Funny how sometimes we say we’re going to do something, and ending up not. In my case it’s vice versa, well, at least in this instance. I said I’d take a break from writing. That I poured from the depths of my heart, the likes of which I have not done – if ever, into the preceding piece of writing, and it would take some time for me to write again. I guess six-thousand plus miles, twenty-something hours of travel, and four airports is all it takes to fill me back up. Maybe there’s more to it. In fact, I know there is.
I know there is.
This is the first part of my epilogue, and though it closes on a series of chapters in this story, it isn’t the end of my life. Well, I pray and hope at least.
A few weeks before my trip I had a poem come to me. Like any good thought, this one was quickly fleeting – only the difference was that I had managed to write it down immediately as it came. It started with a very simple statement:
This life is paper, and I am but a pen.
All the days I live become letters, and all the moments that pass become words, joining in sentances of seasons, forming paragraphs of months, and pages of years. If I am but a pen, and this life is paper, then the act of living is the act of writing a book – and this is all apart of a story. My story.
I can say, with some certainty, that I truly had some peace after finishing Of Shipwrecks and Lighthouses. That it was the comprehensive work of years of feelings and frustrations, and fears. And when I think of the poem I wrote the context of those years of tapping blindly in the darkness, chasing glimmers of golden light – and often being led astray, changes from being the cover, or the binding of my story, to being a section of pages in it – and hopefully a very small section at that.
Yet the closer I was to getting back home to San Francisco, the more anxiety I had. Like water leaking out from a pipe, only it leaks into an air-tight box with me sitting in the middle. Some of it I know I was psychosomatic. Like all good Webmasters, my website provides me detailed reports on visitors. All people should know that most websites gather information about where you’re visiting from, what device you’re using, what it is you’re viewing, and how long you’ve been viewing it. There are some methods and tools you can use to obfuscate this information – but it’s not something most casual internet users care to do.
That said, upon arriving in Atlanta I had recieved an update on the past days activities. Normally my traffic doesn’t interest me much, but there was one line that caught my attention – and just the thought of it stopped the breath in my lungs, and my heart dropped to my stomach. One line, one visit, from one very specific city, in which only one person I know lives. Visiting one page that isn’t accessible to most viewers, but from a device that I know this person doesn’t own. So my analytical mind starts playing out scenerios. It does what most minds do. It fills in reason with conjecture, makes assumptions out of fantasy.
And I know I should leave it alone. I know it’s the healthest thing to do. To let that skeleton stay in that still fresh hole in the ground, to keep the elephant out of the room despite still trying to fix the frame it was pushed out of, to keep the past in the past. It’s just that after this wirlwind of an experience, the growth, the self-discovery, the therapy, the tears, the laughter, the healing, the understanding, after I had finally hit rock bottom, I had finally for the first time in over a decade started to put the pieces together properly, and I really want, wanted, that person to see it, and hear it, from me.
I didn’t give it much thought before I left when I decided to call this chapter of my life ‘Back To Whole’. It emplies that I am, in part, broken. After close to twelve thousand and some change miles travelled, across several countries, I have finally come to the end of this chapter. I’ve realized I haven’t been able to fix what was broken, what I broke, within me – and my life, with the precious thing I held in my selfish child-like hands. I don’t think I will ever be able to set things right with what happened this past year, and this past February and March. It isn’t in my reach to fix this specific broken thing, and sadly I don’t think it will ever be in my power to do so either, but I don’t think making something whole again, even myself, is what the narrative or these pages are about.
Back to Whole does emply that I’m broken, but the truth is we are all broken. We are all fragile and broken things, chipped and cracked by life, by the hurts and pains that are all but guranteed to the living.
Though if the years has taught me anything about life, it’s that living is like the Japanese art of kintsukuroi. Let me explain. Where a pot may shatter and break, it can either be discarded as being damaged, and imperfect, or attempted to be repaired and have the cracks masked by paint or polish. Instead of either of these two options, the Japanese would take lacquer dusted with gold, silver, or platinum, and peice the pottery back together. The philosophy behind kintsukuroi is not to disguise the cracks and repairs, rather it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object. No longer technically broken, the pottery is not what it once was – it has been rendered more beautiful, valuable, and precious than it was in it’s original state.
As we live, we are given the opportunity to put our lives back together, pieced together with precious metals, and be made more beautiful than we ever were before. Though it isn’t gold that will hold these pieces together, it isn’t gold that makes us valuable and precious. It’s love.
I believe, or am starting to, that love is the thing that binds us all. It’s the one thing that can we can be sure of – that no matter the fracture, no matter the shame, no matter the cracks and scars, the spurn, the rejection, the failure, the hate. Wherever there is love given freely, and we freely accept that love, we have a chance to be remade.
And all of this, tragically yet beautifully, is axiom. We don’t know hurt and pain without losing, and without losing we cannot possibly understand the true nature of love.
Francis Thompson lived well before my time, or your time, or the time of anyone currently alive – but he had some significant influence on some people, one whom you may know. J.R.R. Tolkien picked up Thompson’s collecion of poems in the early nineteen-hundreds and attributed Thompson as an important influence to his own writings. One specific poem, To Olivia, starts with these two lines:
I fear to love you, Sweet, because
Love’s the ambassador of loss.
To love someone, to really love someone, is to risk being absolutely and completely vulnerable. It is the willingness to be hurt deeply – if not irreparably, it is the knowledge that you are taking a part of that person into your heart of hearts, and when that person goes, whether naturally or of their own choosing, it will be like removing a rose thorn from your thumb. The act will sting, and while the thing itself won’t be there, the feeling will still remain – at least for sometime.
When I wrote about Paris (at the time I wrote this initially the post was still not published), I mentioned that I had picked up a copy of The Little Prince, and had read it cover to cover in the park below the Eiffel Tower. I wrote how at times I would find myself openly weeping, to full out crying over what I was reading. One chapter, specifically, did just that. Tears are forming in my eyes just on thought of it.
In Chapter 21, the little prince meets a fox, and asks the fox to play with him, but the fox tells the little prince that he is unable to because he is not tame. The little prince knows nothing about taming and asks the fox to explain.
“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. It means to establish ties.”
“‘To establish ties’?”
“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world . . .”
“I am beginning to understand,” said the little prince. “There is a flower . . . I think that she has tamed me . . .”
The time between the little fox and the prince drew to a close by the end of the chapter, but not before the fox left the little prince with one last lesson.
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
“What is essential is invisible to the eye,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.
“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
“It is the time I have wasted for my rose–” said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.
“Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose . . .”
“I am responsible for my rose,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.
Here I am, quarter to 5 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, the time-zone I left on, the time-zone we both share, five hours of writing this piece, with a few tears leaking down my face. My mom read me this story when I was younger, and I would have done well to have heeded to the lessons in this chapter. Shame on me for forgetting, but like love, and loss, forgetting is also apart of life.
I wasn’t responsible for what I held, I didn’t understand the nature of love and what it is to truly love, to tame. Though through this loss, I think I’ve learned a lot about love. I think I’ve learned a great deal about it, in fact. I also think I’ve learned more about what is truly at my center, what is the nature of my heart of hearts. Before this trip came to a close, I called you my great regret. Not you, mainly, but who I allowed myself to become – the actions I chose to take. I chose to act not in love, I chose to act on my will, and that was my one great regret. Was.
My great regret now, and probably for a very long time until time takes that memory away from me as well, is the knowledge that these words will never be heard, or read, by you. That you will never get to see who I truly am. That I am not wild, but tamable. Not callous, but kind. Not broken, but kinsikuroi.
It’s not just that I don’t expect you to come to this site, I just remember you clearly telling me how much you dislike to read. So there is very little chance you’d make it through these posts, let alone get this far in this specific one. Though given infinity, all things are possible. Maybe one day a long time from now.
And as for the analytics.
I think today is the day I stop reading reports, and stop caring about who comes and goes, who may be looking for entertainment, or enlightenment of their own. To those, I hope my words help you. I hope my willingness to be completely defenseless and transparent to you gives you some sense of hope for your own story… for your own life. For life is paper, and you are but a pen. When I’ve finally finished this chapter, and all pages are complete with pictures, I will take some time to finish my site, and then maybe start writing other things – other adventures. I’ll put a newsletter together that you’ll be able to subscribe to so you’ll know when new posts are up, and then we can share this adventure together.
Back to the very beginning, I called this chapter ‘Back To Whole’ but since leaving Amsterdam for Atlanta something happened over the English Isles while I was looking out the window and listening to a playlist I put together. I realized today I will be getting an x-ray, probably the most important x-ray of all. The one that will tell me if I am truly healed, or healing, or if I’m destined for another surgery and long period of incapacitation. I am not quite whole, but maybe I am in a different way. Later tonight I am taking my sister to a very special concert for her birthday, and I made sure to get the ticket package that allows us to meet the two bands that we both love. One of them is Jon Foreman’s band Switchfoot.
I’ve loved Switchfoot since before I was a teenager, and somehow I’ve always listened to them the most whenever I’ve had big hurts or setbacks. In these past few months, I think I’ve listened to them most. One specific song, came on, the title has been wrapped around my wrist, emblazoned in big bold black letters, for years. I found the right title for this chapter, and it was right under my nose, and in the corner of my eye as I wrote these pages.
Love is the movement.
I’ve featured it below, but there are three other ones as well that are specifically poignant to this post. I’ve included all four of these tracks in a Spotify playlist. Even if you don’t pay for Spotify, you can listen to these tracks for free with the desktop version of Spotify, or the mobile app. Try it out – and listen.
I’ll leave you with this:
I hope you’ll listen to them.
I hope you’ll find peace, wherever you are.
I hope you’ll know that you’re loved.
And I hope you’ll always know how beautiful you are.
shanna2me, shanna marie twomey, shanna twomey