I climbed a mountain a couple of days ago, and on the ascent I was delighted as a child leaning in close to hear water I couldn’t see beneath the rock faces, pushing leaves with my toes, marveling at the unrecognizable blue of that particular sky. For just those hours I was free of my mind, and I felt small and ordinary and lovely as the few patches of snow along the trail. Out there I was just a being dependent on the sunlight and the air and my own instincts. It’s just life, I thought to myself.
I climbed that way for hours. Listening, breathing so deeply, and feeling as close to good as I ever get. I could feel doom gathering like a far off storm, but I pressed on and focused on navigating creek crossings, leaping gently across icy stretches, and identifying flora as familiar to me as some books at home.
I reached my overlook and the layers of mountains there, and the storm rolled closer; thoughts like heavy rain moved in on me and I couldn’t find any relief, any cover.
What are you doing here? What do you think you’re doing? You’re up here running from the world you’re too weak to face. You can’t keep hiding out, living in bursts like some animal of prey.
“Nothing I ever do, no project I undertake, is ever for the passion or joy inherent in it. It’s about finding the space to exist via my actions. It’s about forcing myself alive in my terror,” I told P recently.
“This is a crisis of identity. I don’t know who I am or why I’m here, and I’ve been this way as long as I can remember.”
When I’m this lost, this confused, I turn back to the rhythms of my childhood for answers. I’ve been thinking about my father’s dictates and my mother’s powerlessness, about being and non-being and the danger and agony both states represent.
I remember that my father would beat my mother then berate her for not enjoying a sunset marking the sky or for failing to find the nuances in a jazz piece he was blaring. She was already gone, gone long before her actual death, and he hated her for it — though he was the one who’d killed her.
“She was to be alive but not too alive,” P mused.
“Dead but not too…”
I couldn’t look my father in the eyes or make any sudden or organic movements; living was done by a dim light I snuffed at his boot steps. Beneath his gaze I wore a type of shroud, just like my mother’s.
I can only lift it off when I’m far, far away. Way out in the woods or keenly focused on my body or with those few souls I love and I know love me in my shaking, awful nakedness.
I cannot keep up the balance of movement and erasure, of being and non-being, my father depended on for his own sense of safety.
“You can look me in the eyes,” P told me. “I don’t ever feel threatened or challenged.”
“What if I just move closer to you in times of ease instead of times of distress, LB? What if I move closer to you and take your hand…”