This is the second part of what will hopefully be a nine-part entry in the River of Mnemosyne challenge that’s going on over at The Tenth Daughter of Memory.
I’ve lived my life in limbo, ping-ponging between my myriad fears, paralyzed. At this point in time, I cling to the hope that I am more than the sum of my all of my fears, that in my roles of wife, mother, teacher, friend, I have faced, challenged, surmounted them all and reached some sort of state of grace on the other side.
I know this not to be true, yet I cling to that belief with more tenacity that I cling to all others.
If I persevere all will be well, and I will be happy. Such are dreams and illusions, hopes and hallucinations.
Between the twin torrents of my fears of failure and success lies the desert of my fear that no matter what, I am just not good enough, and that sooner or later I will be exposed as the fraud and charlatan that I am.
And between the lines of fear and blame, I wonder just how much or how long I’m doomed to repeat my mistakes.
I self-identify in the following ways: wife, mother, teacher, friend, writer. It’s telling, I think, that it is only as the last one that I see the real me. No hats, no masks, no personas or preconceptions.
I am terrified of writing. It guts me, hollows me out, when the words cut loose and pour out, cascading like they’ll never stop. Because it’s me, distilled and unedited, my self created and expressed in ways and words no one else has.
When they slide under my skin and burrow into my brain, and slash and claw but won’t come out. When they don’t come out, I am terrified of not writing. Of not being able to write.
Because if the words don’t come out, if I can’t call them, birth them, if they don’t exist, who am I?
I use words for a living. They are my tools, my weapons, and my stock in trade. I stand in front of a high school classroom of children, an average of thirty a class, a hundred a day, and spray them, sometimes scattershot, to educate, to entertain, to enlighten. After more than a decade I am comfortable in front of a classroom. I slide into teacher; put on my persona, and like an actor, the show goes on.
For over a quarter of a century I have been a wife and mother. My words have whispered my love and comfort; have created laughter and dried tears. My words have met needs; been consumed and subsumed and I see my words in my children, in my life.
But spoken words are fleeting. Written words bleed; into your soul, out through your fingers, onto a piece of paper or a blank screen and they are forever. They burn and writhe, but you can hold them, shape them, and they are you.
Sharp edged like a razor or serrated, jagged and slashing, they ghost along neural pathways, ghost in the walls, whisper in the silence and the shadows. Swirling in the obscure mist of memory, just out of reach, they murmur in the dark about love, and hope and dreams. When I fear I’ve forgotten how to dream, when I fear I can’t find the words when I really need them, they break in a wave, tidal, dragging me in and pulling me under.
And sometimes, when they run endlessly, bitter and acid, dripping with venom or dancing with joy, my head hurts from all the words; from the lack of sleep, the lack of sanity they bring me.
I’ve stood in the doorways of my children’s bedrooms and watched them sleep, listened to the soft whisper of their breathing. I counted my blessings, counted myself lucky. And later, wrapped up in the heft and the weight of the moment as the silence and the dark congeal around me, my eyes adjust to the backlit glow of a blank screen and I wait, listen for the rhythm of the words.
Sometimes I can’t quite remember, can’t quite put the pieces of the puzzle together. Everything is locked up in memory.
But I face my fear and dream, and something deep inside shifts, raw and sharp and clear as crystal, unlocks the memory, and the words flow, collide, ignite.
And I write.