Opening Paragraphs

I used to write here.

My heart would beat so fast when I sat down to type.  I could feel the words in my throat, bubbling and exploding and rising up without warning.  I would write when the house was quiet, drafting opening paragraphs under the stream of a hot shower, emerging to tap them out on my phone, dripping wet.  I’d tiptoe to the computer, and minutes would fold into the darkness of hours.  I’d emerge from my mind, finally, with a story that made my pulse race.  I loved sending those paragraphs out into the world late at night.  I was braver then.  Pitching essays was only a bit of science, and the rest fury.  I believed in what I had to say.  I believed that it would find you.  I believed that it made sense, and was important, and that secrets made shame, and shame stoked silence.

And then I moved to a new town, and my babies moved in to a new era.  While it was thrilling to tell people that I was a writer, that my stories found homes at The Huffington Post and Good Housekeeping and all of those names on the sidebar over there, for the first time, I was embarrassed to be talking about my vagina on the Internets.  Someone whispered to me that they had read all about my breasts, when I talked about breastfeeding.  My life felt exposed, my children seemed suddenly vulnerable.  I wrote about politics and feminism for big outlets and it felt amazing, and then some charming man from the city of Anonymous called me a cunt.  And then more.  This was before the election, before the world exploded and any sense of safety that we had left completely evaporated.

And then I got cancer.

And then it was gone.

And then my step-mom, the one who taught us that love remains, the one who never left when even our own father did, got cancer.

And she died.

And the story of what the last 9 months has done to all of us, to those I love and those I’ve lost, feels unbearable to type.

Because then I have to feel it.

I shower for dozens of extra minutes, with the hot water bearing down on my back, dripping in tiny rivers across the scar on my arm.  My mind repeats the opening paragraphs, the lyrical first steps of an essay being born.  I name my memoir.  I outline my next pitch.  I let myself give in to the warmth of words and the familiarity of truth.  But now, when I stand on the bathroom rug dripping wet, I force myself to leave the words behind.  I buy clothes online.  I mindlessly surf Facebook.  I think about all of the boring details that need to be attended to before I could actually write again.  I mean, really….how can I sit down to write if I have to organize the file folders on my desktop and delete duplicate pictures to free up more space? My computer isn’t charged and the font on my WordPress login has even changed.  I’ll start tomorrow.  Next time.  When I’m feeling better.

Well I’m not feeling better.  But I’m here.

I lost 40 pounds, not by accident, and not by sadness, but because my body waved a major red flag at me last September and it felt like there was nothing I could do.  Except this.  I still wake up every day expecting to have gained it back.

I’m still feeling exposed.  But I’m going to try to stay here for a bit.

While I was gone, the whole world changed.  Not just for me, but for all of us.  And apparently the personal essay is also dead.  Or maybe it’s not.  But either way, I have a few things to say.  And maybe they’ll actually come out.  I suppose this is the best way to start.

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