I have always been a writer.
I didn’t call myself a writer, if I mentioned my writing I could never answer the question “What do you write?” without sounding like a brooding angst-ridden child, a misunderstood teen or a dreamy adult wearing glitter and bunny slippers.
“Oh you know, just stuff” I would say if the topic came up, the sound of my voice dwindling away like a poorly marked hiking trail. In what way was I a real writer? I didn’t have a Pulitzer, a hit TV show or a stack of hardcoverred-diary editions of my novel on my coffee table. I didn’t even have a coffee table.

It started when I learned how to write in the first grade, in the days before children had flash cards in utero.  Back then we had to wait five long years before finding out about the alphabet and the fact that X always stands for Xylophone. I was drawn to it, my early attempts taking place in a tiny red diary with a lock I had to break immediately because I lost the key.  The date was printed across the top of each page in formal gold letters, perfectly in line with my overly curly childish printing. I was inconsistent and lazy about it, but also fiercely law-abiding. I only used the pages reflecting the actual date, leaving huge, empty gaps between entries.

I wrote self-consciously for the invisible but inevitable audience and censored myself mightily,  carefully listing all the girls in my class as my best friends in case someone read it. I practiced adult concepts like grief and shock, describing my reaction to the news of John Lennon’s murder as it came on the radio in my sunny suburban bedroom (“why do the coolest people always die?”) and deciding which candidate in the 1976 Presidential election had a nicer smile (“Jimmy Carter, and anyway Ford already had his turn.”)

As I bumped through adolescence, barely surviving the horror of eight female roommates in college and restlessly moving around both coasts of the Continental United States, writing was my documentarian. Upon the reflection of Post Production however, it morphed into a Morgan Freeman narration.
“Driving cross country with Connie and living in a tent along the way is awesome, we have charmed lives!” became “She was ignorant of the Mafia 3993734451_710c657a61snitches littering the underground of the Nevada Desert and pulled over to sleep in the utter pitch black of night in the perfect spot to be abducted by aliens or the family from The Hills Have Eyes.”

Closing my head in a writing book supported me through many times when I was confused or depressed, painting an accurate picture of how I surrounded myself with exactly the things that  confused and depressed me.  Now, when I go back and read it I want to yell at it like a horror movie as if shouting words at words could change the past.
“I don’t want to hurt his feelings.”
“You mean the guy who left you having an asthma attack at the drug store to buy cigarettes with the money you wanted to use on an inhaler? That guy?”
“I don’t understand why she acts like that.”
“She’s this new thing they just invented called A Bitch.”
“I can’t believe I’m almost 29, so old!”
“Shut up, shut up, shut UP.”

My writing is like a trail of breadcrumbs marking my path along Stupid Pass to Even Stupid-er Valley, to the peak of Too-Stupid-To-Live Mountain, and I want to get rid of the witness like the unfortunate skeletons under the desert sand, erase them like a Nixon tape.

But when I skip ahead to my adult self, writing to track the hurts and cruelties that revealed my  failed marriage like a terrible game of connect the dots, grieving for what I lost, cheering in gratitude for what I had (“1. My son 2. My son 3. My son”) it gets real. And it gets better.

Now I read my writing more like an adventure than a drama. I imagine myself like the very end of the first Rocky movie, right after the fight, after he’s cleaned the blood off his face, where he goes to sleep that night (under the supervision of a doctor in case he slips into a coma) and knows that love, a mooching brother-in-law and Mr. T all lay in his future because he kicked ass today and will kick ass tomorrow.mr-t

Remember that? Where he took a moment to appreciate that giving it everything he had got him here?  And feeling the joy that now he knew for certain that it would take him anywhere he wanted to go? No?
Oh, that’s because I just wrote it.
Did I mention that I’m a writer?

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