Touching The Vein

A friend had an opportunity to read her writing aloud at our MFA residency.  She is well liked and outgoing and we were familiar with her story.  There should have been no surprises; it should have felt like a safe environment. She read an excerpt from her journal about the challenges of raising a daughter with autism when her voice began to quaver. We worried she wouldn’t be able to continue.  As she wiped her eyes, her face registered shock that her own writing was affecting her so. She’s tough,and it wasn’t a new story for her to tell, or even a particularly revealing one.  But it was full of the gritty reality of living with a kid with challenges.  It was a story she tried not to think about because she had no choice but to keep living it. The room pulsed with our need to support her.

She was thousands of miles away from her children who needed her, a home with broken pipes and a farm full of animals , while she chased her dream on a non-existent income.  And yet she came to me the next day wondering what the hell was wrong with her.

“I have to get through this.  Reading didn’t used to bother me. I don’t understand why it does now.”

The obvious answer was that she was  over tired and duh… her life is TOUGH.  Besides, reading from a personal journal, no matter how well crafted, is a vulnerable experience. Though it wasn’t “profound”, her writing made us all see what it was like – a window into the challenges she faced – and it was powerful.

Isn’t that why we write?  To be heard?  To reach out so that others understand?  Isn’t  someone to relating enough to cry, or laugh or nod their head the best compliment to us as writers?  Isn’t there magic in the fact that even our own words can reach through our crusty exterior revealing something new?

I often cry when I write.  I see it as a gauge of how close I got to the vein.  A little sniff here or there, the burning desire to get away from the words for a moment, show me that I’ve gotten close.  That lump that forms in my throat, a tear I hastily brush off before anyone in the coffee shop notices, are the highway sign that says “YES. This is it. Truth at last.”

I don’t always cry but that doesn’t mean the story doesn’t affect me. The last six months I’ve been sick – ailment after ailment attacked my mouth and lungs.  Eastern medicine would say my communication and heart chakras were ill.  It is no wonder – I’ve been writing stories about abuse and my challenges as a mother that no one has ever heard.  Stories I used to be deeply ashamed of, or dismissed outright. It was time to tell them for the good they will do in the world. They’ve lived in my body for so long that dislodging them has been physically detrimental – maybe even dangerous. The process has been akin to removing mercury fillings without proper attention to the toxicity.  Though I have “been over it” for a long time, finally letting the words go – to let them become a story by themselves and apart from me, has been a painful process.

Maybe we react physically to our stories – through tears or pain- because we finally recognize ourselves through them.  In  giving our stories the weight of words, the space to be read aloud, to see the mirrored tears in someone’s eye, we allow our stories to be just that – a story.  Not a definition of who we are. Maybe it is an opportunity to see what we have been through via the distance of the page. Our words are a window for people – including us – to see a truth not ordinarily exposed.  Our words are powerful, they deserve honouring, and the emotions they bring up need to be acknowledged.

We often write to help others find their place in the world, for our reader to feel connected.  Sometimes we do this by opening our own veins – sharing the ever-replenishing life-blood of truth as we connect. In allowing our stories to become more than us, we flush out the toxicity of holding something that is no longer needed.

Maybe we share our stories because others still hold onto theirs.

4 thoughts on “Touching The Vein

  1. Robyn, when I post these comments, I copy them and paste them onto a word document before posting them. I do this for two reasons. First of all, much of the time, my comments get ignored or deleted due to the fact that I am not Miss Popularity ’round these parts. So I keep my comments for my own records. I put them in my journal. I cry and wonder why everyone hates me. Secondly, my comments get “lost in cyberspace,” and that’s what happened this time. So here it is again, copied and pasted. I swear I have wasted 45 minutes of cyber nonsense trying to get this darned thing to post. COPIED AND PASTED: Robyn, I tried to “like” this entry, but it would not click properly. Considering me having liked it, whatever that means, okay? When I wrote my favorite book, which no one has ever read (it is only in rough draft) I cried every day I wrote it. I enjoyed the experience and doing so enriched my life. That was in 2010, over a year after I graduated. It was for Nano. It gets to me that people put down folks that do Nano, cuz the truth is that Nita Sweeney talked me into it in 2009 and Nano really saved me from the pits of despair. I am so grateful to Nita. When you got no one around but your dog, you need stuff like Nano to keep you going. In 2012 I did Nano for the 3rd time, could barely get out of bed half the time, just got up, wrote, lay down again. I seriously need to redo this book. Puzzle turned 6, quite healthy, and I turned 55, the latter rather surprised me. Today, 2013 (as I write this, I am realizing that the likelihood of your allowing this into print are next to nil cuz I am not Miss Popularity around these parts, so I will copy and paste what I am writing for my own records) I am sorely lacking medical care to the point that it is a complete joke. I have been without a caring, compassionate, knowledgeable therapist since late 2010. I had one for three weeks but he was abusive and I’ve been told I should report him so he won’t harm anyone else. I walked into my psychiatrist’s office yesterday, having taken in nothing but water for five days. I have told this to no one. Even drinking water, if it is too cold, I have to lie down under the covers for a few hours and warm up. She is a smart lady but out pops her prescription pad. I am surprised she hadn’t noticed I hadn’t eaten. Tells me it’s her job to pump me up with dangerous psychoactive drugs. I tell her, “I demand that you find me a therapist.” She says, “Sorry, take these pills and feel better. I love my job.” I go home, bewildered and exhausted cuz I never sleep. I look up the drugs online. It says, “Do not take if you have suicidal thoughts. This drug causes weight gain and breast enlargement.” So she wasn’t even listening to me, and lied to me just to dope me up? So on advice from someone (a friend of a Goddard person on Facebook) told me about a place where Welfare people go in Boston. I got an appointment with a new primary care physician in 12 days. !2 days! So soon! I said I needed a therapist real soon too, and they said it’s real quick to get me set up. So anyway, I got anorexia for a bunch of years now, and trust me, it’s a different world from ordinary folks. People say to me, “I get it, I was depressed for a month so I understand,” but no, depression is not the same as anorexia. Your whole world is different from other people’s. You get me reading something, or writing something, with the last bit of strength I have in me, with my starved mind that barely works anymore, I gonna bawl my eyes out. I hope when that happens, folks don’t mind, don’t shoot me up with drugs, and don’t strap me to a bed or lock me in a room. People cry at my church every day. I got every damn right to cry, and nobody gonna arrest me for it. Goddard College graduate, Port Townsend, Class of July 2009.

    1. Dear Julie – i am glad what I wrote touched you. That is the point right? I do understand about depression and being poor. I really do. I know what it is like to feel judged and to struggle. I am so sorry you have to go through that. There are lots of people out there that do and will support you, though I know it is hard to see. Good luck with your new doctors appointment – will be winging positive thoughts your way!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s