slow

species

I have been thinking about control, a key pain point in my life, which brings with it complications of trust and pace. What do I owe another person, if not some degree of control over myself? We can claim to hold space for each other in all our forms, but are we not also capable of easily exceeding each other’s capacities? I struggle to believe that I can unravel and not create discomfort, even friction for you. I guess I feel a little unhappy about this, but I also state it factually to myself: we are still too much for each other.

I can’t tell if this is pessimism, or something actually level-headed that I want to come to terms with. Partially because I know I’m a little off-kilter right now. For one, I got pretty shaken up last night juggling multiple important (to me) conversations, in the middle of which a cockroach showed up in my room. Like holding a tree trunk and shaking the leaves and fruit off, I shook up my whole room to corner the cockroach, all the while forming an argument in my head for its survival. If a central tenet of my new practice is to help all living things, how can I kill a cockroach? How can I say my life and comfort is more valuable that its life, its comforts? Could I, a human being, simply live with it?

Having suddenly shaken up all my clutter and items, I realised that the cockroach was also some kind of signal. Someone was saying to me: “Hey, you should take a closer look at these things.” I left the pretty chaotic pool of objects all over my room floor, conscious that it would become the opening task of next morning.

Ultimately, I could not win the argument. I caved in and sprayed insect killer at strategic sections of my room. This morning, as I began to parse through my things in a sleepy daze, I spotted the cockroach dead just behind my table. The presentation was oddly clean; it was on its back, lit neatly by the sun. One of its legs had fallen off (perhaps I had hurt it when I was knocking my things around to try sniffing it out), and lay just an inch or two away from its body. Something about its size (which I think is actually very average) felt stressfully enlarged. I could see the details of its body parts clearly. I felt some mixture of grief, disgust and panic.

I still wonder how I could have left it be, especially with the possibility of it laying eggs in my cupboards. Previously, in more ideal situations, I would use the long gripping tool we have to pick the cockroach up and release it outside of the house or out of a window, so it could survive elsewhere. But this time I couldn’t find it no matter how hard I tried. By that point, I was also panicking about having to fall asleep knowing it was around, unseen.

Cycling back to control, now. I am lousy at giving up control. I know a lot of it is because so much agency was taken away from me in the past. I know that total control is impossible, that a sense of control is usually illusory, a means of defending the mind against panic and fear. I don’t want to run away from the unpredictability of life. But last night as Control scuttled around evading me, panic returned. (Pema, you might be amused to know that I tried that trick you wrote about. But instead of projecting onto myself, I thought of the cockroach as Buddha, running around my room, reminding me that I have no control, challenging me to let go.)

As I have written many times before, time is especially difficult. I can give up control of my spatial environment more so than I can give up control of time and deadlines. In my mind, in my body, everything moves at breakneck speed, trying to beat the clock, even if that clock is me.

Of course, I have grown over time. I have spent many years teasing out the pain, coaxing the mind to think differently about time. I no longer get half as anxious as I have before. Today, though, the anxiety spiked sharply, and I was very conscious of it. I was conscious of what I was falling into again. I guess this post is part of sitting with myself in this soup and learning to stop stirring. There it is. But no indulgence, just gentle observation and acknowledgement. Then, let the feeling go in the wind.

Burrowing, burrowing.

These are all new feelings. Perhaps I shifted too quickly even for myself, and my mind is absorbing the world in shapes I’ve never encountered before. I am behaving and feeling in ways I find out of character. I have neutralised something, Pema. Am I still who I am?

As a teenager, I worked at controlling and rewiring my cognitive habits, at undoing the punishing mental logic my brain clung to. Now it seems to have become a method, a tool I can reach for at will. I can change what I think about something through counterthoughts and reproductive reinforcement, repetition. Does that make me un-human? I am afraid, not of myself, but of what people think of this side of me. I am defensive also because I am proud of this ability. I built a way out. I saved myself.

Do I let go, now? Pema, I think you would say yes. Perhaps my notions of control merely intensify the dream-like quality of all life, and underscore again the emptiness of form. But the mind is a beginning, too, for this practice. By absorbing your words and wording them into my trains of thought, I have entered some other plane of possibility. To see this life to its end, without choosing to fall back asleep, feels possible here. So how do I reconcile all of this? My machine-like qualities, and my desire to usher myself in as I am?

The work of being together and then moving together is so large. The largesse of this work has finally become visible to me and my eyes which are always new. Ah: this is the feeling. These are the questions that will rise up again, again, always between us all. What do we owe each other? How can each of our futures host one another, jostling in the currents of our dreamings?

These frictions, if we usher them in, create so much space for seeing and hearing each other. So much fertile ground for seeding new possibilities. I think I understand you more and more, Pema. I see what you mean. Yet, as you reminded so often, I must dance out of my knowing. I must remember I know nothing at all.

After Nomadland I craved the fish and chips I always eat near my house, that familiar salty, oily taste. I felt my heart lay open like a carefully-unfolded lantern. I felt an intimacy with all the strangers around me; I knew the little habits and longings of all our bodies. I was tired. I was waking up.

I want to give up all the people I’ve ever wanted. Being untethered looks awful and lonely. But being tethered looks even worse. Life crumpling up in the fire.

But all grief regardless. Just which kind, even though all the same. All one. Learning to die.

I know this self will pass soon, but I simply wanted to name her, this sober feeling. I’m in the heart of that sliver of ice lodged clean within me, scratching decisions into its walls with a match I light and light again.

I keep thinking this isn’t me but she is, isn’t she? Tired and so less conscious, less inhibited, less restrained. The self/I isn’t just the one who is lucid. But I continue to conflate the two. There is no I if I am not here.

The last few days have been… interesting. Between returning to the Substation in the capacity of a production person, reconfiguring things at work and tending to all these wounds, I seem to be closing many loops that started a long time ago. The external world (social and physical) is also taking up more and more of my conscious thought again, so the body is more active and the mind has less time to tunnel.

I’ve also been told some surprising things about myself. It is likely that no one but myself finds them surprising. My self-perception is always from within, where it’s dark and humid and buzzing, so I struggle to imagine what people see from my externalized behaviours and speech patterns. For a while I sought to align my insides and outsides, to create a frictionless flow of truthful being. I think those attempts continue to manifest, leading my stranger and broodier sides out even as I withdraw in other ways.

Am I very intense? I think I am, and I fear being too heavy, too fast and saturated. I recall how intense you were, and how that was wonderful until that sharp persistent force became difficult and inescapable. How could we have realigned our capacities? Firstly, we should not have been so co-dependent.

I know the way I use language is usually incredibly intense, even obsessive in method. Perhaps that is one root of my intensity: my desire to speak with absolute precision, breadth and depth. All in one breath.

I wish to be light. But I cherish this weight which feels sometimes like karmic inheritance. This is what I carry, even though I’ve learnt to set it down ever so often to do a little dance, to sing a few songs. That is my lightness. There is another lightness I am nurturing, which is about not clinging to the weight. I am learning to carry it with a lot of spaciousness, a lot of compassion.

The one who screams, the one who yells: I do not wish to be her any longer.

This evening she returned, she screamed, she yelled in pain at you. I had dragged her shrivelled self out, not knowing any other way to put things to you, you who would deny everything. She was confused but she screamed for me. She was thin and dying but she screamed.

She tired quickly. She gave way to a voice full of holes which simply said: Don’t. Now and forever: don’t, ever, again.

But after that voice came a very gentle breeze. It was me. A gentle breeze.
Next time, I want to glide across her face, a gentle breeze passing through.

04/04

I have been waking up to last night’s anxieties. Each time, after they wash away with the light, my spirit-soul begins to cry. I am in pain. Where is the wound? Make it close.

Whatever this season is giving and taking, I am revisiting endurance, forgiveness and release. It seems I clog up quickly in this time, becoming full of tar. It seems in some moments that I drag a knife-splayed body around as I walk, leaving a trail. I sound dramatic because the wounds feel that way, overwhelming, theatrical, larger-than-life. I feel myself teetering constantly on the fence between crying and not-crying, here and not-here, reaching out and withdrawing from touch.

05/04

This is some karmic wound, some deep revisitation making itself felt everywhere. Even the heart.

Every day I am tending to the wound, nourishing this body, carrying it into the day I need to pass through. Today the wound enlarged again. It enlarged beyond my grief. It enlarged beyond my life.

A long time ago, I stopped asking you to call yourself a bad person. I simply asked you to take responsibility for what you have done. For the things you still do. I have waited all this time for you to step up to the person I imagine you could be. I have even called softly, your name.

Today you drew a fishing line through my clay-heart again. It broke my camel’s back. It broke my back and a river poured out.

Wounds and wounds. This has been a season of confronting wounds old and less old, facing them head on while shaking uncontrollably, my entire body in panic. Being able to see myself clearly in that moment and extend very gentle compassion. This “I” suffers. This “I” heals.

Most of this conscious, very articulated practice has felt like an extension of habits and ideas I’ve been growing and tending to over the past years, which is quite comforting. To know that somehow, without realising it in a formal way, I was led to this path even before reading this book. By working hard at the fog, by earnestly observing and reflecting, I’ve been led to similar conclusions about how one can live. Of course, many things are still new to me, and in each moment, despite what I think I know, I am child of illusion.

Yesterday something awful happened to me, and I tried to approach the wound as I’ve been learning to, with spaciousness, directness and no-ego, only to discover that harm had been done to me. This runs into the bit of the book that I’ve only just read a little of, about recognising harm with sharpness and clarity even in your practice of living with less ego.

I’m grateful that I chose to meet X instead of fleeing home as I normally do, to cry in my bedroom. I decided differently for myself yesterday, knowing that I needed support and care. That is my joy, a deepening of my sense of safety within myself. I said this to X as well, that she saved me last night, because my brain had been overtaken and jammed on shame, and her clarity tore open the net. That’s how thorough, how cruel that abusive person had been, but also unfounded and stupid her claims had been.

I’m also stronger now, really, as in I believe in myself a lot more than I used to. I know how, even in moments of grave manipulation, to push back with clarity and calm (externally at least), to disavow the other person any sense that they are progressing with their nonsense. I know how to still see that I am full and enough, even if I’m overtaken by guilt and shame about whatever I’m accused of. I’m thankful to have had the means to get here, to have the language to then articulate when harm has been done, to sound alarms.

No vengeance now, but care. How can I extend this care outward, how can I make the future happen differently?

I often look at the Stats page of my WordPress, longing to know who it is that comes here. Who passes through this space that feels more mine than any other area of the Internet? Who reads these words which feel more intimate than anything else I can offer the world?

I have been thinking about my compulsion to blog, and how the sense of an audience or reader on the other side has comforted me since I was in primary school. First Blogspot, then Livejournal, then WordPress. It has been at least 13 years of blogging now, of needing to confess again, again, again. Like writing in general, no matter how I deviate I seem to return here. Or, I guess, when I deviate my blogging habit simply takes on other forms, like Instagram posts. Of course, blogging itself is a variation of journalling, which I continue to do sporadically. But blogging, unlike journalling in private, has an audience. And that sense of having a reader compels a slightly different me to show up. By reading, you call me into being again, again, again.

Poetry is one root and this is another, entwined. This mode especially is a kind of closed loop, where I write to myself to make sense of my life. I struggle to think without writing. This is why I am often an awful conversationalist. If we manage to speak fluidly about something, it’s likely that I’ve written about it before. Writing allows me to rehearse the performances I make with and for you. I would struggle to let you witness me as I naturally am, writing furiously, unable to say a word.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about what it means to sell my writing. And how blogging changed from an intimate, precocious thing we all did to something that is monetised, a potential job or business. I miss, quite painfully, the intimate, precocious thing. Because so much of my ability to think depends on written language, reading the blogs of people I cared or was curious about was like being in flow with them. I could feel them there, in their words, in a way that was intuitive and immediately clear. And this was not about the clarity or subject matter of their thoughts so much as how they were trying to communicate themselves to the world. I could tell so much from how they wrote: what they feared, how they wished people would see them, their aesthetic tendencies, their deepest rage. Of course, I don’t think I was always right about who they were. But I got a gist, a pulse there that they would not have given to me in person. In that sense, I was and still am a kind of voyeur. Isn’t every reader this way?

I could not monetise my blog. I have considered it, because I love writing here and would like to work in jobs I enjoy. But it’s the informal nature of this space and the ambiguity of our relationship with each other that is so special. A monetised blog says: I am the writer, you are the reader. Your attention is a commodity I need to capture so as to make a living. What kind of writing would arise from such a relationship? Our positions within the exchange, as well as what we’re exchanging (or unilaterally harvesting) would be too well-defined, economic, boring. I may make money, but my writing and the relations we have now would die.

Here, I ask nothing of you and you ask nothing of me. I don’t mind you knowing who I am while not knowing who you are. I write whenever I fancy it, and you pass through whenever you feel compelled to. You can come once and never return, and it would not hurt me. I can write freely because I have no need to pin you here, to harvest your loyalty and attention. I could also stop writing for months. In some ways, it is this freedom that brings me back. And as someone who wants to give more generously to the world, my words are what I can most freely give away right now.

I think what I’m driving at is that your presence feels especially precious to me because there is nothing that ties you here. In that sense, it is also confusing. What brings you back to this ultra-personal space? What is there here in my selfish bubble that could also be for you? Whatever it may be, thank you for reading and witnessing this me. Whatever your intentions are, I think of you as a warm passing breeze.