I started this blog after finishing quite a bit of writing. I spent much of the summer of 2011 emptying my brain of memories, pouring my history into my keyboard in an attempt to understand who I was. I told my story in 88,559 words – that’s 160 letter-sized pages in 12-point Times New Roman font, or, were I to publish a standard-sized book, roughly 350 pages – the first draft of a memoir.
Nine months earlier, I was shoved down a life-changing path and found myself on a shadowy stretch of road that wasn’t on any map. I thought I could write my demons away and find my way back to the safe and well-travelled route everyone else seemed to follow. I worked at a feverish pace, writing, editing, constructing, arranging, rearranging. Committing my words to virtual paper, though, wasn’t quite enough. I had an urge to put some of my experiences out into the universe and see what came back. So began the life of this blog.
When I started, I set a goal to post something daily. Even then I knew it was unrealistic, but I put it out there anyway, thinking the statement alone would make me more accountable to myself. It didn’t. I kept up a pretty healthy pace for a while, but my hypothesis that the act of writing would lead me back to what I perceived as “normal life” was wrong, too. The past few years have shown me it’s not nearly so simple.
I’ve made forward progress, only to find dead ends and be forced to go back the way I came. I’ve traveled in circles, some with dizzying speed and others at a painfully slow pace. I’ve managed to generally stay lost despite my best efforts to find myself. With these setbacks, my writing stagnated.
I’m not the kind of writer that writes because I have to, because it’s the only way through, or because the words just flow out of me. As much as I wish I fit that romantic notion of writer, the simple truth is that I don’t.
My earliest attempts at writing came in my late teens, more than twenty years ago. Then, I wrote because I was searching for some kind of explanation – some way to understand why the world was the way it was, and to learn how I could live in it when I often felt I didn’t belong. Sometimes writing was an outlet for rage or sadness or bitterness or disappointment. Sometimes I could channel my disillusionment into witty sarcasm and make light of the absurdities I saw around me. Other times, I simply documented my experiences and feelings. But more often than not, I wrote about not being able to write – not being able to find the right words – wanting to say something, but not knowing quite what it was or how to say it. Eventually, I stopped trying.
When I picked up a pen again a few years ago, I was determined not to let it go this time, and yet, I find myself in a similar place, faced with challenges that might technically fall under a different heading but are really quite the same underneath. I began to write again because I was still searching for something, though with age, it was clearer that I was searching not only for an explanation for something I couldn’t quite comprehend, but also for some sense of purpose in my life.
I have a propensity for “being in my head,” – thinking, philosophizing, analyzing. If I’m not careful, I can get stuck there. I mentally break things down and try to build them back up in new combinations. I apply logic to even the most illogical things. I’m constantly fooled into thinking that if I can just understand why, I can be in control. Of course, life is rarely so black-and-white, and I’ve come to believe that control is a concept we might be better off without. Still, no amount of thinking provided me with a purpose that satisfied my desire to live a meaningful life. The more time passed without answers, the less I wrote.
Then, a few weeks ago, I read a blog post about Viktor Frankl’s memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning, and something about the way the story was excerpted and commented on struck me in a more personal way than it had when I originally read the book in its entirety. I won’t attempt to duplicate the already very well-written article, which I recommend you read, but I will highlight the one sentence that best represents what I took from these powerful words the second time around.
I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. -Viktor Frankl
As I read the article, a shocking thought occurred to me.
Maybe it’s that simple.
Maybe the people in my life are all the meaning I need. Maybe honoring them, supporting them, connecting with them, championing them, helping them be their best, and making sure they know they matter – maybe that’s my purpose, and maybe it doesn’t need to be any bigger than that.
Today, I’m beginning to understand that I’ve been looking for complicated, intricate answers that probably don’t exist. Perhaps instead of finding my way back to “normal,” it’s my definition of “normal” that needs to change. Maybe I’ll never be that compulsive and brilliant writer that writes in order to survive. Maybe the turn my life took will keep me on a different path than I imagined I would travel, and maybe that’s OK if I just stop fighting it.
My analytical nature is as much an embedded personal characteristic as my eye color is. I know I won’t stop asking questions and trying to figure out why. I know I’ll still struggle to feel in control and I won’t always feel like the thoughts I’m trying to capture today are “enough.” The dark side of life may always nip at my heels because that’s just how I’m built. But, maybe I can get out of my own way, and write because I want to even if I don’t have any solid answers.