Hello readers! I’ve been wondering how to make this post. Truth be told, I disappeared off most social media early this semester, and now that I’m no longer doing work for school (though still working on other things), I’ve not been sure how to negotiate my absence.
Isn’t that the way it always is with blogs, though? Most contain at least one post of ‘oh, sorry, it’s been so long…’ it’s practically a writing prompt. And the thing is, I also don’t want to apologize for disappearing because I had good reasons (oh so many good reasons) and there’s no shame in leaving online space for the ‘real world’ every so often. But negotiating that space–the space of normalcy and then when something changes, and the distance between those two points–becomes difficult as time stretches out. The more I say I don’t want to call attention to absence, the more I call attention to it.
And then I write two paragraphs on it.
So as my title implies, 2016 has been hard. Really, really hard. I didn’t want to join the chorus at first that this year was out-right bad, no good, rotten year… until maybe June. By then I was done my comprehensive exams, my teaching, and I’d gotten back from the Bisexual Book Awards (sadly, no award in hand but I had a blast), and then… nothing. I had absolutely nothing to distract myself, and as most people in my life have quite aptly said, I’m a workaholic. And so when I’m not working, oh shit, feelings happen.
I hit a wall. Family issues that I’d ignored or dealt with the best I could for as long as I could came to the surface and I suddenly had words to describe what my life had been like. Most of this happened because I’d started to work with a queer writer that summer, thanks to a mentorship I’d won, and he put into context some very interesting things about creative non-fiction writing, vulnerability, and telling stories. So after meeting him for coffee in Toronto, I read half his book in the mall before realizing I needed to buy it, and then read it all in a blur. I tried writing my own story down–which I’d done before, of course, in some way–but I tried to do it from that place of vulnerability he coveted in his fiction and nonfiction, and those capital F Feelings hit me at once.
I’d always been used to hiding. I’d always been used to speaking in code or through metaphors or through some other kind of life. My fiction–what I worked on so voraciously for so long–was my blanket and I’d built forts. I’d keep writing and writing, not thinking anything of these events or characters or anything because they weren’t real. When I tried to write creative non-fiction, a memoir essentially, I couldn’t chalk instances up to ‘imagination’ or characters being fickle. In a way, I approached my life and my upbringing from an outsiders perspective, and I was shocked at what I found because I had to take it seriously. More memories came up, and yada yada.
You all know this story. Trauma is universal, and everyone’s had these helicopter moments where you finally take yourself out of the narrative itself and see it from above. I’d had many in my life before then and I’d moved on from them. Which was partly why, when I was suddenly going through all of this, I was shocked. I’d thought I’d finished this type of emotional groundwork or whatever you want to call it. But I hadn’t, and I wasn’t done, so I decided to take a break from writing. Take a break from everything, honestly, because the moment I stopped writing fiction, other signs kept appearing telling me that I needed to slow down and stop, because ignoring the bigger issue at heart was going to destroy everything I’d tried to build. I also started listening to a lot of Bright Eyes again, especially the album Cassadaga, and the song ‘Lime Tree’ seemed to summarize a lot of what I had to work through–whether I wanted to or not.
So I stopped. I took a break. For the summer and the next semester, I didn’t write–only edited, only promo’d when I needed to, and I got a job at a bar. Go figure. I don’t drink, but now I can bartend, so that was an interesting learning experience the first few weeks. But it got me out of my house, in the world again, talking to different people who weren’t all academics in my field, and the world seemed brighter for a bit. Even when bad things kept happening (and yes, I know I’m being vague but it’s better to keep the ‘bad things’ as dark shadows right now), I started to feel like I could handle myself a lot more.
Which is the sliver lining in all of this, I suppose. I feel better than I have in years in spite of also being sad at moments, like I am right now and I look at my website and neglected Twitter. I’m left wondering, in spite of feeling mostly better, how I come out of this type of absence without calling too much attention to something that’s personal. Publishing is weird, because it essentially means going public, and right now I’m still enjoying my silence. I still have several works coming out because I had a lot on the backlog, but I don’t know if I’ll be blogging much in 2017. And that’s okay, because I feel okay…
But I still wanted to leave some kind of message, in case, you know, someone else wanders by. There’s something so upsetting and eerie about a webpage that hasn’t been updated. Like a ghosttown in the wild west, Roanoke, or some other strange disappearing city. There’s never a final word about the person on the site, whether they’re okay or they’re just gone into the ether of cyberspace. So here’s something, and hopefully’s it’s not been too cryptic.
Happy Solstice, Christmas, Festivus, or whatever you celebrate. Fuck 2016, and let’s hope 2017 is more forgiving.