languaging the hopelessness

This is not a hopeful post today. Skip this one if you need to be lifted up, ok? Today I am unreasonably irritated with every noise outside. Who decides to use a gas-powered blower at 6:30 in the morning? Why do people seem to have no regard for one another?

I need help to keep from slipping into the abyss of despair and apathy, to keep from slipping into the awareness, behind the lens, that there is no changing human nature — men will always point guns into closed doors and just start firing at whatever happens to be behind the wood and metal, killing children, killing mothers and fathers, killing other men; men will continue to wield their machines on an earth that will bend to their efforts; men will continue to sever the legs and eyes of animals. This is a despairing morning. The dog is ready to go outside and the music is louder than I’d like it to be so that I can drown out the noise of a machine that is blowing leaves around so that the driveway of a fancy apartment building can look neat for the tenants as they exit the double glass doors on their way to work. It used to be that the people waited until 9 o’clock for that sort of noise — they understood that tenants, and the people who live in surrounding buildings, were still sleeping. They understood that the noise would interfere with the work of the morning: the slow wake, the tending to family, the quiet that we need in order to find ourselves again after succumbing to dreams. Who cares now about the noise we make or the way we impinge upon others? The news helicopters fly low over a downtown community, hoping to get a good shot for their 6pm broadcast — meanwhile, our teeth and windows chatter, our neighbors hide under their beds with trauma memory, and we cannot concentrate on the work of our living. The man goes by with the radio that sounds like it was meant to boom into a stadium, not stuffed into the confines of a souped-up lexus.

Can you tell I’m premenstural? And still the irritation isn’t about hormones, but about this particular instantiation of the civilization I am participating in. Every noise clacks and clangs up into my insides. I feel like pulling my ears off. That’s not even a little bit true — at this point in the hormonal surge, what I want is to remove whatever parts of your body make it possible for you to fling all your noise at me. Garbage men banging around cans at 5:30 in the morning? Give me your arms. Neighbors who need to exercise over the squeakiest part of your apartment floor right in the middle of my writing group? Let me have your legs please. I would like the lips of the smoker who lives up the hall; the voice boxes of all the barking dogs, the car engines, the helicopter blades, the rapists’ penises and hands and tongues — please hand all of it over to me right now. It would seem that you don’t know how to handle it. You can have it back when you can play nice with it.

Why don’t you just leave if you don’t like it, then? And of course, I have that option. I’m aware of that part of my privilege. I can move out of the city — because we all know there’s no violence in small towns and in the country. I can find my quiet isolation. I can find people who have some consideration for one another — at least on the surface. At least on the street. At least as long as we all look alike and talk alike and don’t make anyone too uncomfortable. I can run away from the city, where the only work we can do is aftermath work — no one is willing to change their behavior or give up the power they think they get from violence. I want to be able to envision a time when my sexual trauma survivor writing groups would be unnecessary, but the noise from the garbage trucks is too loud this morning, and up the road, a man is raping his daughter. A mother is doing more than just not seeing.

I want something hopeful but sometimes what we have to do is find the language for our despair — look all the way inside of it — and then keep moving forward anyway.

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Find some words for the places in you that feel unspeakable today. I know we’re only supposed to talk about the positive things — I know that when we give any room to what’s “negative” or difficult in us, the terrorists win. I know, we’re supposed to put a positive spin on everything — that way, we only draw to us what’s positive. Right?

Or, you know, you can find the words for what’s inside you, and keep going. Some days, finding a positive spin means swallowing your tongue and getting caught in the centrifugal force. Write all of it. It all belongs to you. Give yourself twenty minutes, and just let the words come. Follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

Thank you for exactly who and where you are today. Thank you for your words.

2 responses to “languaging the hopelessness

  1. Thank you so much, Heidi! I think you’re right — we have to get the energy of that anger out, and use it somehow. Writing is one way that works for me. xo!

  2. Jen, ever since I saw the first lines of this entry a few days ago, I’ve been wanting to get back to it so I could read the whole thing. (Who isn’t drawn to a post that starts, “This is not a hopeful post today, okay?”) Finally, here it is, Saturday evening, and I just read it. Thank you. I love this message, and here are the bits I especially loved: “at this point in the hormonal surge, what I want is to remove whatever parts of your body make it possible for you to fling all your noise at me.Garbage men banging around cans at 5:30 in the morning? Give me your arms. Neighbors who need to exercise over the squeakiest part of your apartment floor right in the middle of my writing group? Let me have your legs please. I would like the lips of the smoker who lives up the hall; the voice boxes of all the barking dogs, the car engines, the helicopter blades, the rapists’ penises and hands and tongues — please hand all of it over to me right now. It would seem that you don’t know how to handle it. You can have it back when you can play nice with it.” Loved the anger, the specificity, and the raw humor that seems to come to some of us when we let ourselves have the fullness of our anger. Also, I loved this: “I know we’re only supposed to talk about the positive things — I know that when we give any room to what’s “negative” or difficult in us, the terrorists win. I know, we’re supposed to put a positive spin on everything — that way, we only draw to us what’s positive. Right?” Jesus God, thank you for that, too. I love your honesty, Jen. Partly because it makes your joy all the more authentic and infectious.