamed I was writing equations here—complicated equations, algebraic, inspired by Lacan, with no hope of resolution. Equations that it was embarrassing to think I ever believed in. Dreamed my bicycle was stolen (an opportunity for a new one), dreamed of a cafeteria, of gluten-free noodles, of Marguerite behind the cash. Dreamed of wandering through an underground carnival—violent—dragging someone with me who didn’t want to be there. A sudden death—neither of us, but a third party who I had locked in a freezer, somehow nebulously enough that it was uncertain whether I bore any responsibility for his death.
There are different ways of being kind. Kindness is sometimes hard to assess. It may be misrecognized, miscategorized, misreported. Often what is mistaken for kindness is anything but. Who was it for when you told me about your regret? About how hard you felt it? Who was it for when you told me about how much of you still wanted me? Not kind, but a kind of performance, for the ego, something to satisfy your own sense of guilt. Nice, not kind. You don’t want to be “bad.” You weren’t. But you put a string in. Held it. Made it a little harder for the one who didn’t want it to end.
Dream of a frisbee criss-crossing the street. My I Ching readings, all about the spring, tell me to keep working, to stay on the path of gentleness and innocence. To remain blameless. I am doing this for myself. No one else. The transformed hexagram is often two, the Receptive, which until the final line resolves may be twenty-three, Splitting Apart. I write a gentle message in the book on my kitchen table and a friend messages me to tell me that she has had champagne and that she greatly appreciates my friendship. It feels like something is turning and I need to keep turning it. There is no rest—my mistake in the past, to think that once something has been achieved there is rest. I am working for myself. The I Ching advises this—there are times of recovery but there is not rest. Somehow everything seems like a dream, even a pleasant one. Didn’t I dream it all, long ago? As I am running someone shouts after me—but I am wearing headphones and realize only halfway down the street. I don’t wish to turn around, don’t know who shouted. Imagine myself in their eyes, running into the dark.
The city is emptying. My friends want to leave, or are leaving, or have left. Everyone imagines their lives will get easier with a dishwasher. Especially writers, so accustomed to pulling themselves up over the lip of meaning, resting themselves on a shelf of writing. Turning experience into material. With every polished paragraph my life will get easier. On Instagram the comedian jtfirstman, first a writer for TV, says that it was a long time before he realized that the writing would never love you back. No matter what you do it will not love you.
Filling that hole in the self. Every writer with ambition has a flurry of activity, let’s say the first ten years. And every writer with ambition must at some point realize that something else needs filling. My mistake has always been to imagine holding up a single page, or five, or a poem, or a sentence, or a paragraph, or a book, and imagining God will stop time, as in Borges’s short story “The Secret Miracle.” Writing about being killed in the street with a short story in my pocket. Time stopped to save a poem, not a life.
But now I am stopping time. I need more time with myself. I need to give back to what I have for so long neglected. Cassidy says that perhaps I will be like a monk, studying the medieval period on my own, in quarantine. If I didn’t find them so tedious I would buy a quill pen. Instead I’ve taken a huge leather notebook—gifted one year at Christmas, too big to ever use—and placed it on my kitchen table. I’m not sure what I will do with it—it is a place for intentions, transformation. A place to dream and to imagine. A place, overall, to grow—to kill that desire for quickness, to still the ego, to find a slow and steady way forward, in love and in myself.
Impossible weather outside. I walk south, east, north again. At Christie Pits watch the crowds from the bowl, in the general murmur. Stragglers sit in the grass on the hill, reading books by themselves. Want something to jump in me. I am coming closer. I am making promises to myself. I am inching in one direction—something threatens to overtake me. But I know that when it finally does it will be good.
Maelstrom—on the bed, camera turned off on the Zoom while the guests in the virtual classroom describe a surprisingly feasible possible life. Suddenly overwhelmed, taking a break from the twenty-four hour scrutiny. This weekend I will be on camera for upwards of eleven hours. Too many to count now, sadly on one of the nicest weekends of this fall. But I expect in this time something will happen—an opening up. A dislodging. A release.
Small ziplock of liver treats in my winter coat, cut into tiny cubes that have somehow retained their shape. Hallam is almost unpassable on the south side—but I learn quickly that the ice isn’t everywhere so thick. Nostalgic light—children wait in their coats, kicking at the snow, while their parents lock up behind them.
Second light like this in which I do not know you. Wake up from a dream that turns angry—you’ve invited someone to stay with you in the house up north, you take the master bedroom, I sleep in the basement, and still you won’t talk to me. I’m working outside and you go into the garage to paint—to get away, you say. There’s an animal strung up via something hanging down from the rafters, from a kite or lifejacket or the straps of something else displaced. It is struggling in the dim light.
It seems like a dog—a whippet—but as I move closer I discover it is a fawn, panicked and wild. And you aren’t painting. You’re sitting on the tractor, where you explain that the deer was like that when you entered, and that anyway you’ve given up the dog that I thought it was—he had some minor complication which compelled you to make a switch.
I am surprised that you could do that.
I think we should lower the deer but am too afraid to go near it—you seem unconcerned, don’t want to help me, and are proven right in the end, as the deer shakes itself loose, bounds out of the garage on its own when I go to check up on it again. Still we aren’t talking, but communicating in the pages of a spiral-bound notebook that you’ve taken with you into the garage.
Things are going well until you begin to write “Maybe next year…” and then cross it out. (“Is it evil?” you have recently wondered while making a similar statement.) I say I am going to march into the bedroom, kick the man—you say his name is “Jeff”—out. That’s not why I am angry but it feels like something I can control. In any case there’s really no reason he should be there—you have taken things too far, involved me when I need not be involved.
Something I picked up from the internet: “I am allowed to be angry with people when they hurt me, even if they are sensitive and can’t cope well with being told they did something wrong. Their sensitivity does not mean I have to bottle up my feelings and their lack of coping skills does not make me expressing my anger abusive.”
Times when I couldn’t even say it. Couldn’t report the feeling without a back up, a fight. Even knowing that I loved you. What was left then but eruption, without the privacy of disengagement, of working towards some good end for bad feelings? If there is no room for disappointment then everything comes to an end.
But I know I did the same.
Oh well. On my walk back this morning a mantra from a meditation that I am intimately familiar with comes to me, over and over. The most important phrase, I suddenly realize—notice, and let go. Notice, and let go. Acknowledgment and dispersal. It’s what I’m training myself to do.