Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Hardest Part

In Mr. Semore's Senior A.P. English class, we practiced writing without stopping. Every week We would get out a notebook, he would set a timer, and we would write until the timer went off. Ball points on paper for thirty minutes straight. It wasn't graded. It was practice. The hardest part of writing. The act of writing.

It feels like it ought to be simple. My brain is constantly full of words. Sometimes shouting. Sometimes singing. Laughing. Crying. My body is an extension of my brain; therefore, it must be simple to carry out the task of transferring what's in my brain onto a page. It must be. Simple mechanics. 

In my first college level acting course, we spent a lot of time focusing on breaking down a character into actions. Acting is, after all, action. Reaction. Experiencing stimuli and having to shift. Seems so simple to define a person's actions. Acting seems so simple. 

What do you want? That was the question that threw me in Acting One. When I started college, I had such a small view of the world. Oh, I made up for it in books and plays and band and choir. I spread myself across the full extent of my...seedling of a world view. But I didn't know what I Not when I was nineteen. 

What will you write about today? That was the forbidden question in Mr. Semore's class. It is the poisoned dart, the words that scroll across my brain when I sit down and the timer starts. Because I can never ask it once, once I ask it, the question just increases in size, like a sea monkey, in my brain, until all I can think about is the damn question itself, and my brain refuses to send any signals to my hands so that my hands can put words on the page. 

Then there's the voices in my head, the ones that tell me I'm ridiculous. I'm wasting time. I'm wasting my time. I've taken workshops, sat through countless therapy sessions, and prayed on my knees to silence them, but they persist.

I know how to do things. I know how to write. I know how to act. I know how to make amazing chocolate chip cookies. I know how to eat an entire batch of amazing chocolate chip cookies. 

If I want more than that, something bigger, broader, more complex, my confidence wavers. Because I want to write about...I fun, and I want to help. I want to help myself (by emptying this overstock of vocabulary and unfinished ideas that swirls around in the centrifuge of my mind non stop), and I want to help you.  

But what do I want to write about? When my heart is broken along with the rest of the country's heart? When I'm angry along with a million other women? When my worldview is stretching beyond what I thought possible? When I still feel I don't know enough and am not qualified in the least?

To be or not to be? We keep asking this question, shouting it up and down hallways, into the vast expanse of the night sky. What are we supposed to do? What are our actions? Why are we here? 

Shakespeare says, in Hamlet, that we're afraid to die because we think too much. Life is hard, and most of us do very little to change anything because we're too busy trying to calm ourselves from the thought of not being able to hear our own thoughts any more. We're afraid to die because we don't know what happens next, if anything, and we can't seem to come to terms with it. 

     And lose the name of action.         (1780)

The thing is, I'm not afraid of death. I don't know what is going to happen, but I'm not afraid of it. I don't WANT to die, but I know I must. I'm sure if someone told me it was going to happen tomorrow, I'd freak out and lose my mind, but I recently did that thing where I finally realized that it's going to happen, that it's inevitable, and suddenly, all the things that were cluttering my brain dissipated, even if only for a moment. 

How does this help me? You ask. I don't think about it. I stopped thinking about what to do to make sure I'm ready when I die. I stopped asking, "what do I want?" I answered the question. 

To be here now. 

Despite everything. Despite the coming years and the dread I feel. Every minute I spend here makes up for a multitude of hours I've spent agonizing over what happens when I'm not here any more. 

It's self preservation. All signs point to "this sucks. die. you will anyway," but I want to stay alive just for now. To see what happens. To see where I go. To see what I can do to help. And I want to do the best with now that I possibly can. 

Just like Anne Frank, in spite of all the hurt and horror, I still believe in goodness. I still believe in hope. I'm saying I'm better than you. Obviously. 

It seems like it should be so simple, doesn't it? To make up my mind to be happy. To do my laundry in spite of the fact that I really don't know what I'm doing. 

The best advice I've ever gotten is seemingly as simple as they come. In the words of former Mayor of Memphis, the illustrious W.W. Herenton, upon one of the last victories in his seventeen year reign, "shake them haters off." 

And that, my friends, has been the hardest part so far. 

More. To. Come. 


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