Friday, August 24, 2012

RECOGNIZING YOUR VOICE

My younger brother, Richard, once summed up what I do for a living this way: "No heavy lifting."

My, but that boy can cut through the bullshit in the most refreshing way.

He's right. Writing (typing) for a paycheck is physically one of the least demanding jobs any human can have. Once you've mastered the ability to coordinate your hands all you have to do is hit keys and form words, sentences, paragraphs. As long as they flow in semi-coherent fashion (and, for journalism, are factually accurate) there is no problem.

Calloused hands? An aching back from toting boxes? Sore knees and feet? Nope, nope and nope.

Yup. No heavy lifting.

But there is a weight, unseen but omnipresent, and sometimes it settles on your chest until you swear it will crush your heart and spirit. It's the weight of words, of things unsaid.

A friend told me it was too hard to read what I've been writing because so many of the words seemed to glorify what was and denigrate what is. That's a fair criticism. I've spent months immersed in a self-imposed cone of silence. I've been an omphaloskeptic, more interested in contemplating my own navel. Complacent self-absorption is not a good thing, not when there is so much life still to live.

It has warped the sound of my own voice. In the past few weeks I've built up a surplus of unwritten sentiments, and the weight is pushing down, pressing down on my heart. My writing voice has become morose, sometimes stridently unhappy. Which wouldn't be bad if that's how I felt, but it isn't. Most days I'm alright. Maybe not Happy or Great, but why in hell would I complain? I'm alive, my brains aren't scrambled, I know my alphabet, and I can count to 10. Huzzah!

Do I wish for more? Damned straight I do. Right now I'm working on finishing a collection of writings, old and new, and (cross your fingers) they should be compiled and ready to publish in time for the holiday season, so think of someone you'd like to torture and buy a copy, why don't you?

I'm working on a screenplay with a couple people I admire, and maybe I can help them punch up a project that's frankly fascinating.

I'm halfway through the dystopian novel, and there are places where the writing is fine, very fine. It sounds original. This comes from a guy who has 5,000-plus published pieces and thinks a half-dozen of them are decent. I think I've got something here, something that will endure, and I'm pretty stoked.

So when I hear that my words are being viewed in a way I didn't intend, I listen. I adjust the horizontal and the vertical. Writing, like life, involves a series of adjustments and fine-tuning. Only a simpleton thinks otherwise.

Next week marks four months since the stroke. Soon it will be autumn, and I approach the season in its spirit. The air will change, become brisker. People will start to think about the happiness that comes with the holidays. Hope is usually associated with spring, but I'm going to see if the same holds true for autumn. Because I believe there is hope and happiness in my future, regardless of who is in my life. I can wish for some things and work to turn those wishes into realities. But that's all I can do; if others don't want me in their lives, I can wish them well, good luck and love, and hope that our paths cross again on this plain. The rest is up to them, as it should be. I'm finally OK with that.

With that light in my heart I move forward, tentative, scared, excited. For the first time since last November I wonder what the future will hold and don't automatically assume the worst.

It's a start.

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