(If you can get through the preamble, I promise there's a little story at the bottom...)
I posted at the end of summer 2012 about why I'd been silent those three scorching months. I was sicker than I've ever been. My liver was inexplicably shutting down. I thought I was going to die. So why didn't the writing return with the health? I've been well since late September. But, I'm still in grad school for one thing. And for another, I spent the fall semester getting high on love for a time, and then immediately (suddenly, unexpectedly, like they always tell you is going to happen and you should have known) getting my heart smashed to an aching pulp, and getting my self-esteem ground under the heel of another's ego.
How do I deal with this? I am open about the pain I'm in. I'm not going to tell all of y'all exactly what happened, but I need all the outlets I can get. This is my blog and I can say what I want here. I'd never publicly humiliate anyone but myself. And I'm not easily humiliated!
Maybe it's stupid, but I am more emotionally screwed up right now than I've ever been. Well, maybe when I was 18 I was a little more "screwed up." There were drugs and shit back then. But I didn't have kids to take care of or bills to pay or a job where people really depend on me. Or academic papers to be kicking ass at. Now I have all these things, and a heartache like I've never known, and a self-worth suck that won't stop sucking. I won't let this destroy me, and I am enraged that this has knocked me down like it has. I'm not down for the count, but I'm going to be down for some time, I can tell.
I have anxiety attacks. I wake up in the middle of the night and walk the floor. I can't get up in the morning.
I didn't get A's last semester. That sounds like whining but in grad school you're supposed to get A's. I didn't get along with one of my professors. That was stressful. I managed to pass my comprehensive exam, but only because it came in the odd week of non-turmoil. I cried in the car for twenty minutes before I went in. The French exam came the day after a night of unprecedented turmoil. I didn't cry. That exam, I did not pass.
The good news? I have focus again. I can read again. For hours at a time. And I've been eating and eating. So I think my neglected studies and my emaciated ass are recovering, even if my tender bits are not.
Today I wrote the most awful response paper on Gorgias (the Gorgeous) and Isocrates (I ain't Socrates!), You shoulda seen it! No I'm glad you didn't see it. That's one kind of humiliation I think might actually get to me. My writing, alas, has not yet bounced back.
Last week I wrote something cheesy that I will post here. I wanted to work through my experience (from my point of view because I can't speak for any other point of view) in narrative form, and I couldn't do that in plain prose. Writing it down would make it uglier. So I found a way. After writing this, I felt some weight lift. The weight that's left it still quite heavy, and some days debilitating. But I'll keep doing things like this (and this) to make the load lighter.
The Care of Birds
You caught a rare bird. You’d long watched this bird, and now it was yours. You weren’t sure what to do with it. You held it in your hand. You were afraid it might fly away. You were afraid it might have seen things that you have never seen.
For a time, you sang to the bird, and the bird sang to you. The bird came to know your songs of land and sea as you came to know its songs of the forms it saw from up high. For a time these songs cheered you. You watched how the bird stayed aloft even in bad weather, and that cheered you too. Yet still, you weren’t sure what to do with it.
You maimed its wings a little and flung it into a dark place, to give you time to figure it all out. It cried to you of the pain but you ignored this. It should have expected it. For a time, you didn’t feed the bird. Only scraps of sweet now and again. No real sustenance. It kept trying to sing for you anyway, but you didn’t like what you heard. It was weak. You wondered why it still sang. Stupid bird. You stopped listening.
So, one day your bird flew. It took off on its broken wings and flew -- defiant, reeling, in a tailspin, it flew, and it got away. You saw it as it went and you summoned a sad look. You hoped it saw the look. It lingered to let you watch it aloft one more time. And then it tumbled out of sight and out of flight. There it lies in the bushes.
Its wings still throb with the effort of that afternoon. Still, the wings have not begun to heal. Now the bird is without food, save what leavings it finds along the ground where it hops. Now the bird is without any care, save what it gets from the animals that pass its landing place. For some of them can’t help but stop when they notice the ruin. “This is bad,” it thinks. “I do wish I had those sweets.” But it thinks of the nights in your grip and it knows it won’t and can’t go back.
“That man,” it thinks in its little head, “he was so good to me. I flew so high, for a time. I saw so many things from up there! My little heart was always aflutter. And even perched upon his shoulder I felt I touched the sky.” But again it remembers your hand. The strong grip that went limp and let a little bird fall into a dark corner. “No. He would let me wither. He had made up his mind that birds are no use to men.”
It’s dark in the bushes. Cold sometimes. It makes the bird sleepy. For a time, its little days flit by in cycles of food and sleep. It is like an infant. And nearly as helpless.
Then come the nights when the bird’s own darkness is blacker than that of its leafy hiding place. And with each frozen sunset, each copper moon, each stark starry winter night that it must keep to itself and bury quietly in its breast, it grows darker, and darker still, until its tiny heart beats in spasms of rage.
The bird thinks, for a moment, that it has lost all its reason for being. The bottom drops out of its mind. But when morning comes, the bird recovers. As it has a thousand times before.
It resigns itself, for a time, to live flightless in the bush into which it tailspun-tumbled. There are plenty of berries on the higher branches, and its wings are gaining strength to reach them.
It tries a song. Some days its song is a quaver, others, a lilt. On a lilting day, it thinks of ways to cheer itself. It eats more berries. It has a dream of spring.
“I don’t know when I’ll fly again,” the bird says aloud to no one, and dozes off again in its nest of regrets.