February 16th, 2011
So I cried in my new writing class last week.
Yup. I did.
The day started out like any typical oh-dear-lord-is-it-spring-yet weekday in my household..the uber mad dash to get out of the house to drop the kids at school on time, pop over to the next town, find parking and then slosh through the snow-filled streets to grab a very tall cup at the cool coffee shop before class.
My mind was racing.
Emails and conference calls for a big project at work…Mental note to be sure and book that direct flight (there aren’t many) to TX for June when my mom is having her knee replacement surgery…My daughter’s loose tooth reaching a crazy snaggletooth cartoonish level that warranted a phone call to the pediatric dentist who will try and squeeze us in over the next few days…I wonder if I could pull the darn thing out while she sleeps…maybe we should put in a claim with the insurance company for our dang ice dam and subsequent roof cleaning…can I get all my stuff done today so I can squeeze in a weight class at the gym tomorrow? And how am I going to help my sweet boy get over the epic blow to his confidence after being teased on the first day of basketball!? And how is ANYONE supposed to walk down this ice-covered sidewalk without sloshing their hot coffee that they’re trying to sneak in to the library all over the place!?! Argh..I forgot about the oil change again!
But then class started.
Ahhhh….for the next hour and a half I would be able to listen to my teacher’s soothing voice, do short writing exercises and listen to the words of my classmates. I particularly like “Henry,” who at the wonderful age of 94 promptly kicked me out of “his” seat on the first day of class. It was then that I knew I’d love him.
The woman who sits next to me, “Lorraine” read our first exercise of the day. We were to write a short essay about a memory of a telephone call. Hers was about a call many years ago, that would deliver the sad yet expected news that her father had passed away. She spoke of her mother’s voice on the phone, and of her teenage son, asleep upstairs and how she dreaded telling him. My heart instantly grew heavy. I felt the rush of sadness and I couldn’t stop it. It was a wonderful short piece written in just 10 minutes (per our instructions).
As Lorraine finished her emotional essay, I sniffed and ventured a glance across the table as I wiped the corners of my eyes with my index fingers and shifted in my chair.
“Wow,” I muttered.
I was thrilled to see another woman sitting across the table wiping her eyes as well. It wasn’t just super sensitive me. Someone else cried too! I felt better.
We moved on to the next exercise and a young woman with an absolutely fantastic British accent described treasured letters from her grandmother. I felt my face flush. Oh not again…tears. Full big ones. This time I just swiped them away as fast as I could without looking up.
Then it was Henry’s turn and he read about his wife whom he loved and admired and missed dearly. I took a deep breath as low and quiet and possible as my eyes filled again and I thought about taking my jacket off, but thought better of it since I had a sleeveless top underneath. I hadn’t anticipated having a tearful hot flash on a freezing February day.
What the heck is wrong with me!?!?
For 6 more weeks, I will revel in this little retreat that is a writing class in a conference room tucked down on the lower floor of a lovely old public library. I thought the class would be a great way to force myself to sit down and write on a regular basis again (life and work have clearly gotten in the way of that for many months). Today, it’s not so easy. I am a very emotional person for sure, but usually I can reel it in. I cleared my throat. Somehow, I collected myself again. I focused on the next 10 minute writing exercise. I didn’t want these nice folks that I barely know to think I’m a total basket case. I wrote and then gave my flow of words a quick read. When it was my turn to read aloud, I got halfway through it and choked up and had to stop.
“I’m sorry,” I said tearfully, “I think I’ll just stop there.” I quickly flipped my notebook over to show I was absolutely weepy…and done. I wanted to crawl under the table.
“OK.” The instructor smiled a warm smile, a look of concern in her eyes as she searched my face. The room was quiet. “Are you OK?,” She asked gently.
I nodded. And then stared at my lap.
The teacher thankfully moved right on to the next student, and I kept my head down, mortified, wondering if I should cut and run. All of the sudden I felt, oddly, like the new and unexpected little hole in the ceiling of my son’s room. For that past few days the ice dam on the corner roof of our house had caused water to drip down and be trapped in the attic, pooling in a corner. With nowhere to go, it had slowly and steadily leaked down through the ceiling in his room, dripping into a big bucket we put in the corner. One night my husband was looking at with a flashlight and reached up and gently poked the watery spot. His finger pushed right through and WHOOSH, down came the water in a big surprising gush, happy to find a release and give in to gravity.
Lorraine’s essay, apparently, had poked a hole in me that morning.
I sniffed my way through the last few minutes, my face blotchy, grateful for a final writing exercise to occupy my mind. Our teacher asked us to write on the topic “Why I Write.” As I sat back in the old creaky conference room chair with its dark orange harsh fabric and sunken seat, I realized I had just made a very public display (at least to a nice gang in a conference room) of exactly why.
You see, I wear my heart on my sleeve. I always have. And I always will. I sometimes wish I were one of those stoic types that are calm all the time, so unflappable. But alas, that’s not me. I think too much, I feel too much and it’s more than a little tiring sometimes. I’m animated and I gesture wildly with my hands and I like to talk, a lot. I like to be a goof. I like to have a lot of people around me most of the time. And I clearly like to cry. Life experiences, big and small, leave indelible marks on my heart and my mind, for better or worse.
I write because I need to sort it out, to weed out the junk in my head, to filter, to process, to cultivate, to compartmentalize. I write to feel it all over again, to love, to purge, to share, to forgive, to forge, to wallow, to wish, to wonder. To chronicle things that happen, to take moments out of my life that always seems to move too fast and enjoy them, or to try to figure out what they mean. The more I live, the more people I meet, the more I can write. Maybe writing is a way for me to, finally, excuse myself for my emotional tendencies. It makes it OK to be the girl who cries first and hugs hard.
I write for me. I write for you. I write for people I don’t even know. I write for my children, my parents, my friends. I even write for the people that really make me angry or that I just can’t understand. And what I write may not even be all that good, or proper. My grammar certainly could use work and I use way too many dot, dot, dots….
But I do know that my love for it is a little gift I’ve been given. If just for me. The more real and raw I allow myself to be, the better I’ll be at putting all that on a page and capturing it so that it has a life well beyond me. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.
So last Thursday, when the typical crazy noise in my head and someone’s lovely and real words got the better of me, I was also given the chance to think about why, exactly, I write.
Writing is a part of my life. And my life is still being written…