Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sounds of Silence

Coming back from a long break always proves to be a challenge. Where to re-enter the conversation? What, if anything, to say about the hiatus? The silence could be brushed aside as the result of the demands of my work, and to some extent that would be true. However, it’s much closer to the truth to say I took some time to regroup, to realize, all over again, who I am. To realize, perhaps both once more and for the first time, who I am becoming.

Some people have spaces into which they will retreat—I, for lack of a better getaway, retreat to someplace deep inside myself. The self who is capable of engaging with the world recedes into slumber, and is replaced, albeit temporarily, with the automaton that confronts only the necessary. Waking out of this state, back into my life, can be a challenge.

I wake through a series of moments: an article I enjoyed reading, ideas I enjoyed having, the instant of pure being while playing with my dog, the flash of honesty in conversations with people I love. I see, when I wake, life as full and possible. I see from a place of love. In those moments I am not sorry to be a woman.

But this is also a frightening place to be. Frightening for me, anyway. It involves a confrontation with the world in which I will be vulnerable. I could be hurt. And if I’m really present, I’ll feel it. This means radical acceptance of life’s contingency. This means being naked.

What is writing, if not a space to a space from which to aspire to nakedness, to radical honesty? What is life, if not writing? When I was sixteen, seventeen, I was in love, or at least in the sixteen, seventeen-year-old version of love. It was wonderful. It was devastating. It hurt. It was complicated and revelatory and terrifying. I’ve been running from that love ever since.

But my life has opened up, lately, in ways that make it possible to try to be awake. In ways that make it feel like a great gift that awake is possible. I have moments where I can imagine rising from bed, stepping naked out the door into the sun, and it is warm and good.

Yet as good as it is to think of the warmth of that sun, I’m terrified that I’ll step out that door and the world will point and laugh, or shake its heads in disgust, or, worst of all, misunderstand the gesture. Misrecognize me. And I will hurt.

But the moments of recognition by those I love, those small moments of grace, promise a hope for the future. A hope of the future. And so, forth from the silence. We can. We must. We will.