a letter to the other shoe always waiting to drop


dear other shoe waiting to drop,

it is a hard thing sometimes, to let go the persistent waiting for the unraveling and undoing and seemingly inevitable ending. it is like something became wrapped around the passageways in my brain, a stuck story on repeat, and so now even fleeting feelings of pleasure can bring with them a restless kind of roaming inside, some part of me alert and vigilant for the following loss. as if seeing its incoming arrival would somehow stave it off or prevent the wreckage that will come when grief shows up and makes his home in the house of my heart and heavy lungs.

except it doesn’t. that’s the broken part.  it doesn’t even work. waiting for the thief to come steal sustenance at the alter of the living and waiting for the bad news and waiting for the slammed door of leaving and waiting for the falling, the dropping, the crashing down into splintered pieces. none of the waiting with the clamped fist of fear does anything to stop anything, to prevent, to protect. it doesn’t even work.

which means that my bone deep fulfillment or ecstatic gasp or quiet ease of knowing the taste of real loving, does not cause the suffering or demand sacrifice as the payment for pleasure.
which means that this moment, the one unfolding right here and now, could just be lived for its own wild and reckless glory.

and i know this is hard to understand for you (which is the thing in me), waiting for the other shoe to drop. you didn’t seek it out, the fear that birthed the belief that pleasure is a thing to at least half way hide because if you let yourself be fully awake to it then it will cue the gods and they will come and demand their pound of flesh or else everything you love will be taken. this was just learned. it was simply a way the brain found to help try and make sense of violence and loss. because the loss is terrifying and terrible. and the mind will do almost anything to try and find a way around the grief.

so of course, there is the wrapping around of any comfort, and the untrue but convenient story of protection you provide once helped something in me. to believe i could see heartbreak coming or cancer cells multiplying or collisions before the great crash. and that by seeing, by knowing, i could prevent or walk away. this helped something in me. the way you were just trying to keep me safe.


i remember even as a very small child, how i wanted to keep everything i could claim as my own on me, my body, at all times. i was, rather affectionately, called a bag lady as a little girl, because i walked around with all these cloth and plastic bags, hand me down purses and baby doll diaper bags, and i kept all my things in them, organized in a system known only to me. and it felt good, to have it all right there. i didn’t want to lose them. i didn’t want them to be taken. it helped me, to have them all there on and with me, all the time. and it made it hard to rest.

was it before or after the bag obsession? it feels somehow, like it was always present. as if the fear of loss goes so far back, so grooved into the pattern of anxious expectation for the next bad thing, that it is hard to even say for sure the moment in time when my brain decided we would pretend that by always watching out, i could circumvent the harm. and so the waiting, always waiting, for you, the other shoe to drop. the waiting that lead me to try to intercept the damage and trick the brain, slicing into my own skin, a sacrifice to spare me from a greater suffering, in those moments making the fear leak away. how there was the anxiety that would feel like restless veins, like something in me trying to get out, which was really the overwhelming terror of something outside coming in, and the two became merged, fused inside me, mirrored images of the same dread. how the waiting was relentless. and this made happiness hard, because it felt like being threatened.

so even all these years later, decades after the held breath was first learned, the waiting remained. waiting, always waiting, for the other shoe to drop.

do you know where the expression comes from? i think about it, when i hear my upstairs neighbor do his middle of the night return. people use the saying all the time, the meaning known without explanation. but its origins are said to have begun in the late 19th and early 20th century. in tenement living in the cities. how apartments were built like matching boxes stacked atop one another, and so you could hear your neighbor upstairs taking off their shoes and hear as the one shoe hit their floor, which was your ceiling, and as it made the thud above your head there was the waiting then, for the other one, the matched sound. the other shoe to drop. it was, it is, as the saying goes, waiting for the inevitable.

is it? is the loss inevitable? i don’t know anymore. but if it is, even still, something has shifted, rearranged inside me, subtle and essential.
which is the reason for this writing, of the letter to you, to the feared waiting, the other shoe suspended mid-air.
and so it seems like the time to come here to you and come clean and say i’ve reoriented and the waiting is over, so i’m going another direction for the rest of my days.

which is here. i’m here now. and here is the most unexpected gift, the door opened that i have chosen to walk through, all the way in. and here feels like lit neon and laughter late at night and standing barefoot in the kitchen the next morning, washing dishes in a half buttoned black shirt worn as a nightgown, and rest. finally. not the assurance of outcome or guarantee of anything that comes after, but in this moment, the truest rest. like settling into solid ground. like being met and fed to full. like trusting that the words will thread themselves together into form. here is knowing her face as the most honest thing i’ve ever received, knowing those moments when waking and arms are wrapped around waist, that this is more real than any riches. here feels like knowing i am taking the small steps for what comes next and that there is space enough to move and learn and create and that it is possible, that the ground will not start to rumble and rupture just because i was, in this extraordinary moment, happy.

and so i’m going to do this. i’m going to be here. 
and not wait for you to drop. wait for the leaving or the fist of devastation or the thud of the body broken down to fragmented pieces. to not live as if the taking is inevitable.
and even if it is, i’m still going to live here, all the way.
and if i lose, so i lost. so it ends in loss, some new voice in me keeps saying, a sound that is coming to replace the scarred scratchpad of fear. the voice that says still, you were here, so here. human. Alive.

this is it for me, what it is for my life to belong to me, to belong to myself.
how i keep thinking of the lines by j.d. salinger, as Seymour is writing the letter and says, “do you know what you will be asked when you die? were most of your stars out? were you busy writing your heart out?” and how what matters is not the mastery of avoiding the feared inevitable. what matter is this, that the answer is yes. that most of my stars are out, that i am writing and loving my heart out, whole.
how we were talking, about trees, the way this time of year is chaos in its color, and how it can happen so fast, the turning from green to yellow and red brilliance. the pure glory of it. and how i thought, let it be me too. if it is true even this, all of this, will one day end, then i don’t want any part of me to have wasted it on waiting. let me be ablaze, saving nothing for later, an imagined better time and place. and i don’t know if i had ever loved quite so much as i did in that moment, standing there, the tree near bare outside and the train smoked on the wall of the apartment inside where we stood. and how it felt like something in me was cracked to wide open and it was tender and monstrous beauty and i was not afraid, even of the burn.

and i know, that the fear will always be returning, in some way, the part of the brain that is survival, that allows for needed adaptation. but i’m going to go forward anyway, and be happy.
go forward anyway, without the waiting.
go forward, into the impermanence that is so pressing it makes me wake up in the mornings and kiss slowly and feel fully, my mind tracing over the outline of every shape made as if i could slow down time itself, a presence so full it’s like lilacs. “the lilacs. have you ever seen anything so beautifully wasteful?” i said. “how its all so brief and lush and brazen, so unapologetically abundant taking up space like nothing else matters.”
“the way they sit there still and closed and then all the sudden one day rush open unrestrained,” she said.  
yes, that.

with all the love in my lilac starred heart,