I’ve written enough, for now, about the past and its specific pains. These two weeks of blog posts have been grueling, but important, because this is the first time I’ve ever written about the toughest subjects in my life: child abuse and manic depression. Friends and family know. But I’ve never recorded, publicly, what it’s like to endure a psychotic episode, nor the pain of sex abuse.
I decided to write about them because, after this most recent attack during the holidays, I lifted my knuckle-beaten head, looked at my typewriter and said Fuck this shit. Fuck being locked in silence. I have always hated cages. Anyone who’s seen me trapped in a corner by someone else’s agenda knows that. . .well, it’s not good to trap me in a corner. I will strike out, one way or another, eventually, even if, as in this case, it takes decades to do so.
But I’m still in the aftermath of the breakdown. It takes weeks to get back to a semblance of homeostasis. There is more to the story, and I plan to continue to write about it. But for now, I need to put some salve on my soul. I need to return to those things that have taught me how to live, and live fully.
This winter, before getting sick, I had plans for The Writing Bull—namely, a podcast, which I’ll launch next week. Years ago I worked for NPR, telling stories about, well. . .they pretty much let me tell stories on anything I wanted, everything from literature, to my kids, to living in a war zone in Nicaragua. This podcast will pick up where that left off, with a special emphasis on literature and creative writing.
I want to show how literature—both reading and writing—has played a fundamental role in my survival and happiness. It has helped me see the strange, sometimes brutal, other times inspiring, complexities of the human condition. I have witnessed, up close, human beings at their most good, and at their most diabolical, both here and abroad. It is truly absurd. It can make anyone ask, To be or not to be? Literature opens a door into the absurdity, not to explain it or “figure it out,” but to live in it with a deeper understanding of the human condition. Reading literature creates empathy. Something our world desperately needs now.
I truly believe that art can set you free from whatever is caging you. Art doesn’t make cruelty go away; it hasn’t erased my past. But art, specifically, literary art, has helped me look at both the horrors of my childhood, and the horrors I’ve seen as an adult, square in the face, without flinching. A good novel will take us to those places of our minds that we don’t want to visit. It gets us there safely, where we experience the drama of existence through a well-wrought story. When we finish the book, we have a better understanding of who we are.
So, let the healing begin.
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