Roll and Be Rolled



I grew up along this lake, just two hours north of where I live now. When I was a girl, I wasn’t allowed to walk the crumbling wooden path down to the beach nearest my house without an adult, but when I was a teenager, I was given permission to walk just a block further south to the wider, gravel path that led all the way down to the beach and also to what my family called “the overhang.” That was as far as I could go alone, but it was so much better than not getting to see the lake at all. From the overhang, I could see it and smell it, could hear the sound of the waves, and could sit and write my teenaged poetry and sing the songs no one wanted to hear anywhere else. In a neighborhood with nowhere else to go — no stores or parks or libraries for miles around — the overhang by the lake was my sanctuary.

Oh my goodness, those terrible poems were everything to me. I wrote all the things I couldn’t say, shared all the hurts and the unrequited love, the injustices, the overwrought outpourings of a girl who wanted so badly to run away.

Look how far I ran: I took this picture last summer, on the same lake two hours south of my childhood home, less than a mile from the house where I live now. How far did I run? Not far, and very far, depending on whether I count the distance in miles or resilience.

There’s so much I’m choosing not to write now, on a bench near the lake or otherwise. Some things I find myself pulling back from the page because of superstition, worried that naming them will make it hurt all the more if they don’t happen. Some things I know have to wait their turn in the light of the screen, to protect the privacy and the feelings of the people who aren’t ready to have their story told. But even so: I clutched those poetry notebooks to my chest for years — decades now — and few have ever seen or read them. So why not write anyway, for myself, to hold for the decades it will take to free the words?

I’m trying hard not to hold anything tightly. Words trap feelings, somehow, and sculpt fluid images into frozen statues. I could hold a scene in my hand — the expression on her face, the way he held his coffee cup — and pin it to the page, but then when I returned to look at it in a month, six months, a year, it would always be just-so. I would not be able to turn it around in my hands, see it from another angle, play it out with the volume lower or higher. I read that memories are always distorted; we are remembering something only the way we remembered it the last time it came to mind. Our brains keep tweaking it, making it better or worse or more interesting or more dramatic. If I write it, I lose the opportunity to recreate it later.

This year, things will happen to me, just like every year things have happened. I’m trying with all my might to let the events that shape my year wash over me, rock me to one side or the other, and not to pin the outcome — any outcome — to the page. My career could tilt in one direction or another; old friendships seem to be gently falling out of season; shifts are happening in the generation above me; my older daughter will go to college somewhere; my younger daughter reminds me less and less of the frustrated, sick girl she once was. It’s all changing. I don’t know where my life will land.

I’m practicing coating my body with an invisible layer of something soft, something breathable, something cushioned, to protect me from the rocks on the shore, to hold me safe inside as I’m pushed all about. I’m practicing rolling over with the tides and the waves, rolling while things roll over me, being patient with where things settle and for how long.

I’m not a fan of new year’s resolutions or step-by-step plans. I’m learning to roll and be rolled. I’m listening to the water.

This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post, hosted by Kristi of This week’s prompt was “my word for 2020 is…”

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5 thoughts on “Roll and Be Rolled

  1. I absolutely love this and need to learn to roll with things more. I find myself in recent years pulling back from certain things if they just don’t work as the older I get. But agree I think we most definitely need to roll with the changes more instead of shrinking back. Thanks for the reminder and what a great outlook to have for 2020 😉

  2. You have me pondering about why I barely wrote in the last five months, when I had all the feels of my youngest going off to college and life changing so…maybe the writing of it all would make it too permanent.

    Learning to roll and be rolled – that’s a lifelong journey for me. Happy 2020 to you, as you just roll with it.

  3. “If I write now, I’ll lose the opportunity to create later…” I love the way you’ve expressed your willingness to write or not write. I think that’s why I have such a hard time journaling as an adult. I also love the sentence, “depending on if I count the miles in distance or resilience” I’ve also been there with some things. I went to the beach again this morning. I went the other day but I didn’t record vide and I didn’t listen to the ocean because I had in earbuds. So I got my audible fix today.

  4. Circles and centers… (for whatever reason), this is what I thought as I reflected on your post.

    Talk about your painting with words!
    I especially enjoyed, “…we are remembering something only the way we remembered it the last time it came to mind.”

    Surely this means that all the worlds and people, events and feelings that we dream of and, some us, write down, are as real as anything need be; affecting our worlds inside and out.

  5. So much beauty in this post – the listening, the coating of the body is something soft, and rolling and being rolled. It’s strange how much writing something fixes it into a place less pliable. Like naming it somehow defines it. I think there are ways to be fluid there, too, though, but only sometimes. I especially liked this line “Words trap feelings, somehow, and sculpt fluid images into frozen statues.”

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