A year ago today I graduated from UNM’s MFA program and gave my English department convocation speech. Tuesday while walking through one of the buildings on the campus where I work I saw a quote written on the wall. In black ink on the dry erase board designed for quotes of the day were Maya Angelou’s words, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Immediately, her words spoke to my writer self, “yes, we all have stories we need to tell, to share, to connect with others,” but they also resonated with me at a deeper level. Today, I think how I planned within this year to revise my manuscript a dozen times, throw away old poems, write new ones, but none of that happened.
In this span of time, poems I’ve tossed out: 0,
Poems I’ve Rewritten: 2,
New Poems: 3.
But time, can be measured in other ways.
Number of times I’ve overslept: 75
Number of miles run: 317
Cups of coffee: 567
Number of hearts I’ve broken: 4
Number of nights I’ve wanted to cry myself to sleep: 12
Number of times I did: 11
Number of times I’ve laughed so hard I cried: 15,000
Funerals I’ve attended: 1
Miles I’ve flown: 10,000
Number of things I regret: 15
Performances I’ve given: 25
Miles I’ve driven: 2,000
So, I made up those numbers, but you get the point. We can measure our lives in many ways and our stories continually unfold from exciting experiences and seemingly mundane day to day events that gain significance over time. I am constantly learning more about myself and the stories I have inside me waiting for me to put into words to share with whoever may need to read them. Time teaches me patience, especially when it comes to writing and my own journey’s unfolding.
Though it is easy to fall into the trap of time judging yourself or others by how long it takes to accomplish things or get over something, i.e. it’s been X amount of years since we moved, quit our jobs, found new ones, have been unemployed, Y amount of years since we’ve been together, since you left him or her, since she or he broke your heart, or Z amount of minutes, months, days, years since you’ve been on a certain path.
We track our stories in these ways and maybe it helps us make sense of them. Maybe it simply helps us remember, acknowledge that it happened, that we were there wherever there maybe be physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.
I used to use loss to mark my own story of what made me into the writer-teacher-person-artist-dreamer, used to say it’s been x amount of months or days since the date and somehow I let this define me. It was almost easier to name it, make Loss a stagnant entity that stayed in the past. Back then, I tethered myself to Loss and Grief and felt anchored orbiting around them. Once I was able to write through my grief I no longer had to keep count of all the days I spent living in a world where someone no longer was. Today, I am happy and healed though the date of that loss that occurred six years ago still holds such significance for me as a marker of my life changing.
As a society, we can keep track of dates, mark it in our calendar to send us a reminder, but for me certain memories and dates have become ingrained in my bodily memory.
The story of how losing my friend impacted me is still forming, changing, and shifting with each year that passes. One evening last month I broke down in tears. It hits me sometimes like that when I least expect it. I used to cry in public places when something reminded me but this time it happened in the solitude of my office after everyone else went home. I couldn’t place where this flood of overwhelming emotion was coming from. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again the body remembers. Some years it seems like that date might slip around a corner before I can catch a glimpse, but every year on April 12th, friends, family, etc, remember. Maybe timing also brings you what you need. We call or email or text each other anything from “Hi” to “thinking of you” or just plain and simple <3. In those acts of reaching out to each other we recognize the significance of the event. We remind each other about the importance of love.
The next day, Friday April 12, I met a woman who was traveling to California for a conference. “What do you do for a living,” she asked. “I’m a writer.” And then came the inevitable question that follows, “What do you write about?” Most people ask that same question when we divulge our secret identities as writers. It almost feels like you put on a superhero mask or cape when you say it “I am a writer!” But do people ask Spiderman or Superman or Wonder Woman who they save? I can just imagine it “Oh who are you the hero of?” No, for us it’s what do you write about. Perhaps I glorify writing too much. Perhaps we do not save anyone. Perhaps we are mostly writing to try and save ourselves.
I write about a range of subjects – identity, loss, longing, heritage, culture, life etc. But to answer her question I simply responded, “I write about love.”
She just so happened to be on her way to a conference about “love.” We discussed our current relationship/non-relationship situations, and experiences with love. We talked about books she’s read on the subject, meditations she does, and what she’s learned from it all. The most striking thing she said she learned about love was that it wasn’t about the other person so much as it was about one’s personal self healing. Her books encouraged people to heal their relationships with those around them, their siblings, mothers, fathers, etc., and that once we learn to forgive others or ourselves and let go of things from the past then we can be open to giving and receiving the type of love we all deserve. While I was talking with her I couldn’t help but think on that specific day that we were meant to meet to talk, decompress, and share our stories. It was perfect timing actually, the universe in sync with what I know I needed to hear on that specific day.
Timing is everything.
Amazing things can happen when you least expect it. You’ll meet people you need and others who you didn’t know how much you needed. Some people who you never expected to support you will. Others you expected to support you won’t. People you thought couldn’t hurt you anymore will somehow find ways to break your heart. You’ll hurt people you didn’t mean to. You’ll want to go for it with someone or some opportunity even if there’s a chance of heartache at the end. Because now you know, heartbreak is inevitable. Now you know things will unfold naturally if you let them. It isn’t worth it to hide in the shadows or be afraid of possibilities.
If anything this year has taught me to not be too hard on myself, to be patient, and that some chances are worth taking. Now I know to take the leap.
What I’m leaping into: security, faith, confidence, and hope.
Things I know: There are stories inside us.
Things I hope I never forget: There are stories inside us.