I am easing off social media. At least some forms of it. And wondering how to use the rest of it. I’ve been asking myself when I’ve been happiest – or at least most content – with my writing. I think that also means most confident. Proud. When it was easy with no competitive tug, no desire to one-up, no resentment over snubs up and down the hierarchy. Actually, when I was blissfully unaware of hierarchies.

Most of the time I don’t think about it. But the “community” is like a vortex. And the advice (largely American) is that to create a network you have to “give to the community”. And often that falls onto my dinner-party plate looking a lot like quid-quo-pro and obligation. And I don’t have the energy to play. This isn’t when I am happiest, most confident. What begins as authentic seems to edge into artifice.

I am too awkward a creature for this dance.

I am beginning to think there is contentment in the doing. And that it is only found the doing. Everything else is a kind of high. A spike. A moment. And for me, each of those highs is followed by a fall.

So I am up at 4.15, trying to write myself into a steady hum.

But pride? Is there such a thing as pride discrete from admiration? Such a thing as identity discrete from a market economy definition? People “indulge” in hobbies. Self-indulging. I looked up the definition of indulging and it is to allow oneself to enjoy… So why the negative connotation?

So this is me, stumbling over the obvious again: the remnants of America’s Puritan work ethic. The required justification for “Who do you think you are?”

Not even a tall poppy. This is the voice inside my own head.

In my process journal, I’ve been writing about wasps. There are thousands of species and some are solitary, some live in hives. In most hives, the queen controls who may lay eggs with her pheromones. But in some hives, female workers also lay eggs – unregulated by the queen. However, in these hives, the workers destroy one another’s eggs before they hatch. In service to the Queen.

I’ve been writing about what it is to have a life in service. About learned self-erasure. Asking myself if this isn’t how the concept of martyrdom developed in the first place. To appease our instinct to compete in the hierarchy, while simultaneously demanding self-erasure. All for the greater good.

Win for losing. As they say. But don’t enjoy that either. Humble martyr. Get there by not aiming. Don’t even have that thought in your head. That’s also punishable by death.

I’ve been writing about potter wasps. They live and work alone on the heaths. Shaping vessels from mud. Filling them with life. That’s not to say that it’s pretty. But, I admire the work, the life, the focus, the art of it.

“I cried to be with her at the laundromat on Wednesdays. Begged. And there were times she did take me and I walked on the hard tiles in soft shoes – pushed the wayward wheeled carts around. Leaned against the warm washing machines that vibrated against my back. Stared at the people. Watched the clothes tumble behind the glass. Wondered what it would be like. Like through a looking glass?
Laundromat white noise is a thing. And it is interwoven with textures and surfaces. And the sweet/dirty smells of poverty.

And refuge from home – because going home, staying home, home is just a temporary place for a mattress and a record player, an ashtray and a coffee cup that needs cleaning.

The stains wedge themselves into the seam around the bottom of a mug. Deliberately. It feels deliberate. This side of the looking glass is filled with willful, colluding objects. Dishes are the Wednesday night segue to a beating which is a prelude to everything else […]

I still don’t know how to write about this. Not even in the process journal. There is another sentence after the ellipses. But one that risks too much.

Because the party line is “you have nothing to be ashamed of”, but the real response is “for God’s sake, what’s the point of talking about it?” It’s (it’s meaning the events that make you you are) not worth acknowledging, what good does it do to upset people? Is it worth titillating people who get off on that sort of thing?

Titillating is an uncomfortable word.

If someone got off hurting you, you can bet someone will get off hearing about it. So at what point does an act of fury and reclamation become an act of self-immolation?

Regarding the sexual assault on the performance artist Yan Yinhong by two men in the audience, while the rest of the audience filmed with their phones:

Mr. Wu [Wei] concluded that the men’s actions were a form of interactive art, though he conceded that at one point one man may have overstepped a boundary — when he unzipped his fly and took out his penis, a moment also confirmed by Ms. Yan. Even that “basically fit the meaning and needs of the piece,” Mr. Wu wrote.”

New York Times

I already despised Wu Wei.

Interactive art would be consensual. This was a crime. One so familiar we gasp – then shrug.

Why do we turn the anger on ourselves when we perform it? Write it? Because the alternative is to become an abuser?

We can’t control what we put in the world. No matter the care we take in terms of context. A word like vulva will jump out of a paragraph and work idiosyncratic magic. No two people will hear the same story. Even a word like finger can be uncomfortable, can titillate. Or terrify.

And god save us all because someone’s always burning, and we don’t even notice.

This morning feels familiar. A dog on the little rug near my feet. The coffee machine grinding in the other room. The delicious click-click of this cheap keyboard that is beginning to look like a mysterious, archaic tool.

This isolation.

The light is streaming in through the window already, but next week we move the clock backs and I will be writing in the dark again. I rather like that phrase: writing in the dark.

Yesterday I was thinking again about a drawing exercise I did so very long ago, but that has stuck with me. Mr. Shannon told me to draw my hand in detail. Every detail. But I had a kind of table over my paper that prevented me from seeing it. I wish I had that paper still. I remember being fascinated by the quality of the lines. The fragmentary nature of our sight. Of ourselves. I’ve been working on this again these days. Playing with pencils and lines. Simultaneously going at it “blindly” and yet seeing more than one normally does.

There was a time when I kicked myself for not being able to pull it all together – all the pieces – all the sensitive lines – to make a whole that was representational, recognizable. But I’m fine with it now. The sensitive lines convey just as much truth as the representational image. Something is always lost when you zoom out.

Everything is a metaphor.

I gravitated toward what I was told I was good at. Always relying on what I was told I was good at. I think it’s funny that my poetry has always been as fragmented as my drawings. These days I think it is all one. I’m reconsidering what poetry is. Reconsidering what kind of verification I need and don’t need from others.

To be honest: what kind of verification I don’t want to need from others.

My son tells me I have beautiful handwriting. He can’t read it though and calls it a secret language. This is the same kid who has zero interest in poetry. I have no idea if those things are related.

I have students who refuse to write anything by hand. None of them have ever learned cursive writing. I know there are a lot of theories about learning and handwriting, but I am just thinking: what a flat world without it.

Do children still finger paint in kindergarten?

Now I want to finger paint.

Maybe the drive to be more childlike as we age is less about reverting to innocence, than a call to engage again with the physical world while we can?

a rock fits nicely
in your palm – and you scratch
a white scar into
the wall of the bluff shelter
your will will shape the world after