As I was driving home today and people were piling into the city to get their spots for the fireworks tonight, I was thinking about what I should post for summer and the 4th of July. As I was thinking about this, I was thinking about how much I’ve changed and my life has changed. I used to be in a different city every week it seemed, with different friends. I definitely would have had some plans for tonight. The truth is, I don’t. Similar to most holidays, typically I just stay at home alone. At work when people ask me about plans, I say, “I’m not sure,’ although I already know I have none. I moved around a lot. I got divorced and never remarried, while almost all my friends have kids. I battled some serious depression and an eating disorder, along with some other challenging health issues. I’m not sure when it all changed, but it did. As I was watching the crowds gather to get their spaces for the fireworks, a song came on that I first heard when I lived in Hawaii. It’s a Tift Merrit song. In the first verse she sings,
Everybody told me this is who you have to be
My hands in my pockets as deep as they go
I walked home and packed up my cases to leave
I walked all over this country
I went down to the sea.
I talked a lot with the sun and the sky
I didn’t talk much with anyone else really
These are the things that everybody does
I always wondered what was all the fuss was about
At that time, it was like she took my life and put it into words. I lived my life in the reality of what she described. To add more, in the third verse she writes:
You found me up in the attic, singing down to the leaves
You caught me reading love letters aloud
To horses and children, to stars and to trees
The third verse hit me, in that, years earlier I lived in this attic room in my final year of graduate school in Boston. It was on the third floor of this really old house. It was my last year in graduate school and I was at a peak with Anorexia, which I struggled with for years. The room I lived in was so high there was a window next to my bed and it felt like a tree fort. I remember on some of the hottest nights, I’d actually slide my body into the window sill and it would cradle me. I was so tiny I fit in the window nook. When I heard the third verse, I was reminded of that time. My eating disorder was not at a great place in Hawaii, and I lived in this tiny rented bedroom. The stifling heat, the dialogue that essentially was interior and only with myself, and the secret wish maybe someone would find me and really see me, spoke to me. I think in both times in my life, I was severely lost and desperately longing to be found. The lines in the song about ‘not understanding these things that everybody does,’ was somewhat true to me. I had no idea what real life felt like. I didn’t understand anymore these things that everyone else got so excited about like holidays, etc. I think they just made me feel all the more different and inhuman, so I hid from them. I never stopped writing about them and what it would feel like to be a part of ‘those things,’ but I very rarely lived them. My world was so internal that I struggled to know the external. I think there had been so much hurt and disappointment by then, that I couldn’t bear the idea of the external. I listened to that song a lot because it made sense to me. I truly struggled to know and understand these things people seemed to care so much about, and at the same time, I did dream that someday someone would come find me up in my treehouse and help me understand it all again. When I heard the song this afternoon, I was reminded of a poem a wrote while living in Hawaii, that goes back to living in Boston. At the time, I thought I was reflecting on two different times in my life. In retrospect, I was writing details about living in the tree room in Boston and now years later in Hawaii not much had changed. This is that poem
When I lived in that attic room in Boston that felt like a treehouse,
I was a man afraid of sleep.
Humid summer nights, I'd curl up
My tiny naked anorexic body, exhausted
Small enough be ladled in a window sill. It felt
Like I was out on a limb. High above
Everything with nothing to lose because
Up there I blended in and understood everything,
Which really was I wanted to be more anything than human.
I have never been a creature of structure.
Too many doors- allow for too much shutting
Too many creaky floors- allow for needless noise
Too many walls- allow for shutting out things I should let in.
In that window sill, I was boxing myself in
Close enough to that tree , where I could
Imagine and visualize that I was not just some creature in a box,
But I was something wild and natural
As God intended it.
I knew I could barely touch myself.
I knew there was so little there even the slightest tap
Would turn me to dust. I would
Laugh and tell everyone who came to visit how I pretended
Every night to be a limb of that tree.
I never told them I was stuck. I never said
I was trying to build the strength
To move out of that window box onto the tree branch.
I didn’t tell them, I thought if i could make it onto that tree,
I would be able to see everything below I was afraid of.
I definitely never told them if I got onto the tree, maybe
Someone might see me
And climb up and rescue me. Even more,
There were nights I dreamed I had the strength
To let something touch me,
In the dim dark, my hunger for life was abusive.
The scent of summer came in through that screen.
It was the one thing I allowed myself to consume.
In a time, when I let everything
Eat me, and I ate