I was a kid, maybe six, when my aunt first called me mantequilla, butter. I had spilled a glass of milk and an older cousin went into this "oh great, again!' rant that crumpled me into tears. My aunt squawked "You're mantequilla, you melt for no reason!" After that, whenever I cried she'd call me butter. I hated it.
I've been thinking a lot about the layers I've built up through the years. I've always been sensitive, my feelings close to the surface, empathic. My first few years it was fine, I was in a safe environment, fully loved and supported. When I cried I was comforted, or I took my tears out into the garden, climbing the tree outside my bedroom window. Or I'd lay belly down in the grass and contemplate the lives of the ants. I'd disappear into staring at the sky. The nature world soothed, was balm.
I have memories of the specific instants that I started hardening the soft, vulnerable parts of myself. Protection, no doubt, for a world and humanity that doesn't have room for what is perceived as weak. I wonder when we started classifying experiencing emotions as weakness.
I'm softening. After a lifetime of hardening, of building up protections and walls, I'm letting my emotions back up where they belong, close to the surface. I discovered that I was softening during my morning meditations, I'd come back from trance in tears of joy. That joy, that awareness has been staining everything in my life. There are times in my day when I feel like I'm on some strange drug, I can feel myself in the world, if that makes any sense. I'm present. Alive. All the tears keep showing up and I'm not too afraid of them anymore, they don't signify weakness anymore. I can't even tell you or explain when or how that shift happened, but it did. All this allowing, yes. I dance in public. I have this music inside that won't let me stay still.
I taught a new group of students yesterday. Mostly young men of color. They were great, alive and electric, hungry for attention. I had them do a fairly basic writing exercise, compiling lists of certain things then I gave them open ended statements where they could plug in items from their lists. They bit right in. Of course, getting them to share was a little tough but I had a couple of students who were eager to show me what they had created. This one line killed me, I barely remember anything else he said because of this: home is not safe, I have to hide my sisters. To. The. Gut. And, as much as I am softening I had to breathe back my tears. Bit by bit, yo.
All these cycles. I'm in a period of intense work. Busy as a bee. Up early, all day on ladders, home late. When I get home H and I cook and eat and talk. We spend hours laughing and contemplating, considering and talking out plot points, poems and the rest of our lives. These are the hours that feed me, though the rest of my days are pretty wonderful as well.
My writing has fallen off. But again, cycles. It will swing back around. I have moments of brief panic but I recognize them, I say hello panic, I remember you, you can't stay. And it goes. I'm torn between which book to work on. I'm studying a lot of history for the one, which I know is feeding the work, even if the work hasn't yet landed on the page. And the other one, ay. I need a little ass-kicking. But what good did rushing ever do creation? I'm sure someone has a snarky answer. I'm not worried.