to compose, when everything else is decomposing
I am experiencing the decomposition of the person I was, have been. It feels, in a word, difficult. This makes sense, because I’m simultaneously taking ahold of my life and reconstructing myself anew. A complex and introspective task, for sure. Right now, here, in this world as it exists, it’s hard.
A question — is it exhausting for you, too, to show up every day pretending like you are keeping it all together as if it’s just nothing? To show up for your sixth zoom meeting of the day or to walk through the grocery store dodging the assholes not wearing masks like it’s no big deal? Is it exhausting presenting yourself as a calm, rational, poised professional when your entire self is just screaming? The kids are yelling about their screen time, and the dog needs to be walked, and there are bills to pay, and Congress is filled with a bunch of rich and self-serving assholes, and it’s going to snow at an inconvenient time, AND YOU ARE JUST TRYING TO SURVIVE A FUCKING GLOBAL PANDEMIC WHILE ALL YOUR INSTITUTIONS HAVE FAILED YOU, and you need to go to the dentist, and you’re just trying to date someone emotionally available and to whom you’re attracted, and your parents are forgetting things a little too frequently, and you are just trying to stay composed through all of this? Like, do you just want to lock yourself in a room and play Zelda, or have sex, or eat donuts, or whatever it is you do to numb yourself out/feel a little pleasure? Is this happening to you too? Are we in the bad timeline?
For the past six weeks I’ve had hives over half of my body. They behave idiosyncratically, and look like just a little heat rash or flushed skin but, girl, I tell you they are fucking itchy. They are anxiety-provoking. And I’m not blind to the fact that they compose themselves in patterns across my heart center; my chest and upper back. Like my heart is so obviously breaking and the way my autoimmunity reacts is to produce a heaping load of histamine and release it through my skin. My body is a cheeky fucker who clearly loves a metaphor as much as I love to use them in my compositions. It’s not even clever: I am alone and I dislike it and I’m crawling out of my skin. Literally. Figuratively.
Fine, body, I will listen to you. Fine, heart, I will try to stop punishing you. I will stop telling the lie the world wants me (and you, reader) to tell: everything is fine. To answer the question, “how are you?” with the truth. Just now, I am not fucking fine. I am walking around with pieces of me falling to the ground all the time and I keep stepping on them like stray Lego.
I am uninterested in continuing to present the illusion that I am composed. Never again do I want to walk into a room, to sign into a zoom meeting, and present myself only as the calm, composed Doctor of Early Childhood Education Policy, brimming with all my learned expertise, seemingly so rational, opining on VeRy iMPorTaNt ThINgs. Never again do I want only to be the completely independent girl who can travel the world, who brushes off the harassment of men and microaggressions about my race/ethnicity/gender/class (you look so white, what are you?) while I breezily board a cross-country flight and sit in a tiny seat in coach (next to a man whose one leg is definitely in my personal space) working furiously to respond to emails and hope the onboard wifi doesn’t go out because I’m on a deadline.
I am uninterested in the code-switching. Uninterested in the covering. I have little use for the thin veil of composure that white, male, dominant society says we must present at all times in order to be taken seriously, to be seen as valid. I am absolutely all done with the pathologizing of our feelings, of sublimating the things that cut us in small and large ways. We have all been hurt. We are all stepping on broken heart Lego pieces. Can we, like, talk about this at any point? Or are we expected to continue to look away from each other’s suffering in service of the veneer of productivity and professionalism?
I follow this account on insta, @sorryaboutthiswall. It’s just inspirational messages superimposed on walls and billboards. Today this came up in my feed, “people who need help sometimes look a lot like people who don’t need help”. I feel like this has been the big lie of my life. I have, too many times to not count as a trend, been called intimidating. By bosses, coworkers, by men. By my ex-husband and my mother, even. (Actually, let’s be clear that calling someone intimidating is less about them and more about you and your issues, but okay).
Is it not obvious that I’m doing what those animals do when they puff themselves up to seem bigger and more intimidating to predators? I definitely thought it was obvious that I am likely lying to you when I act like I’ve got it all together. I have a lot of myself together, I do. But there’s a lot to work on.
I am uninterested in this lie.
I really do think sitting in the truth of everything is kind of sad and hard right now will eventually make me kinder, softer. It will more accurately convey to you that I am uninterested in hurting you. That I’d like to partner with you — in whatever way we are meant to. Maybe it’s a small way: you’re a barista and I’m buying a drink from you. Maybe you’re my next love, my next partner. Maybe you’re a colleague and we are working on solving the child care crisis in this country. It might all go better if we really see each other.
So, I invite you to look at all of me. I also understand if you want to look away; I can respect boundaries. I understand if it all feels like too much for you. But I am no longer interested in internalizing the belief that I am too much. I invite you to lose interest in this as well, if it seems relevant to your life. Let us burn it down together. Let us build a society founded on emotional anarchy, but in a really gorgeous and supportive way.
So, imma be here, composing my heart out for as long as I need to. Through the persisting global pandemic. Until these hives go away. Despite the grief I feel at all that I’ve lost, all that has been taken from me. I hope you join me.