the things I can choose to live for might be very small things

graffiti, a smiling woman's face, with the text, "celebrate your joy!"

(click on the image for more of Frank H. Jump's collaborative project, documenting vintage mural ads and more)

Good morning! This is a very sleepy morning — is going to be a very sleepy day. I’ve been awake since 4 at least, earlier, I think. My morning-self was ready to write early, I guess, but my physical-self wasn’t quite ready to pull hirself out from under the warm covers and into the chill dark until about 5.

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I think music is one of the reasons for living. I don’t understand it, by which I mean I don’t understand where it comes from in people, so it’s always magic to me. I mean, I don’t think in music; it’s not a way that I express myself creatively — and I’m grateful for that not-understanding. It means I can sink into the sound with wonder, without the technical eye that sometimes arises (not often, but sometimes) when I’m reading a book I like and I want to attend to how the writer did what they did.

And curiosity, possibility: these have kept me alive, too. Listening to other people’s writing, especially at an open mic, in the workshops: experiencing how much there is to our us-ness. And the way the sky looks, at almost any moment. how a candle moves on its own inside the glass. the taste of coffee. a really good kiss (thanks for that, you). laughter. how my body feels when its moving in water. the feel a of a pen moving across the page — that’s a good thing to live for. the body’s endless possibilities. I want to say the body’s endless capacity for joy; but there’s also the endless capacity for sorrow, for loss: how very much we can hold. What other reasons to live? a dog’s head under your hand, holding eye contact with an animal or a very young child: there’s communication that happens there that we don’t have language for yet.

Maybe I’m thinking about how we decide to stay alive, how I have decided to stay alive. We can always choose not to, and we can choose to die quickly or die slow. So many many of us choose to die slow. And then there are the decisions to live: every day. Moment to moment, some days.

I’m not trying to be Pollyanna-y or Follow-Your-Bliss-y here: I’ve been kept alive (kept myself alive) by inappropriately-placed lust, by drinking (because I knew when I was drinking I could flirt with the wrong people, I could be too loud, I could be the parts of me that people don’t recognize otherwise, I could cry and cry and cry), by swimming around in depression and soaking in self-pity (and by this I don’t mean to say that depression is a chosen thing; rather, that there have been times that I decide I’m going to go with the grain of it into the hollow of my sorrow and feel around for the core and curvature of that place, instead of setting myself at an angle against depression’s pull and trying to find joy even when I’m at my saddest and most grey). Guilt has kept me alive: imagining how terribly sad my sister would be if I died, how sad my love would be. And so, I’m grateful right now for those things, too, weirdly.

The things I can choose to live for might be very small things — how good it feels to walk through the city and look at all the people and places; a cup of coffee; writing time in the morning, even though it’s not as much time as I want  — those very small things are everything.

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A prompt? Want to make a list of some of the reasons you have, today, for living? Making the list might be the writing exercise, or you might choose one of the items on the list and write more about that one — what is it that captivates you (or your character)? What catches you in about it?

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Today, I’m grateful for every decision you’ve made toward living, even if that meant, sometimes, moving closer to death. We’re complicated in our humanness. I’m grateful for your curiosities, your joys. Thank you, too, always, for your words.

3 responses to “the things I can choose to live for might be very small things

  1. “that there have been times that I decide I’m going to go with the grain of it into the hollow of my sorrow and feel around for the core and curvature of that place, instead of setting myself at an angle against depression’s pull and trying to find joy even when I’m at my saddest and most grey”

    Beautiful.
    What a wonderful way to describe something I’ve never been able to explain to myself or anyone else.

    Writers (like you) and reading and books feels like something that always somehow chose me to live as well as me choosing to live for…

  2. Thank you for this, Fresh! — yes, I love it when folks post prompt-responses here!

    I’m grateful for you, for your living, for your choices, for your being here. For your being just where you are, now: thank you.

  3. Thank you for this. You must know that there are days that one of my major reasons for choosing to live is you!

    You know I began choosing to live shortly after I stopped praying my mother wouldn’t die; just after turning 11 when she did. I pretty much waited to die every day since then except for the days when someone wonderful would come pull me in the direction of life; like a brown-skinned dyke named Pat that I met when I was 15 and who taught me to try hard at what I wanted. She slipped away from her British lover and all the rest of us a year later, for heaven I suppose. And at 16 Joan Swan the Quaker woman who ran the Carter CEDAR program at the Friends Seminary School on 2nd and Rutherford. I was learning carpentry and construction and how to work with teams and she pointed me towards my future with her warmth and smiles and an introduction to teacher, feminist, author, critic, Barbra Smith. At night I’d go back to bouncing and bartending and would not follow up on who Smith was for another 20+ years.

    And there have been countless people and lovers and passersby-eyes that kept me moving foward. For every person who tried to push me back or down, and there were many, there was a person who pointed and/or cleared a way for me…and this went on forever until my late 30s when I realized I could manifest only good people if I stayed focused and through this practice I’ve learned to thrive in life and the lapses, the periods of heaviness that want to pull me back are fewer and far less attractive – Finally.

    I don’t think you want us to complete our prompts here but I was inspired. I’m so hap, hap, happy to be alive. Even on bad days I can find ways to be grateful and I’m so happy for it. Ways like the ocean, trees, fruit, My clients, water, my hands, FB 🙂 and so much more…

    And I’m happy for you every, every day and many hours and most minutes and a kazillion moments throughout, the rest of the times I’m just focused on me 🙂