tether ball

Revolutions

Me [waltzing in, whistling]: Gone from the blog for more than a year? Don’t know what you’re talking about. There never was a Time stamp. Nope. Wrong! Sad! Enoguh with the FAKE NEWS!!!!!! ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE! Believe me, I am a Excellent Writer and know Exactly how to use capitals for emphasis. Your pour liars and you have low IQ and very small boats.

Ugh, just typing that in jest nearly made my head burst into flames.

Yes, I’ve been away from the blog for Reasons, as the kids say, if they even say this anymore. I don’t know. I’ve been away. It’s been more than a year since my last post, and longer than that since I wrote anything besides links and announcements. That depresses the hell out of me, although I’m trying to be kinder to myself these days. Okay, so I slacked on my all-things-writing blog. Sue me. Oh, what’s that you say, you’re too busy suing the US government for putting babies in cages and banning people based on their religion and purging voter rolls? My bad.

Obviously, we have bigger fish to fry.

I started this post on July 4, a day when Americans usually are off floating in pools and snarfing hot dogs and apple pie, and I gave up at about this paragraph. I’ve never been so conflicted about my country and a large swath of its voting population, even though I know our history; I know the blood and shame that runs from sea to shining sea. Still, I have always believed we strived to be good, to move forward from that past and become better. I’ve always traced that long arc of justice like a talisman. Now it seem we’re sliding ass backward into the worst version of ourselves. People are reveling in their ugliness and ignorance and violence, propelled by the Orange Malignancy in Chief and his craven, morally bankrupt congressional enablers. It’s terrifying, enraging, stupefying, mind-numbing, and exhausting. The chaos has skewed time, too. Hours feel like days, weeks like months, as if the Earth morphed into a galactic tether ball, swatted and spun until we’re all careening into doorjambs and trying not to barf onto our shoes. Or someone else’s shoes.

And holy ever-loving hell is it hard to write.

So, in the ensuing days after I started writing this and couldn’t, I knew I was spinning out. I need to make some changes. I deactivated Twitter and Facebook (I kept Instagram because I find it less taxing, even tho’ yeah, it’s still owned by FB). Twitter was hardest, partly because I’d gotten addicted to the speed of information and as a place find a salve among like-minded people (I’m not crazy, right? That was completely f-ing bonkers, right? This is not normal, right?), not to mention the savagely witty, smart, literary people who took the edge off. In fact, when I first deactivated, I thought I could log back on in a few weeks if changed my mind. Nope, all my followers and my follow list are gone. Whoops. But it’s for the best. (It helps to remind myself that the Orange Malignancy has turned the platform into his bully pulpit, a place in which people of color and women are terrorized, one that equalizes and normalizes white supremacists and their sympathizers.) Plus, it wasn’t really an outlet for my rage; all it did was send me reeling deeper into anxiety and depression. Now I can call my reps without seizing up every time I log in. I can still volunteer and donate and protest. I’m a longtime news junkie, and we subscribe to/support a number of print outlets. My head is a little clearer since logging off, though my heart is still a mess. We’re still spinning, spinning, spinning, with no end in sight except for a glimmer in the distance (NOVEMBER 6, MIDTERM ELECTIONS, YO).

Perhaps it’s not a surprise, with all this whirling, that I’ve had the word revolution on my mind. Obviously, it has a sense of rebellion or political overthrow (yes, please) but also of dramatic change or transformation as well as turning or rotation—as in a wheel, or the earth in orbit around the sun.

I first started this blog in 2010, almost exactly eight years ago. I was not yet forty years old, I was living in rural Alabama and teaching at my first academic job, and I needed an outlet to keep me honest in my writing as I struggled with time, doubts, anxiety/depression, and enormous stress. If I couldn’t immerse enough to write fiction for several months a year, if I failed at not one but two novel drafts (gulp), I could at least keep writing in small ways, pushing myself onward with rough mini-essays and ramblings about my writing and reading life. Yes, I was creating an “online writing presence” (it smells like vanilla beans, pencil shavings, and despair), but I also discovered a genuine solace and pleasure in this weirdly public-private space with my mostly imaginary audience (except you! you’re real!), even if it was squirmy to put messy work up, even if some days I spun in the chair as I tried to untangle the mental knots.

I never really saw these digital scribbles as a social activity. No offense, but I didn’t expect or need a response or comments or followers (though, yes, sure, it was nice to receive a note or connect with someone afterward). No, it was the act of writing, a purposeful puzzling with words and meaning and understanding, that brought me a psychic and physical release, a jolt of joy and of accomplishment. Knowing the work was rough and unfinished and potentially riddled with (gasp) typos taught me not to be too precious about “being done” and just revel in practice and play. I would finish my little post, click Publish, and leave the desk knowing I had showed up. And that was not nothing. It was enough to get me to the next day, to remember that writing mattered to me on more than a published-work level. Writing it out, getting it down helped kept me rooted amid all my internal lurching. Yet I strayed from this old place as other demands crept in and I let my energy get siphoned off into other forms of media, forgetting that carving this time for writing practice was one of the ways I was able to write and finish books in the first place.

Now I am pushing into my late forties, I live in urban North Carolina, I teach in a supportive academic environment, and I have published two books of fiction with a third in the early stages—and still I struggle with time, doubts, anxiety/depression, and stress (though lord help me, I have fewer and fewer f*cks to give about the petty stuff). Big personal transformations have collided with large national and global ones. So many revolutions around the sun, countless turns on my own little wheel. I’m dizzy just thinking of it. Technology evolves and accelerates, making spaces like blogs seem quaint or obsolete. I keep turning back and looking at old posts, already squinting at the person and writer I was, wondering who I’ll be in the next revolution.

I know this: I want to be here, writing on this strange scrolling space and in the world, even if I stagger my way through. I want to get grounded, brace myself, push back until we’re moving forward again. And I want you—imaginary readers, real-life compatriots, other writers and artists— here with me. Spin your magic. Hold fast to what’s right and true as we grope our way through the dark.