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.

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