We need to talk.
Last week, I dropped the whole enchilada filling on the floor thirty minutes before everyone arrived. I crumpled like a tissue. My loved ones just looked at me; this was not an emergency, why was I falling apart? I said something sharp, blamed someone or myself, threatened to call off the dinner party. I kicked everyone out of the kitchen to breathe, ragged and uneven and try to coax my best self to the surface.
This is not what we post on Facebook. We think this is not what people want to see, our snot nosed, snuffling, mean spirited moments, our human failings, the time I slid to the floor crying over spilled enchiladas.
I want to talk about need. The feral pull in my lower gut towards what I want more than anything. The ancient Norse people have a symbol for Naudhiz, the need fire, lit when there is a great hole that must be filled for survival. In those mythopoetic realms, the sacred need fire is ignited and someone comes to help.
My survival is more assured than most people on the planet. Of course nothing is certain but I have steady work as a healer, teacher and writer. I have love and health and home. I am no longer living paycheck to paycheck and this feels like safety. I don’t have to light the need fire every night. What could I possibly need?
I write because words have always flown out of my fingers like small bizarre birds and sometimes people told me that they made sense. I catch things with those word birds and tell stories about our world through my pale hands. I write because I have to calm myself down, transfer emotion from head to keyboard, create something. I write because there are things we are not saying out loud anymore.
I need to talk about our breakdowns and depression and the way that the world is frightening, the way that some people are saying if you are fighting against racism, you are trying to hurt white people instead of righting a great wrong. I need to talk about the strange cold, the melting ice and the rain that does not come. I need to talk about our ocean, the place where life comes from and the plastic, the oil and the radiation.
I need the conversation with you. I need to trust that it is happening even when I am not there. I need you there, when you are strong and when you are failing. I need to know that you have losses and victories. I need you to keep doing what you are best at doing. I need you to find what that is for you. I need you to remind me how to support you. I need your support.
We have to talk about the way that love means putting your attention and effort into something, not just identifying with it. We have to talk about the ways identities can protect us and also destroy our ability to connect with people who don’t hold the same ones. We have to talk about the way we stretch horizontally with spiky claws to skewer the people within our reach instead of banding together to challenge the monsters who keep us distracted and consuming. We have to practice ways to feed, challenge and console each other, all of it.
We need to talk about how it can rip us open when someone dies but we are all headed into age and eventually, an ordinary death. We need to talk about the ways we numb ourselves and how normal it feels. We need to talk about how many obstacles keep the blinders on, spinning towards someone else’s idea of the way that life should be.
We must talk about our terror that people will see us: our anxious compulsions, the unraveled edges, the crazy bits, the dusty surfaces. Of course we will get it wrong. Of course we will fail each other. But maybe we won’t be torn apart by a vicious mob. Or maybe we could survive even that if we can give a modest kindness, a precious balm to each other. Even if I drop the enchiladas. Even if I say something biting or push you away.
What is it to be kind? What is it to be human? We need to talk even if we don’t agree.
I write because words lead to action, words lead to memory, words lead to change. I write because I can’t always remember what has been lost. My attention span is shrinking. I write because I was made for these times and so were you. We have something to do together.
Who will light the need fire for us? Who will come?