Monday, March 19, 2012
A Thank You, of Sorts
I have a friend I may never see again. It was something I said. Or did. Both really. This is beside the point. What matters is that if, indeed, we never again talk or visit, I feel in my head that I still have much for which to be thankful and am in need of penning a few words. Aside from the humor, the stimulating conversation, the encouragement, and support, he brought three things to my life that now I can’t imagine being without. Number one, he brought my writing to where it is. Number two, he helped me to open up my past and stare it down. And, number three, he led me down an intuitive path I may not have explored had he not crossed my way.
Prior to meeting this friend I was shooting out bullet points and tips, recipes and reviews on a regular basis. I could add the words “staff writer” and “my work has appeared in” to every byline I earned. The words were pouring onto page faster than I could keep up. I shared tips on parenting your teenage vegetarian, tricks to cooking with tofu, nuts, and legumes, and the benefits of buying local. I walked the reader through directions on making Holiday Granola, Banana Split Muffins, Three Bean Chili, and Hearty Italian Vegetable Soup. It was safe. It was easy. It was boring.
The more I wrote in this safe, boring, regimented voice, the more I heard another sassy, creative voice just begging its turn to play. I started a blog, a free and fun and frilly blog. I wrote on the light, the shallow, the fluff. I spoke of my ass, my bra, my wrinkles, my birthdays, my skivvies of this sort or the other. I flitted across the page in boas and pearls sprinkling loads of pixie dust and having just a grand and glorious time.
Then I wrote a couple essays on my past.
This friend of mine whipped me into shape. He whipped me into shape fast. I had a story to tell and an obligation to tell it. Anybody could write that other crap, he said. Only I could write THIS. Let’s just say that ruler to knuckles would have been preferred to the sort of “encouragement” I endured with him as teacher.
But it was through my writing that I was able to face down my past. Gift number two. The funny thing about putting words to page is that when I write of a place I have to go there. I have to go there with my head, with my heart, with my soul. I have to feel it. I am not typically a feeling person. I live my life somewhat detached, removed a bit. I would have continued writing, sure, but not to the depth that I do now. Without this friend, I would never have opened my soul as I did to expose the raw and naked stories, to let the reader in as guest when I myself was not even allowed. I would have written, sure, but I would still be flinging glitter and sparkles.
I got to a point in my life where even I believed the image I had created. Even I bought into the picture of the suburban soccer mom, the college instructor, the community volunteer in the cute little cardigan and J. Jill flips. I created this life of travel and giving and education and plenty. I created the lattes and laughter and lighthearted living. What was behind me was behind me. It happened, yes, but I was over it. I was good.
Except that I wasn’t.
As I wrote essay after essay, I realized that poverty is not something that one ever gets over. Poverty is in the heart and the soul and the mind like a parasite, like a parasite that dies only when you do. As I wrote, I cried. I sobbed. I hated people. I hated my parents for birthing me into the situation. I hated those who don’t understand, those who say just get a job, only you can’t get a job because you’re a kid, and you can’t make your parents get a job, and you’re hungry and you’re tired and you’re stressed and all you really want is to be like the other kids, to be normal, to have regular clothes and regular houses and regular cars and food, you really just want food, you want food and heat, you’re cold and you’re hungry. I hated people as I wrote. I cried, and I hated people. I hated my friend for encouraging me to go there with my words. You should know that I don’t hate people. I am not the hating sort. But as I wrote, I was angry, and I hated people.
Through my writing, though, I came to terms with my past and came to see it as the gift it is. There was much good in that bad. There was much laughter and smiling and life lessons learned. Through it, I gained a sense of understanding and compassion and a desire to help. I came to see that we are all one, that I am where I am because of those who provided opportunity and that, in turn, I can provide similar opportunity.
As for the intuitive path my friend led me down, you know by now that I have metaphysical leanings. You know that I ride the line between science and not. You know that I am not certain I fully believe but that I read and approach with an open mind. As far as the specifics, let’s just let that be. Not every thought is for the reader’s eye. And that may, in fact, just bring us back round to that first paragraph. So if, indeed, I never see this friend again, I am thankful for what he contributed to my life. I am the writer I am because of the irritating soul he is. And I mean that only in a good way.
But the bigger question is this, should I wake tomorrow and never see YOU again, never talk to YOU again, never laugh with YOU again, how would YOUR essay read?