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I have to admit that I’m tired of writing. This has been a good process for me, though frustrating, but right about now at forty thousand words and one day to go, I’m a little bit over it. I’m tired of the introspection and the emphasis on myself. But at this point, I’m not sure what else to write. I know that there’s more here to explore, even in such a small subject as my own guilt and anger and fear and hope. The human story is the human story, right? My guilt and anger and fear and hope are the same as everyone else’s, though they might spring for me from some other source than they do for someone else. But if there is no other, if we are truly all the same – another way to say Namaste, he tells me, is you are another of myself, and I like that, bowing my head to recognition of something in common between us all – if that is true, than my pain is your pain. Your joy is my joy. Our fear is universal, as are our laughter and our blood. Useless for me to say you make me angry if there is no you or me, just an endless, oceanic us, the greater thing.

There is beauty in that, and comfort. When I shed myself of the babble of culture and fear and manipulation, become natural and whole – and, I am realizing, this happens all the time, in every moment that I laugh without thinking of how I look while I’m laughing, every first waking moment when the world is new, every orgasm, every sneeze, every mile I hike in the backcountry when I am present and aware, hell, every mile I walk in the front country when I am present and aware, it happens all the time that I am whole and wholly me – then, the boundary between you and me, between me and them, us and them, all of it, it all dissolves. To see the world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wildflower, as says William Blake.

There is a feeling that comes over me, most often after a good yoga practice but sometimes when I’m lying in bed beside you, and sometimes also when the plane banks over the ocean and it all spreads out below me, the water and the edge of land. I imagine it as an uncoiling, a nautilus Fibonacci curve uncurling; it feels like an opening in my chest. My plant biology now makes me think of stomata, little cells guarding the perforations that allow carbon dioxide in and water and oxygen out, the essential gas exchange of the leaf. Something. Metaphors are, as always, insufficient.

Can you imagine emotion that isn’t an emotion, one that is just pure feeling? It isn’t grief or happiness or rage or misery or ennui or anything. Just emotion. Something uncoils in my chest and where it had been is a deep well of pure emotion. It makes me almost cry, makes me almost smile, makes me want to curl up and protect myself and at the same time it makes me want to open my arms to the great, blinding sky. I don’t understand it. I try not to even try to understand it. It is almost the feeling of holding back a sob, an aching tightness in the throat, and it is a relaxation of my belly and a caving of my chest. It is more like sadness, but softly.

It’s the closest thing I can relate to what the Zen masters say about “being one with the universe.” It is a feeling of expansion, out and out and out, through the tips of my fingers and my toes and the crown of my head, it is scarlet and fuchsia and deep navy blue and gold, swirling, swirling around my solar plexus and my lungs and my gut. It is as though a solid band of light is shining straight through the center of me. Yes. That’s it exactly: it is as though I am illuminated, cast in silver, reduced to the essential element of myself: I am a vessel of light.

That’s what I’m shooting for, I think. That moment. I don’t need to discover anything at all, I just need to learn how to allow myself to be a vessel of light, the very thing I always am.

I want to transcend. Suddenly this is everything. I want to move beyond this life: Not leave it, no, not leave it behind, more like deepen it, yes, yes, deepen, drink myself in. I want to see more color and be more color, I want to inhabit my body completely, I want to know the weather by the color of the sky, I want to feel the weather and the sky in my bones, I want a new dimension of now, want to stop skimming the surface of my life. Its my life, mine mine mine and I want it lived fully and wholly and until I bulge and burst out of the confines of the usual world.

This is the feeling I get, which I know I’ve talked about before: I am too big for the world. There was a poem I wrote once, like this:

all the world / will never hold me. / i stretch an arm / and tumble stars / off the edge of the table, / raise my voice / and the careful pinched edges / of the sky are razed, / spilling juicy sweet / scarlet dawn, / and staining my / tongue. // steam rises / from my fingertips, / obscures the sky / and turns birdsong / to skin. i strain / the seams of / the universe, / my breasts and / guts / and shins too wide, / too wild / to fit comfortably / within. no, all the world / will never hold me. / all the weight of gravity / will never / keep me up.

All the world will never hold me. All the weight of gravity will never keep me up. And it feels like, sometimes, like I’m trapped in a big plastic bag or something, so you can see my elbows and knees pressing and stretching, the strange outline of my face mushed against the plastic, straining to be free. I need to be free. But I don’t know if the restraining membrane here, the glass ceiling I find myself trapped beneath, I can’t tell if it’s “the world” as it feels, or if maybe it’s just my own self. My ego and my expectation and all the goddamned rest, placing restraints on what I do and what I think I can do.

They ask you, what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? I once had a list that went on and on and on: artist, farmer, novelist (hah!), astronaut, pilot, pirate, coffee shop owner, bookstore owner, plant store owner, midwife, brain surgeon, construction worker, diplomat, translator, poet, florist, physicist, astronomer, conservation biologist, zookeeper, editor, housewife, chef, masseuse. But we don’t believe we can be all those things, not in one lifetime, I don’t believe I can be maybe any of them, but I’m working towards something between farmer and conservation biologist right now. (Well, I suppose I’m working towards novelist right now, but that’s a different thing. Maybe it isn’t; maybe I need to recognize that I’m already a poet and an artist and a chef of sorts, that I don’t have to do them all the time to do them when I want to.)

As Howard Thurman put it: Don’t worry about what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and do that. Because what the world needs are more people who have come alive. So here I am, trying to come alive.

And trying to come alive, this time, in a good way. Because there was a time (and I know this isn’t a unique thing for me; in fact, I’m sure it’s the story of most teenagers at some point or another, to some degree or another, but just because it’s universal doesn’t mean it isn’t valid. Perhaps even more so.)

You see, there was a time when the universe couldn't be distilled enough.

When even my writing abandoned me, when my emotions flew tidal circles without my consent, and I was numbly horrified by the world and my place in it.

I was in love. The first, headlong love that felt like stepping blindly into a vacuum. Our lives had spiraled into each other, a desperate tangling despite wildly different roots. He was three years older; he lived three hours away. At the time this seemed like the greatest of tragedies, but there were other issues at work, other fears and angers, all of which conspired to make me feel terribly, terrifyingly out of control.

I never cut myself.
Not with anything sharp.

I tried to scrape control out of my flesh with my bare hands, fingernails rending little curlicues of skin and eventually, occasionally finding blood to mix in the hot shower water. Little jagged lines that followed the curve of my hipbone, where they would be hidden even in the swim team’s too tight racing suits.

Swimming until my muscles screamed, until I limped all the next day.

And sitting quietly through lunch and the traditional stop at Subway for interminable sandwiches, easing around dinner with the excuse of an upset stomach, lying in bed knowing that I'd done something. Knowing that, this time, it was my choice and my actions and the gnawing in my stomach was of no one's doing but my own.

I only stopped when the challenge began to lie in avoiding these things, rather than doing them. The test of will was reversed, and I ate because I didn't want to, my skin healed soft and scarless because I wanted it torn.

Later, with time and larger choices, with a few slaps to the psyche and that one terrifying burst of irrevocable rage, the desire to remove my skin was sublimated into a desire to remove my hair. Not trim it, not cut it, but erase it. All of it, and everything (What? The acceptance of the expectations placed on me, I suppose) I decided it stood for.

I still stood in the mirror holding a razor, but hair doesn't bleed.

And all of it, always, was backed, propelled, by the thought that I had no right. No right to ache, no right to complain, no right, in the face of all the pain of those I loved, to hurt myself on purpose. It was guilt and shame and anger, helplessness and distance and thwarted desire, more shadows and slices of emotion than I've ever had the words to name.

There was a later boyfriend who dryly smirked and informed me that yes, he did know how long it takes chewed short nails to rip through flesh. I think he was trying to sympathize. We didn’t get along for a number of other reasons, anyway.

It seems much better to try and feel life by throwing myself into it, running and screaming and loving and fucking and eating and reading and writing and cooking and dreaming, than by bleeding and weeping and carving designs in my flesh.

So I’m trying to do the first part, and this is part of that.

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