The tsunami had already commenced, before my first birthday.
I’ve been writing since I was a little girl, but, for many years, my writing was sporadic and hidden. If anyone said anything remotely critical about it, I would react by retreating, defending, and feeling crushed.
Recently, in a swirling stew of ingredients, I got a flash of insight into why this was so.
As so many things do, for me, it goes back to childhood, and habits and patterns I learned there, which have remained, hidden beneath all those extra words, rambling explanations…my verbal, nearly compulsive need to get out ALL the details, at once, without forgetting anything, to follow all side trails…
I have a long and intense string of memories, that come with a single catch phrase, in my mother’s voice.
” I love when you follow me around and prattle at me.”
I did it often. My mother would bustle about, cleaning and cooking…she likes things just so, likely as a direct response to a childhood where very little was as she would have liked it to be. With an untidy husband and four children, there was plenty to do.
She is also prone to withdrawing her affection for perceived slights – usually, without ever really explaining why, and sometimes for days in a row. She tends to see people in assigned roles, and each of her children had at least one.
Mine tended to be “the smart one”, “the good one”, “the different one”, “the closet philosopher”, and “the ditzy one with no common sense“.
I learned early that most of these were pretty good roles, ones that I wanted to keep, because there was a nearly constant maternal pitting against and judging of us four children, and it was definitely worthwhile to stay on my mother’s good side.
Communing with goats at age 11. I had plenty to say to them, too…
So, once I learned that I could entertain her with a tsunami of what was going on in my head, I brought forth all the words and ideas I could muster.
I’ve been told I think too much (although I think it’s the perfect amount for me), and I tend to get rapid-fire ideas from many sources – engaged conversation has always lit me up.
I used words the way Scheherazade used those Arabian Nights, to keep my mother entertained, to curry her favor…and, later, to win arguments, to keep a conversation going, even when the other party was clearly ready to move on…
In all cases, what I was staving off was a sense of rejection.
As I learned more about myself, and how to communicate with others, I began to see the need for concise language, well-constructed thoughts, and an understanding of purpose. Gradually, this has carried over into all of my writing.
Now, I am able to trim dross, to recognize what I need to do to find it in the first place. I can even ask others to read things and give their honest opinion, and to evaluate this without taking it as an assessment of my value as a writer.
With this new bit of personal insight, I feel a deeper shift coming… I listen to Paul Simon‘s music, lush with layers and textures, emotions and imagery, poetry and wisdom – and I am in awe. He uses so few words….and conveys so much. I see it now, in myself. Not just the what. Also, the why…
And I feel that makes a difference that will grow, from here….in writing, and in life.
Taking time for quiet contemplation….an emerging skill. Photo by Eden Mabee.