Monday, April 29, 2019

Catherine Pikula : The Non-Writing Day

I’m not going to tell you about the limitations of time or priorities. This isn’t about having a full-time job or the length of my commute. This is about agency. I want to tell you about the days I don’t write.

I spend at least two hours on the subway every day except Sunday. I usually read or listen to audiobooks. Sometimes I take notes on my phone:

I don’t want to bore you with my troubles -- these two guys sing on the shuttle
between Times Square and Grand Central-- but I love you, I love you, I love… 

“The heart may think it knows better […] we defend ourselves from the rooms, the scenes, the objects that make the senses start up and fasten upon a ghost. We desert those who desert us; we cannot afford to suffer; we must live how we can.”-Elizabeth Bowen, The Death of the Heart

          Trans by Jansport: Queer Currencies and the Reclamation of Pride

Love is a choice. Attraction is not. ///////// How am I getting in my own way?

Is democracy dead? No, we’re just alienated from the process.

One note from February just says “Cemeteries of the brain,” which feels like an appropriate name for what it is that I am doing: pre-writing or creating this graveyard of content to be mined later, or not.

By the time I sit down to write this piece, it will be days later. I have a desk, but I won’t use it. I will sit in my bed, back against the wall with my knees up. I won’t use the notes I made about what I thought I would write about. It will be a privilege.

I’m waiting for a pizza delivery. It’s Friday. I just burned myself on a match while lighting votive candles. I’m drinking white wine – Chablis if you care about that kind of thing. I choose to watch an episode of Terrace House instead of finishing this piece.

It’s the Karuizawa season. Aio invites Yui to a bar (she’s a virgin who has never been to a bar) and he says, “There are a lot of things you don’t like about me right?” It’s true; Yui doesn’t like that he picks his nose and hocks loogies. The thing is Aio has fallen for Yui and wants to win her over. So, he says, “Tell me,” meaning, how can I change?

My writing practice has often been like this, a kind of self-assessment, a blunt confessional geared toward connecting with others and growth. But the writing only takes you so far in that growth. Today, I take myself to the page, tell myself to change, and walk away.

I remove four screws from the back of a digital clock, replace the batteries, and reset the time: 9:27 pm. I do my laundry, pay some bills, go out dancing. I make pasta, go to work, read. I attend a political thing. I flirt. I don’t attend a political thing. I flirt. I go to Japanese class. I go to therapy. I look at the flowers. I live.

The days that I choose not to write are days I choose to heal in a different way. I am in a state of change— literally. I relapsed in managing my depression over the summer and  adjusted my medications over the winter.

Writing has always played a role in my depression management, but the type of role it plays is shifting. The page has always been a place I feel safe being vulnerable, a place I feel seen and heard. It’s a place for growth but also a place for blame if I’m not careful. The page is a place where I can always win, where I can continue arguments in my head with people. It’s a place where I can pick my scabs and bleed all over. While I am grateful for that, I don’t want to pick my scabs or open old wounds right now. I don’t want to win; I want to learn how to lose gracefully.

So, while I’m learning to be well, there are more days I choose not to write than days I do. The irony is that writing doesn’t begin or end with putting words on a page. Even in choosing not to write, I am still doing the work in experiencing and processing as much as possible. Through non-writing, I am changing my way to the next thing. This is part of writing too.

Catherine Pikula has degrees from Bennington College and New York University. Her chapbook I'm Fine. How Are You? was selected by Chole Caldwell as winner of the 2018 Newfound Prize.

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