I don’t want to be a smug nasty little person. That person who’s all over the internet using their big words and their tragic English degree to stick knives in the earnestness and joy of others. I don’t want to enchain the hope and flight of the people on my road. But I don’t know if it’s for me. Hope is a terrible luxury. Flight is so dangerous these days, you know.

In my, admittedly, limited experience, those who say ‘don’t live in regret,’ are people who failed to do, rather than exceeded their quota. They are pinched by the no ringing out of their past, rather than scarred by the yesses. I said yes too much, too big, and I’ve been licking my wounds ever since. Do I sound defensive? Good. I feel defensive.

Here is what I have learned. Here is what I must remember. No is vital. No is safety. No is survival. No is love for self. But it cannot live on its own. No is the courtier of yes. No works so that yes can sing. No fights so that yes can laugh. They must hold hands, brothers, lovers, bouncing together through the riptide of life.

I pray for hope, when I pray. I do not pray to be happy. It feels petty, greedy, foolish in a way that praying for my cat or my garden or for those bumps to not be poison ivy don’t. Oh, the Calvinist buried in my belly, she does love to tug my ankles and pull me over. Her and her scattered spendthrift sister, whose name I do not know but I will call Reaction, eyes wide and mouth full of pastry and cream and noise, jewels she bought on credit dripping from her fingers, vegetables she grew so tenderly rotting in the fridge.

The Calvinist is a sickened no. Reaction is a sickened yes. Always pulling on each other, always in battle, never asking, never reaching to each other, never touching or resting. Ascendance or coma. “Does not play well with others,” oh yes, I remember that one.

What do I do with these? With my yes and no, my unreasonable daughters who tumble into my bed in the middle of the night screaming their distress. Punishment? Restraint? The scales tip as I clean at one in the morning, or sit under the moon refusing myself water for hours, or close and lock the doors against the daylight. How about indulgence? “Self-care,” or “I deserve it.” Back the other way, with food I don’t taste, clothes I don’t wear, makeup and clay masks that burn my skin, tears that produce no action and midnight meals with no-one to eat them.

I really don’t know. This one doesn’t end with a pat answer, me posing a question like a teacher who, goddammit, doesn’t want you to think for yourself, he has the REAL answer written down already and anyway, his eraser is missing.

I guess you just keep going and pay attention. Try to remember. Write it down so you can go back and look when you forget. Be kind to your foolish daughters, who haven’t figured out yet that they can build a bower together to house the both of them in comfort. Compartmentalize and anthropomorphize. Look at the trees blowing around and think about what a tremendous little speck of nothing you are, just a momentary thing, just a shape in the clouds, isn’t she beautiful, just like a face, isn’t she wonderful?


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