The other day a friend who was checking in with me about how life is in our house revealed that when she reads the emails and blogs about my son, she often finds herself weeping. I was moved by her honesty and feel honored that my words have touched another person in such an intimate way. She asked me, “When you’re writing about your boy, don’t you just sit there and cry the whole time?”
The truth is, I don’t sit and cry. The discipline of writing grants me access to powerful experiences while allowing me to suspend many of the internal emotional touch points that might invoke my own tears. It’s a good thing, really. Because if I were to recapitulate some of the more painful incidents over and over – it would undeniably cause some psychological harm. I write, in part, to heal what has been hurt – not to soak in it.
Do other writers, like surgeons who practice keeping an emotional distance from their patients, also occasionally stand at arms length from their subject matter once they start to compose? I try to imagine the great Chilean poet and Nobel Prize recipient, Pablo Neruda, writing the words from his exquisite love Sonnet XLV:
“don’t leave me, even for an hour, because
then the little drops of anguish will all run together,
the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift
into me, choking my lost heart.”
These words summon feelings of physical passion and manifest despair. Did Neruda relive that torment as he composed? Or did he reach into his heart’s memory and call forth the vital essence – but take care not to reopen an old wound?
Clearly, to share about our lives – the joys and sorrows, the celebrations and the losses – we hold the initial event in our hearts and minds. The longer a story lies in wait within us, it is shaped and (perhaps) tempered by reflection and time. But when the moment comes to tell the tale, the poem, the song — to actually put it to the page – the call is not to personally re-live, but to convey it with such acuity that others can also feel, understand and in many ways share the experience. Thus, we become connected in ways we might not otherwise have been, and we learn, grow, empathize, feel a little more seen and hopefully, a little less alone.
It’s a good thing, really.
Thanks for following. Have a peaceful weekend ~ mlp
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.”