I became present. I didn’t die.

The word art is by me, with the music by Nagami Yukitaka.

At blog called treehugger.com one of the bloggers wrote, you are not stuck in traffic, you ARE traffic.

Click here for an accessible version of the silent word project above.

On February 14, as I set off for a dance rehearsal for the One Billion Rising Vday Oakland, I pull two letters from my mailbox. They were letters from the Virginia Woolf Room of Her Own Foundation telling me that I was not considered for the final round for consideration for the $50,ooo grant that I applied for earlier this year. Twice. When I originally wrote this essay about it two days later, I still felt a medium sized tug in my chest as I looked at that number next to that dollar sign. I still feel some now.

This grant comes around every two years and I crumbled the letters in my hand, one for poetry, one for fiction. The president of the organization said that last year’s winner stated, when one person wins, we all win. The only reason you can say that crap, I thought, is because you won. So shut the hell up and quit trying to say ANYTHING to me. Specifically, quit trying to make me feel better about losing something I wanted. At that moment, if I could have gone back in time and not entered so that I could not be feeling what I was feeling right then, I would have.

I fumed and raged, as is my habit, with my three ring circus of emotions  As I walked  up and down the street  waiting for the bus, fuming at tears in the corners of my eyes. I fumed at the grant organizers, the women who made it to the next round. I fumed at Virginia Woolf. I did.

I fumed at myself for fuming. I gave myself a lot of reasons why I should not feel anything at all, and I fumed, and I fumed and I fumed because I was feeling something.

The bus came and let me off at my destination. “I don’t feel like dancing,” I said.  “A part of me is angry and wants to stay that way,” I sighed.  God, I wondered, why didn’t I turn back home as soon as I opened the letters? Why didn’t I have a fainting couch to fall on? Why didn’t I have a chocolate-themed wailing ball for the blues? Why did I, instead stand fuming at the bus stop, fuming at the homeless alcoholic man stinking up the bench and staring at his book, probably, I thought, the same page he sat staring at last month?

I remembered years ago, someone pointing him out to me and telling me that he, too is on his path. At that time I was incredulous and wished that I didn’t have that information. Was this, I thought, was the universe’s brilliant plan? I looked at him lying on the ground, lounging under his favorite palm tree, and I imagined his wino’s version of a Greek chorus… live live-in ants, several varieties of flies and gnats, fleas, some cockroaches in his pockets, and lice. The thought of everyone, including me, being here for a reason filled me with frustration and anger at this ill-conceived universe, a universe in which the mighty plan was flawed as hell and full of crap.

As I hesitated to practice the V day dance, I imagined how wonderful it would be to bang my head against a tree to relieve my frustration…to relieve the pressure of having to feel. Then Lea, my practice partner, told me the same thing that I had heard many times before. She said, “consider feeling your feelings.”

I think I replied something close to, “that sounds like a recipe for a shitty time.” Then I considered feeling my feelings, and now my reasons for avoiding them seem dumb. I said, “I could go crazy and stay crazy. I could sink into a bottomless pit of depression and stay depressed. I can’t even do it right. I have no money for a box of dark chocolate with nuts from Sees Candy, and some kind of a powerful analgesic for the next day when the chocolate binge hits the gluten ravaged cilia of my upper intestine.”

I suppose I would have considered avoidance, but the day before yesterday, I stayed at the bus stop, and I got off of the bus, and I practiced the dance.

As I started doing the “Break the Chains” dance routine, part of me was angry. At the same time part of me was angry that the anger was moving. As I danced I said aloud, “I think I’m going to put a pin in this whole feeling my feelings thing. Since I don’t have enough money to buy all of the chocolate that I need to avoid feeling my emotions properly, I’ll consider feeling them on another day.”

So, I felt them come back on February 15th and I was right. I had a piece of shit time. I felt my pain and frustration in my body and it hurt. I had an errand that I needed to run across town, and if I had a car instead of having to bike everywhere, I would have plopped myself into the car and drove there anyway. But, the pain of feeling my feelings felt so, well, painful, that I didn’t jump on my bike. Instead, I felt my heart, and my stomach and my throat and my nerve endings in pain. One of my arguments against feeling my pain was that I would stay there and stay there. I didn’t. The pain packed up its shit and left quietly, bit by bit. Perhaps, today that particular flavor of pain knows that right here just isn’t where it lives anymore.

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