[Published retroactively 2021-09-03, unedited.]
I don't have anything deep or fancy to say tonight.
Earlier I watched the sun start to set over a marsh, in a nearby park. It was pretty... and it was powerfully unusual for me to notice, and appreciate it. I could see flowers and moss and vines and trees and hints of animals that were staying out of sight of the human visitors. I could feel the warmth of the retreating sun balanced by the gentle breezes. I liked it, and I felt like I was allowed to like it, which was a strange sort of comment on my experiences with gender normativity.
And there were sad things too. My dog is gone now, and he would have loved to come to the park tonight. Sent off another coworker to a new job today – the latest in a heart-rendingly interminable line of goodbyes over the course of my life, and another reminder that no matter how many times I do that, I still am terrible at letting people go.
It was happy, just on the surface alone, to be there for that sunset. It was happy on a different level to even be able to feel at all. It was happy in a new way again to be there as me. And it was sad and lonely and called back echoes of so much tragedy and suffering from my past.
I thought I had something important, there. Some idea about blending positive and negative. Undoing the polarized concept I seem to have about how emotions work. Learning to live the actual essence of life instead of the extreme distorted outliers of bipolar episodes or nothing at all.
I think I have the idea, but I don't have words. I am tired now. It's been a brutal week for my mind and I honestly just want to let her rest.
I've survived through so much. It's still hard to let myself think about my life in those terms. Could have been so much worse. Sometimes it takes a moment like tonight to nudge that back towards perspective. I shuffled around the park paths in tears, overwhelmed at turns by my unexpected ability to see and enjoy the simple beauty of the woods and fields on a summer evening; and the sadness from so many directions that came to join; and then the stunning realization that I am genuinely in awe that I am alive to feel any of this.
Why would I be in awe of this, if there was nothing in my past to have hurt me?
Something I wish I had understood sooner in life is that there are no stage directions.
I mean, there were people saying stuff like that I guess, and maybe I'm just the slow one for not getting it. Nobody will give you permission. Nobody will tell you when it's "time." Nobody will spell out the best possible thing to do for every single scenario.
Nobody can tell you that you belong with them, if they don't even know who you are.
I think all the motivational junk you get thrown as a teenager and "young adult" (vomit) pretty much goes the same direction with this though. Nobody's going to give you A Sign, so go have initiative, be bold, be daring, do something whimsical, whatever.
And there is value in reminding ourselves to be brave and take responsibility. There is merit in proactively shaping our lives. I just feel like we are missing a really important perspective on the whole thing, and it makes me sad.
Yes – go make courageous decisions! Yes – go defy expectations and push the boundaries! Yes – go try and be willing to fail gloriously, rather than never live at all!
Remember that not everyone has courage. Maybe you didn't for a while. Maybe you still don't.
Remember that not everyone is safe to defy expectations or boundaries. Maybe it could be literally deadly to do so. Maybe just living up to expectations is an incredible struggle.
Remember that "trying and failing gloriously" might be poetic and inspiring when talking about space ships or something. It may be far more painful, exhausting, and daunting when the most one can try for today is to stay out of bed long enough to microwave some food instead of eating it cold.
Nobody is going to give stage directions. We like to respond to that by trying to drive each other forwards, with challenges and motivations and lofty sayings.
But maybe we should just fucking give each other stage directions.