Nonfiction

Dimly, As Through Glass.

I tend to bend toward ambivalence. Romance is a whirl I can withstand; romance does not quite uproot me. It is the man who makes me question why I have come, who leaves the silence draped around us in an open room, who is kind but, in every way that matters, begrudging. He is the leveler.

For him, I will be all three rings of circus: here, the contortionist, pretzeling with anticipation, folding in and unfurling when it doesn’t seem to bore him; here, the fire breather, holding for far too long in my chest whatever ignited my ardor in the first place; here, the tightroper. (I will spare you suspense: I fall.)

Even as the tents collapse, I am cycling, juggling, looking for signs other than exits.

It is curious, how rejection becomes an intoxicant, how similar being slighted can feel to being loved, how easily a shrug can absolve a lover.

Because I am as often a pusher-away as I am the pushed, I understand the value and artifice of open ends. I respect the intentional blur. Like breath wiped from glass, I can see the hint of a message, an illegible trail left by fingers whose nimble urgency once beckoned me near. It is still there, beneath the smear. With love, there can be no clean erasure, and as it wanes, I will always, always cling to the streaks left behind. Are they kitschy nostalgia or coded promise?

Here is where I will linger, on a sidewalk outside the glass. I will come here to hope long after I’ve trained myself not to expect, to continue questioning silently what my pride has stopped me from pressing aloud, to venture sentiments into the silence, bracing for nothing but echoes.

Beyond the smudges, I can see him moving on. There is no greater delusion than believing I can slow or reverse this and no greater hubris than wondering how my every movement may have impacted his choice.

But these are the possibilities that surface so simply in fog. This is where imagination breaks free and runs.

I want to hit the glass, or better, to break it as though this were an emergency. Instead I wipe the pane, collect the smudges somewhere along my sleeve, and accept for fact the sight I’d always second-guessed.

When he spots me, I will mouth: This is how far apart we’ve grown. This may well be as close as we’ve ever been. Let us light upon each other and not look away. We will never be so clear again.

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Nonfiction

How To Fight Self-Sabotage.

Turn 32. Recognize the Day of Birth in ways you did not before. Now that you are a mother, understand that this day, that this life, is not yours alone. There is a debt you must pay to the people who brought you here. There is a debt you must pay to the girl your body opened up–like a whale expelling Jonah–to release.

Know now that the time you have spent convincing yourself of an intrinsic unworthiness was not yours to waste. Those interminable years you whiled away, in conflict with yourself, could well have been spent slaying dragons, climbing Everests, loving deeply and well. Reset your internal clock accordingly.

Recognize that your worries–about the traction of your ability, about the accessibility of your talent, about your value–were the shallow trifles of the bourgeoisie. Women like you cannot afford to laze about on a chaise lounge of loftiness, noshing on the bon-bons of inaction. You–the gypsies, the transients, the intermittently penniless, the debt-laden, the mothers–must walk the length of deserts, must fashion a bridge of rejection letters, must set sail away from inadequacy, tossing overboard inattentive men, and finally, upon a new shore, must drill down to the marrow of your souls and extract the dreams you’ve buried there.

Remind yourself that this painful drilling need never have occurred, if only you’d kept your goals at the fore and tended them the way you do the face you so constantly lament isn’t lovely enough.

Repent of the audacity it has taken to thumb your nose at God. Tell Him what he has given you is potent. Your words evoke tears, evoke action. They occupy hearts, link arms, sit-in, sing songs that overcome. They stir the reader, alert him to the need for revolution, compel him to broaden his capacity for love.

Shame on you for re-enacting the parable of the talents, for burying all that you’ve been given, because it looked too meager to present before kings.

Beg forgiveness. Promise that, should He be gracious enough to let you keep these gifts, you will treat them as gold, not tin. They will no longer be susceptible to tarnish.

Give more to the world. Do not gaze at its magnificent surface, full of the colorful impressions of history’s trillions, and say: there is no space left for me. Leave your you-shaped imprint; none other is like it.

Concede that the artist is a public servant. But never surrender your growth to the public’s expectation. Should you find yourself in a box, obliterate its walls.

Believe those who tell you they cherish your work. You hear this often enough to trust it. Do not dismiss true praise as hype. Question those who would proclaim you the Next Whomever. You hear this often enough to be wary. Do not mistake hype for earnestness.

Finally, in pursuits of love, be kind to yourself. You were never meant to be the girl who pined for disinterested men. You always did, perhaps because it is easier to court rejection than to give all of yourself to the pyres of love. Be no man’s second choice. Be the echo at the end of the cavern into which he yells, in search of interchangeable women’s companionship. Be the voice he longs to hear again, now that he knows he never will. Do not become a salted pillar for him.

Instead, dance wildly at the water’s edge and bring your little girl. She must see what it means to at last be free from desiring far less than you should have.

Be assured: someone will be watching. And a love unlike any you’ve known will ignite itself within him.

But regardless of whether he approaches, regardless of whether he has learned to circumvent self-sabotage, you must slather on your war paint, with the girl on your hip. Begin to deliver your words to the larger space, honor them in ways you haven’t before, and watch them transform: tiny airless things at first, slowly yawning into giants.

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