The fire that flares and the coals that remain
Today I am grappling with how to be the giver of the heat that does not burn out. I want to keep living. I want to be the coals that linger. Can I keep up the resplendent light? Can I learn to tame the raging flare that consumes all around me?
I have forever been an energy source for those around me. I did not ask to be this way, but I do not mean to ask for pity for the privilege into which I was born. I only mean that sometimes we enter the world with a task. Predestination is not the right term, but as a baby enters the world, they can see a light before them. They follow that light, or they watch it, or they hide from it. Or perhaps the light is of no consequence. They follow the sound, instead. On my day of entering the world, there was a winter fire burning somewhere nearby. I know now that it was my fire. Someone lit it for hope of warmth, and that warmth was answered. I followed the fire, and it still burns today.
For many years I was lively, industrious, sensitive, and I hustled my way through childhood. Little newspapers and magazines created first in crayon and then on a PC at home. Lemonade stands that traveled around our circular block. A greeting card company that my brother and I named “C & D Cards,” a precursor to our love for letters both as correspondences and singular symbols that represent our people. As time passed and maturity found me, trying to reign me in, life changed, as did my creations. Newspapers became poems, the lemonade stand became nightly dinners – made to quench a thirst of the soul, not a monetary gain.
As I’ve moved through the world, I have found that people gravitate towards me, but more so, my energy deeply affects those around me. This never made much sense to me. I felt sad sometimes, and that would somehow make all those around me sad. I was happy, and everyone glowed with joy. For a long time I thought that people were just highly critical of my moods. They wanted me to be one way all the time: upbeat and energetic. Never allowed to be sad, they would tell me how much anger it brought them when my eyebrows curled and my tone became serious and harsh. People are sensitive to harshness, as they feel like something is their fault, but it shouldn’t be, as they are just living their lives. I never set out to make people feel this way, but I needed my burning exasperation at the world to be known, else it internally burn me right to ashes.
Here we are, looking back upon my life in metaphor, and it is the only thing that makes sense to me. We don’t create metaphor to make things pretty or to make it more literary. We use metaphor – as it already exists and is not created by writers – to explore the truth, and to understand why/how/what our feelings even mean. My fire metaphor becomes even more than exploration – it is truth. It is truly inside me. I feel it in the morning, as the sun crawls up and through my blinds, I sip my coffee and begin to bellow the flicker. I feel it during the day, when my students need my energy to make it through another day climbing up the mountain of education. I feel it when I try to sleep, the difficulty of tricking a fire into meditation that leads to rest. And I feel it in my dreams, when wild rides that are my daily happenings manifest into bizarre appropriations of anxieties and fantasies.
It is the life I have lived, have chosen many times, and continue to battle with each day. I want to keep living. I want to be the bed of coals that, when the night comes, as it must, we sit around them and stare into their depths and meditate on the fact that those coals will be there if we let them slowly live. They will stay coals for a long time, and whenever we want them to flare up again, we feed them more fuel. They needn’t burn out from exhaustion. They needn’t be constant flame. The coals are as strong as the flame.
And this is the life I need to learn to live – through choice, composure, compassion, and acknowledgment.