I have been thinking a lot lately about recovery. I have been digging at the roots of the word recovery itself, a word that implies healing, taking care, working oneself out of a sometimes dangerous or at least suboptimal state; recovery implies a return, a going backward, or back to—implying, then, too, an act of undoing. Recovery is often the undoing of what has caused a person harm; recovery is the process of returning to the life before, to the person one was before—before the disruption, the trauma, the fuck-up, the unraveling. Recovery requires the recognition of these separate states, the before and the after, the then and the now, the what was and what is going to be, the becoming and the beginning again, the unearthing, the retelling, the deep breath, the opening one’s eyes again and again and starting over again.
In my own mental landscape and personal narrative, I use the word recovery to consider specific parts of myself, to work through what’s hurt, what’s wrong, what I don’t like or don’t want or don’t know how to change—the only way through is to undo. But I can dissect recovery in my own life in spaces other than this one—therapy, conversations with friends, or perhaps creative work. Art helps—painting, collaging—and watching my plants grow and playing with my dog and practicing Pony Sweat. What has struck me about the word recovery lately, is theways in which it aligns with this moment, this world we live in, this society that seems to be undoing itself. I wonder then about recovery and the ways in which the concept is attached to progress.
What, then, is progress? Is progress undoing what has gone wrong, what has been stunted, what has hurt? A going back to the problem and fixing it, preventing the same problem from occurring again. Or perhaps progress is leaving the ache behind completely and turning in another direction, driving sunward on and on. I believe both answers are true and too wrapped up in each other to ever achieve the elusive, perfect state of that which has been healed, that which is whole and resolved and prepared for the next ten minutes or the next ten years. I read the news and think only: we are going back, back, back. Everything is still wrong and sometimes it’s worse and the recent undoing of laws does not seem to me proof of progress, not really, not toward anything other than what and where we’ve been before, everything that didn’t work. I am on the side of those who believe the right to abortion should not be undone, the right to gay marriage should not be undone, that the earth itself should be protected and preserved. The air is heavy these days and I feel the challenge of moving through such thickness. I fear the undoing of the seasons, have these frantic thoughts that this weather will never go away, that this summer will never end. Can we be recovered from the constant shit-wreckage? Can we ever undo enough?
I have written in this space before about writing as an act of returning.Writing is the acting out of the obsession to reverse and repeat and recreate. I do not believe it is a writer's responsibility to change the world, and yet many of us do by refusing to settle for the world as we know it or as it's been before. As much as it is an act of returning, writing, too, is an act of undoing by way of dismantling: shattering illusions and imagining alternate realties and criticizing a moment or an idea or a personality that has shaped thought or function; to write is often, simply, to want something else, something more. I admire those who write to tell a story; I also admire those who write toward a grand recovering—both are important, both are evidence of stirring, dissatisfied, aching, hopeful minds.
I find that creating, whatever that means on any given day, is discovering a different approach to being, again and again. That language is important: not always better, but different. Creation cannot undo and it cannot always heal, but it can take us back to that sweet, incomparable state of possibility, can make more room.
Check in later this month for our conversation with Ian Hill, whose poems "Dogwood," "We Have to Talk," and "Slow Interior" are featured in Issue 02. His thoughts on literary echoes, blurring boundaries, and loosening the grip on things you no longer hold will be available to read on August 15th.
Love and Light,
Founder and Editor, The Champagne Room