"I created this blog with the intention of posting at least once a week but somehow it's been a month since my last post," says everyone who has started a blog, right? Or is it just me with all my fear and laziness? I blame my lack of writing on the the fatigue that comes from being a first year teacher while adjusting to a new culture, but I think that may be dishonest. I think that each word represents a piece of vulnerability that I'm so often unwilling to offer. At the recommendation of a friend, I started reading a book called "The Gifts of Imperfection." To be honest, I kind of hate it. I would still love for everyone to think that I am perfect, that I never feel ashamed, that I never mess up, that I never feel unsure. The truth is that I do not want to know the gifts of imperfection because I still hope that I can maintain a facade of perfection. Thus, no posting. I know for a fact that I will miss the mark in this post and anything I ever write. I will say something untrue. I will be too vulnerable with what I share and feel ashamed later. As an English major and English teacher, I will stain my credibility with a grammatical mistake or a lack of strong verbs. (Oh the horror!)
When I think about what I truly want to achieve through my writing, though, the word that comes to mind is "honesty." There is a part of me that would love to post eloquent travel blogs and trendy fashion pieces, but when I sit down at the computer my heart pounds "honesty." Writing can be used to honey-glaze our lives, taking off the edge of bitterness and leaving us with only sweetness. But writing can also strip away the layers of politeness and present the raw data. We get swept away in writing that entertains and woos. We rely on writing that informs. But, we linger with writing that puts words to what we already know to be true.
If we do not linger, we flee because there are only two choices when confronted with this type of writing. We reflect and nod in agreement or we turn our backs and chase the rose-colored dream. I love the dream. I feel like my life is a series of trains. I keep trying to buy the ticket for the pretty, freshly-painted train to dreamland, but instead I become engulfed every time in a crowd of slightly battered regular folk boarding the reality train. And I keep wanting to write the story about how I arrived in that ultimate dreamland with all my flawless friends, but I'm not on that train. My train experiences lots of hair-raising screeches and some crying babies but also a lot of belly laughing and conversations revealing warm intimacy between friends. I find the atmosphere so difficult to describe because the images are at once so dear and so hard. God must see it all so simply, but for me its a complex web with me tied up in the middle.
So, I hope you will forgive my fumbling for words and my refusal to pretend I have a pretty story to tell or all the answers tied up in bows. You might prefer more sugar in your coffee, but I'm starting to like the black stuff because it celebrates coffee instead of masking it. And I think I prefer representing the raw beauty of life in my writing to painting over it in pretty pastels.
Without realizing what I was doing, I recently chose a novel to read for pleasure that masterfully exhibits honest, realistic writing. I have not yet finished Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Ubervilles, but I was overcome by the grim symbolism in this passage as a hunted, wounded woman empathizes with hunted, wounded birds. Tess, the heroine, has been abused and cast off for years and is in this very scene hiding in the bushes from a man who seeks to accuse and harm her. While you miss the subtle connections to the full story, the tone of the novel is clearly apparent in this passage, which I will leave you with:
"She crept from under her hillock of leaves and looked around boldly. Then she perceived what had been going on to disturb her. The plantation wherein she had taken shelter ran down at this spot into a peak...Under the trees several pheasants lay about, their rich plumage dabbled with blood; some were dead, some feebly twitching a wing, some staring up at the sky, some pulsating quickly, some contorted, some stretched out -all of them writhing in agony except the fortunate ones whose tortures had ended during the night by the inability of nature to bear more.
With the impulse of a soul who could feel for kindred sufferers as much as for herself, Tess's first thought was to put the still-living birds out of their torture, and to this end with her own hands she broke the necks of as many as she could find leaving them to lie where she had found them till the gamekeepers should come - as they probably would come - to look for them a second time.
Poor darlings-to suppose myself the most miserable being on earth in the sight o' such misery as yours!' she exclaimed, her tears running down as she killed the birds tenderly. 'And not a twinge of bodily pain about me! I be not mangled, and I be not bleeding, and I have two hands to feed and clothe me.' She was ashamed of herself for the gloom of the night, based on nothing more tangible than a sense of condemnation under an arbitrary law of society which had no foundation in nature."