Sunday, July 8, 2012

Scaffolding the Essence

It's one of those things you never think about initially.  You just kind of have it, and it's there, and it informs your experience and your thoughts and the way you interact with your world.

When you lose it - or, speaking only for me, when I lost it - I didn't know it was gone.  The world just seemed to change, slowly, imperceptibly to me, and either I went crazy or the rest of the world did.  Facts that I had known no longer seemed true.  My thoughts changed.  My experience of being in the world was no longer the same.  It's not that I realized this, of course, I just knew things were different.  Wrong somehow.  Over time, "something's wrong" becomes "I'm wrong" which leads to "things are just really f*cked up right now." 

I guess losing Perspective can do that to you.

The really cool thing about Perspective, though, I got to experience last week.  She comes back, the sneaky creature.  Just as suddenly as she left with my sense of sanity and well-being, she reappeared, unexpectedly, and overwhelmed me. 

People have told me -- many people, even -- that my writing is powerful.  Many people have told me, too, that I am strong.  Or brave.  Or courageous, or whatever other word you want to stick in there instead.  People have told me -- many people, even -- that they could see through my writing that I was strong.  That I was okay.  That I was brave.


I didn't believe it.  Like, at all.  Giving me compliments like might as well have been trying to nail Jello to a tree.  It just wasn't going to stick.  My writing isn't strong.  It isn't powerful, or brave, or courageous, and neither am I.  All I knew was that I had to keep writing.  When I wasn't writing, things were bad.  Really bad.  Peering over the Edge of Despair sort of bad.  As long as I was writing, I knew I was staying afloat.

I believed that my writing wasn't because I was strong, or brave.  Putting those words together wasn't courageous--it was the only thing I knew how to do.  I was writing to stay alive.  I was writing to stay connected to...something.  The world?  God?  Myself?  Other people?  I don't know, even now.  I write to connect.  Putting my fingers to the keyboard is the only way I know to make myself keep breathing sometimes, even if no one sees it.  Even if the words don't make sense and are nothing more than the anxiety-riddled ramblings that fill my mind. 

Last week, though, I had a moment in which Perspective, the elusive fox, returned.  These past few weeks, more often than not, I have felt strong in ways I have not felt strong in...probably...well...maybe ever.  I have felt empowered, and confident, and I feel like I can see the person I was, as well as the person I want to be.  I believed I had, suddenly, for whatever reason, found where Strength was hiding and allowed her in.  I allowed myself to invite Courage and Bravery in for a little bit, too, and the four of us sat and had tea, and damn, it was an amazing feeling.

For some reason, when I was enjoying my newfound strong and courageous feelings, I pulled the bulging binder of poetry I have written from the shelf and started to flip through the poems I have written over the past two years.  As I read my words, I was amazed, and confused, and startled, and scared, and surprised.  It turns out, Courage and Strength and Bravery and Confidence had never been missing.  They had been there--in me, even--all along, and I had written documentation to prove it.  It was truly like reading my own work for the first time.  Some of the poems I have even committed to memory, but as I read them again, in black and white, looking at the dates they were written, I felt like I was seeing them with new eyes.  Those words were not just vessels carrying pain, or anger, or shame.  They are words doing exactly what it is that I believe all words do when we write our truth: they speak back to the pain, and anger, and shame, and they reveal an underlying strength that comes from writing truth.

I've written this before.  I know this to be true of your writing, and his writing, and her writing.  I did not know--not really--that it was also true of mine.  Realizing that I did not actually ever lose that strength, or confidence, or bravery, or courage, is overwhelming.  It may not seem like much, but it moves me to tears--makes the screen blurry, even, as I attempt to articulate this.  It's like feeling as though you lost something essential to who you are, and keep struggling to find it for two years, only to realize it is still you--you are still you--it is still in you, you just haven't been able to see it.  It's sad, in a way.  Almost like I had those two years stolen from me, and I have only anecdotes written by a person I don't recognize to fill me in on what I missed.  It's realizing that everything I thought was missing has been there after all.  Like the emperor really was clothed in gorgeous jewels and furs like everyone said--and I was the only fool who couldn't see it and thought he was naked.  

It's not that everything is just the same -- it isn't.  Far from it.  I am changed, undeniably, but the essence of me is there, and it took strength, and confidence, and bravery, and courage to maintain that.  Even when I thought I didn't have it, I did.  Even when I was so sure that I wasn't strong, I was, and I can see that in my words.  It's a crazy sort of thing.  I can't explain it.  I'm trying, but there's too much emotion here, and it's too abstract.

Audre Lorde says it so much better than I can.  She wrote: "For women... poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then in to more tangible action. ...Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest external horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives. ... And where that language does not yet exist, it is our poetry which helps to fashion it. Poetry is not only dream or vision, it is the skeleton architecture of our lives."

Even when I do not realize it, perhaps, poetry (writing) is the scaffolding around the essence of who I am when the rest of me--the rest of the world as I know it -- seems to be crumbling.  Even when words are written in desperation, the act of writing is strength and courage embodied.  It is proof of the survival of a spirit.  It is a reminder that I am - and have been - strong, and confident, and brave, and courageous.  It is through writing that I maintained my Self.  It seems fitting that it would be through writing that I found her again.