I think the worst loss for me that I can imagine would be my memory. The events of the past may be blurry and seeded with fictions of their own as time goes on and we forget things. But I do genuinely think that losing my mind, my sense of who I am, where I have been and what I have done would be the saddest of all. Most of our identities are constructed through our stories, and our thoughts. What if we can no longer access those things? What if I forget who I am? Who will I be then?
It reminds me of a peyote trip I did in Mexico. We were blessed by the shamans, drank the tea, and danced round the fire. And when they guided us to look into the fire, they ask us what we saw. I saw a woman, running, holding a pen, through the fire. Meaning that the woman had her own stories, which she told through using the pen, and the world around her everywhere was literally burning to the ground. It was that image, along with other images from that night, which convinced me that the sole purpose of my life was to orient myself around writing. That night, I had a very clear sense that the stories we told literally defined what the world was, and if no one was there to tell our stories, well, we would all be forgotten. If I didn’t tell those stories, then no one ever would. I also channeled the pain of my female ancestors on that night. I channeled their loss, the loss of their ancestral languages of Yiddish and Irish Gaelic, their lack of opportunity because of the circumstances of religion or marriage or children or duty or society. Never learning to read. Never getting to write. I felt it all on that night. I realized that at this point in time, in this generation, I am the sharpest point in the spear. The energy is transferring down through generations, and right now is my time to be alive. But soon, the next generation will be the sharpest point in the spear. It is as simple as that. And that is how energy flows through the generations of life.
With these realizations in my mind, stories started to come to me again. Stories of female pilots, of the first major longitudinal women’s health study that my grandmother took part in, of young African designers, of mountaineers and lawyers and authors and everyone in between. Their stories started to come to me, and so far all I have been doing is holding on to them. Why have I not told their stories yet? Do I pretend I am too busy, when I’m watching YouTube on my phone, wasting my hours away? I thought we planned not go to gentle into that good night, remember?
I get sad when I think about my negligence, and the very real possibility that their stories will never be told. I worry that if I were to lose my mind, my memory, I would undoubtedly forget all the stories of all those who I have been harboring. I’ve been trying to keep their stories safe, but it feels like I put too much faith in myself. I am not a titanium nuclear bunker. I am a leaky bucket tipping over into an ocean. I’m not a trustworthy vessel. Where did I get all this audacity from? What makes me believe that I am worthy of helping to birth other people’s stories? The sense of urgency escapes me. A sense of complacency pervades me. I’ll get around to it someday, think to myself. I’m too busy writing my book, telling my own story anyway. It’s selfish of me, but it’s true.
This piece was from my first time in the UnMute writing series, led by Ann Randolph, January 2022.