This was an email received on 9/13/16:
Sometimes when things hurt, I write. This came out today. Being human is hard. But the struggle today for me is internal, and I decided that the healing thing would be to pass on my ramblings to folks with whom I want to build my life. You’re one of them, whether or not you know it.
My brain hurts. It has hit a rut, an old groove. And while I have been chugging away at new patterns and new highways upon which for thoughts to travel, an old road has emerged. If it had a name, I’d have to call it Desolation Drive, and it leads directly to Defeat City.
Oh Defeat City, what a shitty town. There nothing changes. Everyone spends all day talking about the dreams they have in other places, the things they wish they could do if only they could leave town. The confusing thing about Defeat City is that the road there seems pretty clear (I know this road, oh I’ve been here before…) but once I actually ARRIVE, it’s so damn hard to remember how to leave. Fog descends. Commercials flicker on the radio saying, “You should go for a jog!” “A healthy juice will start your day.” Static. Residents of Defeat City spend all day with the TV on, the same stories in repeat. Canned laughter and the veneer of Hollywood smiles. Kitchens are stocked with white crackers and table salt. No one is satisfied, but no one is hungry. Days pass and evening always comes as a surprise because the morning somehow seeped into afternoon without any true marking of time changing.
I’ve been to Defeat City so many times, too many times. Every time I end up here, I swear it’s my last visit. I’ve broken ties with the folks that live there; I’ve told them I don’t want to call it my permanent residence. They nod in agreement; who would ever choose this place as home? They’re all there temporarily. No one’s door has a lock; no one even brought a toothbrush.
The screen doors slam every time.
The truth is that I’ve been working my ass off to feel well. I’m in therapy. I’m working a twelve step program (and I’m not even addicted to any substances! Just particular behavioral patterns. And I’m willing to do ANYthing to feel GOOD). I do yoga. I exercise regularly. I work for a juice company, for gosh sakes, and I consume superfoods on the regular. I journal and map out my desired feelings and cuddle with cats. I get loads of sunshine. I ride my bike. I have two loving alive parents and some good friends who I trust. I’m white so I’m less afraid of my personal safety on a daily basis than a lot of my fellow humans and I have an advanced degree so odds of financial success are more in my favor. I’m even in a relationship with someone who is loving, kind, smart, supportive, and inspired. I’m on medicine for depression.
Boxes for okayness fucking checked.
And still, right now, I’m in Defeat City.
And I’m not even energetic enough to be as angry as I’d like to be about being here. Sure, I’m pissed, but real anger would result in fuel. Sometimes, in fact, that anger is what fills the tank and helps steer me back down those forlorn streets and out of Defeat City. Puffing and spitting, my car rattles on fury, zooming out of there with haste and hope. Fuck that place! I flip it the bird as it minimizes in my rear view mirror.
Today I’m on the hammock on the porch in Defeat City. Bookshelves sagging with self help books line the shelves inside, coats of dust adorning them like blankets. “You Can Heal Your Life,” and “The Power of Now” peek out of a layer of grey. Unlit candles with wet stunted wicks line the empty cast iron tub in the bathroom. Above me a lazy outdoor ceiling fan spins listlessly, suggesting the movement of air but creating but a whisper of breeze. Its sound and the buzzing of an electrical line through the trees are the only sounds besides an occasional door opening and closing.
I’m tired of trying to make it better.
I’m tired of hearing myself ask the same damn questions about money. About choices. About persistence. About geography.
As I write this, I recall an essay I wrote ten years ago. On the same damn thing.
The truth is that the things I want are not things I can get on my own. Because the thing I want the most, the thing that takes my heart and immediately flips it to channel Home, is community. Real live community, connection, people talking to each other and witnessing each other and playing together and eating together and waking up and going to sleep and building fires and playing games and asking questions and being quiet in each others’ presence and laughing and arguing and making music and reading books and crying and singing and staying. And the thing is that there are people around me all of the time, all the damn time, and community is one smile or wink or hello away it seems, sometimes even proven. A handshake at a yoga class, a hello on the park trail; pearls of connection, seeds of hope.
But GADDAMN, I don’t want wisps. I don’t want pearls. I want a fucking solid brick house. I want an entire oyster bed, a chamber full of necklaces. I want big, committed, vibrant community. I want people to want what I want: to grow food, to make plays, to raise animals, to tell stories, to heal each other, to listen, to invite in strangers, to sing songs, and to keep daring to do it together. I don’t want to have to convince you all that it’s time to begin. I want US to WANT it. I want to survive this lifetime with people, process tragedies in each other’s physical presence, watch movies and discuss, make a salad big enough to share.
(Is this the road out of Defeat City? Let’s find out.)
Will it rev the engine, start the train?
Photo credit: TROY R HEWITT