After is a Powerful Word

Mary Dibinga, July 9, 2020

After is a powerful word. After is an unimaginable word. How do we get to after? And even beyond the logistics of it and the fears of what has to come before there can be an after is the fact that it is hard to really emerge, ever, from our traumas.
First there is no clear line, not the way I want there to be. No D-Day that says the treaty was signed and the world is now at peace. Of course, most of that is just a story, too. Soldiers continue to die after treaties–it takes a while for a way to truly end, and then you hear the stories echoes in newer stories of the old folks who are still stuck back there in those times–squirreling away rations because they think they may need them again, telling and retelling and retelling the stories of the hardships of their youth and the wisdom that is foolishness in a new world no longer needing it.
How do we fit ourselves for a new world when we are so wounded and so stuck by the problems of this one? What washes us? What wipes away the fear and doubt and pain of a present to let us molt into a slick, clean new version of ourselves?
But then, maybe that is not what we do. Maybe we need a new world forged in pain of the past, forged in an understanding of the specialness of what could be based on the flaws of what was.
It’s just that, it’s just, that I’m weary. That I think we’re weary/ How do we dream when we’re weary?
But then I am writing, and that in itself is a sort of miracle, an impossibility. There are words, not all of them awkward and ugly falling and falling from my fingertips, inexhaustible despite my exhaustion, and there is this space that we made for others and the energy they brought here, and I am fed by this, and turning downright Pollyanna-esque in this writing now. I didn’t know I had it in me, and I wish it was a little more grounded, a little more of the realist writing of what can be fought for, what can be.
I think I have to look at transformations on the individual level. I am tired of trying to change institutions tired of the damage that comes from those efforts. I can’t remake the world, but I can imagine people deciding, me deciding that there are things I’m not keeping anymore—because I am tired—because while we lose so much right now, there is some gain.
There is some space to insist on how we want our lives to be. There are new things to fight to keep that we found her among the debris of our lives. Things we didn’t know we’d lost. I would not have been here today like this. I’m sure my calendar holds some shadow of what Thursday would have been, of how so many physical places and things that I used to go to and to hold and to create and to document and to get and to bring and to arrive at would have taken all this time and filled it in for me.

Mary Dibinga is an educator at Boston Latin Academy.

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