Dear Heart Radical,
You were an idea before you were the title of my manuscript. Book. Collection of Memoirs. Essays. Memoir singular. What to call you?
Does it even matter? Not if I don’t care anymore about “marketability”. I think, truly, you are essays. Searching for the Heart Radical: A Collection of Essays. Or Linked Essays by Anne Liu Kellor.
And what about the old subtitle: “A Journey Between East and West.” Scrap that?
This is all not important. What matters is to love you again. It’s been so long that all I’ve done is loathe you, fear you, dread you, avoid you. I want to love you again. I want to appreciate all the love and sweat and experience poured into your pages. I want to share you, because sharing you is, too, a part of the writing process. Birthing process.
What is the Heart Radical? It is inner fierceness, not necessarily visible to the eye. It is an inner compass that helps the thinking, doubting part of me make choices that are aligned with the deepest, wisest, most transparent part of me. It is instinct that is allowed to function freely when all mechanisms of self-preservation have failed.
And the Heart Radical is also me, finding my voice. It is contradiction and complexity, demanding to exist and not be easily simplified or packaged for digestion’s sake. The Heart Radical is me, striving for authenticity, striving to walk the path I’m meant to walk, striving to do what my heart calls out to do, even when certain choices may not seem practical.
Because I am a writer, the Heart Radical is also about writing, about me staying true to my need to write, but I do not write about this in the manuscript. In the book, the Heart Radical is mostly about wandering. About revisiting my past through stories and travels. About seeking my roots, both geographical and familial. About risking exposure to find love, or at very least, connection with others. About risking vulnerability, for the chance to be seen and known. About learning to be okay being alone, as well as alongside another.
The Heart Radical is also about articulation, subtleties, and layers of truths. It is about learning to feel comfortable in who I am and what I believe, and learning to be okay with all my shortcomings, weaknesses and mistakes.
The Heart Radical is all of these things, and so much more. I love it as a title, as something to search for, because the Heart Radical is never stagnant and unchanging. Each passing day, year, season of my life, the shade and tenor of the Heart Radical is slightly different. Yesterday’s burning need in my heart is different than today’s subtle yearning. Yesterday’s longing for a lineage that could encompass my spiritual beliefs, is today’s longing for time, simply time, to remember what all those pressing questions were about.
Before I had a child, I used to have so much time—to wander, to ponder, to long and cry and feel lonely. Now I have so little time, and I do not feel lonely; I simply want more time for myself to even remember all those private heights and depths, all that scaffolding, elaborate cathedrals erected around my heart.
These pages are filled with stories and images of other people and places—in China, in Tibet, in L.A. But they are mostly filled with ideas and visions of myself. The book, the journey, is primarily an interior one, even if you are most interested in the parts where I take you to a sky burial or through the streets of Chengdu. I am only partially joking when people ask me what the book is about, and I say, “Me.” That sounds kind of arrogant, so I try to avoid that answer, but still I resort to it in moments of uncomfortableness when I don’t feel like exposing myself. It is also a lie if I say that the book is about “my time in China,” which makes it sound like a travelogue, and does not account for the pieces that are rooted in the States. It's about going back and forth, being in between. And if I say, it is about “exploring my cultural identity, spirituality, and relationships,” well that too is vague and non-revealing.
Anyway, that is all for now, I have to go finish my chores before I pick up my child from next door.
This free-write is just a beginning. A way for me to remember, to trick or cajole myself into falling again for my old lover, for these old stories, essays, occasional misplaced prose poem-- whatever they are, this collection of mine.
And why? Because it’s now or never time. I’m feeling this. It’s put it out there, find closure to this cycle, this part of this journey that is tied to this particular cycle of words, and move on. Because sharing the words is a part of the process for me. For even though they were originally written for me, they are ultimately not for me. To me, now, they are worthless in this form. They fester, they evoke a certain loathing. I need to let them go, set them free, release. Holding on to them any longer feels like a form of selfishness, selfishness born of fear. (What if no one likes them? No one buys them? What if I can’t stand to even read them aloud they feel so old? What if they don’t do justice to what my writing and thought process is like now?) Fears. I hold these pages to high standards. Perhaps you will too. Perhaps you will love them (love me!), perhaps you will judge them (judge me!). Do you see how it’s all tied up in my ego and mind?
That’s why to publish them—and self-publish, because I can’t wait any longer-- is the final act in this particular Search for the Heart Radical. That’s why I must. Okay, so I’ve convinced myself. Now, I just need to do it.