Now, it seems like every morning I sit down in front of the computer I second guess myself. I wonder if I have already written down the ideas that are bouncing around my head. I am sure I have. My life is all about repeating myself (and maybe repeating what’s handed down in DNA somehow?). Variations on a theme. Every bit of writing a piece of a kaleidoscope image of the same small life. This sliver through this filter. Now turned at this angle.

I don’t know why I’ve become self-conscious about this. It could be a consequence of my restlessness. Feeling like there little that is novel in my life. In the past 16 months, I have not been more than a 45-minute drive from my home. I haven’t sweat just sitting on a beach in the sunshine. I haven’t stopped to listen to buskers in the Bank tube station tunnel or gotten lost in an unfamiliar city. Though yesterday walking back from my vaccine shot at a local jr. high, I got lost here: a 20-minute walk from the house. (I am surprised how many of my neighbors have bright poppies in their stone hedges.)

Part of me would be happy to pack up and move somewhere new. But E. has ties here. And I am as happy as I have ever been. Restlessness aside. Pain aside. I am holding several states of being in my heart at once more easily than I have before. Me packing all my belongings won’t stop the hurt. I am thinking it’s a superstitious impulse. If I make a major change the whole world will have to change. The butterfly effect as an emotional placebo. A half-baked bargain with God. I’ll make it right now. I’ll change and the world can right itself.

I turn my life over and over in my hands and stay curious. This is my life as a worry stone. I suppose it is a kind of sleight of hand or misdirection. Rubbing the stone does little. It’s an eternity project: smoothing a groove with my thumb. But I am doing something in the face of my own uselessness.

It seems to me our culture ridicules self-soothing of any sort, as childish—if not infantile—behavior. We should be stronger. But meditation is a form of self-soothing. Running. Dancing until the sweat of your lower back stains your shirt. Lit candles at the dinner table. A dog in your lap. I am strong enough to hold all the good and all the bad—and not need to pretend I can vanquish the latter.

I keep telling myself.

I am asking myself again whose story it is to tell. Any child, any parent, any lover. Where do we draw the line where empathy & witnessing cross into personal appropriation. Respecting their secrets, their pains, their right to speak for themselves—or choose not to.

These days I am circling an outer ring of something more difficult than I have ever had to bear. The unimaginable. No. That’s not true. It’s the imaginable that your mind toys with like a specter like a hazy figure on a polaroid. The slender man among the trees in the fog. But it is something else when he walks into your bedroom and sits on the quilt so his weight pins your legs. He puts his hand on your sternum and breaths in your face. And he says he’ll be here for you until you die.

Only it’s not me there on the bed. I’m in the doorway. Helpless. Rubbing a worry stone. Wishing it were me on the bed. Surely I could make a pact with God? This is my story. And this is not my story. I am in the hallway. My finger making slow circles on a bit of stone.

a leaf’s edge is sharp
up close, the periphery
can slice you in two

Every morning I face the blank screen and wonder if I will ever write again. If this is the day when it all stops. And I do something else for a few years. Starts, fits, fears. And perched on my clavicle is that oxpecker who continually picks at the open wound at the base of my throat that is my self-doubt.

I think of Ariel and her little voice box. Of the blue sea-worms (the poor, unfortunate souls from Disney’s Little Mermaid) that live somewhere in the shelter of my rib-cage — all the projects I began and left unfinished.

I am too old for this perspective.

Where are the old women who don’t creep around the mad edges of the world? Who still play out their own story’s dramaturgy in rising action, allowing themselves their own point of view? It seems our culture’s old women move wickedly through the world — wrapped in bitterness -, if not they are caught in trees, or in mute animals watching and granting favors (like party dresses) as benign helpers and disembodied window dressing. More atmosphere than will.

And where are the old men? They don’t fare better in our stories. Dotting and ineffectual bumpkins with pockets full of small change, or carnival machines dispensing wisdom packed in riddles. Foils for youth.

This is what it feels like to close a book half-way through. A book that’s not worth reading. To move on. And sink into the real world.

It’s ten degrees Celsius this morning and beginning to smell like spring’s thawing rot. Talk about ambivalence. I guess all things beginning are as ugly as hatchlings. Vulnerable things frighten us. We are made aware of our own limitations. I don’t think it is a coincidence that our childbearing years coincide with the apex of our hubris. How else would our species go on?

Outside the kitchen window, the sky is turning pink. The still-unfamiliar patch of sky, revealed when they tore down the neighbor’s dying elm this fall. But I can see in silhouette another tree in the distance, its sparse crown topped with crows. The same crows, I’m sure. 

The blackbirds are singing. They don’t sing exactly. They talk, I guess. Our new neighbor works offshore two weeks at a time, and I am pretty sure the birds are onto his schedule now and are more present in our yard again the weeks he’s gone. I miss them when he’s home.

Before long I will need to clear out the dead leaves from raspberry bushes. Sort the bark from the marble stones, see what the books say about what-needs-to-be-done-when in the garden. And decide whether I will try again this year.

Of course, I will try again this year.

My life has always been more Beckett than Disney.

The trail smells like dog
shit and old bread — the ducks 
beginning to pair
off, running the hens down — loud
as traffic on the motorway