The cost that comes

It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends.

More curious than endings however, are those moments you stand on the liminal, where beginnings and endings might be the very same thing. I am never more aware of this threshold than when I am travelling on a plane. Suspended for a time somewhere between coming and going. When I fly I often wonder – am I on my way now? Or is this just another leaving?

It is a question I can no better answer at 30,000 feet than I can with my feet on the ground.

There is a moment in any flight I have taken, perhaps 15 minutes in, when plastic stops rattling, when trays come down, touch the knees of tall men, and certain passengers begin the loop from seat to bathroom and back again, shifting from foot to foot as they wait for narrow doors to fold open, for strangers to press past. This moment, preceded by a telltale ding, seems to panic some, send them scrambling, but for me it is when I am most likely to pull up some simmering memory, searching through my mental albums as if on a phone, to find the one picture I know I should delete. Sticky inflight magazines are idly read, people scan through last year’s movies on their too-small screens, but I am back in his arms, or stumbling away on that rainy night, or knocking at his door for the very first time. Beginnings and endings coming to me all at once. On my way. Or just another leaving.

There is no liminal like the place you stand with a treacherous lover.

I read an article once, about men who cry on planes. About heightened emotions and hormones, and how Virgin Atlantic now puts warnings on inflight movies that might make you sob. I thought about him at the time. Seem to think about him on any flight I take. I suppose unfinished business melds with the ambiguity I feel whenever I’m going somewhere. I learned from an early age, as an exchange student who made choices too soon, that you can never go! without also leaving. Since then, I have used plane trips, those four hours or twelve or twenty-four in the air, to reconcile the cost that comes with beginnings. All the things and people you leave behind. I’ve dripped salty tears into plastic wine glasses, disintegrated thin tissues against my running nose. Cried more than any man watching Toy Story 3, or that film about a dog who dies (they always die). I’ve scribbled notes to myself, trying to keep my elbows in, and been grateful when the stranger beside me has fallen asleep. I did this not two weeks ago, in fact.

When I could see my next beginning stretched out. Beckoning. And the ending wound tight around the gesture. So entwined, that from seat 14c, I could not separate the two.

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I’m taking a Creative Non-Fiction class at Uni this year. A working backwards of how I usually write, where I’m used to spinning real life into fairy tales. It has been an interesting exercise thus far. The task last week, taking that famous first line from Didion, should have been easy, obsessed as I am with endings. But there’s something about writing with yourself at the centre. Some pause between me and the keys. Perhaps I have been hiding behind my fiction for too long 😉

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Aftermath

Week-old red wine. Just one more sip from the glass. I’ve been saturated for days. Imbued thoroughly. Isn’t that a way to put it. I’m soaked right through.

I can’t shake you off or swim clear.

There is work to be done, I know.

But I like the sinking. The aftermath, then, is always this. My tendency to get lost in the deep. And the way life reaches down, pulls me back up. As if she knows.

That I might sometimes prefer to drown.

Magdalene 2

“I must be a mermaid. I have no fear of depths. And a great fear of shallow living.” ~ Anais Nin

 

Sentient

I suppose it’s a bit like locking the door – then twisting the handle three or six times, just to check it’s binding. You know what you’ve done, but that doesn’t mean you feel it. You need something beyond the knowing of it. Something to click in the deepest part.

The ancient part.

I knew all along you were wrong for me.

It just took me this long to feel it.

GO

Image by Joanne Piechota

 

What you had

Would you do it all again? If. If you had the chance to go back with what you now know, with what you’ve gained from all of that losing. Would you use what you have to change what you had?

Would you start with the girl drinking tequila from the bottle, the way she thinks his absence is something she’s done, the way she tries to undo it when he walks in the door.

Would you say it’s not cake if it’s just crumbs and stop her from taking that bite?

Or would you whisper in her ear that it’s just life after-all and say Go! Tell her to live her life and then write it? Because it’s all there on that very first night, the little addictions, the tiny cravings. The way she finds a relief in transgression. She is barely out of her teens but she already knows.

That most of what she meets will ask her to break it.

Would you do it all again? If. If it were to turn out exactly the same. Would you tell her to say Yes! to the men who invite her in then lock her out? Would you let her become nothing but impulse and twitch under the skin, let her lose her layers one by one in their arms?

Or would you tell her love this one a little more – and love that one so much less. Would you tell her that it doesn’t get easier than this. That her eyes are on stars while they all look down. And they’ll only ever want what she sees.

Would you do it all again? If. If it led to this?

Rock Bublitz by Joanne Piechota at body, remember blog

Image by Joanne Piechota

Found this piece I wrote more than three years ago. Still not sure what ‘it’ led to, ha. Not easy to live without regret – perhaps that’s not even the point in the end. Might be more about living *with* regret and accepting it’s the mistakes that make you …

“Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

 

 

Milk and Spills

It’s easy enough to make me cry.

RockActually, I cry a lot. Probably at least once a day, if I’m honest – thanks to social media, and my fondness for montages set to sweeping music. Sure, it’s a kind of emotional pornography most times, but everyone’s got a habit, right? When it comes to modern communication, I don’t troll – I tear up.

That’s just the way I’m wired.

And I’m not a gentle crier, either. Think floods. Heaving. Wracking. Ask any of my old co-workers who have handed me tissues after sending me a YouTube link – my tears are not dignified.

The thing is, social media has given us certain permission – it may even be an expectation – that it’s okay to experience ‘all the feels’ over our morning coffee. As we scroll through our various feeds we briefly tap into other lives, and we experience this other emotion. This allowed emotion – outside of us, and brief. We’re encouraged to feel all our feels for a full minute and a half, and then, emotionally catheterized, get back to it.

Because one’s own sorrow, one’s owned sorrow is generally not so welcome, is it? When I am faced with my own milk spills, I am not nearly so forthcoming with the tears. Permission is seldom granted to really cry in front of someone. The kind of cry I don’t have words for, because when it happens you’re so in it, so consumed by it that self-awareness completely dissolves, and you are left, after, with a vague sense of having been as naked as you will ever be.

That kind of cry is different. That kind of cry is reserved.

I’m thinking about the ways we cry today because I’ve noticed there is another way. A way of feeling emotion that is both other and your own. A desire for feeling something that is not so much sought as discovered, and it’s happening more and more to me here in New York City as this adventure goes on.

Each day, some neural connection well beyond my own mapping flares, and I find myself suddenly, inexplicably tasting salt on my lip.

Eleanor Statue in Riverside ParkIt might happen as I run past the Eleanor Roosevelt statue on Riverside Drive, a squirrel darting round her skirts. It might be walking down Broadway on a grey day and Defying Gravity shuffles through my iPod, as if the street knows its own name. It might be batting blossoms off the page as I write in Central Park, or as I lay staring at the bright blue above me, watching birds and aeroplanes, and hearing the symphony that is New York at any hour – even a peaceful one.

Or it might be as it was today in the park, finishing Alan Cumming’s beautifully written memoir Not My Father’s Son. This book made my chest ache. As I walked home, I thought about resilience, about forgiveness and liberation. I thought about how callous humans can be, and equally, how tender. I thought about all of the private wars and peacetimes that make up our lives, and what a gift it is for a writer to let you sit with them for a while, even – or especially – in the dark.

NotMyFathersSon-hc-w

And suddenly, walking along Columbus with the dog-eared paperback tucked under my arm, I started crying. It wasn’t the floods kind, or the heaving. And it wasn’t the devastating, dissolving kind, either. This was a different way of feeling. These tears were neither personal nor premeditated. They were instead about feeling so human, so full and so connected that my body couldn’t hold it all in.

It’s what I feel when I nod to Eleanor, or Broadway hums back at me, and when the sky is so blue that I don’t mind living upside down. It’s a way of feeling the weight of other lives that doesn’t exploit them, but seeks to know, to feel them. And it’s not about being here in New York – though certainly this city plays her part. I think it’s about seeking the full story, wherever you are. I think it’s about stepping away from sound bites and snapshots – about no longer feasting on the scraps of sentiment, but instead taking your time to see, taste, touch what you consume.

“We get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognise them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty.

Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source.

There is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.”

~ Henry Miller

To me, these are Miller’s wisest of his many wise words. I’m finally tapping into that source he speaks of, and the truth bubbles up out of me whenever I recognise it. Which is why, when I suddenly found myself crying on Columbus today, I felt not shame but overwhelming joy for being so naked on this busy street.

Go home

TWhole Foodsoday, as I left Whole Foods (yep, with my tofu and quinoa salads), I got a little teary. My kind of teary, that is …

The store on Columbus had a sign above their exit: “See you again soon, neighbor” or something similar. And it struck me that this is my neighbourhood. This is where I live. It might not be forever, and it might not even be for long – but for now, this is my home. For now, I am exactly where I am supposed to be – in a neighbourhood and a town where even grocery shopping at an over-regulated, over-priced supermarket feels like a grand adventure.

New York makes me happy in the smallest, and most significant ways.

A lot is made of following your dreams. But I think it’s more about following your instinct. Dreams suggest something tangible to reach for, something to achieve. Following your instinct, on the other hand, means listening to yourself. It means paying attention to who you are, and what makes you happy, no matter the scale of your “achievements”.

Are you happy? Are you where you want to be? Is this your neighbourhood, or is there some other place, some other person – somewhere – that you sense is home, even if it feels too far away right now?

I say follow your instinct. Find your home. Go home. It’s easier than you think really, because changing your life is just as hard as you’d imagine, too. Which kind of prepares you for the darker moments – and makes you so happy when the sun comes out. It gives you such clarity around what you’ve got to be grateful for.

I’m grateful. I’m happy. I love my new neighbourhood.

And I’m home.

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