Learning How to Write, All Over Again

I haven't written in a long, long time. It's the longest span of not-writing I've ever had in my life. I'm 34. I haven't posted in over half a year. I haven't written more than an email or an article for work. I have had... I have taken some time to think about if and how and what it is I want to do with this thing I can do... And I'm still not there, but it's time to start writing again.

I have begun doing "those little things that need doing" around my home. I got a new shelf for my cabinet. I figured out how to replace the little bulbs that illuminate my stove (Ikea.  Duh.) and a new spice rack. I bought a mirror to hang over my bed. I got frames for the photos I mean to hang. I figured out how to arrange my books to look less hoarder and more... just organized and good at life.

That's a phrase a friend uses when she's flummoxed or has hit a roadblock or needs to figure something out. "I'm not good at life." It just means there's a new problem that you have to work out, and it's not "right there", but it's a cute, yet self deprecating, way to think about it.

If you're not dead, you're good at life.

And I haven't always been that good at life.

(Jump ship and forward to the end if you want to skip the parts where things get hard.)

I've been thinking a lot about why I haven't been writing, what it is I would write if I could, and what it will cost me to be that honest. Yet, as I have grown, I have realized that the honesty I so feared has disappeared. I can no longer espouse absolute truths. I can offer my perspective on this that happened to me. But nothing ever happened just to me. That is the gift of growing up. Realizing that even in the deep, dark, bloody center of your own universe, you are a point at which dozens of lives interact. You are your mother's child. Your father's daughter. Several people's grandchild. The sister of many. The cousin of dozens.

More people were intimately involved in "that thing about you" than you realized were possible.

I know what I did. I know how it happened. But I know how it happened to me. Now how you saw it, or she saw it or he saw it. Or they saw it.

You get the point.

It took me... 28 years to learn the difference between these things, and again come around to being able to say "this is what happened" and accept that it was just my point of view, yet accept that as a story worth telling. It is not an absolute. It is never complete. But I am embarking on a quest. I hope to interview my doctors. Ask others to write (please reach out if you'd like to write?) and hopefully craft both a first-person memoir of a horrible thing, and a story that views a thing from different perspectives, which I hope will also touch and enlighten me. I want to know. I am finally, finally, not afraid of asking questions.

I finally learned what my old therapist always told me. That my stories of suffering hurt me to tell more than it will ever hurt anyone to listen. Because our listeners offer us love and comfort and do not share our pain, guilt, fear and shame.

They listen to help us feel better, because telling is the ultimate salvation.

When we share who we are, we forgive ourselves. I want us all to forgive ourselves. Lofty, yes. But I think hearing how we think things went down.

Case in point. A child sat in the front seat of a go cart and she couldn't reach the pedals. She put her hands on the edge of the seat. She pulled her body down so that her legs reached out, her back lay flat against the bottom of the seat. Her long, brown hair fell into the crack between the seat bottom and its back. No axel cover protected the whirling bar, covered with sticky grease. That bar curled her hair and pulled so hard it tore her scalp from her head.

Her mother ran behind the go cart, she told her. She pushed it, to make it go faster, and pushed too hard. The child fell backwards, the force knocked her down. Her hair caught. It was her fault She pushed too hard.

Who is right almost doesn't matter, since both stories will forever dictate how the teller lives her life. Unfortunate. I could have saved her so much sorrow, if she just knew I did it by accident.

I can't remember, now, ever having been angry with myself for that slip -- the slide and the catch and the fall... I never blamed anyone, Christ, let alone my parents. I always knew I lived only because they were right there to save me from what was just a terrible accident. I wrote "tragic" and erased it, because my life, while it has had its trials, has been anything but a tragedy.


Jennifer said…
I'd say this is a pitch letter in the making. I wish you a wonderfully illuminating time as you write and share this story. Go, you!
Ana Irueste said…
Enjoyed your blog. Your description brought to my mind a fearless, determined little girl, fully engaged in life in the moment. I know you very little but you strike me as having that same zest for life, even as you have gotten wiser.
As a therapist my job has been to hold the space where people can tell their story and make visible their pain. By being a witness we validate the person's experience. It is a privilege to be trusted when the person is at its most vulnerable. Sharing heals, but more important it connects and enriches everyone that it touches. Thanks, Ana
Anonymous said…
Beautiful perspective, Jen. Looking forward to reading more.

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