Ending/Beginning 

I spent the final night of 2012 much in the way I spent a lot of the year: wandering to one place, then another, then another. New Orleans was, as she is, kind to me; I feel more myself there than I do most places. There’s a brand of comfort, a settling down of sorts. So my wandering, my observation of others gets refined to an art form: down Esplanade and past Bourbon Street, down to Jackson Square over to Decatur, walking over to lower Decatur toward Frenchman Street, up into the Marigny.

Maybe it’s that time there slows down a bit, and there seem to be ample moments to take things in, to let things simmer, to ponder.

One of my largest lessons from last year was that we cannot define ourselves by our losses, of our loved ones or finances or any other kind. After all, if we only define ourselves by the negatives, every December we will long for the next year, curse the current one, and ache to move on. When did we forget that every day is a fresh start? That every moment we can start over? We don’t have to wait for the uptick in the Gregorian calendar to start fresh or resolve or whatever. Start now. Or if that’s not defined enough for you, how about starting the next time the sun comes up?

Yes.

You can’t heal what you don’t know is broken.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the man who is was my father. I think it probably began with this incredible piece I read by Lidia Yuknavitch in The Rumpus late last year; it reminded me of some abuse I suffered in my early “tween” and teenage years, it bubbled to the surface; it’s amazing to me because, as much as I’d heard about abuse victims forgetting what has been done to them, I never thought that I was doing that kind of “blocking” myself. But it serves as a reminder, albeit obvious, that you can only heal something that you know is broken. It’s almost like the faint smell of something a little off every time you open the refrigerator; first time you ignore it, second time it makes a little more of an impact, until you are consumed with the “WHERE is that smell coming from?”. And then you find the onion or green pepper or other offensive little culprit at the back of the crisper drawer, still in its plastic, meant for a certain thing but forgotten. In there so long that it’s liquefying.

From Lidia’s piece: “Listen, these are not the sad stories. Worse things happened to me. Those aren’t the sad stories either.  These stories don’t carry the pathos to signify culturally in my culture. These stories I’m telling you are commonplace. That’s the point. They just happen and you live them and as you go you have to decide who you want to be.”

And then, I was on a plane recently and decided to listen to an episode of This American Life called “Surrogates”. Act Two is Amity Bitzel’s story of how when she was growing up, her family adopted an ex-con who had killed his previous adoptive parents.

And, strangely, that’s not the most astounding part of the story. That would be how abusive her father was and how he refuses to acknowledge it, even now.

I recognized so many parallels that I dropped her a short note, and she was too kind and wrote me back. I have a great deal of admiration for the way she has shared her story with such an enormous audience; I hope that our feedback brings her the peace she deserves.

Amity also shared her story in writing over here at xojane.

Thank goodness for strong women, the ones in my life and the ones that I get to wave at as I go by, traveling down this road.

A softening of the edges

Did you feel that?

Is it, maybe, a little less resistance? Maybe sometimes I can allow someone to compliment me without a snarky response. I can accept the ride home when the weather is shitty. I don’t have to always suffer through.

It’s true. I am having the (all too slow) realization that those who care about me are not out to steal my independent spirit, or whatever. I didn’t really think that, but I certainly acted like I did, at times.

Along with that, in a big way: I am learning to ask for things. And so this Ted Talk by Amanda Palmer is so very timely. I love her anyway, but the way she frames this is really beautiful. It’s not only for artists who are trying to figure out how to get paid for the products of their talent; it’s for all of us.

Ask.

Worthwhile.