Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. May those we slain rest in peace and birth a vengeance big enough to keep them in our memory. Day 14 of public gratitude: the courage to beget.
Beginning anything is agonizing. When I say anything, I mean anything, not just the major projects you have been putting off: the herb garden, the extra level that you will use as a den, the creative postcard business you are trembling to start, or a new relationship that has you both frozen and fire and reaching for them constantly. But everything. Everything there ever was; every morning is agony. Most people dread the dawn, the rising sun still shades your eyes from knowing how they will get back to the comfort of their warm electric blanket, or if they will make it back at all. There is no clear path. They are the same: death and birth. You wake up and feed your cats and brush your teeth and your waking self kills your dream self and your shadow self tortures your light self and if you are smart you slaughter the negative forces that hold you by becoming flowing water down a mountain, and if you are weak you freeze and stay a lake inside of them. You are lucky because you are both weak and strong and you try to become elemental without knowing that you are a killing machine, or that you are already vacillating between monsoon and forest and light breeze and desert all of the time. You will ignore that you are a murderer every time you give birth to something new.
Picture your own actual birth. Perhaps this exercise will help you see how death is a necessity, a positive construct that keeps the ebb and flow of life alive. Conception itself is messy. The idea of it requires sacrifice, and the act of it requires two humans to bang together at such velocity that they release a part of themselves in the other so that you are created, not of your own volition or value, but of the blueprint and blood of their veins delivered in an orgasm. Orgasm is the birth and ending: the birth of three, the death of two, the death of one, the birth and death of joy at once, and the death of the current operating unit to create a family. One opens to receive and the other injects, and you grow from that space, that moment, that second of forethought or mistake that changes the entire web around those two people, and all they already love. You grow constricted inside of someone else. Everything you need is provided. You are warm and move rarely. Your cognition is simplified so that you are not terrified of the fact that you are underwater without gills, that you have been here before, and that you are trapped for nine months like this; suspended without a single daydream or recollection of past or future. On an instinctual level, you know what to do and that this is not your first time living inside another cell. You are a quivering cell trapped inside of a quivering cell trapped inside a giant room that is quaking slightly whenever someone moves. Soon, it will be time to make a name for yourself. They will name you, but you will earn that name by participating in the creation of another name. You will name many things, they hope. The host is eager to remove the parasite that has ruined her youth and has thrust her into the linear role of “parent,” and not just parent, but “mother.” It will all fall on “mother’s” shoulders if you prove to be a failure, if you prove you could not name things and grow them like little Chia pets lining the sill of your bathroom window next to the rosemary that is withering slowly. You are responsible for a future you didn’t ask for. All of these plants were gifts, and you are facing facts about yourself in the midday light. Not all of us are gardeners.
You enter covered in amniotic fluid, her uterine blood, and squalling in terror at the air that surrounds you suddenly, and you cannot breathe although you are breathing. If you are lucky, you have fallen into a pool of water and will be in your mother’s arms quickly. There will only be two to three people in the room and all will be speaking softly. Your body will be free of antibiotics. If you are average, you will be ripped from her uterus, high on Pitocin and pain killers, you will sense she is reaching for you, but you will be placed in isolation under glass for as long as a lifetime. You will be screaming as loud as you have ever screamed and it will not deafen the room, or stir anyone to action. It will be lost in a choir. You will hear screams surround you, a cacophony of anguish that drowns you out. You will be warm enough, but you will never stop crying.
I have been meditating on the idea of a linear story, the image of a straight line, the image of an idea brought fully to conception that is neat and cohesive and everyone can understand it. I cannot picture a straight line without drawing one, and that looks unnatural and wavy. The shape of a line has become important to me because it isn’t a shape and it never ends, and because when I meet people, they ask me about my life. I have never been clear on what to tell them. I do think my life has been interesting, but the parts that I find interesting may seem unreal to them, or may seem too alien. Do I tell them about my first memory? My mom came to check on me while I was laying in my crib. When I saw her, she was walking away. As she got to the doorway, I remember standing and seeing a witch, and then she was gone. I was just laying down with my eyes closed, yet now I am standing. Now, I am standing and the thing that was my “mother” in my mind has been replaced by a “witch.” Both words I had no true concept of because I had no language. That would confuse them. She was really there, and that really was my first memory, but did I really see a witch? Did I really feel my body stand? Did that idea of standing on my own and seeing her as a witch shape my childhood? My short term memory failed me those early years so I don’t have a clear vision of my life as a toddler. None of us do. I know from stories I was easy, gentle, and kept to myself. I was shy and withdrawn. “You seemed to entertain yourself for hours,” my mom told me often. “I was grateful because your brother was such a handful.” With what? I wondered. I sense, however, the importance we all felt as we were growing up. Once we learned words, movements, grabbing and holding, we felt real, actualized. Within seconds of conception, something whispered to me who I was and what I came here to do. It all came out with the amniotic fluid, the wash, and I didn’t have command over my vocal cords to form a yowl that stated “wait, write this down.”
Do I keep it light when people ask me about myself, or do I show my dark? Tell them about the time I was running away from my shadow but he found me in my dreams? Or the time something wrapped its spectral fingers around my throat and had a voice like my father but it was not my father, and when I told my mother what happened, she told me it was sleep apnea. Or about the paint chip that flew off my wall across the room as a teenager, and how the volume on my radio suddenly turned down. The recurring dreams. The recurring nightmares. The night the oven timer went off all night, the whirring around my ears, the paralysis, the being pulled out of bed, the couple of visitors that were brave enough to show me their forms, the sudden clairvoyance, the change in temperature, the foretelling. What do I tell them when they want to know about “my life, my real life?” No, these are not the things they want to hear. They want to hear about my real life: my struggles, my triumph, my blackouts in jail cells, my vomit in hair, my ankle bracelet, my promiscuity, my fights and toothy violence, my straight A’s and Summa Cum Laude sash despite nasty dysfunction, the poetry the boys drew from my neck with their fangs, the anguish of the several beginnings I faced in several shapes and states. Why are those memories more pertinent than the “non-dream dreams,” where my sleeping life met my waking life in a messy conception that I have followed back to the beginning so that I could get to the end with meaning? I have hoarded all of the perfect moments in my life and stored them in the backs of my synapses; never firing, never expanding, never moving through my throat, never landing on my tongue, never making it to yours. I have slaved over my diary for years trying to piece together the places I was alluding to, trying to understand myself, trying to understand that the shadow is real and timeless and surrounds us. Death surrounds us. Death surrounds us and yells secrets. I am still the quivering cell inside of a quivering cell inside of a giant room. There is no linear time. Everything is happening all at once. You may meet your own death every night and still never see it coming because you do not expect it. It is the one guarantee that we never expect. We expect love more than death. I laughed when I wrote that. You do not earn your birth or love, but you earn your death by taking your first breath on Earth.
When I thought of you, I thought you deserve a linear story and I began to try to tell one. This one is my favorite memory and I may never tell it again so I choose to tell it first. It was in Boulder, Colorado. I was napping in the afternoon. I was between boyfriends at the time, which meant I had a boyfriend but he wasn’t the one, and he wasn’t happy with any of it. I was sleeping in between shifts. I worked as a caregiver and was going back to work later that evening to see one of my clients, Virginia, my most beloved and feared of all. She had a sharp tongue and she whipped me into submission daily. Even though I had burned her counter top with my incompetence, and often ruined her breakfast by overcooking her eggs, she reminded me daily that I was loved even though I was idiotic. She was a fierce teacher. I had passed out from exhaustion from this daily confusing barrage, as was the only case if I was napping during the day, and in those sleeps, the sleeps where I was dead tired, I always had the deepest explorations.
I awoke suddenly paralyzed in my own bed. It must have been about 2:30 pm. I could see the sun streaming through my blinds from my peripheral and I could see my front door, but I couldn’t turn my head to see the clock or the window. I lived in a studio so everything I owned was contained one room. Near the stove, to my right, a ball of green was floating. I mean it was just a ball of green, like a balloon with no string or an orb. There was nothing attached to it, it was in midair. I will always be denied this experience, I know this, but this is real. This was not a dream, or it was a dream because this is all a dream, but this was tangible. Had I strength to get up and run through it, I would have felt my body enter the vibration of the green floating ball. What would have happened then? I can only imagine. That is where our processing neurons usurp power from our sensory neurons.
I closed my eyes for what felt like only seconds. When I opened them again, the ball was gone but there was a woman standing next to me. She had bright blue eyes. She was floating. She was all white except for her eyes. Those eyes were wide like skies or saucers. She kept cooing, “it’s ok, it’s ok,” but it didn’t feel that way at the time. Even though it was blurry, she looked a little like my first sponsor. I knew it wasn’t my first sponsor but the representation of the calm that first mentor provided. Energies have to take form for us to see them so we have proof of their existence. The meaning we derive from them is our own. I felt a little scared, but no more than that and then I heard a sound that is hard to describe. It sounded like my own spit being pulled towards the back of my head and I began floating up and away from the bed. I had no sight. I don’t mean I lost my sight, but in my panic I don’t think I saw anything. I couldn’t see the bed being pulled away from me or me being pulled away from the bed, but I felt everything. I panicked and screamed in my head “no! no no no!” and I dropped down and felt my body roll over back into my body. It was as if something had pulled me out to crawl in and I got back in first. I could never see my body to know that any of this had happened, and I had no proof that something had or had not crawled in before I made it back.
I woke up right after that, startled and sweating profusely, and called my ex boyfriend and my current boyfriend.. My ex comforted me and thought I had been astrally traveling in my sleep for years. My boyfriend thought I was dreaming and being histrionic and focused more on the fact that I reached for my ex for comfort (who delivered) and less about my panic. This was always the case. What is the difference between a dream and everything else? I shouted at him. And that’s what I mean. Everything moves in a linear fashion according to us because we keep time with clocks and watches and we watch time pass and we watch ourselves outgrow styles of pants, but we are not linear. And that thing that happened to me happened long ago and right now and is always happening. The first question I had at the time was: what happens to me when I sleep? Where do I go? Is this real or a foretelling, an investigation into a past life or a future moment? Or is it just a dream I make meaning from? I set out to answer that for the rest of my life, the preoccupation avoiding the bigger question of my lifetime, the whisper of the bang during conception, the blue eyed angel in my ear, the birth I’m doomed to earn, the death I’m doomed to serve, which turned out to be:
Who’s answered prayer am I?