The Chronology of Water: A Memoir by Lidia Yuknavitch

If you have ever fucked up in your life, or if the great river of sadness that runs through us all has touched you, then this book is for you. So thank you for the collective energy it takes to write in the face of culture. I can feel you.
— Lidia Yuknavitch, The Chronology of Water

This book came to me by magic. Well, not by magic, but by mail, mysteriously. It did not take me very long to deduce who might have been the sender, but I have been unsure about how to acknowledge it, seeing as there was no note, no direction.

I read her words like a parched person drinks water. And I read them with the extra voice in my head asking, "Why did this other person want me to read these words?" There are a buhjillion possibilities, but some obvious ones are 1) She simply liked the book and wanted to share it, 2) She saw parts of herself in the book (I saw parts of her in the book) and wanted to share it or 3) She saw parts of me in the book (I saw parts of me in the book) and wanted to share it.

1) and 2) are very likely. I hope 3) as well, because I came to know myself in her words around the fourth and fifth fifths of the book (there are five parts) when the author describes how writing, art and expression saved her. I read these parts of the book between 1:30 and 4:30 a.m. this week, as the call the prayer rang out from the nearby mosque in Nabeul, Tunisia, and I felt like I too was coming to know art as my salvation. My deeper and deeper dive into words this year and last, bathing in them like a daily ritual - that part of me connected with this character in a serious way.

On reflection, the only thing I could not relate to was the vibrancy of life she lived - my own life being more and more a shell, filled sometimes singularly with books. Her offbeat, emotionally charged, vigorous writing speaks to a lot of damage and pain and sex and violence and drug abuse that I have not experienced in my life, not in the ways she describes.

But, as in the quote at the top of the entry, I have been touched by sadness. Or rather, sadness has been, more and more rapidly, tightening its grip on me, overruling the gregariousness of my youth. And, to overcome it, or to slide past it in the current, I surf on words and on language. She did this too - and on bodies, so often on bodies.

You see it is important to understand how damaged people don’t always know how to say yes, or to choose the big thing, even when it is right in front of them. It’s a shame we carry. The shame of wanting something good. The shame of not believing we deserve to stand in the same room in the same way as all those we admire. Big red A’s on our chests.
— Lidia Yuknavitch, The Chronology of Water

A prime lesson for me in this book - and I am talking more about reflection than the actual content in this book, deliberately, because a book as vulnerable, powerful and exposing as this is personal, and it is better not to taint the reader's journey with analysis, but rather with individual revelation, which I believe might be what she intended - is to know my people, or tribe as she calls it, and fight with all my might to achieve a life of creativity among others who aim for the same.

If you don’t have a twin in a tribe I’m telling you - drop whatever you are doing in your life and go look for them. The twin and the tribe. I’m serious. Because having a bloodword tie and a tribe pretty much saved me from myself. If I had tried to live one more year trying to be like the people around me I wouldn’t have lasted long.
— Lidia Yuknavitch, The Chronology of Water

Whether by drugs, alcohol, sugar, TV, etc., we all have our ways of becoming numb to the world, to staying asleep. For me, and for many others, this is not enough, but it is an easy world in which to get stuck. Yuknavitch's reality in words endeavors the reader to flutter their eyelids, broaden their perspective to see the vastness of this world, and submerge themselves in the cold, calm, torrential, deep, wet, slippery, shallow, tepid, cocooning, moving, still, deep, angry, loving waters of our lives. If you are not swimming yet, let this book be a reminder that you must only take a breath, and take the plunge.

And to the friend who knows herself and knows me well enough to share this, thank you.