I keep trying to figure out how to write something and I keep not knowing how it starts. I keep getting in my own way, talking myself out of trying and into just waiting. For what, I’m not sure… to be better? To suddenly gain some qualification that says, “I have a right to be here, in this space. I have a right to introduce my words into the void.” To throw them out into the milieu of TikTok dances and Instagram stories and 280-character Tweets and have them matter. Have them land, somewhere in the midst of the chaos, in someone’s heart. But I think the only difference between me and what I think of as “true writers” or poets is that… they write. They don’t think about writing—that it won’t be good enough, that someone’s already said it in a more eloquent way, somehow invalidating whatever they might share with the world—they just do it.
Today, that’s what I’m doing. Not even really with that much intention, more as a life raft, as some way of grabbing hold of something to keep me above the surface, because grief is a riptide that you don’t see coming until the world’s upside down and you’re so full of sea and sorrow that you’re worried you’ve been swallowed by the ocean, and it will never spit you back out.
Nothing makes sense in this No Man’s Land. There are no landmarks, no signs, no guidebooks. This is the trip that everyone takes, that no one ever really fully comes home from, and for which the journey is never quite the same.
And the metaphors! Oh man, the metaphors. I am pissing off some MFA grad student who’s sitting at a corner table in a New England coffee shop, thinking about how I’m confusing my reader with my meandering thoughts and patchwork figures of speech. But here’s the thing—that’s how it is. I use metaphor to explain the multidimensional, metaphysical, wild ride that is grief because that’s all I have. It’s the only way of trying to invite people into the journey.
Grief is this twisting, unpredictable beast of a thing that makes a time traveler of the bereaved—stopping the linear plotline of life in its tracks and flashing back to memories of The Moment, The Loss.
It brings up a rush of emotions and rips a hole in the space-time continuum, allowing for a reality in which the dead are still alive and I have to force past tense out from the lump in my throat because, for me, she’s still present.
And presence is a funny thing, for those who mourn. At first, it’s nearly impossible to be grounded in the here-and-now moment, and then time goes by… months, years… and slowly it becomes easier to feel your feet on the earth again. And then it becomes easier to laugh without feeling like you’re committing some cosmic betrayal. And then follows hope, and an eye towards the horizon, and you start making plans again. Life has always been moving forward, but you’re able to rejoin it, able to move with it.
But you move a little in the shadows now. Your presence, deepened by the process of grieving, is also deeper in the sense that you drop down into sorrow, into otherworldly sensations of Life and Time, and the brevity of both—in the most mundane and even joyful of moments. You find yourself wondering how deliciously incredible this life can be, while also sensing a deep ache for knowing that it doesn’t last. It’s or/and, heavy/light, beautiful/painful.
And I guess I’m figuring out that feeling it all is brave. Living into the messiness of this life. Facing the storm head-on, gale force winds whipping debris around you, soaked to the bone, wiping tears and snot from your face and screaming up at the sky in defiance, somehow still knowing that the sun’s going to rise again. Believing in goodness, in love—and choosing to stay open for both. Showing up for tomorrow, and the next day—for all the future firsts and seconds, all the story yet to be told. It’s brave.
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