I don't know, I don't think it's something everybody needs. I don't think it's something everybody has daily. I'm not asserting ubiquity, though if I'm being honest I feel a little arrogant claiming what I consider to be such a staple.
Because sometimes you want to punch it? Sometimes it just needs a good massage. It needs one, get it? Get it. Get it.
The simplicity of it. After it's done. The ease of it.
Rolled into balls, squeezed into something and rolled towards an overwhelming question.
I once traveled four hours for a particular kind, then traveled home, and I don't regret a minute. Sometimes it's easy to love that much.
Some people can't tolerate it. Some people can totally tolerate it and say that they can't because that kind of purity makes them feel better.
It's not bad for you in moderation and if you can't be moderate that's not its fault.
I say it meaning me.
The sorrow in the feeling of not enough butter. As if the butter were the sugar making the medicine go down. No I'm not saying butter isn't delicious. I just don't think it's the point.
Nor is melted cheese the point, nor cold cheese of varying thickness. Nor fruit in any incarnation. Those things exist separately deliciously; it's a complement, not a necessity. They can feel like a necessity but they are not. It is the thing itself, even though almost everything else makes it even better.
I'm identifying with my subject. Or, as identifying was the point: overidentifying.
The genius who said "It's done! Let's put fire on it and make it... more done!" and how that parallels with constantly striving.
Well it's not a staple everywhere, calm down, it's not that I think I'm indispensible or something.
There's probably something interesting to say about how what one historically thought of as refined is now seen as less healthy but I don't know how that parallels (although on second thought I kind of do).
I don't really have a lot of fixed boundaries. It's a struggle for me to understand that other people do, and to respect them, though of course I think it's important to at least try to do so. I hear people talking about physical boundaries and I think: okay. Like there are a few people who I really don't want to touch me, ever. So I can imagine that these people who say they don't like to be touched, that's how they feel when anybody touches them. I try really hard to keep straight which people have which boundaries. But personally, with the exception of those few people who I know and don't want touching me and I have reasons for that, pretty much anybody can touch me (as a greeting, for example) pretty much any way and I'm like: cool. The part of me that would feel violated is not on my skin, it's on the other side of my skin, and nobody can touch it anyway. Similarly with emotional boundaries, personal boundaries -- the part of me that would be affected is both very far inside me and nebulous; very few people get close enough in to even approach those boundaries.
I tried for a long time to explain this and then one day I watched an octopus swimming beneath me and I understood myself. How we stretch ourselves out beyond our own imaginations to reach what we want. The constant thumping desires of our three hearts, so complex. How our brains are not contained in one place, but stretch across our bodies so that the right touch can provide information that our whole bodies process. The octopus is a master of mimicry as am I, which means when we are not sure how to behave, we behave like someone else but when it's safe we go back to dancing in the sand, touching what we want to, shining our own clear colors. If you put me in a box, in a tiny treasure chest, if you lock me inside, I will find a way to be comfortable in it or I will find a way to get out of it. A boundary is meaningless to me because it cannot hold me; I am not easily held. It is true that I can be pierced although this is more difficult. If I see you coming, sharp and pointy, I will first release a cloud of ink, a torrent of words, and see if I can't escape while you are blinded, choking. I'm sorry but I warned you.
If you do catch us, we are delicious.
It makes me happy to do something I'm good at. There's a way it feels inside me, like glowing, to be doing something well. Something I've noticed is that I used to feel that if I observed my happiness it might disappear; now I feel like observing it makes it more likely to recur. Hence. It makes me happy to be seen doing something I'm good at -- literally seen or as more often happens, if someone says like "good editing job" or something, appreciates my work even if I'm not doing it.
I think I'm good at my job, I'm good at making the crooked straight and crushing down uneven places. I think I'm good at keeping my word maybe not always but pretty often, when I say I'll do something it takes a lot for me to not do it. I'm a decent storyteller and I'm also usually a pretty good listener though I remember a bit less than I used to. I still remember a lot.
It makes me happy to read a good book, though I have read a lot of bad books and so I don't read as often as I used to or as often as I want to. Similarly I also like watching good television and movies (though movies I watch less, which is weird for a person who used to prioritize time for movies over time for almost anything else). I used to like audiobooks and podcasts but now they just put me to sleep within about 5 minutes; I still remember them fondly though. But a good book or show, the kind where I believe the characters, the story, no matter how improbable; the kind where I inhabit the story as an observer and am carried in the current of it, where I can be pulled up by a perfect sentence without losing the plot, these are a path to happiness.
I like vinegar and salt and anything that tastes better with vinegar and salt. I like dark and bitter chocolate. I like wine outside in the summer with a cigarette and inside in the winter with cheese, either way better with friends.
I feel most myself when I am alone and able to think through something and reach a conclusion that pleases me. I also feel this way when I am with people who help me get through to conclusions that are at least as resonant or more than what I would have reached alone. I like laughing with people much more than laughing alone. I have suffered more than the average supply of fools to reach the people whose love feels real to me and for the most part my love for them increases and deepens in ways that feel important. That brings me a lot of happiness.
I like and have always liked dancing; have often liked singing though most often alone, with the solitary smug pleasure of knowing the words; have liked writing to people I miss and pulling them closer in my mind through that communication.
I have been, in life and of late, so incredibly unbearably sad. But that's not to say that I have not been happy, because I very much have been. I have so much.
In the early stages of some neurodegenerative diseases, the brain starts firing more than usual. Normally as we age parts of our brains start to close down. As if the brain were a grand manor and some of the rooms, rarely if ever used, were gently draped in white sheets, with the brain's butlers locking the doors of the rooms to which we will not be returning. But with these diseases, these unused rooms are thrown wide open, as if for some tremendous party, some great revival, a revelation. The truth is that the brain realizes that the more frequently used rooms are about to be burned down and it's trying to make space for the thoughts that once inhabited those rooms, before they are lost forever. It will not succeed, but I like that it tries.
Similarly, or it seems similar to me now, the rush of happiness experienced by people who have decided to commit suicide. The serenity that looks like they've cheered up just before you find out that they did not.
I've noticed that many people in my life seem to be one or the other: those who do not seem to enjoy my whirling busyness, for whatever their reasons may be (liking me better when more reflective? viewing all this flurry as vainglorious on some level?); and those who don't like when I try to talk about the flip side of it, that my noisy busy brain is also filled with petty spite, self-doubt, overwhelming sorrow ("Chin up!" or "You're always so negative!" or "You have to stop focusing on those things"). I don't have any solutions. Most of the time I think that my acquired fluency in extroversion is interesting at best, and that I want to go back to my mother tongue now, the language of books and silence, waking alone in a sunbeam; no more feedback from anything beyond the dustmotes I stir with my breath.
I like smoking on the balcony and watching a storm come in, the blue sky swallowed by clouds, the mix of tobacco and petrichor and the birds going crazy, a girl in a rainsoaked dress running barefoot, her shoes in her hand. I like when the SMS code to check my bank balance spells out a word. My favorite word is still bed because it looks like one. I like walking home in the middle of the street. The small and large kindnesses we do for each other. Postcards. Listening. The idea of being your own cheerleader but not letting it go to your head; how would that work. I still can't play the ukulele.
Sometimes you will not be the best, no matter how hard you try. Sometimes you will not be the most lovable.
Sometimes you will not be acknowledged as being the best, even if you were the best. Sometimes people will not tell you they love you, even if they do. Sometimes people just won't love you. Sometimes it is impossible to tell whether they don't feel it or they don't say it.
Sometimes you will do your best and it will not be good enough. Sometimes people will tell you this and their honesty will set you free. Sometimes people will tell you this and they will not mean to hurt you but they will. Sometimes they will mean to hurt you.
These are things that I know but sometimes have trouble remembering. Days when we all raise our hands and mine isn't picked. Even if my hand went up first, or fastest; even if I know the answer best. The moment when my eyes are met, held for a moment, dismissed. The moment when the eyes pass over me as if I'm not there. As if I'm not here. The right answer in my mouth, tears in my throat, all swallowed. Salt and vinegar.
What I wanted to tell you is that I remember when this was how I felt all the time. When I thought that dismissal was about me every time. Sometimes it is. But sometimes it is not. There are days now, even months, when I just do whatever I want to do and I don't think about how other people see it. I'm here now, most of the time, though it's work. Filling my mouth with the milk and honey of not worrying about making anybody other than myself happy.
That's not what I wanted to tell you. What I wanted to tell you was harder. But this is a start.
I've been thinking about forgiveness lately, partly because someone recently told me that I am not a very forgiving person. Well, nope. I can carry a grudge further than you can imagine; it's practically a point of pride. I understand that there's a school of thought out there that forgiving others is a way of setting ourselves free and I will say to disciples of that school that they are welcome to feel that way and I celebrate whatever sets you free from pain but I personally would prefer to be stung just the once, just one time with the shock and the rush of tears and the ridiculous ages spent mulling it over and trying to play it different ways to reach different potential endings. "If I had not put my heart out, perhaps it would not have been sliced open," you think, these three a.m. thoughts that can take hours from your sleep, the thoughts in which you try blaming yourself as that's easier than imagining that anybody else could be that cruel. They can be, my sweet, they can be. Sleep with one eye open.
My feeling is: once I've been hurt, I don't forgive, because I don't want to be hurt that way again. And I tell you what: people get in the habit of hurting other people in the same way over and over if they aren't careful. I of course never make mistakes but if I did, as sorry as I might be I would probably keep fucking up that way unless I really really really paid attention because I have been practicing that, whatever it is, for a long time. I am a person who strives on the daily to be better, specifically to be better to others, and I know I have blind spots, so it's no surprise that other people who maybe aren't trying as hard to tread gently around the emotional landmines of others will set things off time and again. So: Yes, people have hurt me. Why won't I forgive them? It's nothing personal, or almost nothing; I have seen that this is how they hurt people or at least how they hurt me and I'd prefer not to feel hurt so depending on the caliber of the hurt I will either avoid that person in certain circumstances or avoid them altogether and that's how it is.
It does not go without saying that one reason I am thinking about this so particularly is that I have just been hurt in the fucking exact identical way as I was before and the child I was more than half a lifetime ago has two faces: one grieving, tearstained, broken; the other haughty with all the righteous impatience of the young with the elderly and the sentimental: are you serious? no: seriously? again? you chose to do this again? Adult me rocks the child as she cries herself to sleep, which is to say I put my arms around my knees and try to pull myself together. I could have known better. And I hope I don't forgive myself.
She asked what it would feel like to me to be stable, and perhaps because of the word itself I saw a table in my head, in fact the table we had just moved back into the room, careful so as not to scuff the new floor. We lowered the four walnut legs carefully into the space where they will live now, with small pieces of felt under each one to keep it from damaging the floor. The table wobbled a bit and I found another piece of felt to put under one leg, to steady the whole. Felt is a considerably better brace than a beer coaster in that it can be cut to fit exactly, plus it comes with adhesive that keeps it stuck in place. I tried to lift the table by myself, bracing my shoulder against the underside of the table and thinking of Allen Ginsburg putting his queer shoulder to the wheel. I couldn't quite reach the bottom of the leg at that angle, though; I needed help. But with four hands, four shoulders, the work was easy enough. We leaned against the different parts of the table, but nothing wobbled, checked it with the level and it was perfect. Now it's where it belongs and it's steady and reliable, a stable table. I guess that some people think of themselves being stable and think of mountains, or anyway of things that cannot be moved. I had imagined for years that I would be stable when I could get my feelings under control, like how a rock feels no pain, but now I know that even a rock can crumble under pressure. Still, why didn't I think of something more sturdy than a wobbly table? I immediately thought of something with potential to be stable, if I was ready to put in a bit of work, rather than something that already was. Later I remembered the house I used to dream that was built on a broken foundation, creaking in the night. I understand very well that stable is not something that comes easy to me, definitely not through nature and maybe not even through a combination of chemicals, but it doesn't feel impossible most days, so that's progress. And I thought: I would feel stable if I had under me things that were felt. And then I thought my metaphor-hungry brain is probably the happiest little brain in the world today.
On the bus to Berlin, the man in front of me was not having a good time. The woman in front of him had tilted her seat back so far as to pin him in, and tilting his seatback into my knees sadly didn't give him more leg room. So he pushed at her seat, shifted about, a lot of heavy and exasperated sighs. I think he tried to talk to her but she didn't hear or she ignored him.
Finally when the attendant came through with hot drinks, he appealed to her for help. And she asked the woman to pull her seat up. The woman was also clearly annoyed at having been pushed and jostled and she said that well, no, she wasn't going to budge. And the attendant was perfectly pleasant, and calm, and she explained that we're all on the bus together, and could the woman tilt back slightly less so that the tall man behind her could be slightly more comfortable. And the woman agreed.
I'm thinking about when we were kids, and we were supposed to tell the teacher rather than escalate amongst ourselves. I'm thinking about when we call the manager, the authority figure who's supposed to be able to solve the problem to everyone's satisfaction. I'm thinking about when we call the police, and when (and why) we shouldn't. I feel like in general the inclination to appeal to authority to resolve a difference, a neutral and wise third party, is a good one. I just don't consistently feel that the authorities we appeal to are more qualified than we are, certainly not as qualified as the bus attendant was. I wish that were not true. That's all.
Oh actually p.s. I totally wrote a letter to the bus company commending the attendant for her excellent diplomacy.
It feels very much like anger except whereas anger is pointed and sharp and fast, an arrow, this feels more jagged and stuck inside. It feels like sadness except the ache of tears is behind my eyes instead of falling from them. It is not released. It feels like the sour taste of any feeling held in instead of let go. With anger I have a choice: either I say that I'm angry and there is a chance to make it right, or I say I'm done and there's never a chance for it to happen again. With sadness I cry until it is washed away. But this, why does this bother me so, why does it sit inside me for so long. I can't look at you. I really can't make my eyes rest on your face. I have brooded on this for weeks now and brooded is a good word because it's a mother feeling in some ways. What makes it stick like tar inside me? The problem is not you. The problem is me. The problem is I hoped for something intensely enough that I thought it would happen, and the dissonance between the hope I had and the reality you hand me is echoing inside me and the hollow sound of it is more than I can bear. I'm not angry, I say to myself, and hear the truth of that. I'm not sad. I'm disappointed. Words I never wanted to hear in my own voice. Never wanted to hear them because never wanted to feel it, but also never wanted to fall down the hole in which I realize who the actual architect of my disappointment is. I hoped for different. I hoped for more. I hoped for better. I asked for something, and I got something else; either you gave me the best you could, which is less than I wanted, or you gave me something less because that's all you wanted to give. And in any case, it's my hope that led me here, to where I can't open my mouth because I know there's nothing to say. Oh, I am so disappointed. One of the few feelings I have trouble expressing. I swallow the words instead. The bitter burn on the back of my throat. The churn in the belly. It's not what one could call delicious, but it will pass. Some day I might even be able to look at you again, but probably not today.