As much as I hate writing, I hate not writing even more. This is news to me and I didn’t know it until recently as recently, I haven’t been able to write. I’ve written about it (see Not One Word). I’ve been waiting for inspiration and uninspired is all I’ve been. It’s frustrating because I can’t seem to process or compute what’s inside because nothing is coming out and as it, whatever it is, comes out, though the process is painful, I’m given a lighter load and a release of my burden. My pieces allow me to process.
Joan Didion and Stephen King have claimed they write to find out what they think. If that last word were changed to “feel”, I’d call the quote my own. I write to find out how I feel. For me, I don’t know my feelings until they creep out. I think it’s that way for many an alcoholic; I’ll experience something and three days later I’ll feel something but I won’t know what until I’ve had a chance to talk about it or, more precisely, write about it. When my mom died, it was like that. When I lost Sofie (my ex in Spain), it was the same. I couldn’t put my finger on grief until at least a few days had passed. Though those are extreme examples, consider my coming home from China and three days later my falling apart. I wrote about it. Maybe soon, I’ll let you read it. I have yet to post that piece but in the midst of celebrations, I was coming unglued and I couldn’t figure out why. Reverse culture shock? Sure. But I didn’t feel it until a few days had passed and I had no idea what it was until I picked up the phone and talked about it and picked up a pen and wrote about it.
Part of my childhood, I didn’t have feelings about until I wrote them either. They were there, buried somewhere but I didn’t know it. Remember the thirteen-page letter I wrote to my abusive father twenty years after his death? The one in which I had nothing to say until I discovered something? That came about by writing. It started with anger. I knew I had that. Everyone did. In the middle was hurt. If you’re wise you could have guessed that too. But at the end was something I never knew I had… forgiveness. I discovered it when I began to dispatch my feelings through the point of a blue pen. I never knew it was there. I had rambled and raged about my dad, I had even wrapped myself in denial, but I had never written.
Sometime in the process of being processed by the State, out of my home and into the foster system, a counselor, young and fairly inexperienced, approached me about my dad. She was busy asking questions while I was playing with blocks and puzzles of star shaped plastic pegs being stuffed into star shaped plastic holes. When the topic changed to my dad, I reached for small, green miniature army men. The kind that didn’t move but stood or knelt on flat plastic bases (this was in the day before action figures). She, my unlearned but very perceptive counselor, picked up on this and asked:
“Are you angry with your father?”
“No, of course not. That was a long time ago” I blurted out without hesitating.
Obviously, I knew far less than I thought I did. What child wouldn’t be angry about being abused?
“Why do you ask that?” I honestly puzzled.
“Oh, it’s just that as soon as I asked about your father, you reached for army figures.”
“That was a coincidence. Like I said, I’m not mad at my dad.”
Many years later, I knew what everyone else already did, that I hated my dad. But what I didn’t know and what few others would have guessed, was that I forgave him. It happened in 2004, 18 years after my dad had died when a sponsor suggested I write my dad a letter, the same one that went on for pages despite the fact I had nothing to say. It’s similar with writer’s block. It wasn’t real until I wrote about it (again see Not One Word).
King also said “amateurs wait for inspiration” while “the rest of us get up and go to work.” Honestly and for some time, I thought unemployment was my problem. After reading King, maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s more the feelings of failure, the self-pity, the lack of self-respect despite behaving respectfully to others but not myself, the poverty, the poor at heart or the lack of encouragement and availability of my muse. In other words, maybe it’s all the things that are work to work through; not so much the lack of employment as the lack of effort. Whatever it is, I hope to discover it by the time I reach the bottom of the page, because really, I just want to feel the pain I can’t seem to feel go away.