For any newcomers to my blog, the following is a shessem (combination short story, essay, and poem), which is a genre I invented back in November, when my imagination began refusing to confine itself to a single genre. Thinking back, this sudden rebellion shouldn’t surprise me, since a few weeks prior, I’d just begun writing my new novel, a linear narrative told in the third person, past tense, which is about as “traditional” as my work has ever gotten.
This particular shessem is unique in that it also incorporates quotes from other works, which again, shouldn’t surprise me, as the majority of the essays I’ve written have included quotes or been about and/or inspired by other works. The made-up genre continues to reinvent itself, as well it should.
The Killing Field
In June, God said to me, “Live generously. Love the people I give you to love,” and so, I did. Three months later, I lost my job. What limited funds I possessed followed suit, and I found myself having to be generous with something I am far greedier with than money: time.
I walk into walls, run into bushes, slip on the mud, fall on the ice, burn the tip of my thumb with the cigarette lighter. I am at once all too aware, yet never aware enough.
Let’s say life is this: God’s invited us to dinner, but He’s taking an awfully long time in the kitchen. I wonder how much it grieves Him when we start rooting around for scraps at other people’s empty tables, the floor, or leave the restaurant altogether, simply because we’re too impatient or think we’re too hungry to wait for what He’s preparing.
“I could have done it myself. I have always done it myself” (Goldie Goldbloom, Toads’ Museum of Freaks and Wonders).
I don’t want to be another case of flesh and bone, one more girl you’ve conquered, one more way you’ve tried to mend with bodies what human hands can never heal, not even mine. No, darling, not even mine.
Our society measures success by the length of our days, how densely we can clog the hours with tasks upon tasks. But what if that’s not what’s meant by a successful life? What if “abundant living” is something different, indeed, the polar opposite of that? If I die tomorrow, I will have no regrets with how I spent today. I am beginning to comprehend what that means.
This is where I come to die: my soul, the killing field of human, giving way to the Divine. But it is not a death of dust and ashes–it is a death of purest life. Yet still, the dying grieves this flesh just the same.
Praying is writing is running is loving–all are one, overlap and intertwine. I’ve said to my writing, If I can’t give of my skin and bones to a man, I will turn myself over to you, wind my legs around the stretch of your pages, press my lips to the pulse of your verbs. But maybe I don’t have to choose. Maybe there is space for both, for all, for more. More than I have ever dared to hope for.
People want to tell you this is not how life should be lived, that you’re going to die if you carry on this way. But maybe you have died already, and maybe to live this new life, you must, for the first time, say “no” to all else.
Why is it so hard to believe?
Sometimes, I am shattered by the frequency with which I fight God for things I don’t really want, rather than take what He gives that I need.
“Vision without sacrifice, the tree that cannot be felled, / Stronger and greener, that breathes in death and joy / With disinterest and breathes out life and more life” (Martha Serpas, “Witness Tree”).
The Chinese pictograph for busyness is “heart-killing.”
I wonder if I walk naked from bathroom to bedroom and back again, telling myself I am comfortable with my body, because I truly am, or because I can’t be bothered to grab a towel, shut the blinds, drop on the floor and crawl.
Aren’t you scared? a married friend once asked me. She said, I can’t go anywhere alone. What I never told her: some don’t have the luxury of being afraid.
I wish I could’ve known what would save you from yourself. I wish I would’ve known then what I know now: “The basic experience of everyone is the experience of human limitation” (Flannery O’Connor, Mystery & Manners).
“Calmness can lay great errors to rest” (Ecclesiastes 10:4).
I am saying “no.”
Everyone wants to fix me, to tell me what I need, what I shouldn’t want, what I’m too young to have–this last one, the favorite topic. I’ll treat you like an equal until we broach this subject, and then I’ll climb atop my “older and wiser than you” horse and holler you into my own battle like a war-crazed general. But you are not me. Do you understand? You are not me. And I am not you. And I will not apologize or be made to feel naïve for what I want. I don’t do that to you. Just because you are older does not give you the right to do that to me.
I see you with God’s eyes. You cannot hide from Him. You cannot hide from me.
This morning, I looked at my makeup-less face in the mirror, and the devil on my back said, “Aren’t you tired of being God’s puppet, of serving a Being who doesn’t care about your wants and desires?” And I shut my eyes and said to him, “I am not a puppet. I am a member of the Divine symphony. I only know the note I’m playing, sometimes the one I’ll play right after. And though I know there are other musicians, I can’t see or hear them, though sometimes, my ears are blessed with glimpses of the orchestra. And sometimes, when I’m quiet, I hear and see even more. I don’t know the whole song yet, but it doesn’t matter. I’ve been promised that, someday, I will, and that I will hear it in its glorious entirety. And that is more important than anything. More important even than myself.”
To you who ever-wronged me, I want to say, “I understand now.” I’m long over wanting to be your lover, deluding myself into believing I could have been your wife, but I wish I had a magic wand and could now be your friend. I’d like to sit with you and listen. I’d like to hear all of the things you never knew you needed to say.
“She knows being chosen means to choose herself” (Martha Serpas, “Tattoo”). Say “no” to the old life to say “yes” to this death, to say “yes” to something far better.