I have not written this last week or so.
Feeling not up to it following intense preparation and performance for in interview related to my day job.
The self-loathing that accompanies not writing creeps in fast. And I know there will be difficulty getting back into writing practice the longer I put it off. It’s exactly the same as working to maintain some level of physical activity…as soon as you ease off, skip a few workouts or runs, your muscles start to soften. Getting back to the practiced level is going to hurt, there’s no way round it.
Reading helps. So, I am reading.
I’ve been wrestling with writing. I’ve been trying to write a piece about marriage. How I feel about it. What erupts on the page is hard for me to face: grief. Alongside love, yes. These two emotions cradle beside one another and I don’t know how to rock them. In the writing, I start to shoehorn the paragraphs (long before they are ready) into a from that shows off my humour or intelligence. I am hiding. A tactic that works to control and manipulate and keep my softer self from being seen. Dazzling with language and laughter, I am skimming the surface again.
In an essay by Chloe Caldwell, The Red Zone: A Love Story, I copy down this line about her relationship with her partner in my notebook:
“I have never felt more seen-through, more transparent…”
On Facebook a friend comments in a thread,
“Dickinson is right, being seen is the heaven of heavens…”
In an interview between Leslie Jamison and Sarah Sentilles in Orion Magazine, How to Write Love, I read,
“Stranger Care [book written by Sentilles]is a tale not just of love but of grief, as if we could ever tell one of those stories without the other. That’s where I wanted to start, with the question of love and how many different strands any love holds. How do you write love? Whenever I try, it feels like staring straight at the sun.”
And I read a most beautiful essay about poppies written by Katrina Vandenberg, also in Orion [print Autumn 2021 edition] , a paragraph that steals my breath away,
“Perhaps the poppy itself is a door. It swings open-closed, life-death, pleasure-pain, freedom-slavery, remember-forget, suffer-release, and when not swinging, it lives on its threshold, ready. It knows how to be more than one thing at a time, even when those things contradict one another. It knows everything about living and dying that we struggle to understand.”
I love this paragraph. I love how the second sentence is gorgeous but doesn’t quite make sense. And yet, makes so much sense. Reading it, on the heels of the other fragmented gifts that have floated my way, I realise I am withholding my self in my writing. I am not writing enough of my own thoughts and worries and joys on the page…I am simply trotting out the scenes and stitching them together with wit. I am not sharing my self with my reader. In short, I am not loving. Too afraid of ridicule…too afraid of being seen and not being loved. Isn’t that it?
The reading helps me see that I must open myself up to be seen, as Leonard Cohen’s Anthem:
“Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in”
And as I practice writing and work to gift my self on the page: trying, failing, trying, failing, I am comforted knowing that reading will always hold me, rock me with the lullabied lessons I long for.