• juliadestefano

I Am a Woman Who Knows....

  Back in April, at the height of "pandemic hopelessness" and long before the dreaded "It's OK to not be OK" commercials took root, I wrote a piece called: It's OK to Almost not be OK. I'm not unaccustomed to having my heart metaphorically bleed when I write. Boy, did it gush during this. I finished the piece while sitting by the picture window, awaiting the start of a drive-by funeral. In that surreal moment, overcome by a combination of immense sadness and disgust at what the world had come to, and feeling so powerless, I decided to subtitle it: Looking Through the Lens of Leaning-in.

  Since the very beginning of enforced lockdown and subsequent isolation, I had been reflecting on the idea of "leaning-in" and on the preservation of those relationships we can live without but don't want to. Though it was only March, I saw the emotional implications of lockdown right away, and they scared me. The unpredictability of everything scared me. It still does, though my fear is colored with more than a tinge of frustration these days. As the country was trying to make sense of the pandemic, it wasn't really appropriate to speak about such feelings, so I covertly wrote on them. It was SpillWords that gave me the audience I needed to feel sane through our living history - embracing a poem of mine called "Quicksand" that was centered on what I called the "loneliness epidemic" (see below for the poem). To my shock and relief, "Quicksand" ended up being one of the most popular writings on the site. I couldn't help but marvel at how, seemingly overnight, topics that had once been considered taboo or insensitive in the face of the pandemic were now widely-accepted. More and more articles began to pop up on major news outlets that were focused on depressive feelings, hopelessness, and overwhelming fears of both internal and external losses.   

   I was already feeling compelled to write on what it means to "lean-in." But the public's new, widespread shift towards personal emotions and the importance of relationships gave me the push I needed to see my vision through. The act of leaning-in during a pandemic certainly looks different to the giver and feels different to the receiver. But its preciousness knows no bounds. There are no words to describe what leaning-in can do for someone who is otherwise feeling so alone. I think of a friend of mine who I speak with, in some shape or form, everyday - often multiple times a day - and what that means to us both as we navigate the murky waters of heightened aloneness, and pray for better days.

  I knew I had to dig deep if I hoped to write anything of lasting substance. Could I somehow "paint" a picture vivid enough to retain personal meaning, yet also be relatable to anyone who happened to read my piece down the road? My head flooded with scenarios and images. I don't really think of myself as a prose writer, but there is something to be said about pouring oneself onto paper in that way. Ideas that I would normally infuse with poetic language were suddenly naked before me. I put them down in their rawest form. I have always believed in writing to heal. The messier it is, the more real it is. At the same time, that is what made this piece so difficult to write. Then the mug tipped over, and the piece began writing itself.  

  Today, SpillWords published It's OK to Almost not be OK: Looking Through the Lens of Leaning-in. Though I wrote it months ago and thankfully, life has improved some, it feels every bit as important to me now as it did then. It is a happy, special thing to see something so personal granted a wide audience. Maybe, just maybe, I can help to keep the conversation surrounding leaning-in alive - because we absolutely need to be thinking about the people in our lives right now and what they mean to us, and doing all we can to nurture those connections that truly ignite something in our heart and soul. People don't really know what they mean to us unless we show them.

To maintain personal truths in a Twilight Zone-d reality - that is the way it should start,

The Red Queen

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