I could not come up with anything to write last week.
I guess it’s more accurate to say that, although I did come up with something last week, I could not stand to publish what I came up with last week.
I could not stand for one more minute, the sentences beginning with I,
the licking out of every corner of my mind.
And then presenting it for you to read?
“If you don’t enjoy doing it, don’t do it,” my husband sometimes tells me.
“But I am. I am enjoying it,” I tell him right back.
I enjoy learning that what catches my eye isn’t always the shiny thing, like it was when I was younger. At fifty, I’m not afraid to reach in and pluck the dark moments of any given day. Writing about them, I find they are like berries, the darker the sweeter.
I even enjoy the things about blogging that make me want to take an ice-pick to my computer screen.
Things like software issues, algorithms, SEO optimization and grammar zealots. Last week, after I posted this, I got an email from someone telling me that I should get a proofreader, as I had misused it’s and its several times.
And you know what?
I loved her for that.
In another situation I probably would have gotten shitty about her comment. “That wasn’t the point,” I might have shot back, in defense of myself. I might have made her wrong to whoever would listen, only later taking a bath in my own shame, thinking, it’s true. I’m not smart enough to do this. Everyone sees it.
But because I want to improve my writing more than I want to bubblewrap my ego, and because she was absolutely right, I corrected the mistakes she pointed out (there are many more, I know) and gave a silent prayer gratitude for her suggestions, and for my own surprising ability to not be a jerk about it.
So yes, I love writing here.
Then what’s the problem? Why am I so worried that I’m taking up this tiny bit of space that should be given to someone else?
Sandra Cisneros gave this piece of advice: “Do not write about what you remember. Write about what you wish you could forget.”
It is Christmas afternoon and my mother is yelling at me that the gifts I made for her and my father were an embarrassment. I had not taken the time I should have, she stands over me and yells, to make sure they were done well. She tells me that I am selfish, thinking I could give him that awful ashtray with “Daddy” painted in red over blue paint that had not yet dried. The paint smeared and looked muddy.
Mama is furious because, even though I am in third grade, I should know what is high quality work and what is not. That plywood I had been so happy to find under the house, on which I painted a picture of a fish and a ferris wheel for her, was still rough, she yells. It should have been sanded, goddamnit. I should be ashamed, she says, before slamming her bedroom door.
And I am, because she is an artist, and my mother, so she knows.
I never told anyone this story because it always seemed both too sad and also not sad enough to make for interesting conversation, but eventually, I shared it for the first time with a therapist. I couldn’t understand why this quick scene wrecked me when I thought of it.
“That’s must have hurt when your mother said those things,” she said.
“Yeah, but she had a point,” I smiled and shrugged.
“What do you mean?”
“I could have done better.”
“You were in third grade and these were gifts you had made. For her. Who cares if you could have done better?”
“I know, but I knew the paint was wet,” I reason. “And I should have sanded the edges of that painting. She was right.” My therapist looked at me a long time, the way they do. My mother’s words, like a splinter, were in too deep.
Then decades pass. I have not seen my mother in many years. When she is hospitalized, I go to clean out her apartment, where I find stacks of her sculptures, and an outside storage unit filled to the ceiling with even more.
Taped to many of the pieces are notes describing how they could be improved. Some read like passionate letters of apology, full of frustration and plans of how to make it right next time.
She was in love.
She was in love with the process of creating but her work, precious in her own eyes, was never, ever good enough for the eyes of others. So she packed all those sculptures away until she died.
The healing of shame is a lifelong process, and the shitty part of it is that the only way I’ve found to heal shame is to let myself feel it.
To write the sentences that begin with I.
When the time came to post on this blog last week and what I had to say seemed half-baked, I picked at that scab a little bit.
This week I wrote what you are looking at right now. I could (part of me thinks that I should) just put it in a box labelled “Proofread. Needs work.” I could leave it to the real writers, wait until my boys are grown, until I get an M.A. (or even a B.A.), or some other permission slip from the People On Top. Until I learn, once and for all, the difference between it’s and its.
Instead, I’m giving it away.
Because that’s what a personal blog is all about.
Oh, heads up, the edges are a little rough.