03.17 – Purpose
I have found myself these last few days struggling for a thread to tie my life together. I have, in the darkness of my thoughts, bumped up against the hard shell of a question that takes many guises: what am I doing? What is this all about? Where am I going? These questions are both new and old; both an arrival and a return. They are not questions I have asked myself for a time, and questions that, for the time before that, I had answers for. But as I resurface, as I awaken from the stupor that I have for so long been submerged in, these questions once again present themselves.
They are not bothersome to me, in fact, writing that last sentence it almost felt as if my sentries were reporting for duty after a long period of dormancy; old soldiers shaking off the rust and ready once again to do battle for their lord. It feels good to ask these questions; it is more difficult not to have ready answers.
For a time, from about 18 to 24, the answer to these questions was writing, because there was nothing else. My life was fodder for the ink I spilled and the keys I punched. The experiences I had were to be had, if for nothing else, to give me something to write about. The pain had a purpose, the discomfort had a counterweight that made something of it. The craft of writing formed me, created context from my joys and sorrows, gave them value and contextualized them against a backdrop of continuing narration, and became just a bit more heroic reflected back at me from the page. But when I stopped writing, or as it felt, when the writing stopped, the discomfort, the pain, the sorrow, the joy all ceased to have context, they all merely became threads in a life that had no anchor. There was no way to understand what I was experiencing anymore.
It is, I suppose, unfair to tell only this thread of the story, to limit what is an otherwise expansive tale to just this little trickle, and yet, it also seems appropriate and somehow right to say that when I stopped writing, my life fell apart. I don’t know how to exist outside of the page, or perhaps I don’t know how to exist well and responsibly without this paper mirror to reflect me to myself. And, in a larger sense, when the writing stopped I lost a large part of my identity and had to dive deep to find myself again.
It has been a long time underwater, but worth the struggle. I have resurfaced stronger than I was before, with knowledge of the darkness that makes me appreciate the light in a new and useful way. I have returned with a purpose that transcends my craft and an understanding of myself that has nothing to do with what I do. I never want to have to go without writing again for as long as I have, but if I have to, I know that I can without my self sinking into the darkness and torpor of fear, insecurity and ignorance, because of the pearl I pried from the oyster’s resisting lips.
It is that pearl, that nascent sense of self that is so thrilling and so persistently butts itself against this question of purpose and meaning. It is no longer enough to say writing, for I have already put writing down and survived. It seems that I can live without writing, though I did not live well without it. Perhaps writing is merely one vein or symptom of what I am about. What writing shares with my other passion, process, is the desire to articulate, this need to express what it is we’re doing and, if possible, why. My writing, this journal, is my process of self-reflection and self-discovery. I have become a gifted writer through the constant practice of self-process, hashing and rehashing my understanding of my self, my world and the precarious place where the two of those things meet that is my experience in the world. Writing is, really, nothing more than the fruit of this labor that is process.
This is what I look for instinctively and respond to in every moment, why I desire so much the immediate intimacy with strangers and loathe/love with every fiber of my being dishonesty, misdirection, omission, falsification and misclassification, because they clot the process, but also give me an opportunity to engage in the process. It is why I am so constantly caught up in semantics, because what we mean when we say what we say is foundational to the concepts of understanding and trust, without which the process suffers, erodes, decays and ultimately damages.
So this is what I am here for. This is what gets me off. This is the direction that my needle is always pointing. I don’t think I’m very good at it yet. I think the joy of process has led me down many dysfunctional roads, because its pull is so strong and the rest of my psychic, emotional and relational muscles were so weak. I had almost boundaries four years ago, and the last four years have been little if not the slowly dawning realization that I had no borders and the mess that that lack has caused. I’ve only begun to begin mending my fences, and I know that there’s a lot of ground to cover, but I know the only way that I’m ever going to get any of this done is to know what’s driving me in every nail I hammer. That’s not easy to do, but I know that given enough time and enough practice it’s something that will come to me, change me and the world around me as well.