Healing is seeing the way words can fill a white, blank page and suddenly take meaning.
I am trying something new—I am rewriting a piece that I hunched over for months but then avoided for three years—beginning with dusting off words to reimagine them into someone else’s story. I used to think it was daunting to start over with a blank document. Now, it is freeing to write out what has lingered in my morning thoughts for so long. Was moving to the city the path she was always supposed to take?
Was she meant to spend six dollars on “pasture-raised” eggs, or should she have received them as a weekly gift from her neighbor in the country? Was she meant to stay in the shadows of the mountains and have the pine trees surround her? Or was she meant to follow her footsteps in the sand and feel the sun’s rays beat down her back as she walked home? Or was she always better suited in a small town, raising her child alone, vowing never to tell anyone who the father was?
I can fixate on the past. My anxiety can hang like a veil on what once happened. I overthink a lot—enough to spend time talking with my therapist about how I can’t seem to let things go. It happened once. Who is to say it can’t happen again? When I do that, I find myself suffering twice because fear lingers before anything goes wrong.
I started a blog before I moved to NYC, which began as a tool for me to revisit good and bad memories to see them in a different light. I am currently trying to find out what role it has in my writing journey moving forward, so for now, it is hidden from most people. However, I will tell you it was a catalyst for finding myself once more in the words that are constantly swarming around in my head.
If you know me, you know my mind can wander. My partner often asks me what I am thinking. At this point, he can tell my body is checked out but knows my mind is elsewhere. He often finds me staring over his left shoulder at the wall behind him when at dinner. Or on a car ride, blankly staring at the dashed lines ahead of us. Sometimes I hide part of the truth. I don’t discuss how one thought has manifested into hundreds of simultaneous ideas. How I leapfrog from topic to topic, but there is always an invisible string tying them all together.
Sometimes, the string is the scariest part to identify. So I often respond with “nothing” or just part of the story that the string holds together. And it’s not the fear of him thinking my mind is a maze. It is the anxiety of following my thoughts backward to their origin. And how doing so leads to the fear of knowing where the story begins can sometimes be incomprehensible.
I’ve learned what it is like to have my mind dreaming up fiction. I misinterpret words, or I’ve been told I twist meanings. I like to relive the past and reenact it as if I am a performer looking to put on a show. I beat a dead horse. I ruminate. I hold grudges and forgive others before I ever think of forgiving myself.
I have learned how to bleed words out onto the page. For a while, I locked away some of my darker thoughts. Partially, in the fear that rereading, or reimagining them, would give them the power to hurt me once more. That’s because my fiction isn’t always fiction. It, in some way, is a retelling of my truth.
This brings us to the summer of 2016—I had the budding idea, which I manifested into my thesis three years later. Although the story’s bones remained, I wasn’t satisfied with the storyline. Fast forward three more years, and here I am, still seeking that satisfaction. The story is now becoming something I need to learn from and forgive. Finally, I can follow the invisible string back to 2016, when the idea began on a blank page.
I took these photos in November 2017. I had lived in New York City for three months. I was alone in my walk-up in the East Village, spending most mornings trying to pick up my thoughts. I likely spent this morning crying because I was so anxious about confronting part of my past at a concert later that evening.
I remember pulling myself together, feeling beautiful for a moment, and snapping a few pictures of myself on a self-timer. I never thought about posting them, let alone four years later, because I still feel some of that pain. But this day was a turning point in my life. It’s the perfect example of how divergent thoughts can entangle a single memory and how a narrative’s twists can be worth revisiting.
Thus begins the untying.