Friday, April 2, 2010

Left in Vertigo

During my last few weeks in Cambodia, I didn’t want to blog (and to the avid readers of my blog, I apologize for that). For some intangible reason, writing about the events that were happening at that time, the words that were spoken, threatened my experience. I didn’t want to intrude on the experiences or alter them by writing about them. I’m not entirely sure this makes sense, but I’ll try to articulate these feelings as best I can. During these last weeks, I wanted to live, to really live. I didn’t want to worry about writing, and when I began blogging about my experiences in December, I fell into the weekly routine of doing so at least twice or three times a week. This is the expectation I set up for myself, and I felt that it was an obligation I now had to others as well. What I mean by saying I wanted to live is perhaps best described by Oscar Wilde’s words: “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist.” Blogging during these weeks seemed to me a way of just “exist[ing]” because I would have written the bare facts, but doing so would have diminished my experience that I knew would be much more powerful than these facts that were composed of a series of events. Existing and living can be thought of as closely related words, but the latter connotes a passion that is absent in the former. I wanted to live, and then later, when the time was right, write with the intensity and passion driven by experience coupled with deep reflection and understanding.

The life of a writer involves an unveiling of the self, and it seems that the good writer exposes herself nakedly before others, keeping no secrets, and refusing to be limited (or self-limit). I’ve been thinking about writing a lot lately, and this is in large part because I have been deciding on what MFA program I want to enroll in this upcoming fall. In particular, I’ve been thinking about blogging. What is it? With my own experience in blogging and judging from reading other blogs, the nature of the writing is oftentimes casual. Now, I’m not saying that all blogs feature writing that is less probing or serious, but it is for me the kind of writing that is in the first stage of the writing process, the immediate finger to keyboard thoughts. I can’t speak for other bloggers, but I can safely assume I think, that heavy revision is not required of the blog. The blog is quick, easy to scan, easy to access. That’s the beauty of it.

Towards the end of my stay in Cambodia, I began to feel things—things that I hadn’t really felt before during my time there, things that I couldn’t pinpoint or express in words for I had yet to understand or identify them. I still have yet to identify these feelings. I guess that’s what living is—feeling. For someone who is somewhat a connoisseur of words, it seems odd to me that I can’t describe these feelings. Happy. Sad. Angry. Emphatic. Disheartened. Disillusioned. Nostalgic. Nope, none suffice.

The act of leaving a place does this; it complicates feelings and displaces you onto the brink where you’re not yet gone, but almost, and so you’re not entirely present either. You’re already thinking about the future when this place becomes another place you’ve left, the people you’ve met characters of your brief story, and slowly your tongue no longer twists to form the soft th sounds of your mother and father’s language, and you’ve lost what you had gained over these months. You fear loss.

Or, at least I do.

I am sitting now in my nicely heated room. Birds chirp. Dogs bark. No chickens squawk. I’m back in Highlands Ranch, Colorado—a suburb composed mainly of monopoly-like homes tucked discreetly into organized rows. I used to complain of this suburb as being a place that lacked character because every “thing” is seemingly so uniformly the same. Things. We always notice things. The material. The house or car or ring or phone. It’s all about these things.

Right now, these things don’t matter to me. But I fear that the longer I am here in America where I was born, these things will start to matter again. People should matter more than things. I think this is a pretty simple concept, and I think in every situation it holds true.

I’m scrambling right now to identify my feelings, and it’s not working out so well. Maybe, there’s a reason they’re unclear to me. You see, I’m sort of rambling in this post, but this is how I feel. A little bit topsy-turvy. A little bit like I’m standing on one foot. Or like I’m a quarter spinning, and about to land, splat, head on the ground.

That’s what leaving feels like. Twisting, turning, directionless, moving, and then, falling, finally, into vertigo.

I’m beginning another journey now, a separate one but very connected one to my journey in Cambodia over the past four months. My new journey is one through memory—some recent, others old, some known, others buried. This will be my last post on my trip to Cambodia for a while as I return to write and re-write the memoir I’ve been working on these past few years. I leave you with a prose poem I wrote a while back that captures this feeling of mine that I can best describe now as vertigo.


That final shot got me, as I lay down only to get the spins. Unleveled, I sway without moving, or is it my eyes that did the swaying? Like a child with wings spread, turning foot by foot, round and round and round, and when stopped, the world shakes for a few moments. Not knowing if I’m upside down or right side up. The ease of being out of control, for once, and not knowing when my next breath will be and what will happen when it comes. It’s nice. Slow-motion inhalations and exhalations as I watch life through foggy, little windows. Playing connect the dots. The game of tops. Quarters set in motion, with quick twists that slow to a wobble and fall. Moments pass and the ground becomes still. My body moves. Boredom sets in.