It was a strange thing, when I went through all my childhood/teenage years writing. Notebooks, binders, folders…a stack as high at least as my nearly four-feet tall toddler. If not taller. Seriously.
I was struck by how beautiful my writing was back then, small and neat and tight. I was struck by how I hand-wrote so much and how I obviously had written things once and then copied them neatly into a notebook.
I was struck aghast by the names of ex-boyfriends and the power those names had. C. R. And T. I felt that immediate, oh yes, these have to go–I cannot hold on to their energies any longer. I need to be free of these men. Three men from the age of sixteen to…I believe twenty-seven. Somewhere in that range. If I wrote for you, then you knew it was “true love”. And yes, that still stands today as well. After T1, there was a T2…and then there was an R2…and I am still there with R2. I don’t think I really wrote anything at all for T2…I have a bunch of different things for/because of R2 though.
It’s funny how I can look at things and think…is this who I am now? Is this what I do now? Do I still do this? What does it mean to me?
I didn’t stop to read any of the old work. Especially not anything I wrote to or for a particular man. My work is no longer for or about any man. It’s for me. It’s about me. The stuff I have written with R2 in mind is not things I have written for him, not to entice him, not to interest him, not to reveal myself to him…I have used him as a character in many a short story years ago. Nothing like how I used to pour myself out, begging to be loved, by men I should have known all along were beneath me.
But, back to the work.
I knew I had always been a poet, but in my mind I have always been a writer. A writer of stories, of novellas, of whatever crops up. But as I turned out folder, file and notebook one after another–I saw myself in a new light. I might be a part-time writer of stories, but I was…and I am…a full-time poet. I embrace that title, whole-heartedly. I was shocked by the disconnect between what was in my head that I thought was true and what was actually on those pages…I had forgotten. I had bought into stories that other people had told me about myself. I had forgotten who I was.
Which brings me to the doodles and sketches, pages tucked into books, drawings done on notebook covers, a pad of crayon colored creations…then the memory of notebook pages filled with silly little horses that so lit me up inside when I was a child…I drew first…I remember. I drew.
However, I don’t recall anyone ever telling me I sucked at it. What I remember is making things for my father, after my rabbit died. I had made him a clay heart before I had moved in with him for good (custody issues are still and always have been cloudy there). I remember he used to have my painting of the rabbit and the scene I made in his office at work. I don’t know where the heart was. And then…I found both in the garbage. Not hidden–because I was not nor am I now a trash picker. They were both right on top…and I was crushed. I would like to say that is when I stopped drawing so much…and it might be.
I know I wrote poetry back then as well. I remember writing and reading my first poem, a poem about –to even–the angels. Maybe that is when I turned my attention towards the written word rather than the visual arts. I was ten, maybe eleven years old at the time.
Destroying all those old pages, throwing things away that I had always intended to type up, things I had envisioned maybe my children taking from their rough form and turning into something after my death, the binders that held them, the files and folders and spiral bound notebooks, all taken apart and dismantled…all of it thrown in the recycling bin to be turned into something new and different (as opposed to setting it all on fire, which was my first inclination…but it didn’t actually feel right at the time…not to mention, I would probably have spent days burning it all to ash in the grill.)…
The letting go of all of that … stuff … it was baggage that I literally carried around with me since I was sixteen years old and moved from one parent’s house to the others…and to every residence since then…it is baggage I no longer have to tote around–it is space freed up, literally…I now have two huge plastic storage totes that I use now for the kids and their stuff. I cannot stress enough what a relief it is to let go of all of that–all those dreams, all those expectations, all that garbage that I put my faith and trust and heart in that never went anywhere…I even threw out all of the writing I did for different writing classes that I took, both for business and for the hopes of being a “published” writer some day (back before there was internet or self-publishing on demand as there is today).
In the letting go of all this … stuff … I saw the girl I used to be…I found a different story to tell myself other than the one that had been in place, a new story that I like much better than the old one…and I found this incredible freedom to be who I am once again…not what others keep telling me I should be.
I will take this gift I have been given and I will work with it, embrace it, refine it…as I work to refine who I am now, in this place, in this space. I am still in the process of re-inventing myself after the past seven or so years. I will take what I have learned and I will apply it to all that I am and all that I do now.
I will always be the Southern belle…butter will never melt in my mouth…I will be strong and fierce — as well as gentle and compassionate. I am no longer the person willing to do anything to have what I think I want…these days what I want is just me…and the ability to live peacefully and to do my work gently…and to stop caring what other people expect of me and want of me. All I am is me. If that isn’t enough, or isn’t good enough, for someone else…that’s fine by me. And for those who feel the need to rewrite my story to fit whatever ideas, ideals, or whatevers they claim, you can do whatever it is that you want–because I know none of what you do is actually about me…it’s all about you.
I am free.