Listen, if I told you half the frustration I’ve felt without the ability to write, you’d wipe that judgy look off my face. There’s no pain so perfect as judging yourself for what you can’t do anything about. (Except for a Grand Marnier hang over.)
Regular readers will remember this gem I wrote about how badly I was beating myself up physically. My hand and wrist are taped up and in a sling now. My RIGHT hand. I am not left handed.
But I still am a writer, even when not writing per se. One of my favorite, exciting and new writing challenges I learned in therapy, where it’s called “reframing the narrative.” A boring example is to ascribe normal, human mistakes or misunderstanding to someone or something that ticked you off or upset you.
A fun reframing is “Aw. Macho man randy Putin can’t go around with his shirt off anymore, his dick is giving out, and that was always suspiciously homoerotic behavior from a homophobe anyway.” It doesn’t negate anyone’s suffering, but it cuts the bad guy down to size. Like the old joke about the German who “knows nutzing!” Or Charlie Chaplin’s rip on Hitler and Nazism as Adenoid Hynkel in The Great Dictator, or M*A*S*H the TV show.
So, there I was on my *mumble mumble* birthday, feeling beat up and wiped out. So, of course my brain went immediately to “age.” But, truth be “reframed,” didn’t I actually feel like 5 yr old me who broke her arm skating, lied about it to see Lady and the Tramp, and caused my mother shame when she finally got me to a doctor? Was this much different?
I ended up taking the fishing rod Stan got me for my birthday to the pier and caught a fish on every cast. I even got two at once on my rig. We went together the next day too. And I felt like a kid catching spot and catfish. Just like our dock at one of our old houses when I was a kid.
We had other adventures since, Stan and I. Meanwhile I’ve been reading, and trying to write, even though it’s not helping my hand any. All I can say is speech to text is clunky and not for me.
But I broke through something that has been gnawing at me while in therapy. That is “what’s my next writing project?” My therapist pointed out that I was recounting other people’s tales of themselves, particularly after trauma. That I had written the story of “Survivor Jess.” But who had I become? Or am becoming? Who was Growth and Flourishing Jess? How do I become her? How am a going to reframe this time around? How do I make some story with sense from the senseless?
I turned to one of my first loves as a writer. Kurt Vonnegut. When I first read him as a teen his anti-establishment, absurd world switched my brain on. But, reading his Slaughter House Five, or The Children’s Crusade, this time around I saw a man who had PTSD, trauma. He was taken prisoner during the Battle of the Bulge, and as a POW sheltered in a slaughterhouse during the Allied fire bombing of Dresden. And this was his way to “reframe” his experience.
Like his main character, Billy Pilgrim who has come unstuck in time, perhaps I can find a new way to reflect on my life. Billy wished to share the truth of Time to comfort others. Maybe I can work something out that makes as much sense as thinking a dead person was simply in a bad way at that moment. But in other moments, he just fine, and we can visit those other moments when we like. What’s my grand scheme of “reframing” that might be a comfort or encouragement?
That is what I can do to wipe the judgy look off my face. I can write. Through physical and emotional pain, after the perfect pain of this long Grand Marnier hangover. That bull crap can fertilize my growth.
Wish this Pilgrim luck, and see you again at this point in our orbit around the Sun. “If the accident will.” Til next time, and so on.
– JL ✌🏼💙💛🖖🏼🎸🎉
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