Monday, March 31, 2014

Friends with Words

I am pretty sure I was born to write. There is deep seeded need within me that I have felt since I was in grade school to create a universe with my words, to bend reality, to tell stories and to share my experiences with the world. It's as if I am compelled to contribute to creating reality, to telling it like it really is. I don't feel complete unless I am putting something of myself out there into the world, raw and open.

I've always been a pretty shy person too, so the written word gives me a way to express myself that is at once safe and bold. Writing allows me to try on any persona I want, be whomever I please for a lifetime or an instant. Words offer me shelter and solace, a place where I can try things out and still hold them at arms length without much commitment. Writing gives me a chance to explore new ideas without becoming them and without fear of ridicule when someone inevitably disagrees with my thoughts. It is at once my superhero cape and my curtain to hide behind, my solace and my sword.

All my life, my turns of phrase have been something I have taken for granted and manipulated. What started as a pursuit of pure and childlike wonder turned into a bit of a shallow shell of what it once was. It lost its luster and mystery and became a means to an end. I wrote because I was told I was good at it. I wrote because it was my one way to be special, to prove my worth or to get attention. I wrote some things solely for monetary gain, things that were lifeless and uninteresting and without much heart. I wrote to share the boring, day to day tasks of my life under the guise of them being "adventures". And all of this sucked the substance out of my words. It cheapened the experience of creating somehow.

Reflecting now on my writing life, really, my whole life, as I enter the second half of my thirties, I've discovered something. This entire time I have been writing and living from a state of quiet desperation. All my words, all my actions up to this point have really been an attempt to connect with others, ANYONE, who would see me as I really am without judgement. I wanted (and still want) community, particularly with people who dream and feel deeply, who bleed art and poetry and understand the journey IS the destination. Up to this point, my writing has always been my last ditch effort at being myself in a world where everyone makes judgments based on first glances and outward appearances, a medium subjective enough that when someone read it I could gauge whether they were a seeker and artist like myself or not. I used this expression as an easy way to let any rejection bead up like water on feathers and roll off my back, using the subjectivity in the medium as a buffer to my soul being crushed and giving me an opportunity to squelch tears and muster up my best punk rock I-don't-give-a-fuck attitude.

But life's rejections and judgments don't just slide off our backs, as much as we'd like them to. For me, they turned me in on myself. It was subtle at first, but I am starting to see now how, over the years, my longing for community, my need to be liked and be part of group has caused me to assimilate every negative judgement I ever heard or felt and turn it inward, until I reached a point where, under it all, I stopped feeling like nothing I could ever do would be good enough, that who I really am was wrong and that my body, my heart and mind could not be trusted to be accurate or worth much of anything. A part of me died and, with it, my art. Now I find myself struggling for things to say that I feel are worth saying and not knowing how to express or even experience the most profound of feelings. I've closed myself off almost completely to everything outside myself although I know how interconnected all of life really is and it is killing me slowly.

I've always admired the bold creatives, those raw, unfettered souls whose courage comes through in their words: Bukowski, Thoreau, Kerouac, Vonnegut and others. I still look up to their contemporaries and try to surround myself, even if only virtually, with writers whose openness feeds both my heart and my craft. While I work on my own inner bullshit and learn balance letting go of my constant need for approval with creating for myself a community of like-minded friends, I'm finding that my writing, the one last bit of myself I had steeled against what I saw as a cruel and unloving world, is the place I need to begin. It's a good place for introspection, practice and a way to share with anyone out there who is really wanting to listen or feeling caught in a similar place themselves.

The trick here, for me, is in not imposing rigid rules on myself for how I am "supposed to" be doing this, this taking back of my life and who I am. Learning to look for others to guidance but at the same time trusting AND DOING what rings true to me is a delicate dance and a fucking hard one at that. My unfolding is going to be a long process I think, as I keep trying to balance what feels true with pushing myself beyond what I have come to know and what has become comfortable. The most important part is that I show up.

So I will start here, where I am, until that becomes somewhere else.
I'll just start writing and keep writing my way into wholeness until I just AM and that will be enough.

Monday, March 24, 2014

my life as a negative feedback loop

I won't insult the intelligence of anyone reading by pretending it hasn't been a ridiculously long time since I have added words to these virtual pages. Life had gotten away from me. I finally found a job I whole-heartedly threw myself into, as is normal for me, in an effort to not only impress my new employer enough that they decided to give me more hours and full time status, but also, I think to prove a number of different things to myself. After my period of unemployment, and in part because of it, I came to what was a pretty low point for me in my life. Finding a job, even a part time one I had absolutely no experience in, felt like an opportunity to assert my economic worth again. So I went at it. Balls to the wall, like I usually do. Like new love, it was blissful and exciting and I was vulnerable and life blossomed with possibilities again all at once. I tried so much it was exhausting and much of the creativity I had fostered over those few months when I had excessive amounts of time on my hands went away like dust in the wind. Uncared for, it slowly slipped through my fingers until writing became a mechanical act and wasn't about truth, beauty or creating anymore. It was something else that meandered its way onto my to-do list. Then it quickly wandered back off as I lost two regular freelancing gigs I that had sustained my family after the loss of my regular job. Suddenly I felt all of my creativity slip through my fingers like sand. I had nothing left to say. My will to write had left.

Fast forward a few months and my husband had another back surgery, leaving him unable to work or help around the house much for a period of about 3 months. Suddenly life became so hectic and overwhelming I could barely breathe and each day was more about necessity and survival than pleasure or love. About that time I realized I had lost all that I thought of as myself. I was living in such a way that I wasn't at all proud of where I had ended up and saw no real future for myself at all. I was drowning in a sea of antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds that cut me off from my ability to truly feel anything deeply, so I quit taking them. I started spending more time learning to cook wholesome vegetarian food, food I felt good about, and making time to nourish my body and mind with semi-regular hikes and a yoga practice. Also about that time, my digestive system started to readjust and reassert itself about what it wanted from me in ways I had never before experienced. I have spend the greater part of the last year trying to learn to pay attention to my body and how it reacts based on the inputs I give it. It's been an eye opening, humbling and expensive journey to this place where I can finally eat some things without immediately feeling like I am going to vomit. A small success but hard won and much appreciated for certain.

Since I have spent so much time over the past year and a half focused on recognizing things that do not work, it seems that has become the theme of my life at this juncture. I'm finding myself perpetually bored yet overworked, surrounded by people but longing for connection, and busting my ass yet more in debt than ever. And there seems to be no end in sight. Once I reach a place where it seems like thing s are going well, this negative feedback loop reasserts itself and I find myself in the thick of it again, caught up with fear and anxiety over how I am going to pull everything off without losing my sanity. The best part is that I am writing again for the moment, thankfully, for an amazing website called Rebelle Society and, although it is not a paying gig, it is a great outlet for re-exploring my creativity and learning to be vulnerable at the same time. I am also going semi-strong on my home yoga practice, though I really wish I had the time and financial means to practice with other people. I've also been dreaming of participating in a meditation group or retreat somewhere, but am shy and nervous about going on my own. I long for that sense of community that comes from time shared with people who hold common beliefs, something I haven't really felt often for quite some time.

As for busting out of the negative feedback loop that is my life, through my yoga practice, writing and spiritual searching, I hope to be a little more at peace each day with the way things are, even when they suck. For now, I am working on practicing mindfulness as I bake bread for my family and wash the dishes and cultivate hopefulness as I plan starting seeds for our next adventure of pallet gardening this summer.

Who knew that what I'd be growing here on this SemiFarm would be myself?