I sometimes over-intellectualize. When people call me on it, they use my speech and my love of words as an example. I see their point, but I wish I could explain that my relationship to words is not just about the intellect! Words are so much more than a mental construct or a means of description for me. They are spiritual. They are ritual. They have saved my life more times than I can count; one phrase and one moment and one sheathed blade at a time.
During the worst and most suicidal times of my life, words had the power to reach me when nothing else did. Not through logic or even eloquence, but because of their mystical charge. Phrases that had become sacred to me would echo through my thoughts. Even when my depression was so profound that everything else lost its psychic juice, the words remained. I don’t know why. I know I have much to learn about being embodied and exploring the non-verbal, and I hope to do some of that learning. Words, however, will continue to hold their place of honor in my psyche as long as I have the capacity to understand them.
Words were my earliest love. I spent most of my childhood alone, and words were the soundtrack, the Greek chorus and the invisible partner in my adventures. Certain words and phrases seemed fraught with significance. When I got some experience writing stories and essays for school in my teens, I tasted a new degree of pleasure in running my own words through my head and having a few of them take on that mystical quality. I cried over Cyrano de Bergerac and shivered over Heart of Darkness. By high school, I was convinced that writers were magical beings.
Even so, I never thought in terms of becoming one myself–I was on track to a math and science concentration, having decided that academic success in this field was my best ticket to getting away from my background and having a chance for a different life. Despite urging from my English teacher, I never seriously considered majoring in English or writing. When I look back, I wonder if I felt on a deep level that I wasn’t allowed to pursue something that flowed so naturally and was so pleasurable. I had to do something hard.
I still had letters…
So I broke up with my first love. We drifted apart, and I obsessed over new loves that became former loves in the course of time. Then I started to fall in love with things that shared some of my first love’s qualities: teaching, counseling, other roles that allowed me to be expressive with words again.
Yes, writing is “the one that got away.” During these last few years, it’s come into my consciousness more and more. When I thought I was going to die soon, one of my greatest regrets was not having written more. It wasn’t about having something published, it was just the thought of leaving nothing behind me. No papers for my daughter or my friends to go through; no record of an entire other life that had been lived inside my head. The drugs had my mind and my imagination, and it was too late.
Or so I thought. Lately I’ve not only been living without drugs but without food as well. Eliminating both of them as coping mechanisms seems to have been the final blow to whatever represses my creativity. When I can’t use my accustomed ways of damping down the energy that flows through me, I have to do something with it. When people suggested that my experience as a dual diagnosis person in recovery might be useful to some, it helped push me over the edge into starting Not This Song.
I hope Not This Song will be of service, but I have to admit that the writing is for me first. I’m writing letters from the present to the future; from one version of myself to another, from hope to despair. I’m writing because I have finally admitted that I need to write whether I think it’s worth anything or not. I’m writing because I am fucking sick of carrying whatever creative thing is inside me; sick of arguing with it and beating it back down and trying to manipulate it away with fear and insecurity.
If I stop fighting it, there comes forth a fierce desire to create. That fierceness doesn’t care what comes out or how it will be judged. I just want to rip something real out of myself, throw the wet, pulpy mass of it on top of the Oxford English Dictionary and watch what happens. I want to see many, many new creatures born before I die. I want to learn to smile indulgently at the raw and amorphous messes that wriggle away, and wait patiently for those moments when I catch my breath at the sight of dark and luminous wings.