Good morning, world.
Almost two years ago exactly to the day, I made good on a 20-year-old promise to myself to start a blog. I resisted and wrote, resisted and wrote like I never could before. I thought I’d finally arrived.
Then, COVID-19 happened to 2020. And 2020 happened to, well, everything.
It made sense that I couldn’t write at first, what with 85% of my brain power now taken up by Zoom.
Not just Zoom, but presentations—with sound effects!—on Zoom. Or Zooms with my boss, all straight-faced, negotiating project plans and budgets, while the kids screamed at each other over the last can of La Croix in the house during their “school” breaks.
Then in the evening, after all the Zoom-ing and cooking and cleaning, I’d use what was left of my brain power to do serious mental math over the most ethical way to buy more La Croix. (Go to the store or order delivery? Can I mitigate risk to the lives of essential workers, help meet their economic needs, not perpetuate institutional racism and unjust concentration of wealth with my purchase, and keep my kids from f**king up my Zoom calls?)
No wonder I couldn’t write. Right?
All that brain power-sucking continues on. So does a raging virus and institutional racism. I feel for all of us, doing the best we can despite it all. We try not to lose hope. We try to be more awake. We try to find some way to make our little corners of the world a better place.
I thought what was up was clear. But gosh darn it, by fall, I couldn’t ignore the truth. Brain power loss was only a partial explanation. There was a deeper reason why I wasn’t writing. I cried in bed alone in confusion.
Last month, I received a brilliant Christmas note. “This was a year for finding out what was fundamental in our lives,” it said. “We hope you found your fundamentals, and are ready to greet 2021 with a full heart and an open mind.”
Just typing that out makes me cry all over again.
You see, I got stripped down last year. All these ideas I had about myself fell away. I used to walk into grocery stores reasonably sure that I was a good person, but now that I’d reckoned with the fact that I am very much a shade of racist with implicit biases and more, even that seemed questionable.
So maybe I’m still smart, creative, likable, thoughtful, and put words together well—all these qualities I hold dear and believe to be true (enough). But who had first decided that I was those things?
I was startled to realize that, over and over again, in most cases, the answer was “not me”.
Which means, someone else did that for me. I have an internalized Greek chorus that does a disturbing amount of decision making for me and about me and acts as my spokesperson. Every day.
First, shit. Who the hell am I?
Second, what would it look like to decide for myself who I am?
In COVID-induced isolation, I started to hear things. Before you get too scared for me, know that this was very good news. It sounded like a puff of air escaping at first.
You might be imagining a baby-sized fart right about now, and in some sense that wasn’t too far off, except that this sound was emanating from deep inside my chest. It was an honest sound, if you could call a fart honest.
I eventually recognized that the sound was communication and that it was coming from me. Rumi, meet your own voice. Direct from the source. Listening to it, decoding its messages, that's how I decide who I am.
This newborn voice was meant to author my life all along. And I was just noticing it for the first time.
I’ve agonized over not writing for months. I’m relieved to know that “I can’t write” wasn’t an excuse. It was the truth. I've only written as a version of the Greek Chorus. I can’t write well in my true author voice just yet. It all comes out disjointed when I try.
But I promise to try. I will be awkward enough to share my true author voice, and have faith that it will serve you somehow.
To the person who wrote that stunning Christmas note, I’d say this. Yes, I found my fundamentals in 2020. I have a voice that talks fart-like. I have a heart that feels everything and breaks easily and weeps at the sight of beauty and needs a great deal of coaxing to stay open.
And I have a mind capable of being curious about this all.
Everything else is questionable.
Rilke, in one of my all time favorite quotes, said,
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue.”
Here’s to a new dawn. May we start with fundamentals. And let us hold each other’s hands (virtually!) while we try to love the questions themselves.