An up front disclaimer: this is a selfish post. A just-for-me post. The type I usually write and leave in draft forever and ever, amen. I contemplated turning comments off for this post because discussing this feels… like too much. But that’s just silly, right? I’ve been hovering over the ‘publish’ button for about an hour [edit: it just turned into
two and a halfthree hours]. I think I will just hit it [edit: now, two and a halfthree hours after I finished writing the first cut].
Today I planned to spend the day sorting paperwork: culling warranties and manuals for products we no longer own; throwing out old tax returns and their associated paperwork (I had them right back to my first ever return); organising my degrees and awards and associated stuff. At about lunchtime, I got derailed by one folder that I knew was in there, but that I hadn’t really thought about in a very long time.
I remember a time in my early 20s when things weren’t great. It has been a long time since I thought about this period in anything more than a broad remembrance of being deeply, deeply unhappy.
I opened up a folder today labeled ‘Kate – writing’. Inside were portfolios of poems and short narrative pieces that I collated for assessment in my undergraduate degree (and some other writing, too).
I knew what was in there; I knew some of these pieces of writing were loaded with emotion; I had vague ideas about some of the poems and stories; I remembered some phrases or lines from others.
I didn’t expect the affect they had on me. The visceral affect. The slam in the chest. The quiet sadness that came next.
Sure, there are some clumsy, overworked metaphors and some less than perfect phrasing. Some of the stuff is even okay and tiny little pieces of some of the poems and narratives might actually be good. But none of that actually matters.
Seeing these pieces of writing – just looking at them, as a whole bundle of stuff – had a profound impact on me. Reading them was… Something else.
I hadn’t forgotten sitting and watching every laboured breath my grandfather took, waiting with my own breath held to see if he would take another. I hadn’t forgotten sitting with my feet hanging in the pool while I wrote my grandfather’s eulogy. I hadn’t forgotten how alone I felt in my unhappiness – not in my grief, but in my unhappiness. I hadn’t forgotten that day in that thickly grassed park and how I felt sitting in the sun in that moment. I hadn’t forgotten the time the sound of my shoes slapping turned into the rhythm for and subject of a poem. I hadn’t forgotten all of the hideous, heartbreaking things – or even the happy, heartening things – I saw and did and thought and felt when I was in this place.
I hadn’t forgotten any of these things, but I had no cause to think about them until I opened up this file today. I am reeling, still, from the shock of being affected at all by my own writing, or at least the memories it invoked. I thought I might be embarrassed by the quality or maybe even amused. Not quietly sad and a bit bewildered. Not these things.
But the sadness and the bewilderment will go away and they do not compare to the overwhelming, incomprehensible unhappiness I felt at the time. And I am glad I had the opportunity to write these things while I was stuck in this unhappiness and I am glad that I can read them now and remember these moments in technicolour and I am glad that I can reflect on this monumentally fucked up time in my life from this distance and from this place where I am not deeply, deeply unhappy, but just plain old sad. Even though it has been a strange, emotional day. I am glad.