The following was first written in ink.
The pen prints a snapshot of my mind onto the page. But as soon as ink is placed, its no longer true. Its a half truth, like a family photo.
Sometimes, I write to process things. I pick up the pen because I’m feeling overwhelmed, fluttery jittery, crushed, lost. I pick up the pen when I feel lost, and in the ink I lay, I find the trail that takes me back to who I am.
And it doesn’t have to make sense, mostly it needs to not make sense. It’s easiest for me to work through things when I let go of logic – I grab the Edam cheese from my toolbox to hang a painting, and try not to think about it.
So in processing, writing a question often reveals the answer. I think the important part is finding the right questions – I already know the answers, but I don’t hear them unless the question is asked.
This is about my experience journalling: “Today was like this… I feel x and I don’t know y…”
Sometimes experiences are more raw, more intense. Then the inky line between real and imaginary can blur. Life is always somewhere in-between, anyway, and in writing I can fiddle those dials as much as I need.
In an amusement park, I processed addiction. I’ve never been to that park, but here I have.
Being an addict, I’ve previously used in response to that messy, fuzzy, itchy, tangled-ball-of-string feeling in my chest. Presently, most of the time, I turn to the pen when that discomfort arises.
I know I’m holding it, but it also holds me. And as it meets the page, I start to trail out that ball of string, and it itches less. Sometimes it gets caught on something, and the ink coming out goes wrong, or just right. And I cry, and breathe, and laugh. And then the pen writes me again, and I sit and watch as the story unfolds.
My counsellor suggested I start writing to keep track of experiences I had during the week, after I kept turning up to sessions blank, unable to recall what I’d went through. I didn’t really take the advice.
But somehow I got through my forgetfulness, and began to work through things with them.
Sometimes the week felt like an eon, because things seemed so bad, and only the counsellor had the ability to solve them. Their magic questions extracting solutions from me.
Then they went on holiday.
I found an old journal, its 60 pages spanning over half a decade. I wasn’t one for consistency, mostly it was entries of me repeatedly hitting rock bottom.
But this time was different, I kept returning, finding some essence of counselling in the process. Between the covers, I started to prod the fleshy walls of trauma. I started finding the questions which led to the answers.
And there were no answers. I know at the beginning I said there were answers, but that was somewhere between metaphor and lie.
Its an experience of understanding taking place over time, and if anyone asks you: “How did you get past ___?” you couldn’t possibly explain. And you don’t completely solve the problems either. That would involve changing the past. Instead you build half-answers, and in them, you build yourself.
After a long time, that holiday passed quickly.
The pen and paper allowed me to explore myself. My me-ness.
There’s something of a cartographers work in it. Each page a region of me. Each notepad an atlas.
But that’s also wrong, I’m not pretending to tell the truth here. When I get lost in space (the mall, not the cosmos), I pull out a map to tell me where I am. But in this alternate dimension, I find its the moment I’m mapping out a part of me, that I know myself. And when I’m lost, I draw up a new map.
And then I’m found. I’m always lost and found. But I’m no longer lost.
Sometimes there’s no more to write.
I start by overcoming my aversion to the page. I might stab it, or creep across, trying not to make a sound. Each word might be ringed excruciatingly out of me.
I wrote that last part for dramatic effect, it isn’t that bad, I think.
And as I go, I go. And suddenly I lift my pen and breathe. And I see me on the page. A vulnerable chunk of me. Right there. How did that get there? I sort of always knew it was there, but I never knew how to find it, to grab it, how to hold it.
But it just came out. And then suddenly, the pen drops down and when it rises again, another chunk!
Somebody might see! My naked not-flesh, lying there for all the world to see.
When the process is finished, I don’t want to let go of the pen. It’s been through so much with me, I can’t let it go.
But sometimes there’s no more to write.
I rarely find myself writing about trauma these days, at least not intentionally. Mostly I speak to the page about odd days in an odd life. I take in the view, survey the scene of my discomfort, and say what I see.
For the vast majority of my life, I’ve seen self-reflection as such a waste of time. Surely if there’s one thing I don’t need to spend any more time on, its myself! When there’s so much to do, and so much that has to be done!
There’s a difference between existing and living, and it shows in the time between then and now.
Losing myself is like gravity suddenly switched off, I’m floating away from the ground, and suddenly a report deadline, or a friend, or life, seems distant. Writing brings my hands to the switch, to flick the gravity on again. And the birds chirp again, and the wind caresses my face once more.
Maybe its once in a month, or several times a day. Use as needed.
Addict is an interesting perspective to have on this style of writing. The ink has become something of a substitute. And it feels whole.
I’m no longer stashing myself in my pocket, falling past a moment of warmth and snugness, through the hole in the bottom of the fabric, and down on to the floor. Leaving myself behind.
Finding myself in writing is also finding that someone is writing to me. The ink is moving the pen, jiggling my hand, sending signals to my brain. Telling me who I am. Talking with me. We’re conversing, me and I. I’m not alone. We’re not alone.
And suddenly the pen lifts.
And sometimes there’s no more to write.