This morning I sat on the balcony enjoying the quiet. The bamboo off the balcony was half in buildings shadow, the leaves still in shade holding the dew while light steam rose from the parts of the plant in the sun, the water returning to the air. Small birds played in the stalks, singing and scolding each other. I sat back in my chair, leaned back, and put my feet against the sliding glass door for a few minutes. When I took my feet down the imprint of my feet stayed on the glass and I had a moment of wonder. It was brief but I marveled at the symmetry of the outline left on the cold glass. It was a small wonder, but still a wonder, a gratitude.
I want to leave my imprint on this world and I work towards that daily. Not just in my endeavors to write stories and poems but in my daily interactions with others. Yesterday I taught a creative writing class in the morning and I struggled. My heart was all in, giving, but sometimes there are those who don't want to receive. It had nothing to do with me but I still was blue after. I forget what it is like to be a teenager, and I have been blessed never to have had many of the struggles my students face, but I ached anyway. There was an edge of cruelty in some of what happened, words that were thrown about in jest but those words were the kind that wound for a long time, the kind that leave scars and disempowerment. They tinged the rest of my day with a disquiet that left me with a headache and sadness in my body.
Going deeper into the work and that doesn't always involve writing. Working on the book I have to go back into my own memories of high school. Working within the confines of a character who is unlike me in many ways but is still a secret-keeper. When I try to decipher the secret, inner world I spent so many years of my youth lost in, I see all these crazy patterns that followed me into my twenties. I came of age in the strangest of ways, right at adolescence leaving the cult I was raised in, the fucked up apocalyptic consciousness that had me constantly waiting for the world to end. It was a religious religion steeped in shame and blame and secrets. Being a whole human with all the emotions and inconsistencies of just existing was not allowed. My protagonist has to keep secrets that are too big for her and in doing so she gets into the secret-keeping pattern and finds her own secrets, and they are wrapped in shame. Hard work, for her, and for me as a writer trying to hold all that on the page.
I'm turning 35 in a few days. It was me thinking about this Sandra Cisneros poem I read in high school, I'm So Depressed I Feel Like Jumping into the River Behind My House But I Won't Because I'm Thirty-Eight Not Eighteen. When I read the poem I was sixteen and being eighteen seemed like a big deal, thirty-eight was unimaginable. I'm closer to thirty-eight than eighteen. I'm not depressed, thank everything, though I did have my bout with that ugly monster a few years ago, which is entirely another beast to write about eventually. Talk about shame. Anyway, the character in my book is a reader of poetry the way I was. I used poetry as an emotional map to figure out my place in the world. I am grateful that I found poetry and that I dove into it, as a reader and writer. Poets became my heroes. My obsession. So the book is an homage in many ways to younger me, and to hero worship, worship of those in our immediate world and those who affect us across time and distance. And on the other end, the adult end of the work, to the imprints we leave long after we leave the scene of emotion.
H and I talked long about it and have decided not to apply for VONA this year. We both love VONA but we know there are other writers out there who deserve and need the seats we'd be taking up if accepted. It wasn't a easy decision. VONA is home to us, even though we didn't attend at the same time, we both feel a powerful connection to the workshop. I met a woman last night who was considering applying and I couldn't say enough positive things about the workshop, the safety and embrace of the community. I look at the friends in my life and most of the ones I hold closest are friends I made. H and I are both writing, publishing more, and are more rooted in our writing lives than we were when we attended VONA. Still, I want to go back. Not even for the workshops, though I'd love to take one, but I love the community. That is what truly changed my world.