I am not a writer. But sometimes I pretend to be, when the mood strikes me, when something clicks and suddenly my head is filled: a swirling vortex of words, like somebody left the door to the library open in a tornado. It strikes suddenly, so I am racing for pencil and paper to get it all out, set the words free. Sure as I begin, someone walks in and starts talking to me, and the squall evaporates. It retreats as quickly as it arrives, back into the clouds from whence it came. That is my process; my pen is not mighty.
These thoughts plowed into my brain as I lay next to my daughter in bed a few nights ago, sleep arriving, me not daring to move for fear of rousing her. Trying to keep the storm intact, to keep other thoughts from clouding the already roaring downpour. So as soon as her breathing became heavy, I turned on the light, started scribbling on the back of Poetry Magazine - the only blank page at hand. How fitting, since in my youth I pretended wholeheartedly to be a writer, pouring out with unchecked enthusiasm so much angst and passionate emotion. Into stories. Into poetry. Books of it, that I painstakingly typed and illustrated. The last time I read it, years ago, I winced and laughed.
What I take away from that time is a memory of my creative writing professor - one day, discussing tattoos, and me declaring my concern that when I got older I would look back at them with regret. And her reply: "I don't know, I think I would look at them and think 'wow, look how cool I was!'" When I asked her if she missed being young (she was hardly old - gah - I hope my question was fueled by relevant and surrounding conversation, because this memory is painfully embarrassing) she said that she didn't, that she wouldn't relive any of it for anything, because it had all brought her to now, and each age was wonderful in itself. So much wisdom.
And I also recall the reasons I quit writing. The time in my life when I was criticized for keeping a journal. The years that beat me down and caused me to shut my creative self away in the dark, since it clearly was not welcome in the company I was keeping. Never underestimate the influence you have over others - good or bad - and never underestimate the power of those who have hurt you in the past to be able to hurt you still. Never underestimate the consequences of denying your creative self a place in your day-to-day.
I am not a photographer, but sometimes I pretend to be, bringing into my lens all the weight of years of family history and human longing. And so the cycle repeats.