Cancerous Marshmallows and Less Chaotic Things
When I think of cancer I think of burnt marshmallows and Makers poured into jars of maraschino cherries.
I was toasting marshmallows over a fire made out of my notebooks. The pre-PVC free Moleskine notebooks made their way to the pile and the smell made its way into the marshmallows in a way I could taste. I kept eating them because I told myself I was going to drink and toast marshmallows until the last decade or more of my life was gone.
My life was headed in a new direction slower than I wanted. I told myself it was the emotional weight bending the shelves in my closet. The notebooks, sketchbooks, the cache of index cards and a few paintings went onto the pile.
The PVC fumes cleared or I absorbed them. I could smell the other things. My notebooks were better then, cheaper but full of unstructured life — the only real type of life. I smelled the twigs, leaves, dirt, and all the things that ended up between the pages from the hiding places I would drive hours to be safe in.
I felt connected and sad for the person who filled the paper and canvases that burned in front of me. That person was scared. They would panic. They looked at a dirty French press on their dorm room desk and had to drive to Austin to feel better.
Things like this happened a lot. I kept a wall charger and deodorant in my car. I would grab my pocket stuff and a notebook before leaving. It’s all I had to grab and it’s all I could grab when I felt like that.
Leaves I picked off trees and leaves I picked out of canisters to remember how beautiful tea is before its drowned.
Dirt. So much dirt. Clay I got with my hands and poured water onto. It would spread over a page in the way you wish peanut butter would spread over sliced bread. Sitting in state parks I walked to from the road because I didn’t want to pay to get in. It wasn’t quiet. The sun lowered and the volume of everything increased.
I wish it could have been even louder.
I found a small shovel on campus and put it in my trunk so I could make a desk out of a pile of dirt so I could write longer, but that idea and smallest preparation ruined it. I felt seen even thinking about it the next time I got in my car.
The memories of my stomach on the sand with the sea water hitting my back higher and higher until I had to move further up the coast are all peaceful. I didn’t need to look at the ocean. There’s nothing there, but beauty and danger I would never find myself in. Beyond the sand had danger that I would always find myself in.
My notebooks don’t have dirt or water damage from anything that isn’t a spilt drink. They sometimes have instant photos and receipts.
I go from one series of walls to another inside of rooms with wheels or wings.
There are parks I walk in, but my notebook stays in the walls that have no wheels or wings. It’s heavy and nags at me so it stays at home. I have some paper sometimes and if I really need something I just tap on the glass thing that make being inside bearable and addictive even though it will work outside.
What does this make me?
I was never seen without a book full of ink and graphite, but now I’m never seen with one — even inside.
Maybe this was the direction I was so eager to get to while burning those books and eating more than a dozen marshmallows when I didn’t want more after the third. Maybe I didn’t want a notebook in my hand or tucked under my arm wherever I went. It caused questions. It caused guilt for not using it more. It made me feel like a fraud.
I this who I wanted to be?
Did I just want to stop being the person that put leaves in notebooks or did I just want to stop being a person with a notebook?
I don’t know.
Maybe the answer isn’t in a park or on the beach. I feel like there’s an answer in a mountain. Somewhere it’s cold enough to slow all the things in my mind down or at least interrupt them with wanting warm hands.
I don’t know.
I’m scared to go somewhere and it’s harder to do now. I don’t have the freedom I had even though I could pay to go into a park now.
I need air that isn’t pushed out or pulled in through a filter. It needs to be fresh. I want to breathe the air hundreds or thousands of miles away.
I want to do it with a notebook in my hand.
Because if I wasn’t here it wouldn’t nag me. It wouldn’t be something I look at as a task I should have done a while ago and a few dozen times after that. It would be a friend. It would be something I find comfort in. I would get the mess in my head on its pages and put it back in my skull in the right order.
I can’t be sure it would do this. I hope it would. I hope it will, because I hope to do it. There are things here that are nagging me here that aren’t my notebook and I’m ignoring them too. I’m not doing them, but I feel like I can’t do anything that keeps me away from them until they’re not there — until they are done.
I need a mountain, a beanie, and a flannel shirt that doesn’t look common or one that looks iconic.
I need out. There will still be walls, but those windows will let me see things I haven’t before. I could be looking at something I haven’t seen before in a few hours? Why am I not on my way? The tasks? The tasks I have aren’t being done and they don’t need me here to not do them.
Maybe I should go?
I haven’t focused on these thoughts until I wrote this. This focus will either fade or put me a hundred miles or more away in new air.
I don’t know which, but I have hopes for one.
Written for Plumbago, issue six
I hope I finish this book and I can hope that because there is a chance I finish it.
I’m writing this bit in a coffee shop on the day I go to a coffee shop and work on a single creative project for two hours.
Last week I wished I could finish this book. I could only wish because I didn’t go to the coffee shop. I hadn’t gone in months, but today I am here. Today I can hope because I’m making what I want possible.
You can hope for others.
Do you have a friend that you hope gets better? Do you wish there were less beings in pain or do you hope it? Those are wishes unless you do something that can make them happen.
Wishing is hopeless, but hope helps.
I want you to read the next paragraph aloud in a whisper or even a shout, the volume doesn’t matter — the speed does. Read it a little slow.
In this moment I am slowing down. I am taking my time. It’s not necessarily to do this right, there will always be errors, but I do it to focus on what I am doing because what I am doing is important. It is important because I am doing it with the small amount of time I have here.
How do you feel? I hope you feel a little more calm.
Now take the idea of those few sentences you read aloud and apply it to any small task you do. Try to do it at least once a day. Slow down and appreciate the small details of what you’re doing. Focus on it and not on anything that needs to be done later.
One of Those Days
You might not think it when something first goes wrong. It might take a few things for you to say it. You might not even say it. You might just think it. No matter what it’s a thought we all have.
“It’s just going to be one of those days”
It will be one of those days. One of those days you will survive. One of those days that you’ll remind yourself to be on the lookout for good things you wouldn’t notice because of a few bad things that have stolen all of your attention.
When you find yourself thinking that the day is somehow cosmically doomed for you, think about how good things will happen that day. Remember you will survive it like all those other days.
Don’t Let the Day Scare You Awake
The start of a new day is scary and like most scary things we try to avoid it. The way we most often avoid it only makes the scare worse.
Get out of bed early — an hour or more if you can.
Do not look at your notifications. Do not read email or texts or comments. The only thing to use your phone for this early is music, non-emotional and non-news podcasts, or games. Wake up easy, no need to rush.
The day isn’t here yet.
Drink something warm. Read something easy. Sit down and try not to think. Then plan how you will attack the day because it is coming and when it comes you’ll be a little more ready.
Get a Plant, Then Maybe an Animal
Depressed people often get the advice to get a pet and it seems like a perfect solution. Who couldn’t be happy with something small that loves you? It’s like a child that never grows up!
Sadly, animals need to be fed, entertained, and taken care of even when you don’t want to get out of bed.
So get a plant. Talk to it while you water it. Let it breathe in the sweet carbon dioxide of your words about your sadness and worry. It will turn those words into fresh air and beauty.
If you can keep the plant alive throughout multiple hard times then maybe you are ready to go rescue a friend from a shelter.