The king tides are upon us and the moon has become very prominent. South Florida is flooding worse than anticipated and people are trapped in their houses. It seems as if my hexes have been working after all.
I had started reading up on the tarot, but I got distracted by other books, such as A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (still reading) and The Field Guide to Surreal Botany. I want to keep a notebook on all 78 cards, what they can mean, what they mean to me. Worthy to note: I’m not religious, nor do I define myself as a spiritual person. I don’t believe in the afterlife, in souls, in spirits, in the divine. I know all those beliefs just act as balm or distraction from our ruminations on our own mortality. Yet I’ve always been fascinated by certain pagan rituals and mysticism—I especially appreciate how these acts encourage creativity and use of one’s own intuition. Intuition over superstition. This does not seem very prominent in other organized religions. I’ve known pagans who are also atheist, and I can understand why this wouldn’t be a contradiction.
My partner in literary crime, Melissa Dominic, has her fascination with rocks and gems. They serve her as talismans. She also reads tarot and understands my need to be my own kind of cartographer. I keep journals of brain sketchings to make sense, to do something with the buzzing in my head. This tarot notebook is just a new medium.
I was taking a break from writing and submitting to journals, but this didn’t last long. Writing is such unbridled bliss to me, it really is, but submitting gives me a headache. It’s homework. Or rather, it’s like applying to job interviews and getting turned down repeatedly. Who has time to schmooze on social media after all this? (Really, I just want to be a recluse and have editors magically find me, fall in love with me, and publish me.)
It seems I’ve gone months without writing and this may be the first time I don’t feel guilty about it. Writing used to be my primary mode of communication, but now, I am learning to vocalize and interact using this alien contraption that is my body. I have a voice and I can’t keep quiet like I used to. Most of it is probably frustration. Not probably—definitely. But no guilt, no shame.
In lieu of writing, I’ve been going out to eat at places I’ve never been to before, visiting thrift stores for alternative rock CDs from the 90s, and spending time with new friends watching LGBT films, playing retro video games, sharing dreams. No longer on the periphery, I might be participating. There are more people around me having conversations and less usernames pinging in my ear. The orbit is seeing other stars, the universe is expanding. Maybe it goes against my natural wiring, but this kind of friction might be necessary.
Me: Why am I being so nice today?
Coworker: We can tell it’s hurting you.
I thought about making a spreadsheet of my rejections, but I figure it’s a waste of energy and I’m already angry enough as it is. I do admire something like Jac Jemc’s rejection blog though.
PANK Magazine is closing its doors soon, which is sad news. I joked with some friends about being the grim reaper for literary journals because the journals I get published in tend to fold once they have me as a contributor. Pear Noir!, Metazen, and now PANK. Who’s next? It could be you! Best watch yourself. If you see me in your submissions queue, you might not even want to take a glance, actually. Just turn away. It could be the death knell. Press REJECT as soon as possible!
Becoming an active participant and being more vocal has made me realize that I cannot fake being an extrovert, however. I can fake being nice when I don’t want to, but I can’t fake where I get my energy and motivation from and how. I’m still drained after all the interaction. I still replenish myself with the solitary. My lungs continue to fill with the quiet.
My life is full of noise now: highway traffic, phones ringing in unison, the voices of irate city residents. If you asked my past self what he thought of his future self, I’m sure it wouldn’t be this. But I’m not sure what else he would’ve said instead. I can’t even begin to hypothesize. Besides hopeless or dead, of course. But those are a given.
I visited the Morikami Museum and Gardens this week and the first thing I noticed was the quiet. The heat came second. It’s hard to ignore. I’ve lived in South Florida my whole life and I can never get used to it.
Strolling through the gardens, I thought about this fear of silence many people seem to have. I thought, how crazy. What is it about silence? Is it really just a distant cousin to the fear of loneliness? Is it the sudden break from technology and constant feedback, the “likes” and the pings, where the world opens up and reminds us of just how big it is and how little we are? Why do people sleep with the TV on or the radio beneath their pillow? Why the relentless bombardment to our senses?
When I go to sleep, I sink soundlessly. A pebble dropped down a bottomless well. The sleep is often uninterrupted and dreamless. The background noise doesn’t matter. It’s all oblivion or it isn’t sleep.
Confession: I used to need waterfalls. One of those tapes of running water on loop in my ear.
I’m happy I’ve lost those fears from childhood. I don’t miss my dreams waking me. I’m happy I can enjoy silence.
My periods of intense focus on writing have disappeared this past month or so. If I’m a writer, I should probably write. But I’ve read. I thought I should maybe start a Recommended Reading feature here. I love sharing what I love. Back in the Livejournal days (remember those?), my journal was always punctuated by critical thoughts on what I was reading at the time. I was all about intertexuality and really, life as a text itself. I’ll try to do this in the quiet I can find.
A simple fact: we are our bodies. This fact was one I tried my hardest to escape especially in adolescence, which of course, led to complete misery. Detachment of the flesh, asceticism: these seemed worthwhile goals. Buddhism was the only world religion worthy of my time. The rest of that time was spent anguishing about bodily things that simply couldn’t be changed. All the energy of youth, so uselessly spent.
It was a process to some semblance of acceptance. It’s always a process. You learn: the mind is the body is the mind is the body.
We try to escape our blemishes too. This past month, my sister and I have been participating in a university study on skin. It’s quite an experience having someone actually count out your flaws to you. We had to be the appropriate amount of blemished in order to participate. I’m receiving blue light therapy – which consists of some kind of alien technology half-surrounding my head for about 15-20 minutes – and my sister is having some kind of electro-therapy done. So far, I haven’t felt anything except slight tingles on my face. My sister says she tastes metal. Somehow, these treatments are supposed to help in ways that topical potions cannot.
It’s for science, you see.
Our pictures have been taken for BEFORE and AFTER. My sister and I always have a good laugh at those TV advertisements where the BEFORE pictures are always of pretty faces with maybe two or three blemishes. No scarring, no boils, no cysts. My heart truly bleeds for the miserable lives they must lead.
But the prom’s tomorrow!
Maybe not so coincidentally, my fiction writing has been all about the body: how it’s a prison, how we may attempt to escape it, how it is perceived, how these perceived images can become so wildly distorted. It’s obviously personal. How appropriate that one of these stories found a home recently at Corium Magazine. Their tagline: “beneath the skin.”
Now, I’m working through dysmorphia, fascinated by all these monsters we see in the mirror. Maybe it will just turn into a small project of similarly themed stories, or maybe it will turn into a whole body of literature itself. The distortions can be truly endless.