First of all let me say that it is outright hubris to think that you can save the world no matter what you do, what I was referring to is that all of my adult life, with my non-fiction, I have tried to use my own life whose genesis came out of a childhood of abuse and remains, to this day, an ongoing struggle with mental health diagnoses that I’ve written about before and don’t need to go into again here. The point is that in continuing to explore/return to/write about my dark past and daily struggles is to nail myself to that place like a butterfly pinned to a board, and there’s no way I can move forward and survive in that climate. I woke up the other morning so terrified after one of my really bad nights I got up and wrote something that was to be the beginning of a book about the ongoing struggle to just get by day by day. It meant to also show the good times, the light streaming in through the cracks, and that no matter how far the rubber band stretched it would not break. Too many people have been lost to any number of devastating life circumstances, I wanted, oh so dearly, to show that we can survive, but it was a very dark beginning. It was so dark it scared me. The couple of people I showed it to were scared to death. I didn’t write another word. In these last days I realized that I had two choices, try to save the world with my writing (That is obviously an overstatement, but in my heart I have really wanted to help people.), or save myself. I have chosen to save myself.
I wrote a note to my dear mentor who has been reading my writing since July. Here is a portion of what I sent…
“… I sat here at my art table. I have no idea if this book can sell. I have no idea if I’m just playing. But what I do know is that it’s better for my mental health to work in a book that brings me JOY and still has something meaningful to say than the other way around. One book might have merit, might sell, could help other people, BUT, this book could save my life.
I’ve thought it was a hard choice to make. I’m not “an artist” in the formal sense of the word, just a lifelong doodler who loves color and texture and collage and fiber art and all manner of fringey art forms that could work with something I have to say that can hopefully have merit without making me feel like I want to stick my head in an oven like Sylvia Plath.
I can’t believe I’m writing this here but it’s honest. I guess I’m asking for permission — as silly as this might seem, even though it’s dead serious — to do the thing that will save ME even if it doesn’t save the world. (Or that be it’s aim.) Even though I really need money/an income/am terrified what will happen to me if I don’t do something that will sell, I have come to the stark realization that it’s better to end up in a tent in the woods than with my head in an oven.
So today I’m coloring. Drawing. Doodling. Starting that Great Big Enormous Dreambook. And I’m saying it here so it is real…
I am crying now but I think it’s tears of relief. I think I might have just found the way to save my life.”
Today I have turned a corner that is SO huge for me it is like closing one book and starting another. It took me nearly 59 years to finish that first book, close the cover, and lay it aside. Today I opened up a new book, blank, a vast expanse of empty pages full of possibility. And what will come will come, but I’ve pulled up all the blinds and let the light in. My dark days and hard times will come but I won’t be doing work that keeps me stuck in that place. The work that I am beginning now can lift me up and out of those times and change the whole tenor of my life. I believe this to be absolutely true.
Someone that I worked with for a short time read back through this blog. She said that since the beginning of this blog I had been talking about “writing the book” but never getting it written. She was right. The thing is, I kept trying, like someone trying to parallel park with no success, backing in, pulling out, backing in, pulling out, and never quite making it, into a book that would have the ability to help others who had suffered and do suffer, but I could never find my way into that book without being pulled under. I finally stopped trying to parallel park and am driving down the block to a spot I can pull into with ease. I will have to walk farther to get to my destination, but it will be a nice walk, and it’s a sunny day, and I feel better already.
I’m going to go draw now. And scribble and write and paint. And my guardian angels watch over me as I work. Here, in my studio, they look very like parrots, but they don’t fool me.