It is somewhat ironic of me to be writing about the importance of stopping when the very act of fingers on keyboard is the exact opposite of stopping. I should be taking a rest, putting my feet up and dealing with this uncontrolled pain. I should be doing a little bit of taking stock and letting the world drift past, like clouds that are not going to produce any rain on a midsummer’s day. I should be watching the baseball, smoking some weed and watering my little window seat garden. I have already tended to my plants for the day, opening the curtains and letting the light stream in, putting my tender young cacti to the center so they don’t get sunburnt. Did you know that little cacti can’t cope with too much light? They turn brown and sunburnt. I suppose that proves that it is entirely possible to have too much of a good thing, even if heat and light is what cacti are meant to soak up and enjoy. Perhaps I should take the hint from the cacti…
I have had one heck of a health scare, and am still in a lot of pain. At least I now know it was not my heart or my lungs and is merely an issue with my ribs. I feel as if I am falling apart. All those years of taking damage from being beaten up have finally taken their toll on my petite female, middle aged body. My arthritis is appallingly painful. I have a bad back which sends pain shooting down my legs. I worry that I am going to crumble into nothing, yet this old bird cannot afford hormone replacement therapy either. In short, I am getting old, and the consequences of getting old after a lifetime of abuse and being abused are not pretty.
I have been fighting tooth and nail to get my freelance writing career off the ground, and have met with some success. People are always telling me to keep on writing. Keep on working, keep on grinding; and I have been doing so for eighteen months now. A recent print out of my blog told me I have written well over a million words in the last year and a half. My memoirs are sitting half stitched together. Writing them has not been cathartic, no. Writing my memoirs has been extremely painful, but people like reading about pain and suffering and overcoming both, and there is interest in them, so I push forwards, forever putting one foot in front of the other, never letting myself off that infernal hamster wheel of work.
That was until I got horrific chest pain that scared me silly, and ended up on a gurney in the ER with a line in my arm and oxygen on my face being told that my blood pressure was through the roof and I have a painful but mostly not dangerous condition I need to deal with. That made me stop, or at least consider taking it easy for a week or two. I have not stopped to smell the roses since I came to San Francisco after leaving my old friend and the road behind. I went from there to the shelter, and had to fight to stay afloat and stay with my son. I had to make things happen. I had to consolidate and create, and build and withstand. I did all of it out of love. Love can take you a long way but like all the songs say, love, my friends, is gonna break yer tender heart in two.
I wish I could say it was because I want to be successful. I am too tired to be ambitious. I wish I could say that I have designs to be a great writer: I do, but it is something you are or you are not; something you have, or else you don’t. If I am going to be a great writer, someone worthy of people’s time and energy, I will either do it, or I won’t. No excuses. I do desperately want a little success in my life. Something to say I am more than a survivor. I want my child to be proud of me and feel safe and secure that I will be here for him and be able to help. I want to re-enter society and try and make a space for myself at the table and have a voice.
I long for the freedom to express myself without fear of bad repercussions, but that is never going to happen. My survival was dependent on my silence and compliance. Writing is danger. Writing is being loud. Writing is not being grey and quiet and submissive. For me writing is daring to make noise, daring to say things that some people will not like. I get myself into fights with people who say that shelter is not a human right. I get myself in such a whirlwind of fury against these privileged, dumb, fish-mouth gaping dull brained, corn fed luxury chewing beasts of capitalism that I can feel the blood press against the base of my skull and threaten to send my heart careening out of control. I read people beating down on Amber Heard, willing tools of her abuse, and it makes me want to cry. To say that it is not ok to hit any woman, that a woman does not have to be good, let alone perfect, she merely needs to exist to deserve to live in peace and with her body not hit or invaded should not be a radical opinion. Unfortunately in today’s society it very much is. I needed to stop and breathe, but as self congratulatory as this sounds, the world needs me to not be quiet and to add my voice to the pile of other voices that say, ‘enough’!
I am no coward. My body is telling me to ease up, to slow down, to relax and try and recover a little, and I am going to have to listen to it and take a break, or at least ease up on the gas and not storm ahead at full speed and fury and noise, at least for a little while. I need to consolidate, I need to rest. I need to not take this time to plan or work or create, but to nurture what little health I have left, in order to rejoin the fight refreshed. So, forgive me, I need to take my own lesson in the importance of stopping. I need to listen to myself and give myself permission to take some time to recuperate. No decent person involved in the fight for justice and freedom is able to continue to work work work and fight fight fight and not burn out. Fighting and being loud, doing the right thing and having the bravery to stand up for what is good and right, no matter if you are right there in the middle of the storm, taking damage and having your very existence threatened is something that drains a person.
All of us need to know when it is time to enjoy the life we are fighting so hard for. I need to go out and not think, or work on drafts, or write or create, and just make a few more memories of good times. I need to feel the sun on my face and the sea breeze on my skin and watch those boats float out around the Bay. I need to be able to remember and cry instead of holding myself together all the time. I have held myself together for so long I am falling apart. I have pushed down all that pain, and all that fear, and all that impossibility and kept on going for so many years, in constant fear of annihilation and loss, with a lot of it being realized, and it is starting to spill out of the edges. That makes, perhaps, for good poetry and writing, but I am no good to anyone if I have a heart attack or a breakdown.
Today is going to be a day for stopping and breathing. If I can walk far enough I might get on a streetcar to the shoreline and sit on the bleachers and drink tea, and if I can do that I might be here long enough to actually enjoy a little success. Either I pause, I think, or else my body will stop me good and proper and insist on a very definite STOP, and that would be no good at all.