Thursday, June 30, 2011

To write is to enter the mess

A few weeks ago, a blog I read ( suggested this as a writing prompt: "To write is to enter the mess…" I wrote the prompt into my journal, but never did anything with it. In my not writing-ness, I turned to my "start here if stuck" page, and started with that prompt. You should try it, too.

To write is to enter the mess of living. To write is to fill the empty holes in strangers' lives and to empty the mess of your life onto the whole of the page in the hopes that someone (possibly you) will read it with a spark of understanding, insight, or significance. To write is to fill the empty holes and to empty the full places. To write is to create silence in the chaos and to fill the silent places with words that could speak of wisdom or, perhaps, just put something where the emptiness was. To write is to form words that ease the dull ache of nothingness in the hurting places you thought could never be soothed.

As I sit in the mess of my current life, I feel myself moving away from writing. Moving away from entering that mess. In fact, I feel myself moving away from everything at all: unable to put my finger on words that are usually so available to me, unable to ease the rising and growing lump in my throat and unable, even, to move the lump to tears. In that "unable-ness," in the "inability to…" that seems to be consuming me, there is something almost comforting about just letting the mess be. Letting the holes live in their holey, wordless glory. There is something painfully soothing about not attempting to enter the mess. Just letting it all be without words, as words feel so desperately inadequate anyway. Without words, I can't attempt to rationalize it, explain it away, deny it, label it, condemn it, or clean it. Perhaps, for the moment, that is what needs to happen. Perhaps, for the moment, it's okay to be lost and confused and afraid. Maybe words would only muddle the mess. Maybe now isn't the time to write into the mess; maybe it's time to find a new way of writing. A way of writing that skates around to a new normal, bypassing the messiness without feeling the need to take hold. Is there a way to write that wouldn't grab my heart, my stomach, my lungs, and force the blood flow and oxygen into a new rhythm? Is that way of writing even worth it?

Maybe I just need to get out of my own way and let myself be in mindful awareness that change is hard. That change is hard for me. That change is happening in me and around me and that I am allowed to struggle with this change. Perhaps, I can even give myself longer than a week and a half to adjust.

That is not how I am used to operating, though, and that is not how people around me are used to me operating. I don't know what is "okay" and what is not "okay." Is it "okay" that I lay on the air mattress in my room, curled up in a ball, doing absolutely nothing for an hour this evening? I don't know. I just reached a point where I couldn't do anything else. Didn't know what else to do. I ran out of distractions and things to keep my mind busy and, yes, I could have washed dishes, but my body just wanted to be held, and the only way I knew how to do that was to curl up on my mattress and attempt to find stillness. So I did. I didn't move. I didn't think. I just…was. And then, suddenly, I could get up. So I did.

I had a client a few years ago—a young man in his mid-twenties—who was, initially, a big pain-in-the-butt. He was snarky with me, not invested in treatment, and out and out rude and inconsiderate. This client was someone I ended up seeing for the full year I was at the site, and was ultimately someone who made a lot of change, did a lot of work, and was…only occasionally snarky and inconsiderate. At the end of nearly every session, I always felt compelled to say "be gentle with yourself" or "go easy with you this week." He would always give some semblance of a nod, that was more like a shrug, and he would leave.

One week, however, he brought it up at the beginning of the session. "What do you mean?" he asked. "You always say that, and I don't know what it means." I struggled a bit, but finally articulated what I meant in a way he understood, and my "Billy Badass" client's eyes filled with tears. He didn't even have anything snarky to say. The idea of being gentle with himself was so foreign and profound it left him, literally, speechless and tearful.

I don't know why I just wrote that out, or why I was thinking of him. All I know is that I understand now in a way I didn't when I saw Mr. Billy Badass that there are times when things hurt so much, and the dull ache of nothingness is so consuming, that repeating mantras of negativity that hurt rather than help feel better in the moment than the finest compliment or the most heartfelt love. There are times when the internal chaos is so intense that one solid, reliable standby, even if it is a constant repetition of a harsh, critical statement that is the antithesis of "self-love" brings a sense of release. There are times when it is so comforting and simultaneously painful to inflict that pain, rather than be consumed by it, that the very idea of being gentle can bring tears to your eyes. When the idea of being gentle is scarier than the chaos.

To write is to enter the mess of living. I don't want to enter the mess and, yet, I keep writing. Keep returning to the page, even though I don't want to. Even though I would rather not. Even though it hurts and I am running both away and towards the words in my confusion. I write to enter the mess and form words that could potentially ease the consuming ache of fear and change and chaos. Could potentially fill the hurting places that feel like they can never be soothed.

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