I have a confession. I have a terrible time receiving love. I’m sure that this is true of almost everyone, so, I’m reluctant to make any big claim about it.
And yet, that too is a strategy I use to avoid the possibility that you, unknown reader, will not love what I have written. “Oh, god, not another carping complaint. It’s all about him, again. Bastard. Why doesn’t he write about me?”
How quickly I hear disparaging criticism. How even more quickly do I anticipate it. There is virtually no critique that I have not already baked into my work.
“How,” you might imagine, “do you manage to write at all?”
Dear reader, I imagine the same thing.
My creative process is a headlong rush between the giddiness of discovery, and the wrenching feeling of anticipated disdain. When I can hold it in balance, the disdain can provide a critical foil that hones the writing; when it runs wild, my work shrinks to a barely whispered voice. Less. Years have passed.
Harder yet, is when this dynamic creeps into my other parts of my life. Wait, it does not creep. It storms in—jack-booted, kicking down doors, taking the me hostage.
You would think, after 58 years, after a modicum of personal and professional successes, that this would not trouble me. I can be an interminable optimist. The bright red balloon of my heart can soar into possibilities. There is a court jester’s sensibility that makes for easy humor, tinged with sarcasm, but also with an abiding love for the queen (you!) that seeks only to please.
However, I harbor a vision of disconnection and interpersonal doubt that would make Henry David Thoreau or Holden Caulfield seem sunny by comparison. Call it cynicism, or realism (GAH!). When I am at my best, I recognize this darker vision for what it is—a diversion from the bright path that waits. Just. Over. There. And when you are at your best, my heart gladly joins in the song you sing. But when the two of us (or more, and more) sink into dissension and doubt, then I am challenged to rise to my festive best. Then the Hobbesian vision kicks in, and the only reason we find any accord is to put off the never ending war of all against all.
I write, and love, to assert a vision of life that encompasses all the bright possibilities. And that acknowledges the deeper disconnections—not simply disagreements or differences—that drive us apart. I know that there are such divisions, but I believe in the power of writing and love to bind up the old wounds, to forge a new path, and to discover new hope.
Sometimes, all it takes is writing. And that is what I have forgotten too easily over the years. The writing will carry me back to the world of connection, possibility, and yes, love. And so I write, the cloud lifts. The lesson is learned.