Jeremiah and I drove together to Vermont. It was snowy and beautiful in New England. We spent a whole week adventuring together and visiting friends without our kids. The universe felt like it was shifting. As I graduated with my MFA from Goddard College, I read an essay in front of 100 people that recounted my trauma processing my attraction to women over the course of several years alongside my Christianity. Writers I admire came to me saying, “You have strong work.” The future for me felt bright, as so many affirmed my storytelling, and I felt like I was beginning to step into my own skin and heal.
After two years of hard work, frustration, research, and creative output, Jeremiah and I finally moved into our school bus to tiny house conversion. It felt like arriving in a small way.
I was hired to teach high school English—the start of my journey into teaching and writing.
I began my second Masters degree—this one in education. And Jeremiah and I made one of the hardest possible decisions. We agreed to expand our love and family outward through separation, as we began to more fully embrace my sexuality. I am a lesbian.
I began my first year teaching, and Jeremiah and I moved apart—him in the tiny house and me in a small apartment. We met rejection but also acceptance—friends who supported us and encouraged our transition.
I have met three amazing women, who re-affirmed for me the conviction that self-love is the most important journey one can take and that journey must begin first before more love can be embraced.
In a move towards more honesty and vulnerability, a desire I’d held in my heart for so long felt renewed—family, as people who love and support you unconditionally through whatever difficult path you choose. And I rejoiced in my children having grandparents who love them and support me and Jeremiah in our non-traditional parenting.
“I choose me.”
I remind myself that this decision means my children will grow up with an ever deepening understanding of love.
Love as a complex reflection of life’s beauty and mystery—not devoid of tragedy and heartache—but married to it. Embracing this means healing becomes a culture—like the fermentation of sauerkraut or kombucha—it deepens our experience of love.
"You are here for a purpose."
This is something I've always believed. Sometimes I struggle to believe it more than at other times. But it feels significant in this season somehow. The events that have begun to transpire along with the friends that I have gained, this time feels significant and on purpose.
"Maybe God is a man or a woman, and she's set something in motion."
And I suppose this may be true. I'm watching the sun set on one thing and rise on another, and in the most intimate and beautiful way a relationship has transformed into something profound, as I am becoming more fully who I was always meant to be.
As we walk together along a long straight path the sun sets on our left and monarch butterflies dance through the sand cherry bushes on our right. I pass a cornfield and say, "Maybe I can pee there," and you stand and demonstrate peeing in the bushes, pointing to a place for me to go. You watch that the coast is clear, as I squat down in the brush. You have become the friend I always wanted, kind and unassuming, someone who fully supports me for who I am becoming.
We continue our walk talking openly about our life and love as we always have, and I feel happier than I have felt in years. "Say it with each step," you say, "walk in this truth." And I walk and slowly and confidently proclaim something over myself that I had never dreamed of being able to proclaim before, let alone with you. But you love me so freely here.
And I feel so much more alive than I had ever thought possible.
As we walk back, the sun continues to set on our right, now, and I feel both sad and full of hope. This season has already begun to create something akin to joy.
I want to be someone who is able to offer love that is not attached to pain, but I'm not sure what this looks like.
"A parody of love and loneliness" or "the epidemic of loneliness" or "what is loneliness?"
I am considering the selfishness of youth.
I am considering the youth I lost.
Please, ask me a question and then listen to my answer.
The most intimate form of care and love lives in the empathy of pursuing the knowledge of another and hearing it.
How should I exist?
As my body is lifted, I hover above the ground my finger outstretched towards God.
The touch of divinity and humanity reside in me.
"Come, you fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing your grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise."
What defines you?
I lie deep in the ground waiting to blossom.
As my deep well runs dry I question the integrity of love.
Do you know me?
How much are you willing to give up for true love?
I think true love lies deep within the selfishness of self-love.
"I cannot love you more than I love myself."
And the paradox erupts.
My body cringes with the pain of it all.
Tragedy and truth lie together.
And my humanity makes me real.
Come touch me and you will experience the reality of me.
Despite my better judgement I forget myself and wear my insecurities on my sleeve. It is an out of body experience as I talk to her. I observe my ticks and judge myself wishing I could stop it all.
"We are one underneath the sun."
Who am I?
Who are you?
I say I love you with all of the commitment it requires, acknowledging the risk and embracing the hope.
I will be here.
I am taking my time to do what is right with me.
I want to love you well.
And perhaps I will remain misunderstood here.
And perhaps that is okay.
I have a friend who delights in the sunset. She anticipates it. She acknowledges the movement of light across a face or a door frame and captures it. She allows the light's expressions to move her.
I have been moved from one sphere of existence into another. I have been thrust through a worm hole. Someone who is also me, but in an alternate universe from me, has switched me places. I am now living her life.
I think that her life will bring me joy.
It’s the way you look at me.
Your eyes! They magnetize me. I’ll dissolve if I don’t turn away.
I can hardly control my body. I hold myself still to keep you safe from the flood within me.
I talk to you and love you by listening to you.
I care for you in the only way I feel that I can. By being there.
I’m allowing myself to feel and when I look in your eyes I feel everything.
My love is like water.
I struggle to contain it, as it seeps from every exposed crevasse.
The dam bursts flooding the river banks.
Water flows forward and down crushing everything in its wake.
The power of the water cannot be contained.
My love will flow into the ocean and drown itself in the sea.
The sea frightens me.
Water becomes a blanket.
Its uncertainty weighs me down.
I disappear into the ocean.
In its tumult I find peace.
When does a story begin or end?
What does the past say about the present?
On New Years Eve, I listened to my husband explain that he felt a dark hole growing in his heart. He could not describe the emotion he felt attaching itself to that hole. "Perhaps the emotion is the unnamable one," I said, "the one that we don't know. You know? That one our culture cannot feel."
We heard about this emotion on a podcast that we listened to on our way to Washington State. The emotion was described as being silent or a groaning. I can only describe it as the physical action of wrinkled time stretched tight. The emotion is like a string pulled so tight that to twang it would cause it to break.
What is that silence between the breaking points: the moment before a string is strummed and the moment it is strummed; the moment before a bomb goes off and the moment it explodes?
"I have been told that I am not welcome because of what is in my thoughts."
"You ask too many questions."
"No one knows the answers to your questions."
I am rejected for these questions. Dismissed because I will no longer say with confidence, "I know." Perhaps silence is always the best answer.
Silence comes with the realization that nothing I say or do will cause "it" to change. Silence is the moment of "not change." The moment change begins and before it ends.
"I have said my piece, and now, I will listen." When I listen, I respond with silence because to defend myself will do no one any good.
"I will understand and choose not to be understood."
My silence is a ticking bomb. Why is my silence a threat?
"You have everything you have ever wanted, and yet you have nothing," I scream this silently.
"Do you believe in heaven and hell?
It is a yes or no question."
"I don't know is a better answer than I know."
To question certainty is to become a threat. Is this why I feel that I must disappear? I conform to others expectations to be safe. I conform and stay silent.
Silence is the moment change begins and before it ends. What comes after silence?
"Perhaps the emotion is the unnamable one," I said, "the one that we don't know. You know? That one our culture cannot feel."
What happens when the string breaks?
How do you separate yourself from who you want to be and who you are?
"I have accepted I don't know is a better answer than I know."
Insecure and helpless wrestling within ourselves to become ourselves while conforming to who someone else wants us to be.
It's split me.
You are two people, three people, four people.
How many people will we become before we become the right one?
My children's eyes are watching me.
They see my pain and desire my comfort.
"I will give you the affection I long for."
What does love look like?
It is selfish and selfless.
Love is weak and mild and hungry.
"I want you to take me."
"I need you to want me."
Love is often mistaken for hate.
Hate is often mistaken for love.
Fear is often mistaken for both love and hate.
I open my eyes to see the universe is watching me with her million eyes.
The earth opened up like a blossom before the sun, as it burst into a billion stars and ate Jupiter and its moons.
Still I feel significant.
My children's hands are soft and their eyes are eager.
I mark each one of my mistakes and my children feel them.
I am often afraid, but I try to admit that I am often wrong.
How do I construct an image that someone else could understand?
My mind is full of wonder and uncertainty and longing.
My eyes are tired as I sit listening to a clock tick out the seconds rowing towards the end of day. The noise is as loud as the tapping of my computer keys. I am the only one awake in the house, and I feel a heightened sense of awareness and fear.
Alana Jamison grew up in Oklahoma and currently resides in Western Kansas. Her writing appears in Flash: The International Short Short Story Magazine and The Pitkin Review. She is a graduate of Goddard College's MFA in creative writing program and a student in Fort Hays State University's Transition to Teaching program. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @alanajamison.