"I must"

In Ranier Maria Rilke 's First Letter to a Young Poet , Rilke tells the young poet that he's come to the wrong person to ask whether...

In Ranier Maria Rilke's First Letter to a Young Poet, Rilke tells the young poet that he's come to the wrong person to ask whether his poems are good or not.  He goes on to say something that has touched me in a very personal and meaningful way:

You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you - no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must", then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.
I don't think I ever knew I was a writer until I had bad shit happen in my life.  And it wasn't that I was a writer because I enjoyed the craft of a sonnet or the flow of a novel.  It was because I felt that if I didn't write, that all the bad shit would suffocate me.  And I'm not talking about the things most kids feel are bad, I'm talking about being in the same room with death (my grandmother after having a bad stroke two years prior and living in a nursing home for 2 years).  I'm talking about losing my mother from a cerebral aneurysm that was misdiagnosed the month after I turned 13. 

I know there are people who have had worse stuff happen to them, but this was the worst thing that happened to me and I the only way I dealt with it was by eating.   When I learned to pick up the pen, I really learned how to put down the donut.  In writing, there was a cure for what really hurt me -- the desperate desire to have a mother in my life, the fear of my own mortality, the heartache of feeling disconnected.  

My first blog post was in 1999 on a site that is pretty much a piece of crap, called Diaryland.  In 2001, I moved over to Livejournal.  I started connecting with people in a way I had never connected before.  I was baring my soul, and people didn't turn away.  

When I was in college, I was blessed to have taken a class under the amazingly talented Suzannah Lessard.  She knew right away that I had things to say that were deeply personal, but had trouble finding the words to say it.  (In fact, I exhausted the creative writing department of their poetry and creative writing classes until I found the words to adequately describe my pain.  What I ended up with was simply "I hurt."  It was the simple way of conveying all of the complex and layered pain.  When I was able to write that without a metaphor, or iambic pentameter, my heart opened up to all the other words that supported that two-word phrase). 

I don't think I'd ever want to be paid for writing, but I very much follow what Rilke said about the imperative of the "I must" -- I write for myself because I would choke on the words and emotions.  That being said, I just have to tell you all thank you for being an audience for my confessions and treating me with kindness.  

Tonight I had the honor of being on the receiving end of a compliment from not just someone I know, but someone I work with and who just happens to be a guy.  The compliment he intentionally gave me was that I am one of the more sincere and honest people he has met.  The unintentional comment he gave me was that he took 45 minutes of his day to read what I had to say.  In my world, that's a lot of time.  Not only did he take the time to read, but he took the time to pull me aside and tell me his thoughts.  

I am truly in your debt, all of you.  Whether you comment or not, whether you read or not, you have created a place where I feel safe enough to be vulnerable with all the hurt and pain, and to share my mind and body with you.  That is not something I take lightly.  To those who return the favor by sharing their thoughts, dreams, and fears with me, I will never betray that trust.

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5 comments

  1. I love those words as your expression, they sum up everything. My hugs to you and good luck on your journey. I hope to read more posts and perhaps something else from you.

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  2. Adalita -- thank you so much for your words of encouragement.

    I don't know if I'll be posting any of my horrible poetry, but I've been looking for one I did in 11th grade. It was about the summer previous where I mainly ate sweet potatoes and felt so upset by my father telling me I needed to lose weight but not teaching me how.

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  3. Hello from your newest follower. I completely understand emotional eating, I've been eating my feelings for as long as I can remember.

    I found you via Lucy's F2F Blog Hop! Look forward to reading your updates, hopefully you'll check out http://jadedgymjunkie.blogspot.com and we can keep the positive encouragement flowing! All the best to you...

    Jaded Vixen!

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  4. Going through the list on F2F hop this week. I love Rilke and I too write, because I often feel as if there isn't anything else for me to do with all the crap that is in my head! If I wasn't writing it, I would be eating it.

    :)
    Jen

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  5. Hi Janded & The Evolving Homemaker -- welcome to my blog. I love that we are all finding each other. I think supporting each other to keep making healthy choices (instead of burying ourselves in the negative emotions) is the key to all of us succeeding. One for all, and all for one, eh?

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<3 Robby