Saturday, January 14, 2012

Under the Bridge

[Entry started 12/13/11 ]

I've stopped writing, and upon further considering this matter, I find myself hitting the reflection of how this fragment of myself serves as such a larger piece of truth: mistrust of surroundings/perceptions/reality. I would not say that nothing inspires me anymore, but perhaps I've dissociated from the idea of expression, the thought of being burned without the knowledge of foresight? As if studying books and over-experiencing different forms of sorrow had burned me out on this conjunct analytical-sensitive combination where everything hits and then dulls immediately. Where silence remains this vast landscape of my dialect, nothing pushing forward except the processing and recognition of patterns, seeing events fall into place as you guessed. Knowing that bodies have rhythms, and people are a sum of the events that made them (in every sense of that phrase), watching interactions and phrasing, treating life like a hypothesis you are out to prove: congratulations, you guessed right again. It makes me think: maybe I'm asking the wrong questions, not enough questions, maybe I'm repeating the question over and over again in hopes of getting a different answer (but really, getting nowhere). If I have nothing left to say about this life I'm living, if I acknowledge these are the patterns that remain consistent, if I'm running out of answers which I have not heard before, where does this place me?

If the items change, but the struggles remain the same, does a "survivor" ever evolve from just "surviving"?

What does survival look like when liberated from the terms of its oppressor? In firm desire to disenfranchise this oppressive system, do you inherently became part of the game that trapped you, always carrying the sliver of its anger? Where does the body lie when there is no rest?

[ Entry continued 1/14/12 ]
I waver upon the thin line, making goals and goals again - I catch the breath in my chest. I once worked with a Rolfer (Structural Integration) who said I breathe as if I'm consistently having an anxiety attack. I think of the times blacking out in my own skin, lining the ceiling and the walls, the blank spots that could contain a rambling mind. This was not the person I wanted to be, cringing at touch - somehow, it ended up being the person I became: splintered and searching. It has been five years past a time where I can identify a new person forming, one who grew more alive and more jaded, finally touching the edges of feelings that could only be based upon an otherwise blurred continent, a firmament that fell upon the idolization of future for escape of an indecipherable, heavy present. At age 14, going to college conventions. Throughout high school, tenaciously the writer - poetry slams, poetry publications, "most likely to publish a book" attached to my name, "the writer", the creative writing major hopeful, the straight-A-paradoxical-down-with-public-education shined shoes applicant: I believed in a precise knowing I could not yet grasp. Similar to most of my high school (and current) friends, I felt more wise than my age could bear, despite the not-knowing of emotional phrasing. I think writing and reading captured me for this reason.

And somehow, throughout the years, I stopped planning. I became disenchanted. I changed into a person who shucked away the hopes I had once contained, settled myself into a reality that determined itself based upon the breaths I was not taking, adopting a philosophy of taking life only 6 months at a time (maximum), roving streets amongst cigarettes and nightlights. In and out of states (mentally and physically), I flipped the switch of my personality rapidly, unable to be held - perhaps the way I felt most safe. I have frequently expressed my love for White Oleander and somehow have find myself rotating and fixating upon the quote

"Everybody asks why I started at the end and worked back to the beginning. The reason is simple. I couldn't understand the beginning until I had reached the end. There were too many pieces of the puzzle missing, too much she would never tell. I could sell these things. People want to buy them. But I'd set it all on fire first. She'd like that. She'd make it just to burn it. I couldn’t afford this one, but the beginning deserves something special. But how do I show that nothing, not a taste, not a smell, not even the color of the sky has ever been as clear and sharp as it was when I belonged to her? I don’t know how to express that being with someone so dangerous was the last time I felt safe."

I couldn't put words to my abuse, sobbing through trainings, clinging to friends as equally traumatized, slipping out of happiness, through prescription medications, drifting from classes into repeated absences. When I left college and entered "the work force," "the real world," I carried a very persistent fear I would not be able to hold down a job, an internal monologue that perseverated around how unstable I had been in prior years, how frequently I moved, how the running persisted despite the knowledge of where I was coming from. I ended up in graduate school despite the fact I frankly did not want to.

Although my attention span for graduate school is somewhat stagnant and sporadic and anxiety provoking (I somewhat seriously attest that undergraduate education traumatized me - but in graduating in 3 years at 44 credits in my last year, I am partially to blame), I began to hone down the definitions of what had been silently irking me for years. I am now on my second semester after an extended first semester wherein I had initially decided to enter the "Transformative Language Arts" program under the premise of studying writing therapy for sexual assault survivors, essentially an extension of studies I began independently through my undergraduate career (notably with a self-constructed major in Creative Writing and Social Change, and self-developed senior seminar in Feminist Sociolinguistics). Yet, I found myself more deviating towards domestic violence as I wrote draft upon draft of my study plan. Both sexual assault and domestic violence served as these immensely important ideas to me: I could not yet find a way to incorporate both concepts I seemed to fall upon - the idea of a mind/body dissociative split so associated with sexual assault, and the concept of "lost home"/mistrust/abandonment of family structure/gross characterization of inappropriate roles. I fumbled through my first semester (and dropped the concentration), ending it firmly, realizing what stuck with me most throughout both studies was the idea of identity formation in response to trauma/biology/environment/etc., the idea of a silence lost in the static of forced change, the strategic misplacement of self through perpetual adaptation. Perhaps defying genetics (or working in conjunction with), we find the fascinating formula of personality - picking apart my own bias, a grown white middle class girl now surrounded with low-level wages, a new legal name, an attempted restraining order against a family member, $50k in college debt, an outreach worker with an ever-stable job with ambitious promotion, graduate student, 22, spending all my free time being a self-prescribed (and socially recognized) workaholic. I am almost who I was in high school, but radically different. And I wonder perhaps, in the misplacement of my writing persona, I adapted one that needed to find the words I was living and implement them into the structure of my livelihood, expanding my life into experience I can help others with, pinning myself down to the study of my own identity creation, remembering to fight for the worth of the positive people I do have in my life. The words lost themselves in the significant ambition towards the creation of a being that could subsist on its own, still catching itself forgetting to breathe, being told to be 22 when I frequently forget.

I imagine Astrid of White Oleander, packing the identity shifts of her life into suitcases, wringing out the fervid waters of emotional adaptation, slipping an artistic lens onto the pain of forced transition, moving from one home to the next, cutting down the sky into something the hands can manage, carving the words from the base of her reality into a manageable image: packing her life into neat containers, giving chaos only a small space to breathe before she lets go, no longer trapped by the gross generalization of the present.

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