The Only Way Out

 

I believed the stories others told me, and those darker stories I carry with me.

I didn’t understand story.

My voice only sang out in poetry.

I’d wasted most of my life on one dream.

I quit writing stories for nearly a year. I couldn’t not write and there was poetry. . I tried for three days to quit writing anything. Then a poet I had met online sent a box full of volumes of poetry to the library I helped create and help run and still run today. Having convinced myself I had no talent or soul for writing stories, it hurt to try to pick up a novel.

I read those chapbooks, the magazines, the collections, everything the poet sent in that box. I read them until verse spilled out of me and I carried a hardback notebook with me. I turned my ghosts into poems. To do so, I had to examine them in new ways. Get up close, smell the decay that reaches forward into the present.

I thought I knew myself. The poet. I threw myself in and there I didn’t sink. I floated. I raised my head up and let the sunlight shimmer across the water while I learned to breathe again.

I was lost. Yet, somehow, I was right where I needed to be. It’s a hardscrabble, frightening place. Starting from square one. My quest became spiritual and when I acknowledged my pain and need for healing, life sent me new friends. And teachers.

There are adventures in that place called Uncertain. I joined a meditation group and bought a vintage typewriter. I raised a tent up with friends and typed up poetry for near or perfect strangers. Connection between an artist, something created, and the viewer or reader is tangible. When it’s right, it raises the hair up on your arms. People you’ve just met tell you their secrets and ask you to tell them back in mantras, in meditations.

One of them said, “You tell stories with your poetry.”

I wanted to kiss her on the cheek in gratitude.

The stories never stopped, though I turned away from them. They would not be quiet. Characters became real on my own and visited me in my dreams. I knew their hearts even as they held me captive at night. They weren’t glimmers of ideas. Anecdotes. They wanted something only I could give them.

“Tell our story,” they demanded.

Like me, they wanted connection.

Slowly, I began to write stories again. Abbreviated things. I entered a contest and won. My secret is the story pays homage to a girl I once knew. I hated her for a long time because I couldn’t understand how brave she’d been. I saw only her vulnerability, her raw need to survive. And I called her selfish, a fool. I love and admire that girl now. She wasn’t perfect, but she taught me how to love. How to be kind. To stand in awe of life once in awhile.

I began to work on a novel I had wanted to write for over two years. I knew the main characters- sisters who paid visits to me during the night. Their voices were loudest, their instinct for survival the strongest.

Their story scares the hell out of me.

Tonia, the fantasy writer?

Now I have a notebook full of scenes, ideas, the story of a relationship between sisters as well as this twisted fairy tale of how a girl who survived becomes an evil queen. I’m writing pages now and down the rabbit hole I go. A little more each day.

It’s fucking weird and incredible here in this story world of mine. Here the Wyrdlings who once ruled are coming into Machiavellian power again. Here a scared girl becomes a terrifying queen. Here love equals pain. (I think this truth scares me the most on bad days.)

I have calluses from all this digging. My back aches from tearing down this wall, brick by brick.

It’s delirious and maddening and I am laying every shadow out in the sun.  Jung said, “To confront a person with his shadow is to show him his own light.”

This is my missive. I am a storyteller. The work matters and I must remember this.

The only way out is through.

 

 

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