I’ve had two minor epiphanies in the last couple of days. Now, I’m in a crummy Econo-Lodge in Scranton, Pennsylvania watching the news from Ferguson. Earlier this evening, I sat in a smoky, local bar while locals commented on the news teasers about the upcoming grand jury announcement. On the surface, and acknowledging that they recognized an outsider in their midst (my LOVE WYOMING shirt helped, as did my inability to pronounce “yinz”), I would propose that the bar patrons and I have divergent hopes re: indictment.
My first epiphany: I don’t always like hanging out with myself. I mean, that’s not the epiphany, I’ve known that for ages. But I’ve been trying to go easier on me. I’ve been trying to like how I am, rather than fill my mind’s ear with oughts and shoulds. I sing a constant song to myself of my faults. I re-think every terrible conversation I’ve ever had, and every bad decision I’ve made, daily. It’s hard to admit. I know it isn’t helpful. I know it doesn’t serve me. That said, what I realized the other day, is that I like myself the most when I’m walking. Unless it’s dark and there are leering and looming dudes around, walking is when I have the least amount of anxiety and it’s when my critical voice quiets. I think I’ve been frustrated in the past, because I can’t seem to change the things that voice says. Maybe the real first step is learning what interior silence feels like.
My second epiphany: This is even smaller, but maybe also bigger, like a tiny yellow warbler in the hand. I was talking to a friend about my grandmother and I realized a couple more ways that she and I are alike. She was often unhappy; she traveled to escape; she seemed frustrated with her attempts to express herself creatively. I am often unhappy; I roam as a way to escape. What is any migration but an escape, enacted over and over, in the hope of finding sweet release on the farther shore? I wish I had started really writing sooner, because I wonder what she would’ve thought about it (though I imagine that no matter what she really thought, it would’ve sounded critical and probably even a little mean–I learned to judge harshly from her, too). I have made very different decisions in my life, so my writing is finding an audience in ways that her photographs and other works never did.
These tiny, sharp stones, these sand grains, irritate. Irritation can inspire madness. But wait, because madness can look like a pearl.
I won’t see the mountain of words tomorrow. I trust that people I admire will say very passionate and smart things and I look forward to reading those things upon my return to town at the end of the week. I look forward to finding, in the words and conversations, ways to actively help change this terrible, terrible system.
If all goes well, tomorrow, I will be looking for birds.