“I trust nothing especially myself and slide head first into the familiar abyss of doubt and humiliation and threaten to push the delete button on my way down, or madly erase each line, pick up the paper and rip it into shreds - and then I realize, it doesn't matter, words are always a gamble, words are splinters from cut glass.”
–Terry Tempest Williams

I’ve got this old cedar chest half-filled with journals. Stacks of tattered Moleskines, 70-page college rule notebooks collaged with old calendar prints, a few gridded Rite in the Rains from that time when I lived outside. I fell in love with a person, a place, an idea, a feeling. I wrote fanatically and desperately, but I wrote to perfect those memories for a future self — I wrote final drafts, caged between the lines on the paper. Lord knows I believed I could immortalize those blinks of time in paper and ink, but even this photographic memory can tell you that it’s not the words that stick around longest.

You know, I burned one of those journals. I ripped the pages from another until I could no longer recognize the words but as fuel to a fire. I danced with the fumes of lighter fluid, filled my nostrils with the sulfurous aftermath of a stricken match. I swept my hands through the hot air and teetered on the threshold of pouring my whole self into those flames. The pages fell apart and the ink and pencil smudged and faded.

I fell out of love with a person, a place, an idea, a feeling and Lord knows I clung to those intentional words I had written. Written. Nearly a year passed and blank page after blank page kept staring. “Fill me up.” How can I fill you when I can’t even fill myself?

Writing had become this ritualistic process that bore a heavy burden of responsibility, until nearly everything that went to paper was so exactingly constructed. You know that bullshitty feeling that can manifest when you skip to some end without acknowledging how you got there in the first place? For the sole purpose of the purpose, to see nothing of what remains? It hurt my hand, and my brain, and mostly my heart because I craved that I could sit and doodle and write nonsense. Or things that actually meant something to me rather than the things I thought should matter. You know? Writing with my glass shards. Numbly bumbling, fumbling for some idea of what I thought or was. I knew it had gotten bad when the guy on the bus asked me if I always looked so serious. I don’t think I smiled back.

I needed to get it back. I needed to get myself back. Breathe when you can’t recognize the person you see in the window reflection anymore, and see if they too inhale.

One day I walked to a coffee shop with a stack of lined paper under my arm and a couple of pens in my back pocket. I sat in a quiet corner and let my legs bounce nervously, making the small table quake uncontrollably. I looked down at my hand and found my fingers twirling one of the pens. I forgot I could do that. And then it started.

I kind of love how things fall out of my pockets when I bend down to pick up my dropped pen or pencil. I kind of love how the texture of the lead, the flow of the ink changes upon being broken. How the texture of time changes upon being broken.

Something started as soon as I stopped taking myself so seriously. I fell in love with the rosemary in my pocket and sleeping with my windows open, the smell of cinnamon-spiced quince on the stove and watching my cursive scrawl take over a page. I noticed the scars on my hands and the way it feels when my eyebrows furrow if the light is too abrasive. I started listening to the creaky floorboards and the shuddering of my door on windy days. Fill me up. And overflow. I write myself back together. I write because the words don’t matter.

Now I crack open new notebooks without thinking too much about it. Fearless. Cathartic. Out of habit. Just writing. I probably won’t look back on the words that form. When the pages are saturated, I’ll file them away. And one day, when the stack gets too high, I’ll burn those too, dancing on the edge of the flames.