After the release of Issue III: Epoch I began to grapple with a soft, throbbing pain in the small of my back. It manifested itself in tight knots and rolling waves, travelling from my back up to my shoulder blades or down to my knees, making both reaching unbearable and kneeling nearly impossible. Every time I lamented my young body betraying me the pain worsen. Every time I cried myself to sleep over the blades sheathing underneath my skin my heart tightened. It felt like heartbreak.
The James-Lange theory of emotion purposes that physiological arousal precedes emotional experience. That is, we know we are scared because we tremble. We know we are sad because tears stream down our faces. We know we are heartbroken because we can’t breathe against the tightening of our chests.
I began to learn to live with this tightening, this drowning in an ocean of my own creation. The pain of a cracking body, strained from lack of sleep or overtime or the last push before graduation, or even the budding fear I swallow every time I come back home, alone and cold at 11pm. Does it mean I have given up? Accepted that the disquietness of living is all that I can ever have? I don’t know what it means to feel calm, to fall into restful arms. I told my long-distance boyfriend during a breakdown that I’m beginning to forget what it feels like to be held. I just want to be held.
I feel guilty, writing this in a fog of depression and pain and deep-rooted anxiety knowing that others have it worse than me. I feel guilty, being rundown by work when I should be grateful that I even managed to find a job. I feel guilty, seeing what is happening in America, hearing my friends cry on November 8th and feeling that sick, tightening feeling in my chest on inauguration day. My mother tells me we’re lucky to be Canadian. We’re lucky we weren’t born in America. But my friends were. My boyfriend was. Everyone who have made my year in California worthwhile, made it one of the best years of my life, made me feel happy again, if they were not born there they live there. They call America home. They made me feel at home. This Canadian girl, who was born on the Fourth of July and never felt at home in her own country felt at home there. Please bring their home back to them.
Maybe all this pain is connected. Maybe there is a correlation between seeing the news everyday and collapsing within yourself. Mouth agape and eyes filled with tears. Can I call it watching a car crash from the sidewalk when I was in the same car days before? With the same driver and passengers, laughing and smiling during happier times? I’m so tired of breaking beneath the heaviness of guilt and ineptitude. I’m so tired of turning away and biting my lips to stop myself from crying.
When I proposed the idea of “disquietude” to my staff I had in mind this very guilt—the disrupted, the disturbed, the anxious nights and the mournful mornings. Then inauguration day came. Then the travel ban came. Then the deportations came. I started to pull myself outside of my body, put pen to hand and heart to paper. I can’t stand here and watch my friends cower in fear from the other side of the border. I can’t stand here and let my aunts interrogate me over why my boyfriend has a Spanish last name. I can’t stand here and watch them take my undocumented friends away. I can’t do it. I can’t live with myself like that.
When I say art will save us, I mean art will give voice to the unheard. The unseen. But never the forgotten. Never the unknown. Make them hear your cries for freedom. For equality. For happiness and hope and a life worth thriving for. There is so much to fight for. So much to long for. The feel of sunlight on your cheeks. Road trips with your friends. A hot cup of tea on a rainy day. Being held again. And being. Just being.
The works of the sixteen writers and artists within this issue are anxious. Confused. Angry. Scared. Yet defiant. Stubborn. And, ultimately, hopeful. That our minds will clear again. Our mouths will smile again. Our arms will embrace again. And our hearts will beat, surely and strongly, again.
Until we feel the softness of safe hands, fingers interlocking with our own, we must rise up. Get loud. Get angry. Get political. Get uncomfortable. Make disquietude something they wear instead, they live with instead. Use it to understand that chaos cannot exist without calmness. Without the very concept it exists to uproot.
The quiet mourning. The quiet morning. It will come again.
Nothing lasts forever, not even this pain.
Not even pain.
With much love and hope,