Tentative Beginning

adelaide bowen

Firstly; the deepest & most sincere thank you to anyone who has subscribed, and to anyone who subscribes. Secondly, the first post is going to be an edited excerpt from the Pariah’s Journey; a long anthology type thing I’ve been working on. I do think some background in The Pariah’s Journey might be in order, since it’s been under construction so long, it’s really more of a diary of internal revelations, conversations, observations, etc, than anything else.

For the past two years since the pandemic started my family and I have been trapped in an abusive household, and I’ve - since March of this year - been pouring myself into The Pariah’s Journey - to not go absolutely bonkers. With that in mind, readers beware that I do cover serious topics at times because that is where my thoughts happened to wander. Letting things live in other places so that it does not rot me out. It’s not the only piece I’ve done to ‘get the poison out’ so to speak, just the longest (frankly the one I’m most excited to publish, even in pieces).

Without further ado…

From 03/04/2022

I always find myself running from my innermost thoughts only to start back at the beginning. I create myself only to break down and start anew. I am never truly happy when I look in the mirror, not with who I find outside, or in. I obsess over the fine details like scraping at the grout in between the bathroom tiles with a toothbrush.

Isn’t that how it goes, though? The ouroboros; gilded serpent swallows itself whole. Encircling the world with knowing eyes, bearing the weight of destruction, recreation, and rebirth.

But are we so different from the Ancient Greeks, with their Orphic Mysteries? In every person there is someone new to discover, and as you progress into the future you go where your old self cannot follow. What will come of this is either a bang or a whimper.

It will never go quietly, the past-self. Such is the nature of rebirth. One must die for the other to live; you cannot take it with you. You will always be someone different from one moment to another, transitioning. Sometimes you may be multiple people at once—this is the journey of becoming someone new. Time changes us all, minutely, in ways that cannot easily be seen to the naked eye. And even when they can be seen, they cannot be yet understood— not fully, never fully, and you shouldn’t trouble yourself trying before they have finished brewing; rest assured, your time will come—and when they are finally understood, your own Mysteries revealed, you are then tearing down the temple and burning the scrolls and starting from the ground up, and so you have very little time to sit down and contemplate these new complexities until you have started again, and by that point they are old complexities, because you have yet again found new ones to ponder in the back of your mind as you hurry along to catch up with the changes happening before your eyes.

We are all changing, like the leaves on the trees or the caterpillar in metamorphosis. To worry yourself over this would be both a wasted effort and futile. You will never be able to keep up with the tides, ever changing. You will never be able to keep up with the wild fox that darts in the underbrush. But if you sit still for a moment, allow your thoughts to pass, and let them inform you, not rule you or scatter you, you can find the key to your next self, rather than a hammer. These changes become smoother when you learn you have nothing to fear from changing or from time except the anxiety of change itself; this sentiment I struggled to internalize myself, but with time it has become a great comfort.

Yes, the laundry must get done, and if it doesn’t you might not have time to do your other errands. Yes, the ocean is deep, and dark, and scary and unknown, and who knows what will be found in it given enough time; certainly there have been enough headlines with the words ‘Alien Creature Washed Up From The Deep.’

But if you struggle to get the laundry done, it is not a weakness to ask for help; or to let it go to another day, and complete your errands on this one. It is okay to do nothing that day if you cannot, reason be damned. The ocean is vast and endless, but you do not have to go that far. You can simply enjoy the fascinating depths and uncertainty of the ocean from safety and comfort, or forget it exists altogether, out of sight out of mind (though this, I do not recommend - to truly conquer a fear, nearly any fear, you should learn about it, understand it, know what it is that frightens you so — if it is the unknown you fear, you should make it known to you, as you cannot be afraid of what you know. Then, it can be put somewhere on a shelf, for a rainy day.)

There are a number of ways to circumvent the daily anxiety that you may contend with, you just have to find them; like you are carefully searching your way around in the dark after a storm knocked down a power line. They will not all come easily, quickly or be obvious to even yourself, even though you have seen this landscape before with the lights on. Now they are off, and you have one task: to seek.

You must become someone who can adapt to their own mind; a task, should you take it up, you will always be working at, a skill constantly needing to be honed. It is nothing more than pruning the shrubs, tending to the garden or upkeep in any discipline. This is a tactile task, the practice of needling your mind, and you should feel it as you carefully flit through.

Once you have begun this, the only thing that truly matters is not letting your worries chase you in circles like a dog after its own tail until you’re half-mad with hysteria, a villain only you can see at every corner. So long as you have someone to lean on, to share in your daily duties, then all is not lost. Then, you must face your thoughts.

What if I don’t like my new self? What if I don’t like any of the people I am? What if I can’t do the things I could before?

Who am I?

You are you; so human and so beautiful. You, who exists at a time to read the words I have written. You, who has been on this Earth, felt the air on your skin, who has fought and won many battles; you are delightfully you, and there is no one else you should be.

Continue creating, continue sculpting. Grab the clay of yourself, give it form and maybe, most importantly: don’t mind the mess. Humans are notoriously messy, emotional creatures. Always look towards the future. If you keep an eye on the past, you will never be looking out for what's coming next. Managing both becomes painfully tedious work, and tears you in two directions. And truly, how many directions can the human mind be expected to be pulled in? No; one direction should be enough, I promise you.

The past is better left there for later contemplation when you have time to rest; but not when you are panting, dizzy— chest heaving and out of breath from the mountains you have climbed. It is better left resting, until you have time to gently unearth it and find what can serve you. The past can always teach you something valuable, but there is a time and place for your focus. It can wait — it isn’t going anywhere, but you have the future to catch up with.

I used to, when I was younger, fear my past self with every breath. I made sure there were nearly no remnants of it—me. Mostly, I was preparing in the event I died, that there was no trace of me. Truly, I’ve lived like I was going to die since I was twelve, and only stopped when I was eighteen. Like I had an expiration date; spoiled milk that was going to be thrown out inevitably. I was so focused on the past that I missed out on my present, thus my future.

I guess what I mean to say is, until I was able to recognize my behavior for what it was, I always lived too far in the future and too grounded in the present. I’ve deleted every suicide note I’ve ever written. And they've never been physical, all digital. I still never leave behind vulnerable pieces of myself. Always making sure I never looked back at the past to remember where I came from, to convince myself I've always been the same. Not the same person, or I'd never learn from my mistakes (and of those, there are many), but the same age; spotless, like I spawned into this world a fully formed being with flesh covering the important parts and wasn’t born, messy and screeching, like anyone else (not because I’m better than others—but because imagining myself as an existing, living being was nearly impossible). I have never allowed myself to leave behind memories of a year.

I've always felt as old as I am, and older than that still; never felt my age when it passed, and always felt younger than that. Never felt “right”.

What need do I have of the belongings of someone who no longer exists, once the months pass me by? That's a sentimentality for people who aren't me, a softness for people who aren't me, who have not been sharpened on any hard surface that could be a suitable whetstone. Even the road that led to my elementary school was sharp enough.

Naively, I always thought that it wouldn't matter to any version of me in the future and I didn’t think far enough ahead to consider that I should have had a backup plan just on the off-chance. I just hated myself so much I couldn't bear to remember all of the people I let wrong me, and let anyone else remember them too, through me. Even that is a cop-out: I am terrified of remembering the people I have been and changed into.

It comes and goes still, and some moments are easier than others, of course they are. We’ve heard it all before, but I had to experience this for myself. You can only hear it so many times before you begin to believe that this is some fantasy ideal that doesn’t exist.

I went through a long period of ease, where even breathing filled me with wonder for how my lungs exchange oxygen for CO2, which the trees take and turn back into oxygen. Wonder for the movements of the world. There are times when the world around us is not so pressing, not so loud, when you are able to find yourself for the moment and live. Living without examining yourself under a microscope like an ant in a lab is illuminating, and freeing. I urge you to seek these times out, do not wait for them to find you. But if you truly do not have the time to find them — or the will, or the mind, or what have you — then hold on to them tightly whenever they find you.

I have lived before, for many months, in a fairy tale of sorts — Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair, they’d cry when I descended, shaking and trembling, from the creaking stairs, and I’d retreat back to my room at the end of the day, locked up all night in my cramped attic-like space, with a sloped ceiling and walls that jut out in inconvenient ways. If I needed to leave my room, I requested a trusted escort. Yes; these days are dark and uncertain.

When I watch the sunrise while even the house itself sleeps, the only time my body and mind are allowed to rest, a voice inside me whispers You cannot live your life on hold. I have lived like life will resume once I have escaped this prison, this cage — but it is still going. I still hear the birds chirping as Spring returns to us. The seasons have not stopped changing, nor the wind stopped blowing, or the sun stopped rising and setting. I sit in my room, the one place I cannot be bothered, and gaze at the outside world, and it gazes back.

It is there, waiting, if I were to just go to it. I do not have to curl up, watching it pass by me. I can just grab it with both hands and go. I have a problem with wanting the right situation, the right time, the right moment to start things, to do things. I had this idea in mind of starting my life anew, of beginning to do all the things I could do when we finally moved out. But what is the point if I waste away long before then?

Sometimes it is not ideal or perfect. But you needed to drive to the dog park and take a stroll with your dog and your parents and your brother. It might not be in your joggers or your running pants; you might be in your sweatpants and you aren’t wearing socks, and you’re a little tired because you haven’t slept, and it’s going to rain soon. But it might be just what you need to remind you you’re alive.

And yes, you have to crawl back to the place you have had to call ‘home’ at the end of the day. But you were reminded; you are alive. Painfully bloody and breathing. You are alive. You need enrichment and nourishment. You need more than half a life, and you cannot live that in a house of horrors. Even if it is just to walk around aimlessly - take that, and turn it into something of your own. Hone it, shape it. You are alive.

There was a time when I didn’t find an enemy everywhere I looked. When I stopped jumping at every shadow. I am trying to find someone in me like that again. I will never be that person again, but I am trying to find that sense of peace. I will not heal all of my hurts in a night, but Rome wasn’t built (or conquered) in a day.

I promise that there’s a point to [all of] this; that these are (or can be) periods of time, not a set destination of your life. Rainer Maria Rilke told Franz Kappus that loneliness and solitude could be his greatest asset, a friend, and could serve him well - and this I’ve found to be a great comfort, that someone not-so long ago could echo what I found for myself, once. When no one else shares your experiences your entire life you tend to feel a little alienated - aside from being so intentionally. Finding this book — which, I fully admit, my introduction to it was from a quote in a screenshot of a tumblr post on pinterest — felt like someone had shined a light on the poorly understood parts of myself. Letters to a Young Poet is a must read for the depressed, young artist, standing on a narrow peninsula with rocky seas on each side.

Of course, I did not intend to be alone, have not intended to any time that I have been. It was just circumstance that I ended up that way, and I ended up needing that space to find that new person - to tear myself down. I wasn’t ready for anyone to see me while I was under construction, regardless.

The person I had to lean on was me, and in that time, it was enough. It was what I needed; I needed to know I could be someone I could rely on, to see I was capable of steering my own direction. I found several versions of myself that I could depend on.

My solitude did not last— could not last. And, honestly, it was not as terrible as I make it sound from the point of view I experienced it from, when I look back on it objectively and with a clear and sound mind — I became aware, intimately, of myself and my needs and my wants, my boundaries. It taught me so much about the world and my relationship to it. I would not trade those moments for anything.

“[You] are bearing your solitude more heavily than usual. But when you notice that it is vast, you should be happy; for what— you should ask yourself— would a solitude be that is not vast; there is only one solitude and it is vast, heavy, and difficult to bear.” Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

I did bear my solitude disgracefully for a time, unhappy in my life; tired and disgruntled with it and myself. I was maybe fourteen or fifteen when it [first] came to a head; a long way into a deep mourning of my breakup from my then-partner and a (present-day) best friend. I had not yet realized how good this time could be for either of us. I could be quite tunnel visioned like that, when I was younger, always thinking with my anxious heart and not my (yet to be) pragmatic mind; focusing on trying to make the image of the bloody wound just go away rather than think of the long term treatment so that it stays healed.

One day, I looked out of my sheer black curtains, down at my black and grey comforter, and declared that I needed a change. I was tired of everything being the same; of it being like it was in every other house. And so, that is what I did. Out with the sheer curtains and in came beautiful golden ones that we found online. Away with the black comforter and in with a white and yellow one, with embroidered flowers adorning the bottom, reaching towards the top. I opened the windows and I swept my carpet, I dusted my surfaces.

I began to, every morning - the mornings I was up before my alarm - look towards the sun, coming in through my curtains and spilling onto my bed in that sliver of light. I’d watch it get bigger and bigger, warming the parts of my body it could reach. I would bask in the untouched silence before the honking and the business of the day began, before I had to get up and be faced with the world at large, the enemies I would have to eventually stand up to. I would close my eyes and breathe and be thankful to experience something so tranquil and serene; just myself, my idle thoughts, and the sun.

This state of mind is something I have hemmed and hawed and worked at for a long time. I have tugged and pulled and reeled, the way I watched my father battle saltwater bass when he brought me fishing, but it cannot be forced. I arrived there when I was ready, and I find myself having these moments again — when it’s early in the morning, before anyone else is up, and there’s squirrels in the backyard frolicking and playing with the rabbit family that’s nearby, a sense of peace fills me that I haven’t known in too long. My thoughts do not plague me, they simply are. It doesn’t stay for long, given my location and general disposition as of late, but such is life. The ebbs and flows of mental health cannot be rushed, and I eagerly await the moment that I reach that place again.

Solitude can be a friend that comes to stay for a little while, but is not a state of being. It does not have to be, rather. You are not alone so long as this Earth lives and breathes while you do; you are not alone when thousands of others rise to go to work and others to bed, when you very well may be doing the same!

You are not alone on an Earth where, while you may find yourself in solitude, there are too many people with a similar experience to yours who are living life under the same conditions. Not everyone has the same hours in a day or the same conditions, mind, but there will always be someone who understands you. You don’t even have to find them to know this is a resolute fact.

Solidarity and community are the enemies of loneliness. While we have that, what is solitude, really? What is solitude when a community kitchen or pantry exists? What is solitude when community gardens exist; a place for children & adults alike to learn about the fascinating wonders of the Earth and the love she has to offer, a place that gives back as much as is given?

For all I am lacking I make up for in friendship, and is that not enough to sustain the weary heart?

Go for a walk in the woods; you can never be alone in a forest. After a while, when you become attuned to one, it becomes a friend. You might be on your own, for a time, and maybe even a good long time - but nothing we do is isolated and controlled from others like a lab experiment. Everything you do has a ripple effect, from the air you breathe down to the leaves you disturb when you step. This is no reason to become overly self-conscious of this fact - it’s merely an observation to be aware of, that nothing you do is in a vacuum.

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