It’s a Saturday on a weekend I am spending in London. And as much as I love London, and I love visiting places, I also need quiet time alone to recharge my batteries. So I spent the day sleeping until midday and then sitting on a bench in Regent’s Park and reading Amanda Palmer’s Art of Asking until I got too cold to sit anymore and had to move on.
I got the book as a Christmas present from my brother. He only knew I wanted it because I put it on the top of my wishlistr. And I really wanted it bad; I couldn’t wait to discover and experience my favorite artist – and one of my favorite humans in general – more deeply than ever before.
And then the strangest thing happened.
I didn’t read the book.
At first I postponed it because I was in the middle of another book. But then I finished it and instead of devouring The Art of Asking, I moved on to another book. And another one. And then another one. We are now in June, six months since I got the book, and I started to read it only today. Why? Why?
I told myself it was because I needed an uninterrupted alone time to read the book in one go, or two at the most. I knew it would be emotional for me – Amanda’s words always elicit this weird, deeply emotional response in me. I told myself I needed time to process it, and there never seemed enough time.
But the truth was I was afraid. I was scared because I was emotionally unprepared for this kind of heart-trip.
I often cry during movies or books. Words move me. Music moves me. Combine the two, and you have a teary mess of an Amy. I never used to cry on movies or books. It’s started changing in college. I cry more now. Maybe I have just matured enough to realize that being vulnerable is being human; and that it takes strength to be vulnerable. Maybe I just gave myself permission to express what I feel.
Through her words and her music, Amanda seems to have some kind of direct line into my soul. It feels like each time I hear her speak or sing, she dips her claws deep into my chest, wrenches it open, rips away my heart, and then squeezes and twists it, until it bleeds dry, and then she returns this empty shell of an organ to me, handing it to me on a silver platter, like I am Salome, because I did ask for it. And every time I come back asking for more, asking for an again, for an encore, because this heart-extraction is strangely cathartic and healing.
I am still learning how to be vulnerable without feeling weak or defeated.
And so I was scared to read The Art of Asking. And I was right to be: it does take an emotional toll on me. But I am also confident that through it, I will become stronger. Will I be healed? I have many wounds. Some of them have already become scars, and only remind me of where I’d been. Others still ooze blood and send shivers of pain each time I move. I don’t think a single book, no matter how amazing and true, and honest, can heal those wounds. I’ve been collecting them for far too long, watering them like plants, fussing over them like kids, letting them grow and gnaw at me.
But it’s another step on the path that will, perhaps, one day, lead me out of the woods and into the dazzling sun of the clearing, where I will stand, blinking the residual tears away, and already thinking, How could you be so silly and believe all this stuff. I still have a long way to go through the darkness, but Amanda is one of those who light the path and sometimes take me by the hand to get me through the worst parts.
And the book is helping. It’s not that it’s allowing me to glimpse her life more intimately than ever before – though that’s definitely a perk, too (I can get pretty fangirl-y) – but it’s that what I am reading feels deeply honest, and offers some startling revelations not only about the human condition in general, but also specifically about me.
Turns out I don’t know myself as well as I should like to think.
Turns out I am not alone.
Please. Believe me. I’m real.