Drabble 186 – Intrepid

A photo of a knights hand holding a sword.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about bravery in the past few days, in no small part because I am writing a review of Avery Alder’s Variations on Your Body, which includes a game called “Brave Sparrow.” At the risk of spoiling my own review a bit, here’s the quote I’m chewing on:

Bravery is the willingness to act, even and especially when you are terrified. It is action and intent carried out in the name of hope. Bravery is unable to oppress, though it is able to hurt. Bravery always liberates – first oneself, and often others. Bravery will sometimes make you vulnerable to the world, and it will always make you vulnerable to yourself.

Nothing I could say in this introduction is nicer than that, so that’s what I’ll leave you with. Let’s all strive for this kind of bravery. Here’s a drabble.

Drabble 185 – Hypnopompic

A person standing with their hands in their pockets and a beach in the background.

This morning I opened my fridge to see several bowls full of summer fruit, and this brought me an almost unbelievable amount of joy. The past few months have been uniquely difficult and I’ve struggled to maintain anything like a healthy attitude throughout separation from my friends and family. I’m not, I’ve learned, a person particularly good at regulating her moods. I see a piece of bad news and I look for more bad news to confirm that I should actually be feeling bad.

I have to put faith in the capacity of the world to change. If I tell myself it won’t, that gives me an excuse to sit out. If I tell myself that it not only can, but it must, I can’t let it go. But there’s always a dark part of me that insists nothing I do has value, that nothing anyone does has value, because the forces we seek to overcome are vastly more powerful than we can hope to be.

I know that’s not true, but it still drags me down as surely as stones in my pockets. Sometimes I feel like I’m removing a few stones and replacing them several times per day. Today I saw summer fruit and that was enough to take some stones out of my pockets; a small, small victory that I will celebrate.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 184 – Sotto Voce

A photo of a person playing the flute.

I took band for two years in middle school. It seemed like the kind of thing I should do, being someone who loves music, but it turns out I have no patience for breaking through a plateau. I reached a certain threshold of skill on the trumpet and abandoned it for the clarinet, but by the time I did the same thing with the clarinet my family was no longer willing to let me swap instruments, which is fair. As it turns out, I’m much better at appreciating music than I am making it.

But one thing that has lingered with me (aside from sitting on the front few inches of my chair) is how lovely all the different musical words are. Woodwind, reed, crescendo—each one itself a little song.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 183 – Hypermnesia

A black and white photo of a person with their finger to their lips, which are covered in an x made of tape.

I have an extremely good memory for things that annoy me and a significantly worse memory for things that don’t. It’s harder for me to recall the taste of the best meal that I’ve ever had than it is to remember that time someone was rude to me. I don’t think this is unusual, but shouldn’t it be? Shouldn’t it be easier for us to remember all the things that make us happy than all the things that have ever made us miserable?

I’m sure there’s some kind of biological purpose to this, like that negative emotions are a lesson learned. But what lesson did I learn from someone being rude? That sometimes people are rude? I already know that from every other negative memory I have of similar events.

I don’t think I can overcome the ease of remembering negative things, but I can spend more time trying to cultivate the positive. Photos, journaling, taking time to really think about what I’m experiencing as I experience it. I’m not always good at this, but instead of remembering how I fail, maybe I can remember how I keep trying.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 182 – Allotheism

A photo of an altar featuring a book with pressed flowers and a box holding crystals.

I find a lot of value in being wrong. When I was a tutor, the lesson I most wanted to share with my students is that there’s no shame in not knowing something. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn. This sounds like something you’d find stitched on a throw pillow, but it’s also something I’m teaching myself, bit by bit.

Failing at something, being wrong, making mistakes—all of these things feel terrible. I would rather succeed at everything, be right all the time, and execute every task flawlessly. I’m sure we all would, even if we know that it’s unrealistic.

I’m not, generally speaking, the kind of person who likes to ruffle feathers or play devil’s advocate. But I am precisely the kind of person who sometimes picks her own thoughts into shreds, trying to find whether there is truth there. Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t. Even when I come away with the discovery that I was wrong, I come away with something else, too—a new piece of knowledge, some insight I didn’t have before.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 181 – Dépaysement

A photo of the exterior of Versailles.

In my most recent newsletter, I talked about traveling. It’s a privilege to be able to travel, and it’s another privilege to be sad about not being able to travel right now. That doesn’t mean that being sad about it is wrong. We’re all sad about a lot of things right now. That’s more than normal—it’s natural. We’re undergoing a collective trauma, and trauma often rears its head in unexpected ways.

When I feel something complex, I try to understand it. My sadness over not being able to travel is not just that I’m sad I can’t go to New Orleans and eat something delicious I’ve never eaten before, though that may be part of it. It’s part that the opportunity has been taken from me, and part that traveling is an entirely new experience, a place to see things I’ve never seen and do things I’ve never done. At home, I do more or less the same thing every day, with variations. Get up, read, work, watch TV, bed. This weekend we drove to see family from ten feet away, still seated inside our car. That was a variation, but it was still so much of the same.

Seeing a new place is an opportunity to escape that sameness, a reminder that there are places in the world where everything is different, even if it’s only two towns over and the biggest difference is that they have your favorite bubble tea and your town doesn’t. Since we don’t know when travel will be possible again, nor what it will look like when it is, it feels as if that potential has been entirely snuffed out.

I speak only for myself, naturally. Maybe some people travel for other reasons. But right now, I’m missing that heartbeat racing feeling of being a little bit lost, the confusion of a menu in a language I can’t read, the wonder of seeing something in three dimensions that previously only existed in two.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 180 – Affetuoso

A photo of a green sprout against a blurred background.

I think a lot about what it means to be sentimental or, heaven forbid, corny. I suspect that I am often both. No doubt, some people see the things I say and do and cringe; I’m openly emotional, sentimental marketing does, honestly, sometimes make me feel better, and I cry at every single wedding video even though I don’t actually like weddings all that much. I cringe at myself, too, because maybe all those things are signs of my internal weakness. Maybe I should stop, because it’s embarrassing to be so affected by everything.

There are lots of ways to be in the world. Not all of them are good. I don’t think that either side of this internal struggle I have about my own sentimentality is wrong; yes, I am too susceptible to marketing, but no, I will not stop believing wholeheartedly in the possibilities of radical empathy. I am trying as hard as I can to let myself embrace this conflict, to let myself be vulnerable not only to the terror of letting my emotions be known but also to the resulting embarrassment.

For a long time, my writing was dry and distant. Describing things was purple prose. Metaphors were cagey. Be honest, but not too honest, or you’ll risk turning readers off with the stink of your earnestness. I am trying as hard as I can, again, to let those hesitations go. My favorite writer is Angela Carter, maybe in part because she did so many things I would be petrified to do. But that’s because I don’t see the internal struggle. Maybe she wondered if her writing was too sentimental. Maybe she didn’t—maybe she was always confident that she was doing things in the exact way they ought to be done. I’m not there yet and maybe I won’t ever be, but it’s worth being embarrassed sometimes, I think, if that is the consequence of growing.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 179 – Aeaeae

A gray rectangle.

Today’s word—aeaeae—is likely a neologism. When I searched for it, most of the results were of the hex code, which results in the gray color above. Hex code, I thought, laughing, because”aeaeae” means magic.

“Hex code” is short for hexadecimal code, a type of numeral system based on sixteen. It has nothing to do with hexes, which trickled down from the Old High German hagazussa, also the root of “hag.” The “hex” in “hex code” comes from the Greek ἕξ, the word for “six” with a similar pronunciation.

That’s not to say that hex codes can’t be magic; they turn letters and numbers into colors. Even a coincidence like this one can be a surprising source of joy in dark times. Maybe that’s magic, too.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 178 – Melolognia

A photo of a person playing the cello.

There are very few things I’ve been able to dedicate myself to. I’ve always had a fear of commitment, which for me is actually a fear of boredom. Worse, I think it may actually be a fear that anything I enjoy, anything I care about, will eventually turn sour. Nothing can last forever.

I have always loved music, but have never loved it enough to make it. I took band in middle school and spent a year learning the trumpet. I got bored with it and switched to the clarinet. I got bored with that, and instruments are expensive, so I quit music.

Nothing can last forever, I told myself, though never in words. When I imagined my future, it was never fixed. It wasn’t just different every time—even one vision of what I might be like shifted from one thing to another. My future self was always in a state of transition.

There will always be a part of me that wants to run away to the woods, but, looking back, I see how much of me was always here, how many of those imagined versions of the future were based in fear. I haven’t gotten bored yet. I may not play any instruments, but at least I have that.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 177 – Stellate

A photo of a night sky with stars.

When I was a kid I had a thing about eyes. One of the scariest scenes I had ever seen in a movie was the scene in Milo and Otis where the titular cat and dog floated downstream on a little raft. The camera panned up to the sky, where the stars winked out from between the trees. Somehow, I convinced myself the stars were actually the eyes of some threatening creature or creatures that wanted to eat Milo and Otis, and every time I looked up at the night sky, I thought about how terrifying that would be.

I grew up far enough from a city that the night sky looked like a dark cloth someone had upended a container of glitter over. On particularly paranoid nights, I might look outside and see stars just like the ones in Milo and Otis and imagine all those creatures with slavering, invisible jaws waiting out there for me, too. It’s not a surprise to me that I’m still a little afraid of the dark.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.