Silence comes easier than exposure. It is perhaps why I’ve written so little here over the last few years. The public discourse has become raw, unfiltered, and not at all circumspect. Revealing, but not necessarily enlightening. We’ve accustomed ourselves to knee-jerk reactions and assumptions in real time, as many of our transactions are in digital shorthand. We’re a few short steps from LOLs to just grunting at each other. Perhaps re-joining the public sphere is my way of pushing back on a world that operates in acronyms. Maybe I’m just getting old and irritable.
Autumn brings on a sweet melancholy that puts me in a state of unrest. I feel the need to clear the decks, wipe the slate, and expunge whatever mental beasties have taken up residence in my brain. So here I am, beginning to write again of self, of life, of finding perspective in order to regain my equilibrium. It’s scarier out here on the information superhighway than it was when I started this blog in 2012. You’ve barely pulled into the lane before you’ve been honked at, cussed out, corrected, and finally, just to make sure you don’t make this mistake ever again, run off the road into a ditch.
I should be at a point of fearlessness. My life is more than half over. There’s no career-building, toddler-juggling, or rat-racing left to be done. Now it’s me and whatever bad habit chickens have come home to roost. Sleep injuries, slackening muscle, and 14 pairs of eyeglasses, each with its narrow purpose (no reading expiration dates-driving in the dark-working on computer combos). This is where I’m at and it sounds, from my description, that I should be huddled in a corner mourning my deterioration. On the other hand, time has sorted out what is and isn’t important in the most inefficient way possible – slowly making me too tired to give a shit about stuff I’ve spent a lifetime giving a shit about.
I’m a few months away from graduating with my MFA in Creative Writing. For those who still engage in the MFA or not to MFA argument, I don’t have any answers. There’s no magic beans for writing and even a degree won’t change that. I will be teaching more, though, which is a surprising joy that I’ve discovered over the last couple of years. I’ve finally given up the ghost on short form social media. It had a deleterious effect on my mental health in terms of anxiety and constant adrenaline shots of rage. I’ve resigned myself to never knowing what anyone is talking about ever again.
It’s a few weeks away from the midterm election. I’m working as an election judge and hoping not to catch COVID or a bullet (insert wry laugh). My mailed absentee ballot was accepted yesterday. I put out the VOTE! sign in my yard. I’m volunteering in a voter education organization. This all adds up to me not having to pay attention to pundit-polling fuckwits anymore. Might keep it as a permanent policy. I’m not delusional about the power of the vote – when a loud minority has worked so hard to delegitimize our elections and suppress voter participation, a vote either counts more than it ever has or not at all. Either way, voting is one of the few things in our locus of control.
Perhaps this is less an argument against silence, rather an advocacy for the judicious application of our voices – where they will be heard or where they are needed. Neither bystander nor chicken little be. And unlike the whiplash reactions of social media, we can take a beat, write a few drafts, break through the hardness and habituation of personal opinion in order to cultivate curiosity. I think the road ahead will become more difficult and there will be a tendency to stratify opinions into intractable, inflexible ideas at the exact moment when adaptability, creativity, and joy are needed to survive. Nobody fights harder for a better world than someone who recognizes the joys in it.
There are fires everywhere and no matter what you do, there’s always someone there to explain how you’re doing it wrong. Perhaps this is why social media is not a good place for most people – you become paralyzed by the possibility that what you say will be judged harshly, no matter the intent. I’ve leaned into discomfort, knowing that I will make mistakes, whether it be in regards to social justice or the environment or well, anything. As a writer, the fear of making mistakes is untenable. We only find our way by making the mistakes first and hoping that a kind friend or competent editor reigns in whatever insensitive, incoherent garbage we create before it hits the public eye.
My writing always starts out as a dear self until the ripples carry me far enough away from ego to get some perspective. I know that by the end, I will have learned something. If you find something here, all the better. I am here, ready and willing to make mistakes. Go make yours.