Twelve years and some months ago, I knelt on the concrete steps that bisected my terraced garden and, in one of my very first efforts at gardening, tore weeds out at their roots from cracks in the stone. As it is even when I kill a fly or an ant, it wasn’t lost on me that I was ending a life form. The parallel was particularly poignant, as I had just come through a hellish year in which I endured three unplanned pregnancies, all of which ended in either a spontaneous or induced abortion.
In a moment of strange philosophical lucidity, I found myself thinking almost wordlessly about how I was killing something to make room for something better. I was tearing the weeds out so that I could grow flowers and plants that heal; I had killed the life in my womb in order to improve my own. It was a sentiment that many will find horrific, others cold, and many pragmatic, and it was a moment that has stayed with me – every time I rip a weed from its roots, and at other apropos times, as well.
A year later, back in Ireland, I told my ex-husband’s therapist that ‘leaving him was like cutting off my hand to save my arm,’ and in the weeks and months following my return to California, I felt as if I were walking around with a layer of skin burned off, shedding in strips, revealing the tender new growth beneath.
I’ve gotten good, at times, at this killing thing. Today, 7/7/13 (whether you’re using the American or European system), I killed again – but this time I didn’t just kill. I put a knife in a nearly-seven-year-long odyssey that has taken me to the depths of hell and to the darkest corners of my soul, I shot three arrows into the heart of a dead dream and then I threw that shit in a deep grave and kicked dirt all over it. And I didn’t leave a nice tombstone or even a fucking flower, just footprints on fresh soil and tracks out of the cemetery gates.
I didn’t do this cavalierly, or with glee or venom or even indifference, though anyone who loves me will probably tell you that I should have. I did it with a heart heavy as lead, with tears and resignation, but also with love for the killer in me. I love this murderer that lives in the corner of my soul, hovering with knives and guns and poisons and an ever-watchful eye, this stone-cold killer wiling to cut the throat of anyone or anything that would threaten my self-actualization, that would choke my beautiful flowers.
And this is something they don’t teach little girls: being a woman doesn’t just mean giving or nurturing life. There is an equally important duty to destroy when one must, a homologous obligation to be willing to tear apart with weapons or one’s bare hands that which would seek to usurp our autonomy, overgrow our garden, suffocate us where we sleep. To be whole, one must be as willing to take up arms as to open them and to attack until our target is six feet under the black dirt.
In this moment I feel the whispers of a bad sunburn around my edges – I want to take a cold shower and wash off the red marks of betrayal, disappointment, years that have disappeared like fog moving in off the coast – but I can’t, because burns don’t wash off – they heal. And so will I – with my pen and my friends, my medicine and my flowers, my knives and my three flaming arrows.