It’s no small feat for me to launch into writing a blog. I can imagine I am not the only one who’s had the desire to write, to put my voice ‘out there’, to experiment getting lost in a flow of thoughts and images, and yet, for whatever reason, left this project untouched for years.
Recently, I participated in a writing retreat with my friends and for-a-few-months neighbours Miki Kashtan and Emma Quayle. Miki is an accomplished and prolific writer. Words and ideas pour out of her effortlessly. Her struggle is to find space in her extremely busy life to do what she loves doing: teaching, reading and writing. Emma is at an earlier stage on her journey yet writes beautifully.
Despite low capacity functioning due to a chronic pain condition, and feeling vulnerable at the thought of confronting my writing writer’s block, it was a real gift to be surrounded by their friendship to finally take this step.
As I ponder on the angst that I have felt for years for not crossing the threshold of doubt and resistance despite a strong longing to be more visible, my chest tightens. I think, what a waste! Or more tenderly perhaps, what a loss, both for myself and others. Yet when I try to unpack what may have got in the way, and do it with as much gentleness as possible for whatever I was attempting to protect in myself, the picture remains confused. There’s no doubt that deeply internalised beliefs are lurking somewhere and that my mind has excelled at creating compelling narratives. I am not convinced however that surfacing and investigating them would be particularly fruitful, at least not in this piece.
I am left with one unsettling thought however. I live with an accomplished and published author. When he was a little boy, his mother encouraged him to write stories and ‘rewarded him’ with five shillings every time a new one emerged. He still has the notebook where he’d write them down. They have sweet titles: “The Three Friends”, “Witch Witch Wimble”, “Cubbly Bear and the Smugglers”. Today he’s able to conjure up memories of people, stories and events that shaped his rich childhood on the Isle of Lewis in the 60s and 70s. At that time, people were still living in deep interconnectedness with the land, each other and their Presbyterian faith. Alastair’s writing is peppered with stories which beautifully illustrate the underlying themes of his life-long ‘spiritual activism’.
I wonder: what would have happened if I had been a boy (whose experience would probably have counted more in the eyes of adults than that of a girl), if an adult had encouraged me to write stories as I was growing up – or helped me connect more intimately with my experiences – and if instead of growing up in an expatriate family in Africa, I had been anchored in a community rich in tradition, inhabited by layers of generational knowledge and in respectful relationship with the land?
Could it be that the shaky, stony and vulnerable ground that I have been treading for years around the thought of writing has resonances with our collective modern predicament? I wouldn’t be surprised to find, perhaps in ecofeminist literature, that there are connections between creativity, the emergence of voice, relationship with nature, and belonging to a healthy human community. I guess it’s also true that many people venture into writing from a very different anchor point.
Wherever my block resides, and whatever has shaped my personal trajectory, I know that what’s at stake is much larger than my personal story. From my forays into feminism and my own experience as a woman, and almost irrespective of where we are in our evolution as a human species, I know that coming out of invisibility is a political act and could also be deeply healing.
In fact, it is an increasingly challenging journey with chronic pain, in the past few years, that has given me the impulse to lean towards my fears and finally decide to step into this space. What I have taken from my research in this complex and relatively recent field of health is that what happens in our lives (past and present, as well as inner and outer) has a deep influence in creating the conditions for wellness or illness. I figured out that to support my brain to respond differently to whatever may be going on in my body, it is critical that I address the areas in my life that are creating an undercurrent of emotional stress and physical tension. In parallel, transforming what may be deep-seated and unhelpful patterns of thinking and behaviour would also create a more peaceful and relaxed inner environment. One of these patterns, I reckon, is the inner conflict I have had about writing.
So why write a blog? Undoubtedly, if sharpening my writing skills through regular blog posts could help me liberate my voice, make my contribution to the world more visible and empower me to engage in the way I long for, this would be a huge achievement. If it could somehow also participate in my recovery from pain, this would be an amazing gift. Most of all, however, I’d like this practice to be a source of joy, curiosity, focused learning and increased connection with seekers and activists like me.
Now that this first step is taken, my challenge will be to keep going. I’d love to hear from any of you if you sense that my writing could be a gift to you and others. Here are a few topics I have in mind. They are all rooted in my own journey with liberation (both personal and collective).
why focusing on “liberation”?
recovering from the “taboo on tenderness” – an imperative to re-humanise the world
seizing the opportunity of a serious health challenge to journey towards personal liberation
navigating the loneliness inherent in our modern world – staying on purpose moment by moment
If any of these appeal to you, please leave a comment below or drop me a line by email.