The Authenticity Experiment, the collage edition. I have so many half-finished posts. So many. Because I’m researching and writing essays again in earnest, I can’t seem to get a post finished. Then a few weeks ago, I got this idea to give you some select paragraphs from the rough starts of Authenticity Experiments—to let you in on what I’m thinking about. It’s random, I’ll admit that, and maybe it won’t work and I’ll get a bunch of unsubscribes. But I’ve been taking artistic risks lately, so why not here, too. None of these transitions are manipulated. I’ve just chosen the paragraphs to fit together like a puzzle.
I’ve been thinking about grief. I know, surprise, but hear me out. Grief comes in so many forms—from the drop to your knees and weep grief of a betrayal, to the doubled-in-half head resting on the end of the bed grief of losing a loved one, to the grief of the collective over being unheard, unseen, dismissed.
It’s this last one that I think we’ve all been recently engaged with. We all saw her, right hand raised, swearing to tell the truth. We all saw him—or at least heard him—spitting rage and disrespecting the female Democratic Senators, shouting questions at them. And something about this—as if this wasn’t enough on its own—escalated our grief and an already simmering-on-the-back burner rage to a full wail and a rolling boil of hot anger.
Suddenly, the slightest misstep fires up me and my friends. Did you just smirk when I asked a question? Did you walk out that door and not hold it for me even though you saw me carrying a tray of coffee? Did you just cut in front of me? Did you just try to shame me for acting like myself because it makes you uncomfortable? Did you just tell me to lighten up? Is “A Star Is Born” really about a woman not being able to make it without a man’s help, and then the man’s ensuing agony because she eclipses him and that’s not supposed to happen?
Why am I telling you all this? Because the North Dakota Music Teacher asked me to write a post about how I am an author known for truth-telling who suddenly feels like she must now carefully guard her privacy, who feels like she cannot be completely vulnerable. She asked me to tell you about what it’s truly like traveling all over the US hawking art. You saw image of me in front of the bow tie building last May. It was genuine. We came upon the building, took a picture, and I uploaded it. But, in a way, it was curated, right?
That’s why the North Dakota Music Teacher thinks you should also see the behind the scenes image of the author alone, in a t-shirt and boxers, with her bronze IPPY medal around her neck, and a baseball cap on her head that she’d bought earlier in the Chelsea Market. The author grateful to be alone even as she felt a little lonesome and wished—at that moment—for a partner. The author entertaining herself in Portland East (read: Brooklyn), sending a late night, post-award (I accidentally typed post-awkward) pic to her chosen family, with the caption: The award-winning author admires her medal and packs for a 7:00 a.m. flight.
But I’ll tell you this, Dad—and I hope you can hear me—I understand now that in many ways—besides business—you were a good role model. I see it now, how you kept getting back on the horse. Trite phrase, I know, but we all understand its meaning. You kept trying with not drinking, with weight loss, with exercise. You modeled emotional and physical persistence to me in a way mom never did. To be clear, I understand that this did not occur because you did your work. No, this was because you survived your childhood and then you survived SpecialOps in the Navy. You knew how to set aside and compartmentalize and try again—failure not an option in either location.
I see you so clearly in myself now. I could not admit that before you died. The other day, the Women Who Offers Me Stories In Lieu of Advice said to me about a dream we were working, “Did you really think your book of alcohol would have just one chapter?”
I stared at her because I knew that this was one of those trick therapy questions.
You know what I mean. When you step on home ground, that almost overwhelming feeling vibrates up through your legs and makes your body start to hum, to resonate like two guitar strings do when the string between them is plucked. For me it happens in the morning, about 9:00 a.m. after I’ve landed and retrieved my luggage from the Southwest carousel at Oakland International Airport. Inevitably, the fog lies low on San Francisco bay, thick like a snowbank you think you might step onto; waiting patiently, the fog, for the eleven o’clock hour when the heat begins to force it to burn off. The tide might be in or it might be out. It doesn’t matter because the airport is surrounded by water on two sides, so you smell the brine of the Bay, the fecund scent of the fog and the wetlands, the punky terpines of eucalyptus trees.
If you lift your head—instead of staring down at your phone—the Oakland hills rise directly across from the airport. The hills that were destroyed by what, at the time, we believed the worst wild fire California could weather. How wrong we were. How much worse it was to become. How much more grieving we would do.
Authenticity. Experiment. Both are here, along with darkness and light. I really like this idea of you publishing bits here. I always look forward to seeing your posts in my mail.
I pretty much like most everything you dare to write, from your place of honest vulnerability and truth. Thanks for these snips: you inspire me to write.
I sometimes use collage in my workshops. The images talk to us in ways linear thought often skirts. This, Kate, touched me even more deeply than most of your posts. This line resonated to my core, perhaps because of my upcoming sojourn and how I’m reflecting on the concept of home: “When you step on home ground, that almost overwhelming feeling vibrates up through your legs and makes your body start to hum, to resonate like two guitar strings do when the string between them is plucked.” Thank you for the image of guitar strings and vibrations and humming. My body is going to hold onto that.
As always, grateful for you, your vulnerability, and the sharing of your gifts.
Random pieces. I call them bits and am so happy to have you share them. Kindling. Story starters. Windows. Nuggets. Well-framed thoughts. I have bushels of them in my “prompts” file which is where I stash what I used to call “unfinished”. Thank you. I vote for more.
note: When I pulled some out thirty years later, some were ready for the rubbish. But some were still sparkling.
My vote is more, please. thanks for these.
my thoughts exactly. Thank you, Kate.
I hated collage in grade school, but learned to love it when I realized it isn’t always literal glue and paper. Did you know you can paste a poem and a crushed flower of a life onto the same page?
I am so happy that you posted something. I miss your voice! Love this! Thank you!
Stunning. “Did you really think your book of alcohol would have just one chapter?” Little nuggets in just 10 short paragraphs.
“The Book of Alcohol: Volume I” would make an EXCELLENT title for a collection of stories or essays or just about anything.
As always, you write with a crisp precision that I admire and envy in equal measures.
OMG, you’re so right, Christopher.
I love your writing Kate. Many authors can inspire vivid visions of their stories, but you add on a thick layer of emotional truth so that one viscerally feels what your saying. I love that about you!
Thank you for sharing such difficult feelings. It helps to hear you.
Yummy raw, painfully delicious…..
I always appreciate and enjoy your writing, your voice.
Thank you for sharing.
Wow! More bits please! They’re like powerful flash essays. 🙂 Mind you, I also love your longer bits.
To be honest, I am having a tough time beginning all of this. How, in these times, are we vulnerable and put ourselves out there? How do we not? How do we balance the tightrope of the personal and ::waves vaguely:: everything everything everything. How do we offer what we have to offer? How do we not? I don’t know. I’m not sure. But I know, somehow, in a way I can’t put in to words at this point, this piece of yours helps with that.
So thank you. Having left the Twitter-space, I’m very happy to find you here.