I'm writing to you, because I miss you. It's been a little bit over a year since I've lived back in Atlanta. I just turned 30. Time is so beautiful, and every year that passes, my gratitude for my experience with you grows. I'm 8.5 months sober, and 8.5 months into a solid recovery. I often think of you, as my time with you shaped me, saved me, and eventually brought me back home. This is a memorial; a thank you. A love letter. A token of my deepest affection.
I remember you, because you softened me. You took care of me. You fed me and let me cry. You let me fall apart, and you put me back together. You're so unapologetically the thing that you are, that you beckoned me to be that honest, too. You gave me space to be myself; to see and experience my whole self for the first time. You taught me how to love, and showed me how not to love. You taught me how to be a friend, and helped me understand the ways that I wasn't being a friend. Your honesty challenged mine; revealed the ways in which I successfully lie to myself to remain immune to the Truth.
You helped me find Truth; you helped me to separate experience from pain; understanding from hope. Love from decency. You taught me how to work, and you inspired me to do more than just work. You broke my heart until it began to heal. You pointed out the ways that I had begun to hurt others, as a result of ultimately hurting myself. You planted me and you watered me. You stood by me, and you let me run away. You let me push back. You let me ask questions. You let me fall apart. You gave me courage. You let me think for myself. You let me break my own heart. You let me be angry; you let me fuck up. You let me fail. You let me succeed. You let me create. You gave me space. You let Barnes hang out in the yard as long as she wanted. You gave me Barnes.
You broke me, you let me break, and you introduced me to compassion. You let me sort through heartbreak and darkness to eventually stumble back into the light. You held me while I put myself back together. You let me be someone who acted the way that they felt in a world where we don't let people do that; we ask them to be quiet. To shut the door. To grieve in private. To put it away; to lie. To smile. To be happy. To not cry in public. To not be "hysterical". To "go to church" about it...not to carry it anywhere where someone would be able to see it...sense it....feel it.....where someone might actually be able to tell.
And for the most part, I do value privacy when grieving; when processing sorrow. But there was a time in my life when the thought of doing that was a luxury; when functioning wasn't an option. Where my adrenal glands told my body to shut down, and didn't ask my permission. To start over; to begin again. My body quietly and loudly told me that we, as a collective group, needed to start over.
Thank you for giving me the space and the freedom to do that. Thank you for loving me, and helping me see through the pain that felt like anything other than something I could process. Thank you for helping me put my heart back together.
In hindsight, I couldn't have done it any other place; any other way. The meals and the gatherings; the community. The laughter. The river. The shenanigans. The swamp. The mistakes. The memories. The mishaps. New Orleans. Creative people; the freedom of culture. The unapologetically honest behavior. People, in large numbers, who aren't competing, but celebrating life. Celebrating love. Exercising their right to have joy and to be honest; to live joyously. To invite people over; to put phones away. To engage in real, honest conversation about things that matter. To not feel pressure to pretend; to get out of the hemisphere of forging reputations, regardless of the actual honest story behind the reputation itself. To value the human behind the image, and to focus on the story instead of the cover. To emphasize value and authenticity, rather than status and reputation.
These things healed me...these things were salty water in an old, lifeless wound. It hurt to be loved well; it was uncomfortable to accept kindness without an agenda. It was excruciating to experience the heartbreak that is bound to happen when you let somebody in close enough to hurt you. And then they do; the moment that you realize that love isn't even possible without pain, because being vulnerable for the first time feels like breathing in winter air after being in a hot room. It's a shock to the system...it hurts a little bit. But once love happened, once love invited me out of the depths of my numbness; my depression; my manic privacy, I made a decisison to not go back. To figure out how to love well, even if it kills me. Because it's better to feel love, than it is to let myself live in this world and not feel a thing; I'll be damned if I die before I ever have the chance to really live.
Thank you, Baton Rouge.
All my love,