Thursday, March 18, 2010

Russian Dolls

I cannot get the image of Russian dolls out of my head. I'm sure you've at least seen a picture of them--A painted "doll" on a vaguely human-shaped box. You open it up, and inside is nested another doll. You open that one--guess what another doll! And so on...

Do we come into our lives as Russian dolls? If so, is life about exposing each new layer at random or pre-determined times, so that at the end we get to the "core" of who we are?

Maybe, the metaphor works in reverse--we come into life small and unformed, and as we progress through space and time we acquire new layers of who we are. Does that mean that at the end of our lives we have become removed from the essence of what we once were? Does it mean we spend our lives "becoming?"

If I am to play with this metaphor, I think I most often feel like I have built up layers around myself. But that is not to say that the layers are not useful; they have added a complexity and a sharpness that was not formerly present.

But sometimes it hurts to feel the burden of the layers--the weight of them pressing upon me. One layer is "society." It it made up of expectations and roles and all the ways in which others judge who or how I should be. It is made up of the ways in which I have learned to navigate my way through, the ways in which I have altered or changed the way I would otherwise be. There is a layer "family. A layer "job." A layer dedicated to all the joy I have ever experienced--and another that shades that joy like a dark woolen cloak--made up of the pain and disappointment life has thrown my way.

What does it mean, then, to love? To be truly intimate with another person? Does it mean you can cast off your layers and show that person your inner doll?

I'm going to ponder all this some more. I welcome your thoughts.

Monday, March 1, 2010

(Re) Defining Self

I received some good news last week. The editor of the online poetry journal, Strong Verse, contacted me in response to a poem I submitted. They would like to publish it. Could they have my mailing address (to send the check) and a brief bio?

Yah. You betcha! :-) Could I get you some home-baked cookies to go with that?

Strong Verse is the poetry site started by writer Orson Scott Card (their motto is "Good poetry is meant to be understood, not decoded.") I am incredibly impressed with all of the poems I've read on the site. There is a lot of bad poetry out there, but the work on this site is wonderful, and I would classify some of the pieces as downright brilliant. So I am incredibly thrilled and honored to be published by them.

So, have I "become" a writer?

I've been writing poetry since I could write. I have very distinct memories of writing poems as early as fourth grade. In seventh grade, I blew my English teacher away with a short story I wrote, about a girl who was a shoplifter. I remember her writing a glowing response, and including the comment that I was "very empathetic." I had no idea what that meant at the time. When I asked her, she told me to look it up. She also told me to keep writing.

In high school and early college, writing poetry kept me sane as I dealt with the tumultuous, tidal feelings that are part of adolescence. In the back of my high school yearbook--in the section where they print what the graduates want to be when they grow up--I wrote, "To become a writer."

So naturally, in the frustrating non-linear way I seem to have handled much of my life, I primarily studied communication as an undergrad. I did minor in English. And took a lot of psychology. Upon graduation I took a job in radio sales. Then customer service. Then inside sales management. Then I took classes in anthropology and archaeology...met my future husband, and went back to school for a graduate degree in psychology...moved to the Chicagoland area... instead of finding a way to finish the semester toward my psychology Masters, I switched to Sociology...we moved back to New England, I took a job as a Research/TA Assistant. Had two kids...etc...

After twenty years, I have come back around to writing. Through everything, it has remained my passion. I have begun to refer to myself as a writer--trying it on for size, tentatively, as though it were an exotic, overpriced hat.

I write. I am a writer.