“To do the useful thing, to say the courageous thing, to contemplate the beautiful thing: that is enough for one man’s life.”
― T.S. Eliot, The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism
This blog is an exploration of words and images, their power, their importance.
Writing is like breathing to me. It is as essential as the intake of oxygen to my brain function. It keeps me alive.
At eight years old, the world is still fresh and exciting. My bed was positioned in such a way that the sun filtered in through the window, catching dust particles dancing mid-stream, landed on the patchwork quilt and warmed a spot for me to languor in. Spread around me were several slightly crumpled sheets of lined blank paper. Some sheets were filled with messy writing, well worn, the ink slightly blurred. I liked to run my fingers over the indentations the pen made in the paper, feeling the evidence of my thoughts. Other sheets of paper waited for me, full of promise, ready to make my imagination tangible.
In order to understand my history with writing, one must first understand several things about me. My deep love of writing stems from my personality and my mood more than anything else. I don’t talk to people. Those who know me would probably laugh at that statement, but it is true none-the-less. I will walk with my eyes downcast or go a more circuitous route to avoid having to chat to someone. The idea of having an exchange with an acquaintance or stranger leaves my heart pounding and my head racing. The problem is not shyness, as, once again, my friends will attest to. The problem is that I live immeasurably in my head, and my brain is so non-linear and hyperactive that I am usually either incredibly awkward or the conversation requires a monumental effort on my part. I would rather not appear foolish to strangers, acquaintances, and colleagues, and, quite frankly, many people aren’t worth the colossal struggle required to have a normal conversation.
The people I talk to are individuals who will either be able to follow me down the jagged, jumping and rapid-fire path of my conversation or those who love me and are patient enough to deal with such chaotic discussion. My husband is the latter of the two, though his patience and love have both been tested numerous times. What, you might ask, does all of this have to do with writing. Well, since I was little, I could count the number of friends I have on one hand. Right now I have four close friends: one clearly has Asperger’s and, along with the other two, is as scattered and chaotic as I in thought. The fourth is writing.
I learned early that I could share anything with that blank page. It didn’t mind if I spent several paragraphs entirely off topic, jumping from Einstein to Marilyn to being in love with Spock. I would eventually get back to that time I let a friend down because when he told me he was getting a divorce, I blurted out something about Kahlil Gibran instead of consoling him. His mention of marital problems sparked rapid-fire thoughts in my brain that led me, in a very circuitous route, to The Prophet and something really interesting that I had just read and if I waited, I knew I would forget.
Not only could the blank page fill the void of those lonely moments, but I found that it allowed me to take my chaotic mind and shape it into something meaningful, slightly more linear and, most importantly, offered me an alternate way to communicate that didn’t involve blank stares or pitying glances. As my writing developed from journaling, I discovered that I could create stories on the page. I was elated to find that I could create friends and live through adventures with them. I could write myself as an entirely normal human being and be loved and accepted, something I struggled with in real life. Most of my formative years were spent daydreaming my way through school so that I could get home and spend time with those pages and the friends that lived there.
It was during this period that I discovered books. For me, reading and writing go hand in hand. Writing made me a better reader and reading made me a better writer. Both shaped the person I was to become. I discovered a battered box deep inside one of the cavernous closets near my bedroom and opened it up to find tomes of all sorts. The next year I was immersed in spine-tingling plots from Dean Koontz and Tom Clancy, the beautiful prose of Virginia Wolf, the rollercoaster of the Taming of the Shrew and one book with a bare-chested pirate on the cover and his exploits with his newly captured wife in between the covers. The books transported me to new places and taught me things I would never have learned by walking through the streets avoiding eye contact. What’s more, the books showed me that I could transport myself into new situations and expanded horizons through my own writing. As I matured, I realized that not only could I take myself on that journey of discovery, but I could take others along with me. At this point writing was no longer something I did, it was something I had to do. I found that I wanted to share my writing, to inspire others as the authors I read had inspired me. Though I lacked the courage to share, for the first time I found myself writing for and audience rather than for myself. I wanted to be an author.
As is always the case, life happened. I made friends and then lost them. I became deeply engrained in the law enforcement community and began working toward becoming a cop (most of the officers I know are as profoundly different and chaotic as I am). I learned how to talk to people, though I am still not very good at it; I can pretend with the best of them. I developed a filter (kind of). Though it was still present, writing took a back seat to living my life. Without warning, my life tilted.
When I said no, he pushed be against a tree and took what he wanted anyway. I learned shame and hate. At that moment everything seemed false. The sunset glared at me accusingly, the trees whispered, the stars stared down at me, wondering how a strong girl could be victimized. I wondered what I had done wrong; after all, I had been taught that a girl can prevent such things by dressing properly and following a safety protocol. Rage became a constant companion. I hated men for their power, I hated women for being powerless; I hated society for blaming me, and I hated myself for letting it happen.
Amid my self-loathing, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. The big lump in her breast, which I had spotted while she was changing, turned out to be not only malignant but highly aggressive. In the midst of her battle, my mother and father abandoned the dry junipers for moss draped crepe myrtle and left us all. The Victorian house that they made home had a wraparound porch. I sat curled in a chair on that porch one night, raging at the world when the rain began to fall in silvery skeins. Those pearls sealed off the judgmental night as they closed around me. The world fell away from me. I wrote that night, and my heart bled onto the paper as it never had before and has rarely done since.
I discovered that writing could be a cathartic act. I wrote with a passion that never occurred in my earlier writing. The more I wrote, the more I wanted to share with others so that my own plight might help them to make sense of the world, to feel less alone. So here I am, writing and sharing.