A few days ago, E.K. Johnston wrote a blog post about sexual assault. You can find it here: http://www.penguinteen.com/sexual-assault-awareness-month-sing-until-your-lungs-give-out-an-essay-by-e-k-johnston/. She says this:
“What I want, more than I want almost anything else, is for there to be a person there who throws a rope. A person who cheers you on. A person who boosts you up.”
E.K. Johnston’s post resonated with me for many reasons, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot since. (Seriously, go read it if you haven’t already.) But this post is not specifically about sexual assault. It’s a clunky stream-of-consciousness about gratitude and writing struggles and throwing ropes to your friends when they are floundering.
Today I woke up feeling strange, as if I’d been tossed out into space, unmoored. I had planned to finish my physics homework; instead, I spent the day overwhelmed by perceived inadequacies and failures. My book still isn’t finished. It’s a hot mess, to be quite frank, and every time I sit down to write it’s like pulling teeth. There are all sorts of emotions wrapped up in this particular novel—sometimes, my main character’s head is a hard place for me to reside long-term, because it requires such a brutally honest and at times painful evaluation of my own experiences.
My book isn’t done. My book is a mess. I am a mess sometimes. I cannot go to the mental place necessary to write this character, this story. These thoughts ran in a vicious cycle through my head. I’ve felt unmoored often these past few years—rewarding, fulfilling years, but difficult years nonetheless. Through a few major setbacks and many smaller ones, I’ve been extraordinarily lucky to have friends who throw me ropes whenever I drift off course.
Back in May, my friend Chloe threw me a rope. I had just received some of the worst news I could imagine. She took me back to her house, made strawberry Pop-Tarts, and turned on the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I slept in her bed that night, parched from so much crying yet grateful to have someone beside me.
A close friend and a favorite professor threw me a rope when they both took a full day off work to sit by my side during a difficult time. My critique partners threw me ropes through their steadfast love and support, through the way they’ve so fully shared their lives with me. Even during a long battle with cancer, one of my college friends has always been there to pull me up when needed. After I had surgery over the summer, my roommate spoon-fed me soup, and when I woke up the next morning she had left Post-its scattered across the room. You are loved, they said. You are brave.
It’s been harder, in some ways, since returning to Utah, where many of the people I care about live far away. I’ve felt very lonely at times. But when the sense of being unmoored returns, I remember all the ropes I’ve been thrown these past few months alone: by the friend who makes me laugh, the friend who dances on coffee tables with me, the friend who gives the best hugs. There are things that we rarely speak about because they are hard, and yet these things burn desperately within us, needing to be voiced aloud; I am grateful for the friend who is not afraid to discuss the hard things, even if it’s 2:00 a.m. and we’re exhausted, because these conversations let me breathe again. With every “I love you” and every kind gesture, I am more convinced that even here, far from my California home, I can live fully.
So tonight I’ll drift. I’ll despair over this book, this infernal book that is so weighted and glutted with anxieties. I’ll worry over the future and over the past, over whether I made the right choices, because regret is a cruel beast fed by fatigue and stress.
But I’ll do so knowing that tomorrow, I’ll find my way back. I’ll return to this novel with fresh eyes. And I will be grateful for the many lifelines tethering me, cast out by friends who are kind, generous, and giving.