I rarely print out emails. It seems redundant and wasteful. I can access them at the press of a button, because I never delete them. But once in a rare while I do print out an email. It's something that I don't just want to read on the screen; its words look different in stark black on crisp white, rather than the glow of a computer screen. I had printed one such email, copying and pasting the words from gmail into Word, then printing the 8.5 by 11 page and folding it in half. I tucked it into one of several books I used this year as a wallet. I didn't forget that email—that would be impossible—but its precise details had eluded me.
I woke up this morning and needed a piece of scrap paper; I keep daily lists in my phone but often crave the feel and look of my pen on actual paper, the liquid imprecision of the ink oozing onto the page, making letters fatter or thinner, perfectly imprecise, personal, mine. And I saw this one email I'd printed. For the first ten to fifteen minutes that I'm awake, my mind is foggy. I usually first fumble for the light, unless I first pause and assess what day it is, what time it is, what was the last thing I did or thought before I went to sleep. So it took a sentence to realize that this was the prequel to the other email I found on a folded-in-half piece of paper in my living room the other day.
I should know them by heart. They are twin bookcases to something that started and ended so fast yet seems to have lasted forever. A smarter girl might burn them, or, okay, a very smart girl might recycle them, but I don't. I put each back where I found it and resist tracing my fingers over those words, thinking them might akin to my tattoo, slightly raised, somehow alive. Reading them in succession, no matter the order, is not something I do easily, because they are stark reminders of the best and worst of my 2011.
Right before I found this one I was reading the new book The Moment, a collection of "wild, poignant, life-changing stories." Perhaps it's audacious to call the moment after I first read that first email "life-changing," but it was for me. It was a moment when I saw something in myself that I hadn't seen before. I let this space inside me shift, crack open, make room. I let it reveal itself to new possibilities, a new way of remaking a relationship that was dying, and taking me with it. That space was one I knew required a gigantic leap of faith but I took it, right then. It wasn't even a question, really, a weighing of what would happen if I jumped right in, or if it was, my heart had already jumped for me and I was simply catching up.
That space inside me was one I had to make for myself; certainly nobody was going to make it for me. Certainly it's not one our culture readily embraces and no matter how much you push yourself to live outside that culture, if you live in it's part of you, embedded, so even stepping outside of it means walking through it to get to that outer circle, and for me it's like always having some small part of me touching it, getting shocked by it but unable to fully separate.
And that's where I was in that moment, not quite fully shocked by what I'm supposed to want, and not quite all the way into what I did want, but somewhere in between. I've spent a lot of time, probably more than is healthy, since pondering that space, its beauty and its imperfections. As precarious as that space was, it was somewhere I felt at home, at peace.
Recently, I thought about making a list like a friend of mine did of everything she wanted in a partner, down to the most minute detail, and before that idea got way too overwhelming one of the first things I came up with was someone who would accept me for me and not judge me. I felt so comfortable in that space that feels dreamlike looking back because there wasn't that judgment that I feel so much of the time, or at least, I didn't sense it. It's a rare thing, to be nonjudgmental, to be open, to take people where they are rather than where you want them to be. I struggle with that every single day. Maybe it's a very human impulse to want to see others in what we think is the best light possible, so human that we forget that "best light" is subjective.
So anyway, these five months later, I saw those words and I didn't rip them up or burn them or try to erase them. I could, and I might sometime, but that's the thing about words—they never truly go away, especially once you write them down. Maybe you add to them, or disagree with them, disavow them, but there they are, still being reckoned with, still powerful.
I have so many things I want to do differently in 2012, which I'm trying to think of in a positive way rather than, "Look at all the things I fucked up in 2011," cause that's way too depressing, and much as the moments after that moment were dark, shall we say, which is a grand understatement, one of the things I most want for 2012, what I managed to squeeze into five letters on my arm, four on my back, is not to reject those moments when something shifts inside me, when a space opens and leads me to a new way of being myself. It would be incredibly easy to override those impulses, train myself out of being the kind of person who has them, to brace myself inside and out when anything or anyone threatens to get that close, dares to wade past all my armor and even foresee a space like that existing in someone like me. But like one of my muses this year, the character Musa, who I saw sitting in the innermost circle of seats during Musa and Sheri in the Free World this year, I don't want easy, at least, not at the expense of...I don't even know how to end that sentence, actually. Sorry. I'm not saying I want its opposite either, I want to be clear about that (hi, universe), but easy simply for the sake of ease, no. I want everything that email that's tucked back inside its bookish home promised, as crazy and audacious and ridiculous as that might be, as much as my realistic side knows I might never get that. I don’t want to be someone who stops wanting.