Suddenly this overwhelm and urgency. To write. To seize. To come alive with. Suddenly, this overwhelming urgency for all I have in me to learn. Do all writers feel this? That they can only be taught through their own writing of it all? Today I discovered anguish. All my college years, that’s what they were. They were years of anguish.
And I know this because I can hear it. All writers can. All of us can return to our pages and can hear in them the challenges that trapped us and the victories we were freed by. In writing my years out of me, I’m aware that writing will always be my way of chasing down things, my way of fighting for myself, of actually believing that if only I could beat out the reason in everything, if only I could lift the darkness out of me and replace it with the brilliance of innocence— the brilliant glow of a girl who has lived little of her life—then, only then, will life feel calm and significant. Then, only then, I’ve let myself imagine, will I let up on myself.
This is a common undertaking. This writerly want to understand the themes of our life, the undertones. This eagerness to write so to finally understand ourselves. So to break bread with our choices. So we can spend time with the people and moments we miss.
At least, I do. Like scavengers, we follow the threads that slither through our sentences and race through all of our years.
In such a moment, we are more than a writer reading our work. We are women hungry for a reason why, why anything so hostile or provoking could stretch out so long. Why we could let it. We are women and men intent on moving forward with answers, intent on placing ourselves in a promising position so that from here on anguish can never reach us again, so anguish can never find its way back and take over our years. Perhaps this is why I’m writing so feverishly these days. I think we want this as writers, we want the fever to become us. We can appreciate it. We can appreciate it because we know what it means for us. It means that we must feel fueled by a spark of purposefulness.
We must suddenly feel possible, redeemable, uninhibited, and unchained by the hands we were once bound up by. You see, when a writer is not writing, life feels more cruel, the days more impossible, the future unforgiving. But do we write to escape our realities or because we have escaped our realities? I’m not convinced I know. Whatever the case, writers do all yearn for the fever pitch of productivity because to sit and confidently face down a new page means meaningfulness is within reach, resolve is just underway.
Or, how I do. I write dreaming that I will find my way out of feelings, out of uncertainty, out of years devalued by anguish, diminished by a grief whose source, at the time, eluded me. Could this be true for all writers, that we are writing so we can turn a page? We are writing in an effort to stay alive in the way we wish to. Sometimes I feel like writing is the only way to move on, like real life cannot begin until this chapter of myself is settled, until this story is laid bare, is raw and realized and forgiven.
Does writing help all writers be done with it, whatever “it” is for them? But, then, to wait until we are done and forgiven, until we have moved on, is so spectacular and unreasonable. I have to remember that this, now, is real life. This now is my story. Writing helps me get to this point of understanding, and come to terms with it too. Living and then writing and then reading and then living and then writing helps me process this sometimes unbearable truth, that life is always happening, that I can wait to write but I cannot wait to live.
There just is no way. There just is no waiting for life to come to its senses. That’s for us to do. So, whether we are immersed in writing or a siege of emotional destitution and grief, this is how we are spending our time. Whether honorable or pitied, this is us happening right now. Full of anguish or otherwise aloof to whatever jerks and pains, we are where we are. The thing is, I never appreciated where I was enough.
The real me. And that’s what I hated myself for. I hated myself because I blamed myself for where I was, when all I had to do was embrace it, when all I had to do was literally let myself be. I write so I can share with you what the life of being a writer has given me, to share with you the hard, cold, sober truth that sparkles like a gem from the pit of my life. Thanks to writing and the ability it affords me to look back, I see that patterns so easily can become the bitter song of our lives.
And that if we are not careful, we will pay too much time, too much attention, to the impossible nature of our existence, to the days when we were low and uneventful and ruthless with ourselves. When instead, we can just as well hone in on our beauty. Hone in on, not something “bigger” or “better” or “more” but, rather, the very thing which is already wildly apparent and forever relevant. We can hone in on the beauty that there is something hungry and moral about our character, about our want to understand and listen to ourselves, to come to grips with our nature. Why, though, do writers beg for this moreness, this something “else” we are convinced is ours to have? Because writers thrive on thoughtfulness. Because writers are compelled and called to teach.
We want to tell others how they can do better than us. How they can come alive faster than us. How they can access their worth sooner. Writers write to remind ourselves and you how and why we must care. All writers are engaged in this something, in this writing for some reason. And I am finding that what is taken from our writing is often better than we even are attempting, certainly something greater than we are giving ourselves credit for. Writing, I can now tell is a way of preparing ourselves, preparing ourselves emotionally, mindfully, humanely to overcome the low points and, in doing so, gain the sensitivity necessary to speak on the very moments and moods and minutiae we’ve been up against.
I don’t think I always saw this or believed this, believed that writing was anything more than a passive indulgence, a stand in for something else I should be doing but disgracefully had missing from my life. Thinking like this, though, does nothing but deplete us of the very will to engage in the acts we love, the acts that, if allowed, are bound to become the great acts of our lives.
Really, there just is no value in thinking with harshness. For one thing, whatever I was thinking, I had it all wrong. The reality is that, even when writing down my sorrow, even in recording the days I was knocked out by grief, I was always involved in something more than just hopeful or antsy, more than just some journaling plea to escape the ordinariness of my life. It certainly was more than just writing. I was becoming a survivor. I was becoming a teacher. Only, at the time, I never gave myself that credit. But, had I, I would have been more joyous. I would have been forgiving.
I certainly would have been more possible if only I would have acknowledged, that even during my anguish, I was becoming myself. If you are not a writer today, please at least try to write. Do not even try to be a writer, just write so you can become more of yourself. Write from exactly where you are. But be here without blinders, without loathing and fear and blame. Try to take all you can from it. Remember that you may never be back here again. You may never be so wounded or desperate for answers.
You may be never be as forgotten and as open to others who might help you, love you, and empower you with their newness and point of view. You may never be as anguished and as ready for love, for lightness, for a single hand reaching back for you. Be here and be aware of it all. Who knows, you may tune into a way of helping others do what you can do or get over what you have and you might show them a way forward, a reason to want to be more like themselves as well. Write for these possibilities. Write because writing will, at the very least, make you feel possible.