Diaries Magazine

Something Elemental

Posted on the 14 September 2012 by Maggiecarlise @MaggieCarlise

A little over a year ago, I began this blog (on Tumblr, in case you’re wondering why the posts here only go back to last December; that’s when I moved it to WordPress.)

I began it with this post. I talked primarily about a song I had come across – and the fact that I came across it in a moment when I desperately needed the things it (and the act of finding it) reminded me of.

This (the moment I describe in this post) was a hugely pivotal moment for me:  this moment when I was reminded, through this song, this poetry, that I wasn’t alone in what I was going through at the time, and that there were other people in the world experiencing questions and feelings and doubts, as I was. This song ultimately was a sort of a crowbar for me that wrenched open a door I hadn’t even realized had swung tightly shut in the prior few years. Once that door was open, I started to breathe again.

That’s what art does, I think. It connects…it reminds…it links. This is a hugely important thing to remember for me (or for anybody, I suppose.) Because the moments when I feel isolated, when the world begins to seem harsh, full of jagged edges and ominous colors, when cynicism seems inescapable and magical things seem impossible…those are the moments when the future ceases to be bright and exciting.  Obstacles aren’t interesting challenges; they knock you flat.  Everything seems either confining and claustrophobic or hugely wide open and terrifying.

That’s when everything starts to feel really, really hard.

I’ve been struggling a lot with anxiety recently. It’s not as bad as it was at the time I write about in that other post…but it’s not been feeling very great. Its being fed by a couple of different things going on, but it really kicked off when my ex and I were thwarted last month in our attempt to apply for a dissolution of marriage (which is the state of Ohio’s do-it-yourself divorce option.) The problem was/is that there’s no clear way via this option to lay out child support stuff the way we want to lay it out. We know exactly what we want to do, and I’m sure a lawyer can probably fairly easily help us massage the petition to be what we want it to be…but the whole point of going the dissolution route was to save money. We truly don’t have the means to hire a lawyer right now. So for the moment at least, everything’s come to a standstill.

The thing that’s so particularly disheartening about this is that we’ve worked incredibly hard in the last eighteen months to sift around in the mess of our failed marriage for the little tiny shards of friendship that might still be lingering around inside all of the messed up relationship stuff. We managed to find a couple…and then we managed, with difficulty, to mold them into something sustainable…and finally to something solid. I’m so proud of us for managing to do that! It might be one of the things I’m most proud of in my life – because it wasn’t easy in any way. It was something that I (and he too) wanted for our two kids: parents who were friendly and maybe even liked each other. And we’ve managed to make that happen. The bitterness, the resentments…those things still exist. But they’re not as relevant as they once were.  They don’t define our relationship anymore – and that’s because what we’ve salvaged/built in the aftermath of all of the trauma is real.

Of course, this apparently is meaningless to the legal system. It’s hard to ignore the fact that we’d have been better off just completely bucking societal conventions and never marrying at all.  I mean, in all seriousness:  if we’d never gotten married we could part now on our own terms, providing for our kids however we saw fit. But since we got married in good faith and with every intention of making it last…and then finally after much struggle realized it simply wasn’t right…suddenly we have to let the courts have a voice in how we handle providing for our kids???

I understand that the system is what it is because it’s been formed to protect kids who have parents who wouldn’t take care of them properly without being forced (as unbelievable as that may be for me to imagine.)  But it’s hard not to feel like the kid who’s been good as gold all day in school…but is then denied recess because the kids sitting one aisle over won’t stop misbehaving.  It shouldn’t be this hard.

The one good thing (and admittedly it’s not small) is that we (my ex and I) are completely on the same page about how obnoxious we find this situation! I’d truly much rather have “the system” as my adversary than the father of my children – for my own as well as the kids’ sakes.

But I can pretty much count on being able to deal with him as a friend in most issues these days. It’s true that we have some very distinct differences that there’s just no getting around while he remains him and I remain me – though they’re more manageable now that we’re not a couple anymore.  We just don’t function in a healthy way when we’re in a relationship. It was when we finally both accepted that, with absolute clarity, that we were able to truly move forward with a friendship that’s turned out to be really nice.  The last dregs of that acceptance were worked through last winter.

And that leads me into the next part of what I wanted to say here:

I wrote this post in January, during that time. I said what I wanted/needed to say in the post by using an album to frame my thoughts: an album that had really helped me a lot throughout the whole relationship-ending period (LadyLuck, by Maria Taylor.) It turned out to be one of my favorite posts that I’ve ever written. Writing it, and in the process making conscious linkages between what I was going through and what the album was talking about, was so helpful to me in that sad time.

It’s the solidarity aspect.  Feelings and experiences are often universal things – though it doesn’t feel like that when you’re really low. It’s amazing how isolating emotional difficulties can be, really, when you think about the fact that everybody feels and everybody suffers and everybody worries. Everybody screws up, everybody hurts people sometimes, everybody gets hurt. Why is it so easy to feel so alone?

I felt less so after I’d written that post.  Things were still hard and painful, but I felt better…stronger.  Art enables that.

In this particular instance, my good feelings were accentuated (greatly!!) when Maria Taylor actually came across my post somehow and linked to it on her Facebook page…a very generous gesture which brought me more visitors to my blog than I’d ever had before or since (until the Freshly Pressed excitement of last month, of course!)

I realize that she didn’t link to my post with any thought of helping me out with my blogging efforts or anything like that.  She linked to it because she read it and liked it – and I admire her music and writing enough that that in itself is a tremendous compliment to me.  That she (an artist I really respect) found value in something I’d written was a very meaningful thing.

But the other aspect is that in giving me that little bit of exposure that she did when she linked to my post, she helped me understand myself as somebody who could actually be a part of that world of expression I’d been drawing so much support from in the last year.  Though I’d been blogging for a few months by this time, as well as dabbling in self-publishing, I didn’t really grasp that before…not really.  I’d never experienced such a direct cause-and-effect phenomenon with anything I’d written.  I was moved to write the post…within a day or so, she read it and linked to it…and I had lots and lots of readers.  For the first time, I felt like a “real writer.”

This really affected my writing.  It moved it for once and for all, out of the realm of hobby and into the place of more serious pursuit – and I did a lot of thinking on the heels of that switch that has been pretty pivotal.  (This, for example, came out of that.)

Prior to the writing of the LadyLuck post I had puzzled over the fact that I so often found blogging so much more satisfying than the fiction I was working on. I’ve since come to realize that I felt the way I did about my blogging because my fiction was never really honest.  I wanted it to be…but I couldn’t get to where I needed to go with it.  The parameters of that sort of storytelling weren’t right for me.  And without honesty there was none of that connectedness that made my blogging more meaningful.  The fiction had a perpetual sheen of superficiality that, try as I might, I just couldn’t get out from under.

Blogging in contrast was (and is) for me a very present, very honest act. That’s why I have such a hard time blogging when I’m upset. I don’t want to put on a fake happy face in this space…but I also don’t want to bitch and moan and gripe and vent, or otherwise be overtly negative when I blog either.  So often (too often lately) I just don’t write when things bother me.

I’ve realized in the last weeks, as the anxiety has slowly risen again, that this is bad.  Really bad.  Not only artistically-speaking, but personally.  Avoiding my writing when I feel anxiety (or whatever level of shitty I’m feeling) means that I lose the opportunity for that wonderfully profound sense of solidarity.  That has to be a mistake.

So this post is, in essence, a very longwinded way of saying that I’ve decided, for the first time, to commit to blogging something every day – either here or on my other blog.  I think I’d like to force myself to remember, at least once a day, that I’m a part of a bigger whole.  That the world might seem harder to navigate some days than others, or the obstacles to what I want more numerous, but that the struggle is universal. It’s elemental, in a sense.  The fact that we all struggle is part of what binds us all together as human beings.

(This idea of “elementalness” is a huge, huge part of what I want to get at in my current short story writing, too.)

Speaking of things elemental:  I’ll wrap up here with a link to a song from an amazing EP I just bought.  It’s by Azure Ray (a duo of which Maria Taylor, totally coincidentally [truly] is 1/2.)

I’ll save the things I could say about this EP until I can devote a whole post to it.  There’s a lot to say.  I really, really like it – but I don’t quite understand how something that is electronica (which I’ve never been able to bring myself to get into before) can make me feel so completely connected to earthly things.  “Earthly” as in “natural” (or elemental.)  Listening to the electronic sounds leaves me with emotional impressions of rock and ocean and sky and wind.  It’s so interesting.


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