Thought I should do a post since it’s been a little more than a week. I don’t have much of an idea, but I don’t like the idea of falling out of routine. Especially since I’m trying to set a new one for myself.
The Lent resolution is going pretty well. I realized after my first week that I didn’t really plan for Saturday, but a friend reminded me that Sundays are freebies during Lent. & since Sundays are electronic media-free, I’m giving myself Saturdays as freebies.
While I abstain from my electronic media fixes, I’ve decided to finish an essay that’s been in my head for a number of years & that I’ve been actively working on for at least a year. As I was driving home the other day, I was thinking about the different writing projects in front of me now, personal ones & professional ones. My last two posts for Rule #1 have been more personal in origin. & while I was worried about my writing partner’s reaction after posting them, I realized that it felt pretty good to deal with those two events in my writing. Not to say that I haven’t dealt with them or thought about them in my life. But to just sort of get all that baggage out there, to let it go in a semi-public way was a relief.
Then, I started thinking about this essay I’ve been carrying around for so long. The Flannery essay, I call it. Basically, the piece is about a personal experience that I tie to a short story of Flannery O’Connor’s. When I first attempted it, I didn’t know how well it was going to work. I was trying to join the personal & the analytical in a way that wouldn’t be self-indulgent, but also to tell the story of how I came to understand something about myself through the study of someone else’s work. A difficult line to tread, for sure, and I really only have two sources I’m trying to emulate. They are Michael Martone’s “Stories We Tell Ourselves” & my newly-read Elif Batuman collection “The Possessed.”
So, as I drove home & once again chastised myself for not being a more disciplined writer, I finally understood that the “personal” stories, the ones about our own dysfunction or unhappy circumstances are not the hardest ones to tell. Because ultimately, there is a grain of forgiveness? release? not being accountable? (Sorry, the right word isn’t springing to mind.) We can tell these stories more easily because there are parts of the experience that are out of our control. People hurt us or do unfathomable things or disaster blunders into our lives because it is all outside of what we know or understand. Something will always be present to hurt you in this world because you cannot know every past & present action that will unfold and affect your life.
No, the hardest stories to tell, the hardest creations to put out into this world are the ones that take the individual’s own measure. Something that is a product of all that we know & feel at this specific moment in time. These are the hardest stories to let go because we know that once we part from them, both person & creation will change. An individual moves on, develops in their perception, moves toward a new understanding. The work is handled by others, new meanings surface within fixed words & sentences, it’s existence takes on its own weight instead of relying on the person it’s attached to.
The personal act, not the personal story, is a difficult thing to accept. Yet, while I realize this fully now, it’s time to tell this story & move on. I’ve held onto the Flannery essay for much too long & while I may never be satisfied with it or fail in my intent, I’ve reached that moment of decision. Time to say my piece & let us both go our separate way in the world.