Writing Against the Taboos

I’m supposed to stay away from the taboos. This is both what my doctor and Michelle recommend. This is a time of rest, they say. They remind me that the tender weeks after a mental collapse need to be calm, with near-zero stress.

I don’t disagree. Asylum means sanctuary, refuge, protection. True asylum is a long period given to healing after a psychotic episode. Back in the day, those who could afford it sent their broken loved ones to quiet places in the countryside, in the fresh air, far from the world’s din. Rest, they knew, quietude, calmness and a retreat from the world, was the way to save their minds.

I try to do that. But if I went away to one of my favorite regions for a month, such as the Appalachian Smokey Mountains, I would escape the din of the world. But there would be no escaping the past or the bipolar storm. They wouldn’t follow me to the asylum. They’d be there already, waiting.

I’ve written all my adult life, in part to make sense of the world, and when it made no sense, at all, kept writing to probe the absurdity. Writing is my way of thinking. Or rather, I think better in silence and solitude, with pen and journal in hand. Writing has been one way to confront the world, wrestle it, put it in a grapple-hold for the time I’m putting the words down. It begins with a young man filling a journal with pages of angst, frustration, love, assholes, friends and foes. Something’s released. A clarity comes forth, even a touch of illumination.

Somewhere along the line, the journal becomes more. Instead of slashing emotions on the page, the writer considers how to write about what disturbs him. Word choice becomes important. Length of sentences, where to put a comma (or not), how to rouse the emotions not only in himself but other possible readers—these considerations become everything.

And there it is: raw humanity put on the literary blacksmith’s anvil, where he shapes it into something new. Pain is the beginning of art. Without pain, art does not exist. Nor would I. That’s why I write.

3 comments

  1. Somehow, in the midst of struggles, you managed to help students get “woke” to the beauty of words in poetry today. I bet you helped them understand the asylum, the refuge, that someone else’s words can bring. I didn’t hear you today, but I heard the students’ words about you – and you reached them.

    1. Oh goodness, Gaile, thanks so much for saying that. One never knows, if a performance such as yesterday’s, regarding the cages people put on us, makes sense to the audience. So, thanks for your words.

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