Recovery

I spend a lot of nights making horse-like sounds as I tromp up the creaky steps of my Washington, DC townhouse, my sandy leather backpack slung over one shoulder, ballooning and nearly bursting open from its contents: my server’s uniform, consisting of a crusty, browning white button-down, an ankle-length apron, splattered with ink-markings, brushed about the surface like spin art in accidental waves of black and blue, and unbearable black shoes, wreaking and stale.  It’s on these nights that I breathe heavy, sometimes I cry.  I often don’t know why, sometimes things just get leaky up there late at night.  I like to lay down and look at my ceiling because it reminds me of limits, and I like to think about limits but then also imagine—launching, movement, surging speeds escaping boundaries and gracefully expanding the skies.  Sometimes my cat licks my face, presses his paws into my sweater, and coos softly.  This is his bliss, though it may not be mine.

I do quite a bit of recovering.  I’m getting very good at it; that’s not to say I brave the storm of various traumatic events that require recovery.  There’s something in between doing and not doing, and it’s recovering.  It’s not often spoken of, but it’s a state of being.  Even when recovery is discussed in an applicable context, it is inferred as rehabilitation or moving forward, moving on before looking at the limits and envisioning the breakthrough.  I’ve watched the ceiling quite a bit, it’s where I learn the most about myself; that and this playlist on Songza called Music for a Woodland Clearing, which is essentially Van Morrison sprinkled with near miniscule flavor bursts from other woodsy artists.  Regardless of its semi prosaic musical DNA, it helps me to learn about myself, and all things considered, it evokes wild and diverse spiritedness and life, which I’m desiring more than usual today.

I’ve received a few job rejections now.  I almost have to run back into the house each morning to grab my coat of resiliency.  I’m rather calculated now as I dress myself as someone whose cares are less numerous than they are when dressed in doubt and fear.  I’m afraid to face anything that might’ve once seen me as seamlessly and conventionally successful: the buildings, the faces, the mentors.  Sometimes I sit down to write thinking maybe I could write the story of non-success, maybe I could write my own story with more grace and beauty than failure and pain.  But the words are too close and not yet far enough to become story or tale.  I think maybe one day when recovery is past, when I’m not staring at the ceiling, concocting innovations and mental revelries of my untold flight through ceiling, stars, through woodland clearing, I’ll have moved enough to write the story of untraditional success—a sort of success that occurs when nothing else does.  When I’m walking up the steps late at night…

My mother sent me an inspirational yet delightfully childlike piece about her own life told in the fairy princess and her kingdom and castle-style.  She, the fair maiden, was described as having lost control over her kingdom, then claiming ownership over a kingdom that wasn’t fully realized until she believed in her ability to rule what was hers.  I, like the princess, need to rule that which is mine: myself, my time, my late night walks up the stairs, in the dark, with tears welling up in the pit of my stomach.  I have gifts of words like paint, voice like movement and song, hands accountable for change I can feel before envisioning it.  I make decisions like paintings.  It’s not even real yet, but I know it, think it, then it is realized like the artist, like the princess who decided life: the inner the outer—it was all hers.

Anyways, my mom doesn’t like Bob Dylan, but I bet the princess would like this song that makes me think of all I can do.  It’s simple, but really I feel the message of what one can do rather than not do is tantamount

She’s got everything she needs

She’s an artist, she don’t look back

She can take the dark out of nighttime

And paint the daytime black.

Recovery is in realizing that it’s all there; it just has to be taken and held in one’s arms, wrapped up and called “my own.”

ReBlog: McSweeny’s “A Rejected Essay to NPR’s ‘This I Believe'”

A REJECTED SUBMISSION TO NPR’S “THIS I BELIEVE.”

BY 

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I believe fat cats make good pillows. They are round. Soft. Firm yet resilient. They naturally cradle the head, provide unparalleled neck support, and promote vigorous digestion. Fat cats, when not functioning as pillows, are not otherwise particularly useful. Certainly they can prop open a door, or hold down a newspaper on a windy day. But cannot a rotund pussycat aspire to more? This is why I believe fat cats should be drafted into service of the uncradled and pillowless: every creature deserves the opportunity to rise to his or her highest and best use.

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Best of McSweeney’ssigned & personalized!

This is why I also believe that instant coffee deserves a place in the pantheon of socially acceptable beverages. History has burdened it with a heavy cross: the name “coffee,” which stirs certain expectations of aroma, depth of flavor, and heartiness. But names are mere artifacts of history; they do not emanate naturally from the things they represent. Do we malign French toast because it is neither French nor toast? Do we malign the noble Pekingese dog even though she is probably actually Pekingese-American, and even though Peking does not actually exist? As Edward Said so brilliantly showed inOrientalism, names reveal more about the namer than the named. Someone utters the words “instant coffee” and a diverse landscape of flavor crystals, each with his or her own unique qualities and histories, now comes into being as a class. Thusly lumped, the crystals can be set beside their whole-bean half sisters and ruled the inferior. Instant coffee cannot judge; it is only judged. It cannot taste; it is only tasted. That is why I believe the thingness of instant coffee must be sliced away from the name imposed upon it by outsiders. Like any living creature, it must be judged on its own merits.

Which is why I believe the phrase “the writing life” should not exist. I don’t know who came up with this treacly trope, so redolent of cats on the lap and tea steaming in the mug. So evocative of gazing out the window thinking writerly thoughts, such as “What is the meaning of life?” or “Now that Inspector Bunchybottoms has discovered the meat cleaver behind the potted palm, whatever shall she do next?” or “My butt is sore. I want a sandwich.” Writing, however, is not life. It’s not even very much fun. It’s like standing in a dark cave with an entire colony of Mexican fruit bats and trying to catch them with a butterfly net. They’re zooming here and swooping there; they’re smacking you with their wings. They’re getting tangled in your hair, they probably have rabies, and they want to suck your blood, but you just keep swinging the net over and over and over, and yet the net remains empty. If, wonder of wonders, you do catch a bat, you will bask blissfully in the knowledge that you have netted the most perfect specimen of Chiroptera ever known. You’ll bask for exactly five minutes. Then you’ll start worrying that you’ll have no one to admire your bat, your perfect, perfect bat. Or, if you do, that people will think it’s a sucky bat, or that it should have been bigger, or furrier. Or that Jonathan Franzen’s bat was better, even though you know your bat was every bit as squeaky and fuzzy and crinkly-nosed as any other bat. So then you realize that world just isn’t fair. But then you realize your bat does, in fact, suck. Then you realize your bat is actually a fine, fine bat but the problem is that the world doesn’t actually need any more bats, so maybe you should just put down the net and take up needlepoint. Of course, if there’s anything worse than a writer preening about writing, it’s a writer bitching about writing, which is why I believe writers really just shouldn’t talk at all.

And that is why I believe I should abandon this essay and go make a sandwich. I believe the best sandwiches are made on toast. I believe they include hummus, and sprouts, and perhaps a tomato. But, above all, I believe the best sandwiches are served with a pickle. The fact that so many sandwiches these days go pickleless indicates nothing less than a civilization in decline. Back when I was young, a cook would no sooner send a pickleless plate out of a kitchen than he would show up to work in a scuba suit. Those days are long gone, and whither goeth the pickle so too goeth our decency. Soon we will see Mexican beers served without lime wedges, and strawberry daiquiris served without those tiny, fragile paper umbrellas. This is why I believe that all sandwiches, everywhere, should go nowhere without a pickle. In fact, not only pickles but every asset of this great nation must be put toward its highest and best use immediately and without further ado. This is why I believe that fat cats make good pillows. They offer rest for the weary. They are flavor crystals for the soul. Metaphoric pickles for the metaphorically pickleless. They have no higher calling. We have no greater need. This I believe.