A Solitary Wasp

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.

A Changeling

I look down at my fingers on the keyboard and have to remind myself that there is nothing here to be ashamed of. These twisting bones should be honored.

But it’s not easy.

For months I’ve been working on the manuscript for Impermanence, which is all about embracing change because there is nothing else real.

It’s as though most of us were immortal creatures swapped at birth, faeries misplaced among humans. Puzzled by our strange bodies. The cellulite that comes with menarche, the skin-tag-chaos of cells gone feral. The relaxing, the what’s-all-the-fuss attitude that these creatures, our bodies take on.

“What’d you win for all that work?”

I make a lot of things harder than they are. Putting my attention on ornamentation and packaging instead of the essence of this thing that is living. Even in the middle of a delicious bit of creation, I can step back and judge it. Shift the point of view. Objective, not subjective. Passive, not active. Contemplative, not experiential.

Clearly, I believe in the value of contemplation. But in service to the experience, and not vice versa.

Oxpeckers prevent parasites from sucking the blood of an animal by plucking them from the skin. But an over-eager oxpecker can open new wounds. Can prevent healing.

All medication is poison.

And the metaphors go on. And on. Because this neutrality is the truth of the world.

The neutrality of time. It is interesting that we say, “passing”. Because the metaphor fixes “time” as a thing that moves past us. Personified as a series of creatures that wander through our lives. Or through the world. This time, that time that was.

I am having a difficult time (!) conceiving of time as a continuous present and nothing more. (And believe me, I’ve been toying with this idea for months now). Time does not pass. Time is the only constant and the only reality and everything else is a story in the present.

Maybe this is what the faerie knows. And just can’t relate it to human semiotics?

spaces between open:
the highs and lows, the terrain
of years – a topography
of living more visible
before the final closing

Healing as Praxis

The 26th leg av the Camino.

Today our lovely guide asks us to put our intention on “healing” today. And I meet with another point of internal resistance.

One which takes me completely by surprise.

I was listening to a podcast the other day about trauma. The interviewee’s position was that people who have insecurities have them because they were traumatized as children. And after all these years of therapy, I am beginning to wonder if there is really any benefit in using the metaphors of wounds and healing and scars when it comes to processing the emotional experiences of our lives.

The whole paradigm of trauma implies a state of perfection that is damaged. And I find myself asking: where is that state of perfection? If someone has a concept of that, my guess is that it precedes the time where they became conscious of their own point of view being discrete from the rest of the world. The toddler whose mother closes the bathroom door for the first time while she pees alone, may very well experience that moment as a small trauma: an abandonment. The spectrum of abandonment is long and varied and ultimately subjective.

Isn’t our concept of this “first trauma” a form of nostalgia? A fiction?

I am in no way belittling or denying the reality of the pain that we endure. And believe me, it both surprises me – and makes me uncomfortable – that I find myself asking these questions.

What if we framed the small and large events of our lives as something other than trauma? These are events. Phenomena. I am certainly aware that this is not a novel thought. I’ve read the philosophers, but there is always a different kind of understanding when you plod the long way around and bump into to the idea on your own: experiential-ly, not intellectually.

Healing is generally defined as a form of “restoration”. Or reparation. I find it ironic, the definitions of the word reparation – one being healing, and one being payment for being wronged. Am I the only person who has muddled the two? Expected healing in the form of payment: a lollipop from the dentist, an eye for an eye, a medal, a title – moral superiority.

It might just be me. I’m not proud of this. I often question my motives for having “shown off” my scars. Doing so always leaves me with with a feeling of shame. When will I decide I am “healed”? Believe I’ve received enough reparations to move on?

I’m considering other metaphors. These events as shapes, not ugly or pretty in themselves, but shapes I can sort into mosaics. These stories (since I cannot let go of the stories) that are not about healing and happy endings, but about the weaving of compassionate observations into a greater whole. How can experiences make me a better person, but – no: and not give me a sense of being more deserving?

I’m grateful for many of the concepts I have internationalized from my childhood faith. Martyrdom is not one of them.

What if the “work of healing” is nothing more than willful creativity? This is the material you are given: a bit of mud, a bit of coal, a fleck of fool’s gold. Make something of it that is yours.

It’s our nature to be altered by phenomenon.

Just like the trees that grow around the fence posts, that layer their bark each season – callouses that look like faces, faces that read like stories. Nothing healed. And nothing gained. Just part of the great forest.