I can’t put Devotion down. Run, don’t walk, to buy it. To say I’m obsessed is an understatement. I feel as though Dani Shapiro is speaking straight from my heart, albeit far more elegantly and eloquently than I ever could. I’m about 2/3 of the way through and I have underlined at least a big chunk of most of the pages. I love Dani’s voice, she writes about the same things that are utterly preoccupying me right now, and I just don’t even have words yet for the way this story is touching me. I am sure this will be the first of many posts about this book.
But one passage in particular is on my mind today. I’ve been thinking for weeks that I needed to write about how this is my blog. Not my life. Not my spirit. I get a fair number of inquiries, from people in person and through email, people I know personally and people I don’t, asking if I am okay. These people mean well, I’m sure of it. And I am often taken aback by the question because I am more than okay. I am well. I realize that people are responding to what they read here, and I know this is a public forum and that of course I choose what I write and publish.
This is what I read in Devotion that brought this recent issue to mind:
“The poet Anne Sexton was once asked why she wrote almost exclusively about dark and difficult subjects: Pain engraves a deeper memory was her response.”
I love Anne Sexton, wrote my thesis in college on her, and any mention of her makes me feel instantly connected. I’m surprised, actually, that I had never heard this sentence. “I look for uncomplicated hymns, but love has none,” is one of my favorite quotations of both hers and all time. This one goes on that list. I think there is power and truth in those five words.
Yes. I have long responded to those who, from their experience on this blog, express concern that I seem gloomy and sad that that isn’t true – it’s just that I find in the more complicated thoughts more fertile ground for exploration. The grayer parts of my heart and head are where the interesting stuff to write about is, at least to my mind. I am not particularly interested in reading anyone writing about how fantastic and perfect their life is, least of all me. And, while my life is absolutely, inarguably rich and full and tremendously blessed, it’s not true that I experience every day as unmitigated sunshine. I don’t.
I’ve written before about how I “incline towards melancholy.” There’s no question about that. But I also firmly believe that this tendency to feel things deeply also allows me to experience a surpassing joy that might not be available to me without the darkness. I still don’t know if this connection is about capacity or contrast; I’m not sure it matters. I think I lean towards capacity, though: because of the deep scars that pain has engraved into my spirit, there is a deep repository for joy, when it comes, to fill.
The introspection on this blog is definitely part of my personality, and there is nothing inauthentic here. But the blog is also not a comprehensive representation of my life; far from it. I understand the confusion that occurs there and know that it comes from a place of support and love. I guess I just felt compelled to say, in the echoing voices of two of my literary idols, that my choice of topics is just because pain engraves a deeper memory.
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