what it means to remain in stillness

During my long trek through undergrad, sitting in a range of undersized desks housed in campuses spanning from NJ to CT to NY to CO, I found myself in classes that stretched my mind in directions I never expected to go.

Two communities colleges, a college in Brooklyn and then a university in Boulder, Colorado. Years of searching through my mind to find myself. To remain sober. To challenge myself. To fall in love. To fall out of love. To lose my mind. To gain parts of it back. To disagree with professors. And then, to become one myself.

During one semester in Boulder, Colorado, I took a meditation class. I always wanted to be that person with a practice. One who could turn off life and the voices in my head in order to sit in stillness.

We began each class sitting in a large circle; there were many of us. The instructor, a strikingly beautiful older woman with long brushstrokes of grey hair, would guide us into the meditation. There we sat, trusting the space and trusting each other. In silence. Recognizing the infiltration of thoughts and allowing them to flutter past like buzzing butterflies.

I was the one wearing frizzy red hair, housing a gut of frustration, with my eyes open.

I meditated by watching.

I know. This is not the way it is done. But I have a difficult time with rules and being in groups and being still.

Watching humans being alive in this meditative state is so calming. I was envious of their lack of fidget. Each time I closed my eyes, a strobe light of trauma arrived in my mind. My panic would force my eyes open, as I realized that everyone else was far better at keeping to the rules.

I grew enamored by the array of skin, folding of limbs, welcomed palms resting on knees. I watched the sun pour in from the window and highlight the dust particles floating around us like auras of spiritual awakenings.

The teacher asked us to keep a meditation journal. We were expected to meditate outside of class and write about the experience.

What came up? What were some challenges? Any moments of enlightenment?

I remember a particular journal entry of mine. It was during a time when I felt very displaced from my body.

After handing my paper in, my teacher took me aside after class and asked me if I was okay.

“Yeah,” I said, trying not to fondle her hair with my eyes.

“I was taken aback by what you wrote. You seem so young to have had a hysterectomy.”

I didn’t know what to say. I quickly traveled in my mind to remember what I had written to make her think I had had this procedure.

“I….I didn’t,” I said to her. “What made you think I had?”

“The way you wrote about your body. The pain. The [gutting].”

Now, I realize why I feel so much more comfortable writing over speaking. When I write, what I want to say is far more direct and articulated than when I just talk it out.

At that time, I didn’t spend much time thinking about hysterectomies. Now, many years later, I’ve begun researching them, realizing a desire and need to actually get one. It’s far more complicated than this white box, which welcomes my text. It’s about gender. It’s about that displacement. It’s about pain.

But this is not about that.

This is about ways to be still. Maybe meditation is not quite for me. Yoga does it sometimes. Though there is movement, there is silence and stillness within each pose. There is recognition of life and strength with each stretch.

Biking does it too.

And writing, of course.

Often, it is just about reminding myself that I can be. Still.

here is how it will happen.

You will receive health insurance for the first time in eight years minus one summer.

A human dressed in a different version of queer than you will ask: “So, how’s your gender going these days.”

And you will smile because there is something so rewarding about breathing sometimes and you will inhale so deeply, you can taste your organs.

“Everything is still forming its bones,” you answer. “There are some things that are getting louder and some things that are feeling stronger in me.”

When you mention hysterectomy, you do not announce the time your professor at the university near the mountains thought you already had one due to the way you were writing about your blood and carved out structure.

You want to cry the moment your lover tells you, “I imagine you wearing the chest you dream about, not the one that greets me each night.”

You hoard that free coffee, owed to you on punch card from favorite cafe, housed in your wallet. You want to save it for a time that celebrates something you’ve been longing for.

You will revisit a lover who loved you when you were still searching for the instruments to carve out the vocabulary of your thoughts. It will be like time never passed and you will relocate that smile you had before that time you used to pretend away. You will kiss a map of all the years onto the palm of the others’ hand.

“But do you even want to figure all this out?” says the one dressed in warm and sleep-deprived.

This? Is it something to figure out or untwist like knots of curious yarn,” you answer.

You’ve got too many turns in you, so you say: “I’m just looking to feel alive from all my angles. I want to play seek, rather than hide so much.”

Here is how it will happen.

You will stop locking yourself away like a diary with blank pages. You deserve to be read.

You will kiss and you will opposite-of-rhyme and you will read enough books to feed your eyes. And you will whistle even in the winter when your lips shiver. And you will wake. And you will wake. And you will stay.