So, how does an individual like myself, with such a poor self-image, even begin to think of becoming a writer, no less? I didn’t just wake up one morning and make that decision. There were a lot of steps involved and some mountains to climb. Have I mentioned that I have a terrible fear of heights? I’m not joking.
Although the title of this song seems to speak of that issue (writing or not writing), it isn’t about writing. It is about getting to know and perhaps finally learning about the only person we really need to know: our self. If we don’t know who and what we are all about, how can we possibly know others? Yes, we can know their names, occupations, maybe a few of their likes and dislikes, but do we really know that singular human being and who they really are? And how do we get to know them? We sit down and talk with them. By asking questions, we begin to hear their story. It’s uniqueness. How much more important is it, that we do the same with our own story and all of its experiences?
Clarissa Pinkola Estes tells us in her book, Women Who Run With The Wolves, that nothing is ever lost from the human psyche. Nothing. That means that every moment of our existence is stored somewhere inside of us, inside the skin of our being. And I believe it. One of the things I know that happens when I write, is that memories pop up, unexpectedly, and unbidden. Sometimes from out of nowhere. And seldom do they come with explanations as to why they are occurring.
There is a zone within any creative activity when the hands are busy with the physical movements and part of the brain is open for associative activity. One of the major reasons that people involve themselves in creative activities is because the creative action brings about a certain mellowness, if you will. Not exactly a high, but rather a sense of pleasure and satisfaction. The words on this page wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t chosen to write them in just this way. And that’s a good feeling. But there’s also a downside to the process. If you, the reader don’t find value or meaning in these words, that can be a real downer.
Estes also tells us that our story is the best medicine we have, possess, to offer the world around us. But, we are the only individual that can create that particular story. And no, it doesn’t have to be written down. That helps, but it isn’t essential to the process. That is the real point of the song. It calls us to “open up that dirty window”, the one that is smeared with the dust of time and all those other memories. Each of us has had a lifetime of moments, but if we never stop long enough to examine those moments and how those experiences played out and what meaning, or lack there of, they played in the shaping of whom we have become in this present moment, how can we offer that singular medicine to the world around us? And, perhaps more importantly, how do we find out if that medicine can actually help anyone, if we never attempt to take it ourselves?
I’m going to give you an example from my own experience. I was invited to come to a dinner my younger sister was having for their closest couple friends. I was the only single individual at the table. Somewhere in the middle of all the chatting and clatter of silverware, one of the men looked at me and asked what I did for a living. I told him I was retired on disability and spent most of my time on my computer.
One of the women, frowning, said that her friend’s son was constantly playing on his computer and the friend couldn’t seem to get his attention for any other purpose. Everyone was nodding in negative agreement. So, I said, “I don’t play games online, I facilitate four blogs. I’m a writer.”
One of the other men asked me, “What do you write?”
“Mostly poetry, but I also write prose. Occasionally, I do personal essays.” I responded.
“Have you ever actually been published anywhere?”
“Yes, I have. In both small and large presses. One of my poems was accepted and used as the anchor piece for an anthology that was then turned into a set of tape cassettes. My poem anchored the set of tapes and the set was nominated for a Grammy Award, in the Spoken Word Category.”
The original gentleman, shook his head and said, “Poetry for a Grammy Nomination? I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
The other man looked straight at me and asked, “So, what do you get paid for all this so-called writing that you do?”
“I don’t get paid for it. I do it because I really enjoy writing.”
He promptly turned to my brother-in-law and said, “So, Tom, what did you think of that Packer game last weekend?”
End of discussion and no one directed any more conversation toward my person. I quietly left after dinner and was never invited to join the group after that. And I must say, these are not bad people. Their priorities are simply different from my own. I have wondered on occasion, since then, if I had also told them that because of the enthusiastic publicity about the Grammy Nomination, I was invited to teach credit classes at the University from which I graduated and made $40 an hour for that employment, if the outcome would have been different. But, have to admit that the men at that table would have been far more threatened by a woman making that kind of money than the idea that I wrote poetry.
Because of our current reality, we are all being asked to sit still, to be alone with our own person. To take this time to possibly learn from our own experiences, to understand our own story, and to begin the healing process that can and might entail. Are we only the amount of money we possess? And if we are more than that, how does that change our story and whatever we have to offer the world around us?
At the moment, our world is looking very broken. I am doing what I know how to do. What are you doing?
Elizabeth Crawford 5/5/2020
Been there, done that – lost count of the T-shirts! If you don’t fit into a pigeon-hole, you aren’t a pigeon … and it’s more convenient to disregard you, so you become invisible. Let it go, Elizabeth – soar above the pigeon lofts!
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Catterel, I must apologize. Apparently I didn’t make myself clear. This essay is about finding the medicine in our own story and using it to heal whatever is broken in the world around us. When we view others through the lens of occupation, or possessions, we don’t, can’t hear their unique story. I was as much at fault as they were. I grew up here, but had moved away years before. Now, I was back and needed to be reminded just where I was. It was a good and valuable lesson. At least for me.
I do not wish to soar above anyone. That would make me a predator and I certainly wouldn’t want to be that. That is not who I am. Thanks for your thoughts, they made me think and that’s always a good thing.
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I certainly wasn’t thinking predator – maybe I wasn’t really thinking! – rather, not to let others clip our wings and try to make us what we aren’t. You are right, our healing is within us.
Catterel, I learned a great deal from that experience. First being, that maybe I wasn’t meant to be a good dinner guest, lol. Joking aside, I simply went home and continued what I was doing. I knew that I was doing exactly what I was meant to do. As I mentioned in my first essay about Rebirth, I had a spiritual experience when I was twenty-seven, as well as my first experience with synchronicity. I eventually did try meditation, but it didn’t quite go the way I was expecting. But that is another, but related topic, and I do intend to write about it in a later essay. For now the topic is finding our own story and realizing that it is the medicine that each of us is given. As with all medicine, it doesn’t often taste particularly sweet, but that doesn’t mean we should refuse it’s healing power.
Bravo Elizabeth. I can tell you I’ve had the same type of experience, which is only one small reason I don’t socialize much (even before coronavirus). In the past when I mentioned I was a writer and poet, it was usually met with dead silence and the person looking at me as if I had suddenly grown horns and a tail. For me, becoming a writer after a lucrative career where I lead many people has been an humbling experience and one filled with life lessons. I, like many identified so strongly with my position as a leader. And while I was an excellent leader, and took care of my people, somewhere along the way I quit taking care of me. My life now is filled with simple joys that I cherish and has altered my view of others. Writing has opened so many new doors into who I truly am which is something money and stature never gave me. Thank you for this thought provoking write.
Linda, your response had me grinning and laughing in agreement. As you know, my own self-definitions are 1. Hermit, and 2. North Wisconsin Hillbilly. Those are interchangeable, as to numerical value, depending on the moment and circumstances. And although neither of them say it, they are both essential to my existence and definition as a Writer. But, that again, also points back to story as medicine. I, myself, often look at my own story as almost unreal. Hard to wrap my own head around it. Yet, I was the one there during all and each of those moments. I can wish that others might understand, but some never will. I was the “Little Miracle Girl” at age four, but also the “family fuck-up” and worse by sixteen. Yet both of them still exist within me. And so many more. And each one essential to my meaning as an individual and as a writer. Thanks for stopping in, for reading, and for taking the time to respond.
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