I want to feel both the beauty and the pain of the age we are living in. I want to survive my life without becoming numb. I want to speak and comprehend words of wounding without having these words become the landscape where I dwell. I want to possess a light touch that can elevate darkness to the realm of stars.
– Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds
When Women Were Birds is one of the most inspiring books I’ve read for 2020. The first time I read the paragraph above, my soul vibrated in resonance. This is the impact I desire for my words – a touch that can elevate darkness to the realm of stars.
Yet I wondered how I’d accomplish such a feat when I fear I’d forgotten the shape of words. You see sometimes, if I let myself go quiet in my soul and heart, it feels like I’ve forgotten how to write from my innermost place.
There’s a nameless thing resting in the space between my heart and throat since the start of this pandemic. I can’t fathom or explain it. It surges at the most inappropriate times, like now, when the sun has long retired, outside is still, and all I can hear is the hum of the fridge and the cicadas sharing their songs. I want sleep, not this feeling. That nameless thing may be fear. But I think, if I put pen on paper and explore my inner landscape, I’ll see it is loss.
In Prophetic Imagination, Walter Brueggemann said that for renewal to come, one must grieve the loss. In order to receive a fresh start, one must mourn what has been lost. I now know that nothing beats a global pandemic to get one to deeply evaluate their life. In the last two weeks, I discovered there was a loss I had not grieved. It surprised me that I had not, as the loss and the circumstances surrounding it was a definitive moment in my life. Realizing residue from the past was still lingering brought on a bout of disappointment the likes I cannot recall experiencing. I woke the next morning with disappointment on my chest like a boulder, and a palpable sense of despondence.
I tried to recall that God makes all things new in his own time, but at the same time, I just wanted the wait to be over. I wanted my all-things-new now. I felt they were past due. But did I did deserve this newness? Maybe I missed them because of a lack of judgment, fear, or poor choices. At the same time, how could I get past what I didn’t even grieve? I had to face the loss or be consumed by the internal storm that threatened to engulf me.
As I named the thing ‘loss’, I felt the desire to write. I grabbed my journal, put pen to paper, and almost like muscle memory, words formed. I wrote with reckless abandon as I used to, without fear and self-censorship. Specks of story that have been too nebulous to grab hold of now rushed on to the paper. By naming the thing loss, words that had only bubbled beneath the surface, burst free in pen strokes.
Who am I in light of this loss and my own failures?
Of late I’ve been questioning who I am, who I am meant to be, and how near or far I am from becoming her. I have been reflecting on how desires and the questions I ask myself direct my life and choices. Even as I near the big 4-0, I want to know my identity and to root down into who I am meant to be. I want more than anything to become her before I give up this mortal coil. I’ve been getting up each day to face those nameless things. I do this by sitting down and exploring the story burning in my bones, begging for permission to leave my subconscious and be revealed in ink. I’m learning to make peace with the past.
As I write, I begin to understand how words settle into your soul and never let you rest until you give them time, place, and attention. As I write, I feel myself remembering who I am. In fact, not just who I am, but who I have always been at my core. I remember the me I was before life broke me open and time sealed me up without treating to the place the loss entered. As my fingers numb and my wrist stiffen, I realize that for me, writing is more than expression, it is an exercise in facing my truth and coming home to myself.