So, one of the things that I am doing as part of my fancy journey of self rediscovery, is watch at least three performance poems everyday. Because it's fucking terrifying. Because I used to do it myself every week and the venue was my church. Because I used to write for at least two hours before work everyday while killing time at the coffee house down the street from my job, and at least two hours at night, while pounding Merlot in my partner's hallway (the bedrooms were full of junk) and he slept on a mattress in the living room. Writing was like breathing and poetry was the air. Having the ability to let all of my thoughts and feelings pour through my fingers, often at the exact moment I was realizing they existed, made me feel connected to something so much bigger than myself and kept me from feeling isolated, empty, and alone.
A lot of things have changed since then. I fell out with a couple of key members of my poetry community and went on to have a child with a married man. While I was pregnant with my daughter, I became convinced that if people knew what I was doing they would abandon me, so I saved them the trouble and isolated myself. My writing began to suffer. I would stare at a blank piece of paper indefinitely and the words just wouldn't come. This continued on past the birth of my daughter. The not writing. The avoiding of people who I found to be inspiring because I was certain they would judge me, and for once, I let it effect me to the point that it stopped me from living my life.
Over the course of the last 12 years I have deteriorated and have spent a not small portion of my time intentionally avoiding the writing process. I have no idea why. I have missed it, longed for it, ached for it, done all manner of completely unsatisfying things in place of it. I have had brief fits and starts where I would remember that at my core I am a writer and done some of my best work, but it still scares the shit out of me. The honesty, nakedness, and vulnerability that I demand from myself in my writing, coupled with the epiphanies, and varying degrees of evolving self awareness that come with unflinching self analysis (alright, so I flinch. whatever.)shake me to my foundation.
I recently watched a poem by Andrea Gibson on YouTube. By the time it was over I was so emotional that I couldn't stop shaking or crying long enough to form a complete coherent sentence in my head, much less say one out loud. I was scared, angry, envious, and grief-stricken all at the same time, and at the same time I knew all of the reasons why I was having those feelings and why I had been avoiding this thing that I loved so much for so long, this thing that was a part of me, that I could no longer live or breathe without.
I was grieving for the loss of the girl who wrote everyday. That fierce girl who had so much potential, so many possibilities available to her because she was so incredibly strong and determined. I was envious of the woman (and anyone else who happened to be doing the same thing) who was this force of nature on screen with her words, her voice, her lips, arms, and jaw muscles and I realized that the only difference between she and I was that she was not letting her fear consume her and prevent her from living. Regardless of this understanding, I still envied her and part me of me hated her, which brings me to my next feeling.
I was angry, mostly at myself for being such a pathetic chickenshit, but I pointed it all at her. How dare she be so incredible! How dare she be so successful doing what I want to do, but can't (because I was not letting myself)! How dare she take up so much goddamn space rockin; that mic! Doesn't she know other people (me) need the room?!?! Somehow, I actually thought with people like Andrea Gibson, Lauren Zuniga, Shira Erlichman, etc in existence there was somehow no room for me to be my fabulous fancy self and do my thing.
I don't know where the fuck that idea came from. I never used to think that way and it's not like trying out for the drill team in high school: there are not a finite number of spaces on the team of Fierce and Amazing Poets. There is plenty of room for me and I am finally beginning to understand that all of my excuses are bullshit and the only thing holding me back is me.
So. I have a multifaceted plan for facing this scary scary Thing With No Name. I am going to watch at least 3 performance poems a day. If I need to cry, and sob, and shake, so be it, but it needs to happen everyday, without fail, until this gross and debilitating fear, anger, envy, and insecurity start to dissipate and I can watch and listen without feeling the need to go fetal every time.
The second part of the plan involves writing everyday. I want to set a minimum number of words or amount of time, but I don't seem to be able to do that right now. I guess I will just have to make it up as I go along. I even have a new friend who has generously agreed to hold my virtual hand while I am watching all of the poetry, in the very likely event that I become overwhelmingly emotional again. In some ways they facilitated this by showing me the goddamn poems that triggered my extreme emotional purging. Thanks a lot!
No. Really. Thank you. You are a lovely human and I am grateful.
So, today's poems are:
"Friend Zone" by Dylan Garity
"Dear Privilege" by Amaris Diaz (Fuck. Me. So good.)
and finally...drum roll please...
"Excuse Me, I Lost My Compass, Can I Borrow Yours by Shira Erlichman (I am so in love with this woman. Seriously, I may never watch anything else for the rest of my life, just this woman over and over and over. and in my head there's that same sick mantra "You will never be as good as her. You will never be able to be in the same room with someone so amazing and powerful without turning into a bowl of oatmeal, bland, and goopy, and tasteless. You shouldn't write. You shouldn't write. You should never go to another poetry reading ever again. Everyone will judge you and laugh at you, and another thing..."
At this point I've stopped listening. I have heard all this shit before. I have said it to myself so many times that I know it all by heart. I have mistaken this bullshit propaganda for truth for a very long time and am ready to start tearing some shit up.
I didn't cry while watching today. I came close. I felt the tightness in my chest and the sting behind my eyes and I flinched and recoiled a little, but I kept watching and listening.
and I'm not sorry.