Sometimes you don’t really understand what your art means, or why you make it at all. But that’s the thing about being a creative person. You can’t stop making things just because you don’t understand them. When I wrote Volumes of Rows, I didn’t realize that what I was describing was probably dyslexia. That swimming around before the words are finally stationary long enough to convey their message is what goes on in my head every time I try to read. It’s as if the characters are on a rubber band that bounces away and back in the millisecond after my eye touches it. I didn’t notice this until recently, but it’s comforting to have an explanation of why I read so slowly, have a hard time with spelling and punctuation, and trouble doing basic arithmetic.
When I’ve explained what I see to friends, the general reaction is something about how terrifying that must be. The first time I heard this, I laughed. It never occurred to me that vision problems were scary; they’re part of my reality.
But reality can be a scary place. Some of us don’t even have to read the news to see that. Some of us just have to remember. I’m still undoing years of brainwashing and manipulation. There are parts of my self, my personhood, that I have such a hard time accepting because of what I was raised to think and feel about my body and role as a woman. I’ve felt overwhelming embarrassment when I see a picture of myself that shows some evidence of boobs, or even one that simply makes me look good. The amount of shame I felt after going out with friends and dancing with an attractive stranger left me in a state of extreme anxiety for weeks, resulting in more than one minor anxiety attack (one at rehearsal, in front of the whole cast of about 30). Processing my adolescence is taking much longer than I had expected. I keep finding myself upset about things that I thought I had gotten over.
Creating helps. Writing isn’t something I choose to do, it’s something that happens. To be honest, sometimes I hate it. It burns. It feels like drawing a long thread out of my diaphragm, and looping it into letters and words and thoughts. Both the exit wound and where it contacts my fingers feel as though they are being rubbed raw. But I have to do it. To leave that thread in place would burn even more; eventually eating me up from the inside out. When I journal I don’t know where the entry is going. Most begin with something about how I don’t know what to write or how to articulate my feelings. Journaling is cathartic. Writing poetry helps me articulate my emotions that I’m still trying to accept. I create to find out what I feel. And I share some of what I create to validate my feelings and those of others whom have had similar experiences. But I can’t share unless I create in the first place. “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”