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The first homework assignment my therapist gave me was to make a timeline of significant events in my life. The early years were all academic milestones and making new friends, and the recent years were professional achievements and people dying. I’ve traveled and laughed and embarrassed myself, fallen in love and almost died and felt like my heart was so full it would burst, and out of all the things that could have come to mind as landmark moments in my life, what actually did was so… Boring. I hate that for me.
I used to come up with all of these random things for my friends and I to do, from skinny dipping in a swimming hole in the woods to eating ice cream on the bleachers in the middle of the night (cherry Garcia) to elaborate photo shoots in an abandoned amphitheater drenched in amateur graffiti, and now I can never think of anything to do. I can only think of things I have to do. I hate that for me.
This is the first thing I’ve written in months. I haven’t wanted to write. Writing used to be freeing, comforting, peaceful, exciting, rewarding. Writing was buttoning my favorite pair of jeans and discovering they still fit perfectly, plunking down into my designated seat that is perfectly uncontestedly only mine, cracking my knuckles and playing God. Now it feels prickly, picking your way around a cluttered room, doing your best to avoid tripping or knocking something over or brushing your nice sweater up against something dusty or cobwebby. I hate that for me.
I don’t take pictures anymore either. My phone is out of storage. Everything is flat, dull, quotidian. The angles and light shapes and colors that used to dazzle and thrill make me want to close my eyes and turn away. I can only see things as they are, not what they could be, or what they remind me of, or what they make me think of that should be completely unrelated but somehow fit exactly right together. I don’t see anything that I want to remember forever. My camera is this big unwieldy machine, too heavy for my hands, and I cradle her and whisper apologies for how full her battery is, how empty her SD card is. I hate that for me.
I move through the days by muscle memory. Work gets done and meals get cooked and dishes get washed and dried and put away. I wear the usual things. I eat the usual things. I watch the usual things. I wash my face and brush my teeth and sleep on my side with my arm under my head and my other hand curled against my chest. I move through the world on autopilot, floating on the surface, conserving my energy for such a time as I might reawaken, and need it. I am a dry creek bed, silt settled, dead leaves crumbled into tiny jagged fragments, smooth stones, stringy green dried algae that once waved and danced in the current now still in soft curves and curls like the hair of a sea witch pointing the way that water once ran. There will be a season that the water will flow again, because all things are cyclical, the kids are wearing flare jeans and butterfly clips and stretchy black plastic chokers, so if that can happen then surely I can write again, shoot again, create again. Right?