Emotionally Present / Lived Experience/Memoir / Open Letter

Carrie, You Are Shiva

It’s been two weeks since all of my emotions completely shut off in an instant. And tonight, Carrie, you turned them all back on just as quickly.

You are one of the few people who stepped up to help me when I was most in need. I wasn’t just in need of financial help (as, being a person living in poverty, I can’t refuse any such offer). I was in need of some sense of purpose, and you found a way to give me that. I know I told you this while you were expressing gratitude. I know you were worried about what I think of you because of what you asked me to help you with. But I never thought anything negative, and I still don’t. You gave me what I need in a complex way, by asking me to help you accomplish something that seemed overwhelming to deal with alone. You gave me direction and purpose, and you helped nourish and transport my body (which in turn secured my access, not only to my doctors, but to just one extra thing that wasn’t doctor-related or within walking distance). You gave me the feeling that my existence matters; you gave me gratitude for my barter for your help; and you gave me the ability to be around people again, after I had been isolated for months. No one else has helped me in quite as many ways as you did. And you did it twice.

You’ve also sacrificed an enormous amount of time and energy to a huge community of people who seem to have just moved on from your sudden absence. I could tell your absence was coming to fruition for what seemed like at least a few weeks, but I knew it was rooted in something much more enduring. I know why, without even asking, because I feel what you feel too, because of my own reasons and experiences. And while you withdrew, I became so enraged, I just shut right off. While you re-directed your energies elsewhere, and silently passed on the most subtle reminder of what energies you once gave, I re-directed my energies elsewhere too; keeping just one foot in, in the hopes that I could cause some ripples in the tide pool. When I realized, by reaching out to you, how powerful a gesture this subtle reminder really was, I began to feel my emotions again — I began to feel grief for the monumental sacrifices you’ve made, and for the time that’s passed since your absence. You may or may not already be aware, but grief is one of my most powerful, abundant, and deep-rooted emotions.

And this is when I realized, Carrie, that you are Shiva. You are a creator and a sage. You create and play music (something I wish I could do). You aren’t just smart — you are wise — I see you looking at the world, and you see it in ways that are more often than not just ignored or overlooked (and these are some of the most powerful dialogues for that very reason). I admire your enduring passion to create and share, and I see each and every  one of your creations (including your music) as a gift. It is only when it reaches those people who don’t see them as gifts, that it becomes a sacrifice. And that is where my grief over the matter of your sudden absence originates.

You are fragile, too, just like I am (though not for the same reasons). And I cannot adequately express to you, how much it means to me, to find someone who understands vulnerability. To find someone who embraces it in herself is a gift. It makes you a warrior, just like I am. It makes me feel so much love for you, that it overwhelms my feelings of grief. I love you so much, and I want to give back whatever I have to offer you, to honour you and your many gifts.

You are also a teacher, and a leader. I so deeply admire your accomplishments (such as becoming a teacher! WOW!!!!), that I don’t even know how to put it into words. It is because of teachers that I have any voice at all — as a writer, and as a feminist. Teachers were the first people in my life to provide any form of encouragement at all. Teachers were the first people in my life to allow me the space to speak. Teachers were the first people in my life to really listen to what I had to say. Teachers gave me honest feedback that I have taken to heart and that I continue to carry with me. You are a part of a tradition of passing on wisdom through generations of people, that is bigger than life itself. This is what makes you a leader in my eyes. You are passing on your wisdom to people, to give them the tools to lead in your footsteps. And while I know, from other teachers, that you may believe otherwise because of some of your students, not all of what you teach is as concrete as a written exam. After all, I’ve only been in your classroom once, and it wasn’t for marks. But I’ve learned from you (in part), to take a leading role in my own life, and to pursue and share my passions (which include music).

I’ve already said it, but it bears saying again. Carrie, I love you. You are Shiva. You are a warrior and a sage. I am so blessed that you are my friend, words are barely adequate.

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