“… And suddenly you know it’s time to start something new. Terrifying as that may sound, you do it anyway – trusting the magic of beginnings.”
I started dabbling with these thoughts in early July while immersed in the CSU Summer Arts writing course where, to be perfectly honest, I began questioning everything about the underlying purpose of my writing. Was wordsmithing and storytelling truly my passion, a strategy to help others and me feel more connected? Or merely an escape clause and excuse to hide from the real world?
Revelations have a way of creeping up without warning and one night while the rest of the household slept, I sat at my computer attempting to be creative when it dawned on me it might be time for a breather. The thought entered, then left, then reappeared while Dan and I were on vacation – both of us desperate to recalibrate, rediscover some semblance of balance in lives we both love but schedules that at times overwhelm us. A reoccurring phrase kept showing up in my journal writing:
“Who am I when no one is looking – undressed, unrehearsed, unhurried?”
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Other signs appeared, too, like the mattress ad with quizzing words, “What do you want to be when you wake up?”
One morning, I woke up wondering if I was doing my fair share to someday leave the planet in better shape than I found it. A few weeks later Charlottesville happened, jolting our collective humanity.
Invited to contribute thoughts along with other poets and writers at a Words Against Hate reading organized by Fresno’s Poet Laureate, Bryan Medina, I wrote:
“Social injustice. Marginalization. White supremacy. KKK. (NOT OK). ISIS. Terrorism. Immigration. Segregation. Discrimination. Hate. Hostility. Closed Minds. Words, walls, and worlds between us. Are these the vocabulary words of a new school year?”
The grandkids had been here one evening, all of us sitting on the hallway carpet playing pickup sticks, a vintage game from my youth, that time in history when we rode bikes dawn till dusk, talked to strangers, lived fearlessly, imagining futures filled with hope, harmony, happiness.
The youngest announced he was thirsty. Rising up (a term used loosely here and in its most literal of meanings), I walked into the kitchen to pour him a glass of water.
From the corners of my eyes, I spotted CNN breaking news on a muted television screen. Wanting to look away, I knew I couldn’t.
What I saw horrified me. Men in white, carrying torches. These were not Jedis, I thought to myself, and this was not a scene from a fictionalized, make-believe, PG13-rated movie being hyped by Fandango. Blood in the streets. Panic in eyes. Innocent spectators running for their lives.
Stunned by such a sight, paralyzed in disbelief, I pondered: Where is my America? And what do I tell these grandchildren? That their world is tainted with hatred? My lips frozen, the words sat stranded – silenced with disgust beneath my tongue.
Gathering them up, buckling them into car seats, I needed to drive streets and avenues, catch a glimpse of purple mountain majesties, amber waves of grain, and remind myself how much I adore our city, this state, my country, MY fellow Americans. Searching for respite, I also yearned to show them sunflowers breaking through cracks in cement.
A song playing on the radio came to our rescue. Pulling over to the side of the road, letting the engine idle, ramping up the volume, a verse echoed a message of love, peace and hope.
The word “tomorrow” stung. In many ways, it’s already here. My oldest grandson’s voice is changing. We’ve run out of toddlers. The grandkids are all in school. No more diapers. In the blink of an eye, they’ll be off to college, creating lives all their own.
In my bio, there’s a line that reads, “She lives life with a sense of urgency.” Reflecting on that statement and given the state of the world, I’m thinking maybe it’s time to walk those words a little taller. Rearrange priorities. Find a greater self.
Isn’t that the call of action to each of us?
Three years ago when The Bee asked me to be a featured columnist, I squealed. It’s always been my dream to share thoughts and write from my heart and The Bee gave me a unique opportunity to connect with the community that basically raised me – aunties, uncles, friends, colleagues, mentors, teachers, professors. Who could ask for a better gig?
The fact that many could fill in missing pieces of the narrative delighted me to no end. Early on in my writing career I was taught to leave things ambiguous, unfinished – forcing readers to meet you halfway. You did more than that, reaching right in, helping soothe and strengthen my heart, all the while touching my soul. At the end of the day there were hardly any strangers. We shared roots. Valley stories.
Lives. “Connective tissue” that makes us (more) human.
A writing professor told me not long ago that passion always begins with fear. So it should come as no surprise when I tell you that arriving at this decision terrified me to no end. And yet, an element equal parts mystery and anticipation persists. Maybe it’s in knowing a new, unwritten chapter resides around the corner.
Last month I met with Editor Jim Boren, sharing my decision to retire this Sunday column. Your love and fierce loyalty has meant the world. I suspect from time to time my insides will scream a story worth sharing, so no need here to pen an official “goodbye.”
Thank you for inspiring every word, sentence, paragraph, and column inch.
Armen D. Bacon of Fresno is co-author of “Griefland: An Intimate Portrait of Love, Loss and Unlikely Friendship.” Write to her at email@example.com, @ArmenBacon.