I am very fortunate in that I belong to a writing group called The Inky Path on Facebook. The men and women in my group have helped me countless times and in countless ways – sometimes when I’m frustrated, sometimes to free myself, and most poignantly, when I am feeling most lost and alone.
I can’t always engage with the prompts, but I try to consider them and usually something will come to me. Until this Wednesday, I hadn’t felt any kind of negative emotion related to any of the prompts – even if they ended up leading me to talk about or revisit difficult and even hurtful times in my life and experiences.
But this Wednesday, I read Jena’s prompt (she and Cigdem take turns writing them) and immediately thought to myself, “Fuck this.” The prompt? “What is your reason for being?” Now, it’s not like a stupid book that just gives you a little prompt and you’ve got to mine your metaphorical depths. Jena shared a personal experience about discovering her own sense of purpose, which is usually very helpful for me. Or, if that doesn’t launch me at first, my fellow Inksters’ writings will. But this – damn it, I have a hard enough time in the winter, when I am stressed and depressed and there’s not enough sun, to convince myself that I want to be alive and well – how the hell am I supposed to wax poetic on my blessed reason for being?
But then, it caught me tonight completely unaware.
I was thinking about my childhood friend, Kathy Palinkas, who was killed in a freak accident over spring break our freshman year in college. We weren’t very close, but we were friendly, having gone to a tiny Catholic high school (90 kids in our graduating class) together and then on to the same Jesuit college with one other girl from our school. Kathy came to mind this week because she was a Leap Year baby. I remember celebrating her 4th birthday (actually 16th) in high school. This Monday another high school friend, Krista, who was very close to Kathy P. was talking about how she missed Kathy – and many of us were reminiscing on where we were when we found out.
Last week a friend from college – who also knew Kathy P. and even came to Elmira for her funeral mass – lost his brother unexpectedly. He wasn’t even 40. My friend is struggling. Who wouldn’t?
On Thursday night I was feeling desperate to get out of the house after 4 days sick at home. I had to reach out to my friend Kate and my sister Jillian to ask them to call and text me in the morning to help me get up and out. I had to allow myself to be vulnerable and ask for help (I am the first to offer it, but am so afraid of asking for it) and they were happy to do so – and I got out, had a good day, and even saw friends last night.
Then tonight – talking to my guy friend from college about losing his brother – losing Kathy P. – we’re talking about music and I’m playing something he’s listening to – which leads me to play “The Rose,” which was a favorite of Kathy’s and always reminds me of her because it was sung at her funeral mass and memorial at college. And it hits me. I am here because I need to be. God wants me to be, even if I’m not always sure I do. I am here to try to talk about my experiences – through my art, through my words – in writing, and when talking to others. I am here to support others and to let them help me. I’m here to teach “my kids” – about school, yes, but also about accepting themselves and learning how to deal with others, et al. I am here to be a part of the community – not this little town, not this big state, not this whole country. No, I’m here to be a part of the community of friends and family and people with bipolar, writers, artists, lovers, people who hurt, people who are trying to figure out where they’re headed, and those with the faith to just go on.
I may not have a compass and a map – a defined “raison d’etre” – but there is now a feeling in my heart and my head of fullness and destiny, a gratitude for all that I’ve learned, all of those who have let me in their lives, and vice versa, and though my eyes are full of tears, the tears are warm and welcome. They belong. And today – I feel like I do, too.