I am liquid and I have no boundaries; I cannot float, I can only swim; I have no safety net, my lifebuoy is submersible, and the insides of my head are cold, dark, and tensing from fear. This is not survival instinct, just chronic fear of letting people down because I was that one kid who would never put her hands out to prevent the fall.
I don’t know why.
I am but another question mark trying to stand ramrod straight and make the most of life. My circumstances are special to me but my levels of exhaustion aren’t; to some people, they will be familiar, to others, they will be normal, each of our narrative a tribute to being ruled by something bigger than us, life of course, but mostly — hopefully — love.
I tangle with it a lot, this un-ignorable life force that has me in a chokehold because I simply cannot turn my back on it no matter how much it hurts me. It’s the habit I cannot lose, the habit that clings to life with all its might even when I feel I have nothing left to give, even when what I have to give goes unnoticed, unappreciated, unvalued.
Love is as clandestine as hope but it is everywhere if only you know how to look, especially between the lines and in all those other gestures that defy language. Love is the sound of the kettle boiling, love is a fresh towel, love is an expectant look sparkling with the excitement of discovery, love is an arm around stooped shoulders shaking with sobs.
Love is self-evident, omnipresent, generous to a fault.
And there can be no such thing as too much love. Without love, we die of neglect, without the skills to look after ourselves or the opportunity to develop them. I used to think this was limited to the first few years of life but I know now that it isn’t the case; a dearth of love can starve the heart until it turns into a beggar, wasting away in full view of those who plunder it.
The mind may break a thousand times but the heart goes last; vocation is love’s byline.
The ability to rewrite a life gone awry isn’t retroactive and no amount of hope, dedication, or gratitude can assign a new meaning to failure, rejection, or abandonment. Writing rips off the Band-Aid, exposes the oozing wounds beneath, and often tears up skin, too.
The relationship some of us have with the page is one of complete surrender to the intellectual violence of unexamined pain until we understand it completely; it is messy and it gets ugly because we’re trying to cover up the source of our humiliation: No one really cares.
Seriously. The page is often the last resort of those who have no one to turn to but the faceless, amorphous human collective that is the internet, the last resort of those who refuse to go quietly without having tried everything. To not have people despite being surrounded by people at all times is one of the great quandaries of our times; for all our constant connectedness, we are crushingly lonely and leading parallel lives untethered to any common goals. Ours is an individualistic society with self-indulgence as modus operandi.
We do not want to share what is going on inside our heads and hearts any more than we want to share whatever scraps of joy we manage to salvage from this miserable go-getting consumerist nightmare of an existence. Fear of scarcity causes us to hoard what could have been love if only we had had the courage to give it free rein, if only we had risked letting another person in.
When the going gets tough, we give up, blinded by the illusion of choice, the fungibility of what we think of as love, endlessly replaceable personas manning the trenches of our attention wars.
To know peace in unspeakably brutal times, we look at ourselves and we write, troubled troubadours looking for a way out of alienation as we appease the demons of deception and greed.
Language as religion is satanic worship bound in sacrificial rituals, incantations for a decaying muscle poisoning our egos with antithetical selflessness, the impossibility of aligning hearts and minds across physical boundaries. The meat bags we live in are impenetrable fortresses, as unknowable as the future we are supposedly designing, together.
The moment you glimpse the unlimited connectedness potential of writing online, wave goodbye to your sanity. Should you choose to accept it, your mission will consume you amid social media feedback loops in thrall to algorithms written by man and enforced by machines. Our curiosity and fondness for the path of least resistance are making us spectate and consume the lives of others rather than think and create alternative ones.
This is who we are and this is what we do with tech and free speech, this is what we achieved so far and, let’s be honest, it doesn’t bode well for love.
And yet, on the page we desperately seek our kin, those to whom the internet is a think tank but whose thinking still incubates in analog ways, without hacks or shortcuts unless you consider love to be one.
Love is my enabler. I am never not aware of its presence, protecting me from myself, placing my hands over the keyboard so they do not kill me just yet, daring me to defy exhaustion. Although I am sleepy and powering down despite myself, depression won’t loosen its grip on my lizard brain and I cannot let up, I cannot slack lest I should lose my voice again and this is getting utterly terrifying.
I don’t know what I’m doing anymore but, as always, I have been trying to write it out on the off chance I might stumble upon a solution. Any change, any improvement I need to make goes through writing else it doesn’t happen. I’m not sure whether this realization disturbs or delights me, mostly it points to a mind that is unwilling to switch off and let go. Palliating a chronic lack of rest by taking on more work of a different kind yet again seems a little counterintuitive, even to me. I am not a tank so where does the stamina come from? Creativity is running me ragged and I cannot keep up with it; the rebuilding of a life is so much more complex than it seems, geography notwithstanding.
Resilience is hard-won and I remain unremarkably human; the more tired I am, the more life trips me up, and the fewer hands there are to help me back onto my feet. People get so used to seeing you fall (apart) they no longer pay attention because you don’t seem to, either, as you’re too busy scrambling back up.
There is no question I left myself behind but where and how long ago, I have no idea. How can I keep moving forward when my survival largely depends on retracing my steps to understand where I got lost?
It is a torturous thought and it keeps me coming back to the page. No answer has ever been found by anyone who stopped asking questions; doesn’t inspiration come from frustration, a desire to be understood?
What if questions took on a different format? Every question mark is a connector and an opportunity to come up with a different answer. Writing is the thread that connects us as we walk hand in hand with darkness. Our lives intersect right here on the page, we commune through words, whether we are aware of it or not but it’s not enough.
It will never be enough if we don’t turn those words into reality; I’d much rather hug a person than an idea. When you have nothing to lose, risks are your only currency but most people are smart enough to follow the money, not the heart and eventually the heart dies, no longer able to sustain itself after it has run out of all available resources.
It’s a long road back to life when you’re writing it one word at a time, even on the internet. We have to believe the connections we forge will give our shared humanness room to be grow, be that only in snack-sized daily bytes, poems, and songs.
We can be bystanders or we can write the next chapter in human evolution, together.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.