I woke up this morning still grappling with yesterday’s question. Where do I begin? It’s a daunting question, and the one that has kept me, up until now, from actually opening a blank document and sitting down to type.
It’s not just the subject matter, I’m realizing, as I sit here fiddling with formats. I don’t know how to do this for a wider audience. Do I need a wider audience? Can’t I just do it for myself? How is that, though, any different from my regular journal? It’s not. A blog is meant to be read, even if it’s by one other person, it’s shared. It’s a reaching out to the world from the cocoon and waving madly. It’s the Whos-Down-in-Whoville yelling, “We’re here!”
So, what would I write?
I had imagined I’d start with a poem:
What do you do with an untold life story?
Wrap it up softly and throw it away.
I wrote it years ago, when I was young, when my children were young, when I still believed in vitality. (Bullshit Alert: I’ve never believed in vitality. I’ve always had a nagging sense that I didn’t belong on this earth and couldn’t wait to leave. I never saw the point, felt a purpose, imagined a future. No vitality here. Try again.)
I wrote it years ago when I was young, when my children were young, and despite the surprising love I felt for them, I still felt so very alone.
Oddly enough, when I wrote those words, I wasn’t feeling depressed. It wasn’t a cry for help, it was an acknowledgment of a state. It was the expression of a song I had been singing to myself just out of earshot, never aloud. It made me happy to finally put it on paper and have it fully embodied, to hear it. To share it.
Sharing. I tried. My husband usually bore the brunt of my poetry. I’d gleefully read him something that I found illuminating or freeing and he would listen, but say little. Sometimes he’d look at me with that concerned spouse look and ask how I was feeling. Many years later, he finally confessed that he found my writing “depressingly unmarketable.” How’s that for a pin in your balloon, writer? Not something I’ve forgotten. I put my scribblings away, again.
I’m an odd mix of arrogance and insecurity (is that an odd mix? maybe not. Maybe that’s exactly the right mix, the common mix, others just don’t know it.) I write what I like. Poetry, I’ve been told by everyone I’ve tried to share mine with, is soooo subjective. Yes, I know that’s code for “I hate it, but don’t want to tell you.” If the people I’m closest to have such negative reactions to what I offer, what would strangers say? I never bothered to find out. I’ve glanced at some of the poetry that was being published around the time when I was writing, and it didn’t speak to me. It didn’t sing in my heart. It seemed to be trying to too hard to be intellectual or different or deep or something I just wasn’t interested in finding out. Maybe those poets also wrote for themselves and had close friends look at them cross-eyed when they shared their latest efforts. Or maybe not. Maybe they were celebrated and parties were thrown and people swooned at every line. Or were impressed. That’s a big one. That puts air in the balloon for sure.
Am I lying when I say I don’t want to be one of those people? Most likely. I would like to be respected, admired, praised, but since criticism seems to flow so much more freely, I hide away here and don’t call myself a poet or a writer or anything that can be said in polite company. And so, I continue to feel like nothing, because I deny the core of who I’ve always been. I used to sit in my bedroom as a child, looking out my window into our small backyard, imagining it was a horse farm. I’d sit and write poems just for fun, just because they were there in my head and needed to be written. I loved the rhythm and rhyme of words, I loved lyrics. The light in my darkness? Words. Rhymes. Lyrics. More than the melodies, the lyrics got me again and again. When my world felt dangerous and scary, I turned to journaling. Pens and paper were the most reliable friends. They never turned on you when you were down, blaming you for feelings that you couldn’t control. They understood the darkness and sometimes were able to sooth the raw spots, the fear of being alone, never heard, never wanted.
And there’s the real issue: friends, family, loved ones instead of being supportive and sharing the pain of this fear, lashed out in one way or another, turned their backs, grew silent and distant or hostile. I can’t think of anyone in my life (now or in the past) who was willing to stay with me there in the darkness and face the monsters. Any time I tried to explain how I felt about being in the world, I ended up feeling blamed somehow for some wrong I didn’t realize I was committing by being honest. It’s something even now that I don’t fully understand. In one very painful instance, I was still a child, on the verge of adulthood perhaps, but very much a child. My honesty destroyed a relationship I thought was indestructible, one of those surrogate-type situations that had kept me alive during difficult years. Suddenly it was over. And I was once again bearing someone else’s anger at me for my feelings. They didn’t see my pain and reach out to help. They blamed me for making them feel bad. I think. I’m not quite sure. It’s all murky. But it stung then, it stings now. and it forever tainted what I had once thought was a wonderful connection.
This is how I learned not to trust anyone. Even someone who seemed to love you. Do. Not. Trust. It’s never safe to let someone know how you really feel. They can’t handle it. They don’t want to know that you’re frightened, hurt, or scared. Or angry. Raging for reasons you can’t explain and my never know. When you have emotions that threaten to rip you apart, you can’t let on. Oh, they’ll ooze out enough that people around you will know something’s wrong. That will happen. Just don’t try to share them, don’t ask for help, don’t pull back the curtain and let them see you huddled in the dark. Don’t let them know there is a curtain. If you’re oozing emotion, and they notice, they’ll assign meaning so long as you stay quiet.
Who owns the words that tell you my story,
Who keeps the rhythms, who sells the rhymes,
Who knows the where-ofs and why-fors and so-whats,
Who’s heard my weeping voice time after time?
What do I do with an untold life story?
Wrap it up softly then throw it away.
Are there boxes for keeping the old fading mem’ries
Of times past and times spent and gray yesterdays?
Who will listen? I call out and ask the wind gently.
Who can hear me? I whisper though no one replies.
I am trapped here, a stranger in green shining meadows,
Alone in the world under threatening skies.
All around me life whirls in a dance unfamiliar,
Only I stand immobile not knowing the song.
As my feet tap I long so to join hands together,
And dance till the music is finally gone.