I haven’t written anything honest in what feels like so long. Eight months and three seasons worth of elements – snow, sleet and sun – to be exact. Summer, half past.
Everything I’ve put down on the page has been measured, trimmed and tidied for the eyes of editors, publishers and agents until the point that it’s become so perfected, it’s no longer familiar. Give me the bloody moose carcass. Give me the dark rings under the eyes. Give me the self-indulgent metaphors. The process feels joyless when, next to my unrecognizable china doll prose, my life has never felt so messy, so unkempt. I’m every synonym of wreck. I’m the washing machine dial, stuck on spin. I’m the sad pink candy-heart sock you pull from the washing machine; a load ruined by a mind that’s somewhere else. I’m the sound ugh. I’m every ugly emotion I told myself I’d squashed before like a badass. I was a whole lot of high before I realized I was a skydiver without a parachute. More ugh, then crash.
I’m that sound, too, along with the silence that comes after, and the sound after that.
Readers: mind the whine. Me, I’ll mind the wine. But sad blog posts have their place in the world, even if it’s in the ugly corners no one shines their light into. If it’s too pathetic, just look away (we’ve all mastered the art, at some point or other, of that).
I’ve never been so apologetic for my writing until coming back to Edmonton. Notably, I’ve stopped writing like this: these inconsequential rants of mine, flippant, playful, brave, stupid, indulgent, whatever you want to call them. Instead, I’ve been writing with someone looking over my shoulder, me, sadly, looking to make ten cents to a half-dolla a word on a story that is, always, remarkably dated, forgotten. I open the local newspapers and read absolutely nothing I care about. Stories that are already weathered and curling at their corners. Ugh, give me that moose carcass back. I want the black flies, feasting. I’ll do it for nothing because that’s the way I fell in love with it. I’m Wordsworth. Only I’m nobody.
These days have felt so haphazard, nothing to boast about and so much to write about, yet none of the important stuff – the guts – has paid homage to the page. Too shameful. Closet stuff, corner stuff. Basement stuff. I never thought myself as a story hoarder, but I’m stacking. I want to be as brave in my writing as the self-portraits Frida painted about her life, but I’m too scared. I wonder: did she even question the criticism that would come of painting herself intoxicated, with scissors in her hand, staring you in the eye, after cutting off all her hair? Was the safety of fame already protecting her? Did her shock value contribute to her economic value as an artist? Or was it a pure reflex to her own pain, to the devastation of leaving her husband because he cheated on her again, with her own sister?
I want to write about losing friends and grandfathers and lovers and geography. I want to write about loneliness with tears coming down my face because that’s what I’ve always done, unafraid, ever since I was a kid. Yet now I’m playing at thirty and ‘professional’ writer and hash tags and suddenly I’m ashamed of all these stories. I’d rather write about other people’s sad stories than my own. This has been a summer of experiencing losses and, then, realizing losses. Those are two different things. The actual crash and then the processing of the crash.
Friends. Grandfather. Brother. Lovers. Geography.
My mother once asked me, “Can’t you write about happy things?”
But who needs to process joy? Who needs to dig through joy when joy throws its arms around you, wags its tail like a dog and doesn’t hold back? Grief, trauma, depression, on the other hand. You instinctively go back to the carcass, even if, not at first. Biopsy, autopsy. Who’s strong enough to dig? Who’s strong enough to read about the digging? Only if it’s not your own body. These stories, they would say, are meant for a journal. But journals are lonely things written by dead authors. And who wants to be dead at thirty?