There are children playing (and laughing and squealing) outside. They sound like they are about six or younger. It’s still colder than it is warm out, especially now as the sun goes down, but I did have to take my sweater off today.
My cat is sitting on my unmade bed, her tail flicking a little now and then.
I am stressed, although less lonely than I was this morning. My friend, who is moving back to Michigan, gave me her old bike, a beautiful Novarra that needs new brakes. I have the money for the new brakes.
For most of my life I have wanted to be smart enough, good enough, pretty enough, tall enough, short enough, small enough, to fit the bill this world laid down for me. The fact is, that “bill” was never really laid down. I have never known what was generally good enough. All I knew was there was one way I could do things: the way I did (and do) them.
I know we can always improve, but one thing we can improve on is how easy a time we give ourselves when living in this world is already so damn hard. Once we ease up on ourselves, it will be easier to ease up on others.
Two days ago, a former professor of mine pretty much told me I am not a writer. He told me I have a voice, but what I write is not “literary.” I don’t know if he knew this but I wanted to punch him. I am still reeling. This afternoon I wanted to throw up and I realized I was still in shock after almost two days. He is a Rhodes scholar, knew Heidegger and Tolkien, and most importantly has been really, deceptively nice to me pretty much all of the time I have known him. It’s so…embarrassing. Most people have been really supportive of me, but I have been taught to lay down for “lessons” that are harsh and demeaning, especially when they come from white men. I feel like some women I respect would think I should automatically agree with him, just because his is a voice of authority. I resent it so much. But the fact is, no one has told me to agree with him, yet, and I have the choice whether to believe that asshole or keep going.
A small part of me says, “If you keep going, you’ll look like an idiot. What if you look like an idiot now?”
What I am taking from this: I am an artist. No one can take that away from me. Whether I have the courage to write, and write better than I have in the past (as we can and should always improve) is still to be seen. Right now I feel like an absolute fool. I usually do, but it’s not quite this intense, and there are no voices of well-established white men with respected opinions telling me what I do is not “writing.” Right now I feel like I should quit while my dignity is still kind of visible in the distance, and try to keep it for all I’m worth.
My heart aches. Maybe it’s the loss of the illusion that I could trust this person with something as important as my work (and therefore my feelings.) Whatever it is, it’s so painful. I have always felt simultaneously smart and stupid, dignified and foolish, and there’s a part of me that is scrambling to get away from the stupid/foolish part that is mostly what I’m sitting with (or I guess trying not to) right now.
What if I am not smart? What if I don’t understand ANYTHING? I’m certainly not good at many things, and lately I feel like I’m not very good at anything, except picking pimples, holding my breath when I should be breathing, making a mess, etc. What if what I have to say is stupid, or doesn’t serve the world, or both?
I have always wanted to write for children, but have never been able to. What if I never do? Or everything that ever comes out of me is bad?
I want a spine. I want to be brave. I also want to be able to know when someone is lying to me for their own benefit.
Thanks for reading.
One thought on “Details”
I enjoy your writing a lot, and hope you continue posting it.
My impression of contemporary “literary” writing isn’t very favorable, though I haven’t followed it since David Foster Wallace, so there may be some great writers I’m simply not exposed to. On FB you mentioned Glennon and Elizabeth Gilbert, and when I read them my inner snob tends to come out and object to the blatant zeitgeist chasing of their writing, especially books, but they connect strongly with millions of people, reportedly enriching their lives, and so must be tapping into something deep and important to people.
Currently my favorite short form writer a psychiatrist turned Substack blogger. He’s made more of an impression than a dozen Writers who set out with an image of what being a Writer entailed, even when writing on ten minute breaks during residency.
I’m not much of a writer, and lately the only art I’ve been able to produce or enjoy outside of demos for students have been landscape architecture themed. So I’m probably not such a good example, but I usually end up reading a snippet of TS Elliot at least once a month:
“So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years-
Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l’entre deux guerres-
Trying to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholy new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate,
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate – but there is no competition –
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business”
Anyway, you have an interesting perspective on things and write about it well. If you keep going you’ll find an audience, whether it’s the sort the professor cares about or not.
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