Friday, September 9, 2011
The Process: Ecstatic or Not So Ecstatic
The first time I heard this song, I cried. Let me rephrase that; I wept. Okay, perhaps I sobbed. Those words went through my heart like a wooden stake through a vampire's heart. I felt like I was disintegrating just like those vampires on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I didn't understand my reaction at the time. I was happy. My life was nearly perfect. So why did I have such a strong reaction to a simple song about losing one's self in the presence of another person?
This is the power of words. They resonate sometimes with our inner selves in a way we don't understand at the time. And, it's why I love words so very much.
I've been working on compiling my poetry to publish in books, and that means reading those poems. It means getting in touch with emotions and memories that I tend to avoid in my daily life. It means deciding how much of my truth I want you to see. It means risking putting it all out there and having you reject me. It means having people read their own meanings into poetry that comes from a very deep place in my psyche and allowing that to be. It means opening the vein of vulnerability that has scared me since... well, pretty much since I can remember.
It reminds me that honesty and vulnerability are not the same thing. I have no problem being honest but vulnerable is a different story. Give you something that might hurt me? I don't think so. Some of you may remember I spent all of 2010 working on allowing myself to be more vulnerable. See Vulnerability, I Once Considered You a Curse Word. (Oh, it's kind of long, so you might want to finish this before you go check it out.)
So back to the song's effect on me. I listened to it this morning once, twice, thrice... Suddenly something dawned on me. It seems highly likely that the first time I heard Madonna's X-static Process, it hit a vessel that was already bleeding into my poetry and continued until it gushed out in my realization of no longer recognizing myself. I worked on the book of poetry that includes poems on the theme of losing and finding one's self most of yesterday. At some point during the process, X-static Process came to rest in my mind until it wouldn't shut up. It's easy to lose ourselves sometimes when we get caught up in trying to be "better" people or to fit in or to make a relationship of some sort work. The truth of who we are will always bleed through in the end though.
I've found that sometimes I have to use distractions as I work through my poetry. A text conversation with a friend that pulls me out of reading every single poem, watching a football game to keep from getting absorbed in the memories sparked by the poems, or scheduling a mundane task to force me away from my desk for a few minutes. All have worked well.
I know that probably sounds counterproductive. After all, complete concentration should be the way to make quick work of compiling the poems into books, but when the memories begin to drown me I lose that focus anyway.
For many of my writing projects, complete focus is necessary and I shut out, actively avoid, any distractions, but this project isn't like that. The problem is how easily I get sucked into my memories and start feeling exactly how I felt at the time I wrote the poem.
Old memories and emotions stirring can bring us to new truths, expose the lies we told ourselves at the time or maybe even for years afterward, or sometimes trick us into believing the memory even if it has morphed into a fantasy.
When those stirrings occur, whether triggered by something you wrote, something you read, or something you heard, the only thing you can do is pay attention. So often we forget to pay attention to our own lives, to our own hearts, to our own truths. Then we find ourselves floating through life without really feeling or thinking or engaging. When something snaps us out of that float, it's time to pay attention even if we don't like the message coming our way.
And, now back to immersing myself in poetry and memories. Somehow writing this blog wasn't quite the distraction I'd hoped it would be...
T. L. Cooper grew up on a farm in Tollesboro, Kentucky. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Eastern Kentucky University. Her poems, short stories, articles, and essays have appeared online, in books, and in magazines. Her published work includes a novel, All She Ever Wanted and four books of poetry. When not writing, she enjoys yoga, golf, and traveling. Currently, she resides in Albany, Oregon.