Year Zero: Hypertexture

Shortly after New Year’s Day, as part of a staff meeting check-in on Zoom, I was asked if I had a “word for the coming year.” That question hadn’t occurred to me before they’d asked it, but a word still rushed into view very quickly; after a few had volunteered to share why they’d chosen the words they’d chosen, I pressed unmute and said: “I have a one in mind, but I’m not going to explain it—I’ll just say the word: ‘wholeness’.”

The thing is–I’ve been struggling with words for quite some time. What used to come to me like the beat of a drum has grown fainter. These words are now feral, the murmurings of miscreants who skulk in holes and corners; I strain to hear them. I try to lure them out–I try to win back their trust.

That’s why this website is here; it’s all my words jostled together. Words like: this website is a puzzle box of hesitations strewn across the floor of my mind and this website is a radio beacon in the storm.

My #TwentyTwenty started off with a whole lot of words just like those; twenty weeks’ worth of metaphors and memories performed as gratitude–a performance, yes, but one that was as deeply and genuinely felt as a smile transmorphs into joy in that textbook matter-over-mind kind of way. And though the past year did take an abrupt turn for so many of us, I ended those 12 months with still more gratitude, somehow.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with old friends & the old versions of myself that they knew.”

I wrote those particular words thinking quite naively that I’d surmised the extent of 2020’s reconnections; that a new year could possibly bookend a process that had just begun. Since that first draft and as of this writing, I am growing even more increasingly amazed by the new-old versions of this old-new self that I’m still welcoming back.

NOTE TO FUTURE SELF: REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE IN THIS MOMENT EQUAL-PARTS ELATED AND FRIGHTENED BY THE PROSPECTS OF YOUR CONTINUED UNFOLDING. ARE YOU REALLY READY? WILL YOU SEE THIS THROUGH? WRITE BACK ASAP. I AM EAGER TO HEAR FROM YOU.

Last year, I was grateful for the forced choice of hitting pause, though it wasn’t always what I’d call “much fun,” as feelings of guilt by disassociation like a nasty cough nagged me the more and more focused I had to become; and yet, it has—all things considered—been “good” to step back & edit, to better pace what comes next.

As Kiese Laymon puts it in a slim text I’d been gifted shortly after New Year’s Day, “I hope every writer alive never ceases believing in the rugged majesty of revision.” Nothing ever goes to waste. No one ever really goes away.

Last year, I regained several degrees of confidence in this process of re-vision—this process of stitching back together two halves of a motley patchwork that I call my past and my future. The many writing challenges I gave myself were an elaborate excuse to untangle and stretch out old tendons balled up into knots, to find that author’s voice long rendered phobic–or at the very least to find the words this author’s heart aches to string together and express whatever it is this author’s brain is trying to say.

Words like: “I wanted it all to stop. I needed it all to stop. I revised. I revised. I stopped it.”
That’s a line from Kiese’s book again.

Words like: “This is not an art blog. This blog is about movement.”
That’s a line from an old blog that I think I still mean.

Words like: “I want to live where soul meets body and let the sun wrap its arms around me and bathe my skin in water cool and cleansing and feel–feel what it’s like to be new.” That’s an old song that’s been strum-strum-strumming just out of view for a very long time and I just can’t ignore what it means to me any more. What started as a pine box of relics has been creaking and groaning for honest-to-goodness life, like something out of the pages of the Book of Ezekiel, and there’s no use denying it any longer.

In the last days of 2020, I wrote about how my story and my skin—that map and this territory—are now feeling a lot more closely knit; the time’s come to extend that metaphor much, much further. In 2021, I want to be wholly whole: mind, soul, and body.

The last days of 2020 have also forced me to face up to human mortality in the same rude way that past years have forced me to admit human duplicity, in the same crude way that every year has taught me something new about my weakness and my strength and the threats and opportunities of everything and everyone around me. In 2021, I want to keep weaving this textured self together.

I know that there are threads just under the surface, in the afterlife of patterns I once thought were shorn, but, in fact, had been given away. These pieces of me live on in the textures of others; we are a group becoming.

And I know that even deeper ties are in the spaces between, in the afterlife of patterns I’ve borrowed or that still mysteriously tether me to people and places I thought were long gone. These are the pieces of others that live on in the textures of me; we are a seamless web. We are words like: “to be total—to live an unfragmented life; to be whole—not to be destroyed; to make things whole—not to ruin or wreck things; to hunger for justice—not to tolerate injustice; to live an authentic life—not to be apathetic; to go to heaven—not to stay in hell.”

I would not be whole without “you” and “them” and “us” and other words like these.

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