Monday, December 5, 2016

Cracking it Open

My writing has turned on me. It no longer offers me a place of refuge, where I can go to escape challenges of everyday life. Nor a place to freely and safely explore and experiment with the various dimensions of me. Oh…the exploration and discovery still go on. Writing is an ever fruitful, always reliable path of self-discovery. But it no longer feels so safe; no longer is it always encouraging, or pointing toward possibility. Rather, writing has become a persistent challenge and demand on me: to know what I know, and to do what’s called for.

These days, my writing consistently points out to me – NO, it shoves it in my face, under my nose and down my throat – how huge a gap there is between the self I’ve spent a lifetime fantasizing and dreaming about, imagining that I was growing toward, and the entirely other being I’ve become. And this latter being that I’ve become has too often been protected and coddled, kept safe and secure from the demands of that other self.

It seems that whenever I write, the contradictions of my life find their way onto the page. I can’t escape the realities of my living, and all the ways it strays from what I know is true, what I believe is possible, and what I feel is right.

I think of James Baldwin, whose writing I’ve always admired for its naked honesty. He put all of his own contradictions, struggles and compromises on paper, for the world to read: his crisis of faith when faith could not peacefully co-exist with his humanity, the confession of a sexuality which labelled him perverse, the impossible demands of being an aware Black man in a world that demanded his complicity in the systemic devaluation of Blackness. How could he so boldly expose his every vulnerability and insecurity and still breathe? And have a public life?

There is so much contradiction and tension in every part of my life, so much challenge and sense of danger. And just as I don’t have answers to so much of this, (and have so many ready answers to so much, without courage to embrace them), I just can’t see how to allow my thoughts and words to flow freely, without constantly considering the consequences of doing so, in my relationships, my work, in all the places and roles I occupy in life.

I believe that the only way to deal with this challenge, to break through, is to go forward, to embrace this persistent flow in my words, my writing. A kind of letting go and acceptance is involved. A degree of unselfconscious courage is called for. Why does it feel so scary? Is this what’s held me up all these years?

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