Writing

I am finding repeatedly that there are not words for the things I so desperately want to put into words and I feel as if I am incompetent. I feel as if there are so very many words, surely some can be found… and yet, I return to the ones I use daily and they are not suitable, not broad enough, or narrow enough, high enough, or deep enough – and my heart sighs. I try sometimes to fill the void of words with the language of poetry, because it truly is a beast and tongue all its own. There are times, however, that even poetry will not encompass what needs to be encompassed, though, it may fail with more grace.

I once wrote a small something to a friend of mine in regard to one of their poems: Do you have a translator to cross for us the ground between that languid land of poetry and the usual one of simple English? I’d very much like to meet him. – I have no such translator. And really, most times, I need a translator for my soul – changing that complicated, interwoven language into some understandable, heart-breaking, and beautiful English. I cannot find one. I don’t know that anyone can. God. God I’m sure has such a translator as he lent it to David for the Psalms and King Solomon for his song of love and passion and Andrew Osenga for his songs of loneliness and whisperings and glimpses of the answer, the answer, the answer.

I sometimes want to give up – just stop trying to put into words what cannot stand to be contained. Oh, but I long so to capture it! So I keep trying, and I pray for God to lend me his translator – the one he lent to David, to King Solomon, to Andrew Osenga, to my momma, to authors – Ann Voskamp, C.S. Lewis, Donald Miller – to songbirds, to poets.  Sometimes, when I cannot stand the things pent up inside of myself, when I can hardly breathe or think because they have wrapped themselves so around me, I open my mouth and release a mournful, joyful, complicated, interwoven note. It’s rarely followed by another, rarely filled with words, but it’s an utterance of the soul and it feels free and it feels like the translator has come and gone in the seconds that the note lasts and my heart leaps at his brief presence and aches that it was, indeed, brief. That’s how it feels though, I know, when the soul is allowed to speak. Writing for hours on end when words flow like honey and emotions like milk – that’s the soul being allowed to speak. Listening to other people who have managed to contact that translator – that’s the soul fluttering in its space, bursting with things to be released and no way to release them. I can speak only the language of the three-dimensional world I know – and even that to only a certain extent – and so the four, five, six, seven dimension of the soul and its ponderings and longings are lost in translation, even if you do have a translator. So, I write what I can, how I can. Sing what I can, how I can. Become lost in a music as well as I can, however I can. Open the cage, let that fluttering bird fly beautifully and sing its song, even if I cannot see every dip and glide, even if I cannot hear every note.

I realize now that writing is not a struggle to capture what is somehow floating in the air as I often feel. Rather, it is a release of something deep inside of oneself. Writing is an utterance of the soul.

The “Tortured Genius”

I just had what I believe could be classified as a mental breakdown. I could probably give a million reasons as to why this happened (though really, I’m not sure) I am sure that my entire system tried very hard to be in war and shut down all at once because I was so very overwhelmed. There’s really not even a logical explanation for my overwhelmedness, but I’m learning that there doesn’t always need to be a reason, explanation, or formula. There are literally a million things going on inside of me at any given point in time – millions. I have so many thoughts, prayers, worries, thoughts, stories, words, more thoughts, ideas, and more thoughts running and/or rampaging through my head all of the time that its really any wonder I can spit out a half-decent sentence.

At the beginning of last school year, I was studying Western Civilization and it was while studying said topic that I came across the idea that some artist (or musician… I really can’t remember… tells you how well that course went) that was singlehandedly responsible for introducing artists and musicians as the stereotyped “tortured genius.” I ravished that. It was so very intriguing to me and I found myself half wishing to become that and was half afraid that I already had. I know for certain now that I am, at least on occasion, the tortured genius. This is not at all a claim to be genius. No, because the stereotype of tortured genius is not really so much genius as insane. It’s one who is full so completely, so constantly, of thoughts that the thoughts become a plague – regardless of the beauty, ingenuity, wonderment, brilliance of any of them because one cannot really be separated from the other. It’s a person who’s mind is like standing in the middle of 471 with cars speeding on either side of you at indistinguishable rates in numerous directions – it’s like standing there with music yelling directly into your ears while you’re trying to catch full sight of every single car while you’re working through an advanced, high-level, really-super-disgustingly-difficult physics equation… or a simple geometry problem. That’s what pushed me over the edge – a simple geometry problem. I was so very distracted and bothered by the music and the cars that I couldn’t stop or read or capture, even though (and this is the most frustrating part) they were my freakin’ cars, that I couldn’t remember anything that I used to know about geometry and I couldn’t remember how to apply anything that I couldn’t remember in the first place and my stomach revolted and my ears stopped listening to anything and I felt like screaming and crying and throwing something very hard and maybe hitting something too.

I somehow (mostly likely by some grace of God I didn’t even think I needed) stepped calmly away from my desk, leaving the scattered mess as it was, and walked into the kitchen, trying very hard not to rip the TV, which my brother was watching, out of the cabinet and fling it with good riddance into the yard. Mom was on the phone. Deep breaths. Sit on down.  I pulled myself onto the counter and waited. She looked at me questioningly – still on the phone. Still on the phone. Get off the phone – I’m having a breakdown… can’t you see from the fact that I’m calmly sitting on the counter, breathing like a normal person that I’m having a break down. “Mom?” Opening my mouth seemed to make my stomach think that throwing up was a good idea – my neck pricked at the thought and I bit my lip – the only thing I could think to do to keep my stomach in place.

What is she talking about?… Going somewhere. Going somewhere! I don’t have time to go somewhere – I have hours of work still! Out to eat… with friends… I’d rather do that… I don’t want hours of work… maybe if I move that to tomorrow- NO! what are you saying? You’ll get behind – behind is bad, very bad, remember? That’s why you’re doing geometry now… geometry… will not be sick, will not be sick, will not be sick “Mags?” oh! Right, mom – breathe – don’t be sick. I explained to her in as few words as possible my current problem (leaving out the impending stomach issue seeing as I figured if I didn’t talk about it, it might go away) and she told me to stop working and write. I love my mother.

So, that’s what I did. I returned to my desk, which was really unrecognizable underneath the great pile of unfinished things that spewed like vomit all over its top. I cleared, slowly, calmly, the pile, finding spaces for all of it in whatever drawer was nearest and had space. And once everything but my computer, my lamp, a glass of water, and a cup of cold coffee was entirely gone, I sat and I wrote this. And now that I have written it, my stomach has stopped its incessant churning and flopping and my shoulders are less tense and I can breathe without having to first remind myself how and the word “geometry” doesn’t make me want to die (completely) – you see, all of this was at least one car, and that’s one less I have to try to capture, and one less I have to try to figure out, and one less I have to slow down.

Ironically, I had earlier written the beginnings of a piece that was to lead into my fascination with the stereotyped of “tortured genius” – little did I know I would prove to the world, or perhaps myself, or perhaps neither, that I am just that… at least sometimes. And I wonder if there’s a remedy for this ever-so-intriguing and not-so-very-desirable condition of sorts. There is. Mom knew. She’s known for a long time actually. Write. Or sing. Or Dance. Or run. Or play the trombone. It’s different for everyone, really. And we all, I believe, are ‘tortured genius’ at some point or another. We are all, at one point or another, so very full of the beautiful things God put inside of us that it drives us to insanity. This point comes not because God gives us more than we can handle. It comes because God gives us plenty and we do not pay attention to it – we shove it into some dark corner for later when we have less work to do, less errands to run, less people to see, and it sits there refusing to be but under a damper, screaming in beautiful, rebellious protest until we have to pay attention and make use of it.

This – these words and philosophies and speculations and yes, insanity – is a flood of light that’s been sitting under a bushel for days because I was too busy to let it shine. We are created to shine. We sometimes cannot avoid busyness – and we can surely shine in the midst of that – but, I think each of us has something inside of themselves that deserves time all its own to be released, and once we give it permission to be, it changes things – it alters the very air around us. It calls forth some deep thing and says to it “live in freedom” and we understand, whether we know it or not. God said this to me the other day:

   “Don’t hide or shirk from that, don’t run from it. It’s part of you. I need  you as you are. I need children. I need imagination and beauty-seekers. I need C.S. Lewis’ and artists and adventurers and whimsical beings that say “marvelously” in what most would consider the wrong context. Don’t hide who you are.”

This is to everyone. Not that everyone is like that – not that anyone who isn’t like that is wrong or less glorious or whatever other bad connotation one could find. What I mean is that all of us have something that is very much only us. Each of us is a unique instrument in his rhapsody that makes a sound only we can make. God admires talent and beauty– he spread these things all over the place so that each of us could proclaim him and his truth in a vast, complex way that only we can. And by shoving those things into dark corners so that we can finish our school work on time is not doing him or ourselves any credit. What is a symphony shy an instrument? A story without every character? A clock that’s missing a gear? We have beautiful things pent up inside ourselves that we have only begun to realize and God is calling us to find them, to capture them, to make them obedient to Christ, and to fling ourselves wide open, displaying all of the glory therein, pushing back the darkness, waking things long dead with just one note, just one word, just one step, one twirl, one smile, one touch, one nail, one shot, one shout – behold! Our Maker is wonderful and we worship him with what we are.