I wasn’t sure what this blog was going to be when I started it. I just launched myself, somewhat recklessly, into the project of writing and publishing every day, trusting that if I opened myself to what came and turned up at the page every day – diligently, doggedly – something would come. And it did and it has, every day for 83 days now.
What came, first of all, was my story Driving in the dark, about my darkest time. The time when I was first coming to terms with being a single parent and everything that would mean. The time when I had no clue who I was anymore or who I was supposed or allowed to be. What followed was, often, whatever happened to be in my head after a long day at a demanding job, after collecting my son from school, cooking for him, clearing up afterwards, putting him in the bath, reading for an hour and then putting him to bed. Sometimes, what came, came after a night out, when I was cockeyed and fizzing at ten to midnight. I love it. I think it’s beautiful and I’m proud.
I had a conversation with my friend – a writer – when it first began and I told her I was worried about exposing too much of myself. Worried that with the gun to my head of a daily deadline, I’d have no control over what would come spilling out. Blood and brains and all kinds of things I wouldn’t want anyone to see.
‘Sometimes I might just write an anodyne little haiku about the kettle or something,’ I said, ‘if I’ve had a bad day and don’t feel like going there.’
‘It doesn’t matter what you write about,’ she said, ‘you can write about the kettle or the curtains and it will still say something about you. There’s no hiding. You’re in or you’re out.’
She was right. I now realise that the blog is an exercise in life-writing, where I am telling the story of who I am, day by day, like driving in the dark only seeing, post by post, as far as my headlights. It’s the story of how I healed from a trauma and a betrayal and of how I continue to heal, every day. It can’t be anything else.
I’ve mostly steered clear of the big story, the one I started with, the one that marks the line in the sand between who I was and who I would become, but I’ve circled it daily, like a black hole I daren’t look into in case it sucked me in.
A couple of weeks ago, I returned to that story and posted an episode every night for a week and then combined the posts into a longer story on the last day.
Within minutes of publishing it, my head filled with voices that wouldn’t shut up.
Who wants to know about a bad time you once had?
People are embarrassed for you.
You’re so earnest.
Your writing is horrible. Who the hell uses the word ‘assiduously’?
That person you suspect has never liked you has stumbled on your blog and now knows everything about you. She’s thinking ‘no wonder he left her.’
I could go on. They ganged up on me, these voices, like bullies in a school playground. I felt a certain shame – for my situation and for my sadness – and a certain awareness of what women, mothers, single mothers are allowed to feel and say and what they are not. Burning rage is not something you take a selfie of.
There was no place in the story – because it was the story of then, not now – to say that things are okay between me and my ex-husband these days or that I have come, several years on, to see what happened as one of the best things to ever happen to me in my life. But I have. Because what happened ripped up the script on who I was and allowed me to consider a myriad different possible futures – ones that I could write for myself. It forced parts of me I’d never otherwise have known to the surface: my fierce, courageous spirit, my love, my shining light. And it was this joy that I really wanted to share. I want my message of hope to reach someone who needs to hear it. I want to inspire other people to share their stories.
But, still, after a day or two of listening to the bullies in my head, I took the post down. I felt huge relief. And then shame, again, as I thought of what I had done. I thought of all those writers and artists I admire, who dare to say the thing that nobody else is saying, dare to be the first on the dance floor and to show something real, who dare to be seen: ugly morning-breath, burning rage, holey tights, bared fangs, wild eyes, shining glorious humanity and all.
We read to know we’re not alone.
We have to write in the same spirit.
I think of this poem by Andrea Gibson:
The trauma said, ‘Don’t write these poems.
Nobody wants to hear you cry
about the grief inside your bones.’
But my bones said, ‘Tyler Clementi jumped
from the George Washington Bridge
into the Hudson River convinced
he was entirely alone.’
My bones said, ‘Write the poems.’
Andrea Gibson, The Madness Vase
There will still be days when all I can muster, after a long day of work and mothering, is a haiku about the weather or my curtains, but I will continue, assiduously, to allow it to say something about me. And when I want to say something important I promise that from now on, I will not listen to the bullies in my head.
I will listen to my bones.
I have reposted my Driving in the dark story in full. You can find it here: https://drivinginthedark.blog/2017/03/11/driving-in-the-dark-i-made-this-for-you/