I crossed a birthday last month. Joy is getting harder and harder to know. Being born near a decade switch, my every ten years seem to align in personally with the defining traits of the decade. At 20, I was a newly minted adult in a newly minted millennium, a forerunner of the generation that would come to be known by this word. At 30, the millennium & adulthood had taught me tangible lessons about money, employment and stability. Now, at 40, what do I have to show as a human representative of the 2010s?
I found this photo taken last year in a green room minutes before I’d go up on stage to tell a story of love & flamingos. It had been 3 days since the second heat of the #MeToo movement began, bringing down men of repute, men of my acquaintance, men I’d liked, men I’d performed with, eaten with, laughed with, clapped for. It was amid stories of assault by women I knew, women I admired, women I wanted to protect, women I related to. Earlier that day, I had dragged myself out of bed having spent yet another sleepless night of trauma. I’d judged a poetry event. I’d performed at another venue and collapsed on stage. I’d changed at a friend’s house, tried to laugh and lighten up. And I’d made my way here. Joy seemed a distant fantasy.
I think the MeToo movement is the most significant thing in my mind about this decade, blowing the cover off things I’d never thought I’d see exposed in my lifetime, traumas I assumed I’d experienced alone. It is also a metaphor for my decade. I began it surprising myself by getting swept into what would turn out to be an abusive relationship. Before I knew it, I was in my 30s with a failed engagement, which sounds much worse than ‘Single at 30’. I’ve weathered much since then and things did eventually settle. They keep getting stirred up again. All I have is this breath. There is no space for joy during survival.
I look up at my reflection, seeing a tangle of stories. Then I take a deep breath and remember,
The capacity for joy
will not be lost to me
When I look in the mirror
It will be all I see
When I open my eyes again, I’m in the green room alone as outside a crowd cheers for me. I walk out with a story about flamingos in a big city.