It’s December 17 again. I see the calendar and think, “This day again.” We all have them. A day in time, a date on the calendar we recognize immediately, a date that takes us back to the past. We may have several, but for me, December 17 will always be a day that gives me pause. Whatever it is I am planning to do, I have to stop and think. I have to nod to what I have accomplished in my life and what I have made of myself and my time. And my children!
Long before my children were winks in my mind, I spent a lot of time alone. I spent a lot of time thinking about relationships (that I didn’t have). Not just romantic relationships but also relationships with my parents, siblings, grandparents, and acquaintances that I daydreamed could be friends if I tried hard enough. It was teenage stuff, sure.
Common I’m sure. But to the melodramatic teenager, the isolation, angst, and constant daydreaming was a sort of maze I could not figure out how to get out of.
By the tender age of 16, I had already turned to writing to find my way through that maze of endless walls. So there is some verifiable proof of the events of my life that led to what happened the night of December 17 (the year escapes this current recounting).
I don’t intend to recount the events. That’s not my aim. My angle today is one of gratitude. More than anything it’s gratitude for writing. The ability, freedom, and its saving graces.
By December 17 I had already begun writing a fictional story about a set of twins, Stacia and Elizabeth. Separated at birth and suddenly back together as teenagers in high school. It’s not lost on me that these girls were me. I gave them and both characteristics I felt in myself. As is often the way with young writers.
Their chapters unfolded with events I dreamed up, both hardships I was enduring and daydreams of scenarios I wished for my own life. By December 17 I had chapter upon chapter of their lives on paper, with no goal of a conclusion. No earthy idea how the story would end. I understood that there should be some climax, resolution, and anti-climax, but was not concerned about that.
The night of December 17 events Of my own life seemed to find their way to a natural climax. It was dire and I could literally take no more of what life was offering me.
That night, as I cried and wrote and wrote and cried, one of the twins made her way through events of the the alternate universe I had created. The house and the conversation she had with her mom, the woods where she would wander alone, the high-school with its winter dance in progress, and finally the street with its concrete curb. The place where she tiptoed over the edge, into oncoming traffic, and died.
I’ve long since come to terms with what had happened, both in reality and in the story. I don’t remember writing any more of that story after that. I suppose it was the climax I didn’t know I was looking for, didn’t know I desperately needed. As for an anti-climax, well, I suppose this will have to do.
I still have some of that writing. Some was lost to the fire, but that’s another story altogether. I was such an emotional teenager.
In 2019 I wrote a poem about some of this. My experience with isolation and suicide as a young adult. This poem was published this year in an online literary publication, Boston Accent Lit. The Poem is titled “Nothing Can Kill You” and is still online at the site here.
I suppose that’s part of the resolution too. Writing how it had been my constant companion and savior (and still is). Now I make beautiful art from my pain. It’s a therapeutic endeavor. And I know that it will be there, reliably, for my whole life.
There’s been a lot of introspection lately about writing and the path of my life. The journey of the poetic voice (the topic of my MFA lecture). I would be remiss if I didn’t nod to my own experiences, my personal evolution, and somehow (without being too preach-y) encourage people to evaluate their own writing to discover what it has to teach them.
As a part of my MFA I’ve studied the poetry of people like Louise Glück, who this year won a Nobel Prize. But it isn’t until I began studying their life that the puzzle pieces begin to form a more complete picture.
Said poet finished high school while undergoing psychiatric therapy that continued for 7 years and caused her to not enroll at a college or university in a formal program post HS. I wish I could ask her if she feels writing saved her life.
Of the 4 writers I’ve included in my lecture, she’s the only one still alive. That’s a good reminder too. This life.. it doesn’t last forever. Better use it till you lose it.
That’s it today. Time to listen to some “Sweet As Whole” by Sara Bareilles to get in the “write” frame of mind to write the conclusion for my lecture.