Big sigh, imaginary readers. I feel like I’m always confessing things at the beginning of these posts, or writing a disclaimer that says something like, “I actually started writing this several months ago and forgot about it, but here it is now, oops!”
So here it is. I’ve been on a some kind of hiatus. I don’t know what kind of hiatus. It wasn’t one to rejuvenate, and it wasn’t one to get my shit together and come back in full force. It was just a hiatus where I couldn’t bear to look at a blank page and a blinking cursor. There were (and are) things I wanted to write about but I didn’t know how and I still don’t.
Since my last post about the YA love of my life, Mortal Instruments, my life has become much more complicated. I hope to be able to write about it here and elsewhere one day. Right now, I can’t. Because everything I’m feeling surrounding this event is still so fresh and new, I have no idea how to express it precisely — and precision is important. Especially when it comes to pain and feelings and emotions (I’ve just discovered feelings and emotions are two separate things). And anonymity for the people involved in this is important for reasons of safety and privacy. (Don’t worry — nobody’s dying.) And, simply, I’m not ready to announce this to the world. I realize this is pretty vague. You’re just going to have to live with it.
I feel like every blog has a thing, and I don’t know what my thing is. That’s not true. I do know what my thing is. My thing is wandering. My thing is the journey. It’s figuring out who I am and who I want to be, and it feels like those journeys should be written about. It’s easier to write about it in hindsight rather than in real time, and I want to challenge myself to write about things in real time. There’s no timeline to the journey, no set point where I’ll get to say, “Okay, that’s done. Now I can write about all this in hindsight.”
I do know that one day, my brother and I will co-write a book about our lives. At the very least, an essay. It will be funny. It will be heartbroken. It will be heartbreaking. It will be dark. It will be light. It will be full of love. We just have to make it to a moment where we’re ready to write it.
So here I am, trying to process in real time.
Since my last post, I’ve had 40+ hours of training in non-directive client-centered counseling and intensive values clarification. I’m a peer counselor. I listen to people talk about their lives, about the decisions they have to make. Sometimes they don’t want to make decisions, but they have to. Sometimes they’re forced to make decisions they don’t want to. Every time, their feelings are messy and complicated and contradictory (seemingly). My job is to listen. To make sure that each person knows that they’re not alone, that I am hearing them, that everything they feel and think is valid. That it’s okay to cry. That’s it okay to feel two, seemingly opposed, things at the same time.
It’s heavy work. At the end of a shift, my body feels exhausted. I struggle to keep my eyes open. My arms feel as if they’ve been holding heavy things for hours. All I want is to sleep. But I love this work.
This work has taught me to recognize my own shit and get over myself. When I sit with someone and listen, I have to be fully present. (They can tell if you aren’t.) I can’t be worried about what I’m going to say next. I can’t be preoccupied with trying to figure out how many different ways I can say “Tell me more” or “That’s hard,” so I don’t sound like a robot to myself. I have to sit and listen to the person who is speaking, be attentive and hear what they’re saying. I can’t have a wall of irony or pretension or self-preservation up. The person who is speaking to me is trusting me with all the things she feels she can’t talk to anybody else in her life about; there’s no place for irony, pretentiousness, criticism in that space. There’s only room for compassion, empathy, active listening. If I’m really listening to her, the next thing that comes out of my mouth will be the “right” thing because it won’t be about me. It will be completely and unequivocally about her (or him).
What this training and this process has also taught me is to trust my voice and my story. Every person I listen to has a story, and every person’s story is important. There is no throwaway story. There is no person I speak to where I think, “You don’t have it that bad.” After every person, I always think, “Fuck. That’s hard. I hope she’ll be okay in whatever happens.”
By holding that space for others, I learn that it’s important to hold that space for myself. To allow myself to contend fully with moments in my life whose importance I’ve minimized. That time I was groped on the playground in first grade? That’s huge. That time I was stalked by a strange man my entire vacation? Fucking important. And so on.
So now I’m writing again.