Thursday, February 11, 2010

On being able to write

There are many reasons I have not been writing lately--and being busy is not one of them.

In many ways, I have been the opposite of busy. I have been in a funk that has kept me from doing much of anything--a funk that started last July and that I have struggled to shake.

As a matter of philosophy, I typically avoid getting too personal in my blog just as I avoid inserting myself into reviews that I write. I'm starting to rethink part of that philosophy, even though I still wish to carefully guard the privacy of my family and those who are close to me.

Moved to Write About Altar Boyz, and yet hesitating

However, I had a bit of an epiphany this past week as I thought about "Altar Boyz" and how I wished to write about it. I wanted to talk about the final song and how and why it brought me to tears. I wanted to talk about how the art reached me and how it was so powerful because it spoke to me where I was. There might not have been anyone else in the audience who was hearing what I was hearing because they might have needed to hear something else. It's not the sort of thing I would put into a review because the message was a personal one.

In this blog, where I want to talk about theater and the connections it makes with people, how can I not talk about the connections art makes with me?

Getting Personal (or more than you want to know)

As those of you who know me personally are aware, this past year has been a challenging one. I have withdrawn from many activities and people that I love because I have needed to heal. I have had many days where I could not function on even a most basic level. That has kept me from writing because every time I started, I would end up revealing more about myself than I was comfortable with. I knew I was not in a good place. I knew I was not being my best self or even my somewhat-good self. I did not want that aspect of me put on public display when I was barely able to look at myself without contempt.

In July, I was struggling with an emotional crisis that I'm still not willing to talk about except to say that I was barely holding things together. Then Richard and I lost our sixth pregnancy. After that, I wasn't holding it together at all. I'll spare you the psychological details, but suffice it to say that in layman's terms I had what could be called a mental/nervous breakdown. (Yes, I know that medically there is no such diagnosis. It's a good shortcut phrase, though, that communicates things well without a lot of technical descriptions.)

Since then, I have cocooned. I've forced myself to do as much as I could where it was required--at home, at work, in my column. This blog fell by the wayside. There were several shows I missed simply because I could not face people and keep a smile on my face. Nor was going out without my smile an option. I would feel naked. My column has suffered, but I did what I could to keep it going and make sure things got at least minimal coverage even if I couldn't give it what it and the local arts organizations deserved.

There were times when I felt myself again and thought I had recovered. Those times would last a few days, sometimes a few weeks. I constantly counted my blessings, reminding myself how much I had to be grateful for. I thanked God for giving me a husband who was patient, understanding, and nurturing. As I slipped into paralysis, he stepped up to the plate and took over the care of our family and my needs. He encouraged me, never giving up on me and reminding me that I would recover. He kept me smiling and made sure that I laughed even when things seemed the darkest. There's a reason (several actually) why 25 years after we first met that I'm still head over heels for him--and he for me.

Finding Solace

Since Christmas, things have started to pick up, albeit in small ways. I'm reading again. I'm going to the theater again. I'm crocheting again. Playing the clarinet for the first time in decades has been wonderfully nurturing. I'm still having difficulty focusing and I have days where I cannot do the things I love. Work that used to be easy and fulfilling is still difficult and sometimes impossible. I still find myself caught in a past that I would exorcise if I could. I'm also far more emotional than is typical for me and far more vulnerable than I am comfortable with. But those things are starting to subside and more and more often I'm finding myself in the mirror again instead of the stranger who has been there for so many months.

While I have tried to practice compassion for myself and be patient with the healing process, I have not always succeeded. One of the things that has frustrated me the most has been the elusiveness of writing. Writing is often a gauge of my mental health. I am not one of those who writes well when depressed. In fact, I find myself unable to write at all in those times because all of my thoughts are focused inward. For me, writing has always been a means of communication--a way of making connections with people, with ideas, with life. If there is no connection, there is no point to writing.

Wrestling with Writing

So the questions that I wrestle with now are these: Can I find a way to write about my experiences in a way that can make a connection with others? Is it better to not write in this blog until I have healed more? (Not writing at all isn't an option given that I still need to feed my family.) For that matter, can I really write about art--something that I have often said is life-changing--without bringing at least some pieces of myself to that writing? Which pieces? At what point does it become unprofessional?

They are good questions to wrestle with, but while I'm engaged in that mental exercise, I can't make any promises that I will blog more or that I won't. I want to find a way to write things that are meaningful without being self-indulgent.

In the mean time, I'm going to quote from the lyrics in Peppermint Creek's production of Altar Boyz that left me unable to stop the tears from falling as the song's message spoke so much to where I've been since this past July and the hope that I have clung to when things were bleakest:

One beam of light, is enough to see where you're going
One wrong turn, is enough to lose your way
One choice, is all you have to make
One ounce of faith could save the day
I believe, that I came to know you for a reason
I believe, that the things that you say will come true
I believe that with you in my life I'll make it
I believe in you

One Mistake, doesn't have to mean that it's over

One bad day, only means there's work to do

One night, is sometimes all it takes

To realize one thing is true
I believe, that I came to know you for a reason
I believe, that the things that you say will come true
I believe that with you in my life I'll make it
I believe in you

Take a picture of me now, take a look at who I am
Yesterday I wasn't half as strong

[Abe, Juan, Luke, and Mark]
Take a picture of us all, what we've been and what we are
Look at that, and tell me I'm wrong


Ron ur BIL said...

Sorry to hear- some thoughts...
"...but we rejoice in our sufferings
because we know that suffering brings perseverance;and perseverance,character;
...and character, hope..."


I've a plaque on my wall, just at the bottom of the stairs, with an Irish motto. "Lie down and bleed awhile- then rise and fight again". There's nothing for it but to carry on, and not to survive, but to thrive. Why not? What else do you have to do with the rest of your life?

Bridgette Redman said...

I agree, Ron, wholeheartedly. One of the reasons I hesitate to write an entry like this is that I don't wish to come across as feeling sorry for myself or asking for pity.

I know how very blessed I am. Throughout all this, I've tried to avoid ever saying, "Things will get back to what they were." I don't want to go backward--I want to go forward having learned what I need to learn to make life better than what it was before.

Life without struggle would be meaningless. Life without joy would be pointless.

So I won't scream at the fates asking why I have to go through this. (Though I am beyond frustrated at how long it is taking me to get back on my feet. Richard jokes that I should try his three-step method: "Stop that. Get a hold of yourself. Cheer up." And man, I wish that did work!)

Thank you for the words of encouragement. That's a great motto. Bleeding doesn't mean you're down--it just means you're recharging.

Bridgette Redman said...

Oh, and Ron? One of the blessings that I frequently count is the family that I have. I'm very fortunate to have you as a brother-in-law.

It may be stating the obvious, but I love you and am glad that we're family.

night watchman said...

Upward and Onward, Bridgette. Ad astra per aspera.

night watchman said...

So! On the topic of performing arts- though not maybe the ones you had in mind-

1) Are there any buskers operating frequently in Lansing? I'm always pleased to see street entertainers and I always, ALWAYS hit their tip jar. I've seen them in the airport in Chicago, on the streets in Ann Arbor, and on Maria-Hilfer-Strasse in Vienna, with a violin, a tambourine, and a little kid dancing along. Excellent.

2) When's the last time any of your readers instigated a sing in a bar? Get a motley crew of instant acquaintances semi-liquored up with a round of shots (insist that the round be reciprocated!), choose your mark, and see if you can't goad, cajole, and shame them into singing a song- ANY song, even Twinkle, Twinkle or Yankee Doodle. everyone knows at least one song. Lead off, if you must- though getting someone else to start works better. Once somebody's volunteered to be the first fool, one of the others will be braver. Of course, each effort must be followed by applause. There's not enough of this sort of thing going on, IMO. Public bellowing, I mean.