“Can’t keep my eyes from the circling skies, tongue tied and twisted just an earth bound misfit, I” Learning to Fly by Pink Floyd.
The words I craft for stories and poetry can take hours, weeks, months to assemble properly. There’s blood and tears involved in ensuring my written words convey the thoughts and imagery trapped in my mind.
It takes time, but no one has to see the hard parts of that struggle- the torn up pages, the pacing, the conversations I have with myself about what words mesh best and whether I should give it all up and take an office job that involves none of this struggle. When the computer file is complete and the editing done, the words on the page misleadingly flow as if I sat down by a rushing river and the ideas left my pen on some independent magical streak of luck. They didn’t. Every word was hell to match with the other words, but I like that kind of hell. I’m happy there. When I write, I fly.
In the real, it’s hell too, and not my favorite kind of hell. In waking life, I am what I like to call “almost, but not quite”.
I’m almost normal, or rather, I can give the impression of utter ordinary plainness or clever, bright and shining wit- whichever the occasion calls for. But only for a few minutes. A few seconds if you look really closely. I don’t do small talk with strangers and I avoid the chatty inconsequential party talk with perpetual acquaintances, partly because it’s pointless and fluffy and I just don’t care to talk about the weather. But also because my ability to chat up strangers for longer than 30 seconds is lacking.
I blame my brain for its translation issues. Spoken words that require a response from me come into my brain as gibberish, and I have to translate those words. Next, the words and their meaning must travel along a filter of what I think and also what an appropriate response (regardless of what I may think) may be. Talking with people I don’t know and don’t yet trust is an agonizing bucketful of steps involving defining and refining answers that will make my jagged edges look smooth. The process is warped out in an imaginary slow motion time frame, while I work my ass off to appear calm and thoughtful.
It’s just as hard when I write to find the words, but it hurts less. I fly instead of stumble. I can craft the written words and dialogue so the questions make sense, so the answers make sense. I can make my characters suffer heartbreak and tragedy and show the reader every bit of torment a character suffered, how the past has scarred each character and left them harder, less trusting. In real life, people aren’t supposed to be such open books. People aren’t supposed to know what’s dropped us to our knees and made us cry or punch walls.
Recently I found myself at a party full of guests I didn’t know or barely knew. A confident speaker with the softest, slightest of stutters spoke with me about how things don’t matter so much as people matter. I agreed. And so much more than a nod of my head could ever convey. As she spoke to me, she appeared calm and thoughtful, and I wondered if time had slowed for her too. I wondered if she worked to make her rough edges smoother. Maybe a lot of us, more than I ever really considered before, have to work at that, because life is not always kind. We’re not all as smooth and unaffected as we like to appear.
Sometimes, If I fight against gravity hard enough, I fly. Those moments are everything, the reason to keep trying. But when gravity keeps me still, maybe it’s time to stop fighting for a while, to use those moments to be present and listen, to be still and let my rough edges shine through.