Tuesday, February 14, 2006

shedding quiet strong

I met with a writer last week. We perched on dark stools at the bar of Legal Seafoods in Cambridge, stapled packets of my writing spread out between glasses of crisp white wine in front of us. He was wearing a loose fitting blue sweater with the logo of a magazine he writes for emblazoned on the side arm. A head of gray hair fully mopped his forehead; he peered at me through wide rimmed glasses. We met to critique my writing, to go over future options, to help me find my way in a world that is no longer going revolve mainly around vats of chicken stock. The time he took, in the midst of deadlines and book tours, was stunningly helpful. The comments he made rang true.

You put yourself on the sidelines of your writing, Molly. You don’t show yourself, not your real self, the one that becomes apparent when meeting you in person. Don’t be afraid to let it out there.

I know he’s right. It’s amazing what a slam of realization an unbiased, outside perspective can give. He asked me, after a poignant pause; Were you depressed after the accident?


Have you ever been depressed?

You can’t tell from my writing?


It struck me suddenly, without abandon, that I have become very good at masking what’s hard. I often use writing to make myself feel better about what is difficult. If I focus on hope and happiness, no matter its miniscule weight in the face of the mountain of difficulty, I do feel better. It makes sense and I don’t think that this is wrong, certainly not in my personal writing. Nor, in all likelihood, will I be willing or able to stop doing it all together. But it wouldn’t hurt to be a bit more honest with myself as I write. Lacking honesty may not be the best way to describe my tendencies; I don’t lie to myself, ignoring the difficult feelings when they come. I am simply not fully inclusive. It wouldn’t hurt to give some voice to the weakness and depression, to stop hiding behind a consistently quiet strong.

Yes, I have been depressed, I said. The words wanted to stay in my throat, confusing me with their unwilling stagnancy. They didn’t want to be expressed. There were a few weeks after the accident that I looked in the mirror and couldn’t remember who I was beyond ‘injured’; when I spoke I didn’t recognize my own voice it was too deep with pain, like a stranger had taken over my voice box.

If you are going to be depressed, Molly, be depressed. Don’t hide in your writing.

And so, in honor of my writer friend who wants some more dark honesty, at this moment in time I feel terrified. I’m moving to New York City in two weeks. I don’t have much of a plan beyond ‘find a job’. I bounced not one but two checks last week. One of my closest friends, Alex, who had been in Boston helping me throughout my entire recovery, moved recently to California, leaving me with the constant hum of loneliness. Becca is moving to Virginia in two weeks; she is now spending a transitional fortnight with her boyfriend’s parents in upstate New York. It is Valentines Day and I haven’t had a good date in over a year. As I write this post I am doing temp work in the window-less administrative office of a local university.

And still, in the name of honesty, I feel simultaneously good. Hopeful for what’s to come; proud of my stab at a new life sans injury.

Becca came to visit me this past weekend and, before the snow came and we were consumed with snow-shoveling duties, we went out to eat. I had a gift certificate to a local Vietnamese restaurant, a holiday present on hold, which we decided to use with thankful gusto. We sat at a small table in a dimly lit back corner of the loud, laughing room and perused the menu. I looked at the white cardboard certificate, contemplating the full dollar worth of options in front of us.

We could just get appetizers and entrees and have enough left over to come again some other time, Becca said, pragmatically.

True, I said, contemplating the possibilities; Or, we could get the most expensive bottle of wine on the menu and way more food than we could possibly eat.

Oh yeah?

Yes, lets totally do it. When in our lives will we ever again be able to order the most expensive bottle of wine on the menu as a celebration of a week that included bouncing TWO checks and moving in with your boyfriend’s parents. And we can always eat the leftovers for breakfast.

Alright, I’m in.

Toasting with the cool, money-laden bite of a chilled Pouilly-Fume, we ate crisp roasted quail with lemongrass and a lingering spicy crunch. We tried light pink shrimp cakes grilled around spears of sugar cane, oddly omelet-like in consistency, sweetly seafood. Crispy spring rolls, curried light tofu with a silken bite of peanut, a salty soy sauce finish; sweet crackling fried banana doused in honey-rum sauce and toasted sesame seeds.

It was delicious, extended. Hours later (when our waiter, bemused by the unstoppable laughter. asked us if you would perhaps like some hot water?) we were quite tipsy, quite full, and feeling at least somewhat at peace with our current unstable positions in life.

We had no food leftover at the end of the night. I figure we need to stock up, like bears before hibernation, for an immediate future devoid of luxuries such as restaurant gift certificates.

PS. I know this has a happy ending; I can't help myself. I'm working on it.


Kai said...

Go, girl. Work on it.

Shauna said...

Oh, my dear, this is lovely. Wonderfully real and funny. I adore the image of the two you of giggling in the corner with an expensive bottle of wine, in a week when you'd bounced two checks. It happens to all of us. Keep going.

And the happy thing? It's true -- it's easy to hide in all the positives, mostly because it feels so damned good to write when you didn't feel good for awhile. But if the happy endings emerge, naturally, just let them bubble up.

I'll read whatever you write.

s'kat said...

Writing is a continuing evolution. Maybe presenting the face of determination is what it took to get you through that time.

Between the move, and the change of seasons, I think your writing, too, will flow in a slightly different matter.

And, what a rockin' dinner!

Rainey said...

I don't think anyone can require that you be depressed in order to write something compelling. (Hell, we've all been following along with interest and appreciation...) And so what if you can identify the things to be encouraged or pleased about? Mabbee it's just that it's all important and that the journey back and forth between one and the other is what we all struggle with at one time or another.

Your life, your process, your time.

mary grimm said...

I do think you have to use your whole self in your writing; but it's still your choice what to write. This is the great thing about writing, for me (or one of the great things), that you can write anything you want to.
I'm curious about what kind of writing you're doing? or want to do?

True said...

Hey, I’m happy to give away my link, and I hope this means you check in on my blog every now and again to see what’s new.

I wonder if I could talk to you about this post of yours in particular. I know nothing about this side of the writing world, and no one this side of the world who does. I mean the practical side of writing, the actions that writers need to take. Lately I’ve been slowly becoming interested in it, but have no one to ask.