Sometimes I write a whole lot of stuff and then I just file it away, never to be seen again.
Unless I die and someone figures out my laptop password, divulging all of the secrets within the “Current Writing Projects” folder, there are thousands upon thousands of words that will never be read by anyone. And that assumes that whoever cracks my password bothers to read my work.
I often feel like writing for an audience makes my writing rather shitty.
In my undergraduate studies, I got a less than fabulous grade in my advanced expository writing course, even though many in the class considered me a fabulous writer. But I didn’t follow the process that my professor so wanted me to adopt. My first draft was never handed in on time, and my final draft was usually my first draft with more words tacked on the end. His process, I believe, was not how I wrote well.
Now, that professor and his colleagues and his many protégés would likely argue that I can’t be writing well if I am still handing in rough drafts. But I made it through two master’s degrees without a second draft. And I still feel as though writing in ways that aren’t very stream-of-consciousness, throw-words-out-without-thinking, and blurt-whatever-comes-to-mind are ways that are less successful for me.
I may be wrong.
That happens surprisingly often, given those aforementioned multiple degrees.
But even if they are correct, and my writing would be improved by having a more traditional, tested process, I can’t seem to do it. Or, more accurately, I can’t seem to love it.
My whole life is sort of like this, I think. The more traditional and tested, the less enjoyment I experience. I’ve always been the headstrong, impulsive, unbound type. And the moment that people set expectations and made rules to hold me in, I suffered. Some would imagine that the impulsiveness and the chaos of anarchy were what hurt me. But I truly believe it was being caged that broke me, not being capricious or catapulting into life.
I know that some of this stems from the unhealthy personal history of which I sometimes share bits and pieces. Feeling captive—being captive—made me desperate for freedom. I needed to run. I needed to fly. I needed to be shot out past the orbit of Earth and end up in the sky, preferably somewhere amid Cassiopeia. I’m not sure why. The queen has simply been the place I wanted to be since we had a star-gazing event in the rural backyard of my grade 6 teacher. That constellation beckoned. The moment I could, I ran, I flew, I threw myself toward the heavens.
But there were always new sets of rules and people who tricked me into believing I wanted to be caged once more.
This weekend, I read a lovely bit of my daughter’s writing. She wrote about me. And she wrote about how I became tethered to the ground by my own body and mind—how I lost my confidence.
I spent all that time seeking to be free, and then my own body and mind caged me. I finally broke out of the orbits of family, partner, religious tradition, patriarchy, and expectations that were not meant for my good but for my compliance, and the thing that pulled me back down was my chronic illness.
I haven’t been myself in a really long time. Some days I don’t even know who that self is, or how to find her. The weight of fatigue and pain and mental anguish grounded me in ways that nothing and no one else could. And that devastates me.
And suddenly, all I want is to run, to fly, to be thrown to the heavens. But I don’t even know how to begin.
Caged. Subject. Tethered.
Some would say that as age sets in we become more “grounded”, and they mean that in this sense where you gain stability and live out your years with calculated and wise decisions. And when any of us stray from that trope, we are cast into another—the mid-life crisis sufferer.
I’m in that forty-something stage that may or may not be mid-life. I’m not average, so I cannot expect that my life span will hit the average either, frankly. And some people might think that my recent propensity for bright-colored hair or new tattoos or parties with my daughter and her friends or casually dating a string of inadequate suitors are symptoms of this mid-life crisis. But those people would be wrong.
My desire to find myself again, and gain my strength, and live unfettered and free, and restore my confidence, and be the kind of woman I love to be is leading me down the road I am travelling. And that is not a crisis.
That is a breakthrough.
That is me learning to own the parts of me that existed before and between cages. That is me learning that the Christy who fought to be free is the Christy that is naturally occurring. That is me learning to fly once more.
I may not be good at careful and calculated. I may not be good at decorum and expectation. But I am good. And I am best when I am set free—allowed to embrace my own way, and to chase my dreams without the weight of expectations, rules, secrets, tethers, and ties.
I think that this journey began with me crawling from a pit of despair, and I have a long way to go before I can spread my wings, but I am on that journey. My feet are on a path, and that path is leading to my best self—no matter what the critics say.
And I am starting to believe that I can one day make it back to the queen in the sky. Soon I will remember how to fly.