08: The Skin of Our Heart

Everything is changing these days.

I know this because mostly I don’t know what’s going on and then I have these sudden moments of clarity. Like last night, I was driving home with Roha jaan and we were talking about love languages. She said, I’m a writer—I know it can all be lies and that’s why it’s last on her list. I made a soft surprised sound because it had not occurred to me that every writer’s favourite love language was not words of affirmation. That shows you how little I know about writers, and love.

But I’m trying this cool new thing these days called positive reframing and so how little I know is how much I have to learn and how much I have to learn is how much I can grow. There is a lot of hope buried in how much of us is built, not born. If you’re lazy like me, there is also a lot of work in it. But hope as a synonym for work is not the end of the world. Usually, like with most things, starting is the hardest part.

Definitions are not static. They are where we begin. For what? By whom? Beginning is not an origin. It is the arbitrary place from which we start one life, when that becomes this.

Yanyi, the year of blue water

I don’t really know where the change began. I guess that’s how it happens to most of us, right? One day you look up and you’re in an entirely different place than you were a year ago, four years ago, ten. What would ten-years-ago you think of you now? What does now you think of you ten years ago? I watched a TikTok recently that was like, When I’m being mean to myself, I remind myself I’m talking to her and it was a picture of the woman as a toddler. It startled me. Even though I’ve been talking about inner child stuff with my therapist for a while, looking at that photo of this stranger as a child—knowing so clearly that this grown person still had this other person inside of them, who was always listening—it was like watching a curtain drop. An epiphany. If I was to remake this video, I knew exactly the photo I would use. My dad carried in his wallet for a long time. It’s the first day of preschool and I’m holding a bear. My hair is so long. I’m smiling and missing some teeth. When did I forget her? When did I forget I was her? That I still am.

I remember all the different kinds of years.

Angry, or brokenhearted, or afraid.

I remember feeling like that

walking up the mountain along the dirt path

to my broken house on the island.

And long years of waiting in Massachusetts.

The winter walking and hot summer walking.

I finally fell in love with all of it:

dirt, night, rock and far views.

It’s strange that my heart is full

now as my desire was then.

Linda gregg, “Arriving again and again without noticing”

My therapist said recently that sometimes wounds that are made in relation are only healed in relation. Is the self a wound made in relation? In reaction? I am slowing down my reactions these days and so I guess I’m slowing down my self. I think that’s a lot of what’s triggering these swoops of healing, jagged and sharp, fast and hungry as the starlings in the park. I sat watching them for long time the other day, journaling in the sun after restless night. I chose to sit by the field instead of the river and it was a good choice. I needed to be near something wide and green. Somewhere I could sit still. When Manahil and I go to the river, I always crouch by the edge of the water and watch the current go by as she wades in. It’s like water’s wind, we say about the tide. She does not mind the buzzing under her feet, the rush and clamor, and sometimes I join her but mostly I need stillness. I need to feel like what’s holding me won’t move. In this moment at least, where I am is a place I can stay.

It’s less important why

and more important where

we leave some things.

I should have learned

this by now, grown

in a small river town,

collecting, as a girl,

colored stones from clear,

shallow depths. Before

home, they’d have dried

themselves dull. They left

my pockets wet.

Today at the river

only the geese were there,

held in glare of winter sun.

Again I tried to take

the shape of solitude

at the side of a river.

Again I stood motionless,

yet they were more still.

I stayed, adoring them,

over an hour in the cold,

waiting, I think,

for them to love me.

Then I walked home.

jill osier, “Shell rock song”

I’m still working on the love story. Mostly by falling in love. (And reading this essay by Bahar Orang.) Is that safe to say that? (Will you read this?) It’s probably not even true, I want to write in here for plausible deniability. It’s too early, every lovesick fool and I think to ourselves when it is clearly already too late. Days stretch open with the thought of you. Words fall away near your hands. I am learning to be again by being near you. I am standing on the river rocks. They remind me of us. The river and the rocks, and the willow trees hanging over them, caressing gently their face and back. Do you understand? I sleep in your shirt because I want it to smell like both of us. 

The shirt touches his neck

and smooths over his back.

It slides down his sides.

It even goes down below his belt—

down into his pants.

Lucky shirt.

Jane Kenyon, “The Shirt”

This weekend I’m taking a few days off from work and I’m determined to relax. My mother calls me, trying to talk about something serious. No business and no busyness, I tell her and tell her to try again on Tuesday. I am going to spend time with people I like, including myself. I am going to forget the world that is trying to kill me and by that I mean, separate me from my body and my body from the world. Heaven itself to take what is given and I am taking myself home, buying myself flowers and promising kindness to what the sun lights up willingly. Like my skin. Like your hands. Our heart.

Mary Oliver, “daisies”

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