The dread. Many of us have felt a sense of it since last summer. Many of us still feel it. For weeks (months?) I woke up truly scared to turn on the radio, afraid of the news I would hear. And yet I was still drawn to it, out of necessity maybe. To know the news meant to die a little, but to not know it felt just as bad to me. It brought about the fear of the unknown. It brought about the dread. Basically, there was no avoiding it.
By the spring of 2016, something which had started the previous summer as merely ridiculous quickly turned into a no-longer-funny. Then it migrated into a surely-not, an inconceivable-to-acknowledge, a too-difficult-to-fathom. And finally: a silent, slack-jawed, spit-dripping non-speaking. The collapsed lung. The final exhale. An unwillingness to inhale again.
I know a lot of us have felt it. Certainly in our minds. But also in our bodies. Lidia Yuknavitch recently wrote this piece which touched on the strange (or not-so-strange) connection between bodily disfunction and worldly disfunction.
Here’s a snippet:
I’ve noticed over the years that I become wrong-footed and accident-prone when things are not quite right around me, and just now things are so not quite right I could myself become a walking earthquake. It’s as if my body turns in on itself trying to signal that something is wrong, trying to get my attention. I’ll take a tremendous digger. Or fall down some stairs. Or my knees and elbows will trade places while I’m trying to get out of the car. It can be spectacular, these falls, these bruises and blunders.
It’s no coincidence that in the weeks leading up to the election, I developed another bulging disc in my back (my fourth). It didn’t happen loudly and obviously from any singular traumatic episode, the way these things are thought to occur. Rather, the thing slipped gradually, like worn denim easing–over days and weeks–into a gaping knee-hole. I remember sometime around the end of October driving through central Pennsylvania, through the impossible blue signs and all that stubborn, taut insipidness and understanding the scope of the situation. It was on that 12-hour round-trip drive to and from a writing conference in Pittsburgh that I realized I had underestimated the depth of my pain. It was also on that trip that I realized we had all underestimated the depth of our collective sickness and crazy.
I’m not one for things Woo-Woo, but there is an interesting and graph-able correlation between my latest bulging disc and the subsequent sciatica pain and the political happenings of the last six months. Things came to a head (for me, an outright collapse) in early January. And what has followed, both for me personally, and for the country, has been a slow re-stabilization. A tentative standing upright. Unsure and uneager to attempt a thing like footing.
There were a good number of pills to aid the process. There was a whole lot of crutch. Each morning felt the opposite of health. Each morning felt the same as death.
But now, here I am. Not dead.
And us. Us too. Here we are.
We are entirely not dead.
I am a believer in seasons and in cycles and in eternal return. I am a believer in We Have Been Here Before. I am a believer in needing to die in order to live. (I lied before: I’m totally for things Woo-woo.)
We all have these little deaths before we have the big one. We have these moments–hopefully few, but sometimes many–where we think we may die. Or where we think we might actually be dead. We think: is this death?
Life is the most surprising just after one of these little deaths (by which I do not mean la petite mort, by the way, but wouldn’t it be great if I did?) We find ourselves suddenly awake, a lone red anemone standing proud (and a little scared) in a still winter of fallen trees and struggling green. Asking: what happened? Asking: where have I been? Asking: how did I get here?
It’s tempting to cave to the dread, to the realization of a clear non-purpose. The not knowing why. And yet, the absolute knowing that there is only one ending. We are all fucked, before we even begin.
And that, friends, brings me to this: The new Atticus Review is here. It is here as a resolute counter-statement to not being here. It is the lone red anemone standing proud in a late-winter, not-quite-spring of fallen trees.
Here at Atticus, we will get back to the task of publishing: Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction. Book, film, and theater reviews. Video poems. And we will start publishing some new things, too: some cartoons. Some video blogs.
Along with original work, we also will share more things to inspire, things that will perhaps help us get past the dread of the Big Why and just BEGIN ANYWAY.
I am so tired of watching people (myself included) simply react, the way an earthworm reacts when it is impaled with a fish hook. I am so tired of The Conversation and how it’s being driven by something or somebody we can’t seem to name exactly but all of us seem to hate.
I often need reminding that I too can drive. I often need reminding that in the face of the dread, the best (the only?) thing I can do is begin anyway.
We can shape the still air with our breath. We can cut the fallen wood with our words. We can make good shit.
It is spring. We are not dead.
Thanks for being here.
Photo Credit: Jen Maidenberg
I’m going to say the spelling is “dysfunction.”