?21self – exotic truth

1. What are the words you do not have yet?

In my first biology class, the teacher passed out these little wafers. They were supertaster strips– a light paper material soaked in phenylthiocarbamide. The vast majority of my class set it on their tongue and tasted nothing. When I did it, the bitterness made me choke. I felt as if a pen had exploded in my mouth and soaked its ink into my tongue. That was almost 20 years ago and I still remember how it felt to flood my mouth with a feeling.

I feel the same when I hear the word “widow”. I can see that most people do not read into it, do not taste it at all. To them, it is a simple one word accounting of something that happened in my life.

Of someone that happened in my life.

For me, the bitterness makes me choke. I don’t have a better solution though. I don’t have better word, at least, not one that doesn’t require a long, winding explanation.

My husband was my best friend, and I lost him, and I still don’t have a word for that. I still say widow. It floods my own mouth with invisible ink.

I don’t know how to say he died. (Depression that led to drinking that led to a diabetic organ failure? Is that slow suicide? Did he chose to leave? Did my leaving to go to prison trigger his depression to that extreme point? Did I murder him?)

I don’t have the words for who I am anymore. I don’t know the word for my new sense of freedom. (Born again?) I can’t describe what type of writer I am. (Blogger? Barely. Poet? Rarely.) I don’t know what to call the dream I have about my best possible future. (It is something to do with love.)

I don’t know how to say I need honesty more than I need uninjured feelings.

2. What do you need to say? [List as many things as necessary]

I have things about me that exist even if I do not wear them well, or on my sleeves, or write them into books. Sometimes I am angry, sexual, panicked, gross, flippant, careless, thoughtful, kind, smart, sassy, snappy, grumpy, belligerent. Sometimes, all of those things in a matter of moments. Parts of my heart are still very much broken and betrayed. Part of my heart is so healed that it is filling up with new smiles and places and stories. I do not deserve the good life anymore, but the good life is a real thing and I still believe in it.

3. What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? [List as many as necessary today. Then write a new list tomorrow. And the day after. ]

  • “You talk about prison a lot.” (You were part of the culture that sewed it into my bones, how could you support the government in their endeavor to do so, and then deny it is part of my identity now?)
  • “You’re a do gooder.” (Then how is it that I’ve done so little good?)
  • “It makes sense that he’s awful. He’s a felon, you know what I mean.” (I do know what you mean. In fact, I’m afraid I know more about you, and what you think of me, than you realize.)
  • “You talk about your husband a lot. I mean, it’s okay that you’re not over it yet.” (And I won’t stop, and I won’t be.)
  • “I hope he gets raped in prison.” (I am glad I was not raped in prison. I am sorry if that disappoints you.)
  • “But she doesn’t speak proper English, though.” (English is constantly transforming. Also, you are probably not qualified to grade the quality of someone else’s speech.)
  • “Nobody reads poetry.” (I do. It has saved me more than once.)
  • “Blogging is dead.” (It’s not, nor was it ever living. Blogging is simply the ship that lets us sail, and every one of us here is a shipwright.)
  • “The internet is causing massive disassociation, and breaking up communities.” (The Internet has made connection possible in ways in never was before. That doesn’t mean we can stop training the nuances and etiquettes of societal belonging. In fact, it means we need more education on these things.)
  • “But don’t you want kids?” (My womb is not a garden. Would you ask a cloud if it wished that trees bloomed from it? What would you gain from that information?)
  • “You’re not really ethnic, though. You’re American.” (I am both.)
  • “That can’t be your real name.” (My heart says you’re wrong.)
  • “You look healthy!” (I am not.)
  • “Your writing is important.” (Important how? Did it change you? Or anything about this world? Can it? Could it? Would someone else do better with my story? Will it ever keep me from waking up for the prison count, blindly pushing to my feet at 6:15 in the morning? Will it bring my best friend back from the dead? Will it save yours?)
  • “You’re so exotic.” (I know I am Other.)

Maybe that’s enough for today.

4. If we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language, ask yourself: “What’s the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?” [So, answer this today. And everyday.]

Sometimes when you unpack things, it is very hard to fold them back into the places where you used to hide them. Sometimes when you punch down walls, you accidentally hit a human heart, and lose a friend. Sometimes when you say too much, the human ear is saturated with ideas and sounds and can’t comprehend the message.

Sometimes talking out your thoughts makes you the person in the room who sounds like a parrot, just chirping on and on about the exact same thing. Eventually everyone stops listening. Sometimes expressing struggles build them into your identity, and then you can never shake them.

Sometimes you have to pick your battles, or you end up bleeding out on a hill over a question asked in good heart.

Sometimes, the people you love give you the wrong answer to the question that you struggled to verbalize, and then you have to decide what to do with that.

The fears at the heart of all of those sometimes:

Telling this truth could hurt me, or worse, someone I love. Telling this truth could silence me. Telling this truth could slow down someone in the process of doing better.

Telling this truth could do something other than good.

Telling this truth could be something other than good.

Telling this truth could be something Other.

How exotic.

 

_____________________________________

 

This is  THE AUDRE LORDE QUESTIONNAIRE TO ONESELF – Adapted from Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals by Divya Victor

If you’d like to answer your own, I have included the questions for easy copy and paste.  It was a very soothing writing prompt for me, strangely enough.  I titled it this way in case I decide to do an update in a month or year.

 

1. What are the words you do not have yet? [Or, “for what do you not have words, yet?”]

2. What do you need to say? [List as many things as necessary]

3. What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?  [List as many as necessary today. Then write a new list tomorrow. And the day after. ]

4. If we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language, ask yourself: “What’s the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?” [So, answer this today. And everyday.]

14 thoughts on “?21self – exotic truth

  1. That was tough reading and so raw – it was raw love. And it was awesome, and did me good. If you knew the number of times reading your blog and your poetry has helped me get out of bed when all I wanted was to turn my face to the wall and quietly fade away, you would know how important your writing is. It won’t bring your best friend back from the dead and it won’t bring mine back either, but it has saved my life over and over again.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. This makes me think so much. Your writing does that. It fires neurones and generates thoughts I wouldn’t otherwise have thunk. It enriches. It weaves extra layers unavailable to me without your help; your experiences and thoughts and heart, siphoned off, in ink.

    Some of this reminds me of a poem I once wrote – fanmail to a celebrity who would never read it (I didn’t send it). Amongst the drivel were the lines “If you burned them [the fanmail, en masse], would it keep you warm? If you recycled it, would it save the world? If you read them, would they matter?”

    Your writing is (to you) I hope, a pensieve, a release, a treasure chest, a repository for your thoughts, a waste paper basket.

    To me it is more.

    I wish new words for you, and experiences to build meaningful layers atop the ones you’ve been through so far. The threads of gold will travel with you.

    I wish you kinder interrogators from now on.

    P.S. Part of me would love to see how you manage belligerent, gross, and sexy within a matter of seconds. 😜

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I admire your openness to write about your feelings. I can not share so openly on my blog, but I do not want to. Talk about your husband and prison all you want to. It is part of your healing. If your friends will not listen, find new friends. Go to support groups if you have to. If you keep it inside, you will go crazy. Unfortunately there are not a lot of people who who are kind enough to listen. They’ve gone on with their lives and don’t understand why you have not. This is why blogging is so important for you. Blog all you want. We will listen and respond.
    I pray that God will sent you friends who will not judge, but will listen and love you, Phyllis

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This bothers me—” I do not deserve the good life anymore” I don’t think any of us deserve anything, we are free to build, to create, to enjoy, to struggle, it’s not a question of merit. Life just is.

    Liked by 1 person

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