The other night I wrote an essay called Secrets about my mother meeting a boyfriend who was in the hospital recovering from a suicide attempt. This is something that happened a very long time ago, nearly 35 years, but is fresh in my mind for a lot of reasons, even though it seems otherworldly, like it’s an old movie that I just saw again last night.
Writing it was one of those occasions when, even though I was typing, I felt like I was writing with a fountain pen, every word being the only one that could possibly have been chosen for the purpose it served. When I was done with the essay and pushed the publish button, I waited for someone to say that it was okay. And that someone was a young friend who has recently gone through something of a similar experience; when she hit ‘like’ I was relieved. The piece was legitimate, it range true, someone truly ‘got’ it. So I was thankful for that.
Today, I have been thinking all day about Joan Didion’s famous statement, “I don’t know what I think until I write it down.” Writing the essay was the first time I made sense of the meeting between my mother and my boyfriend and started to understand the burden I felt with both of them. It seems strange to say that it took all these years and sitting down to write just another blog post to realize that I felt that a part of my life had been hijacked by other people’s mental illness, to think about it in those terms, and to allow myself some resentment. It’s not nothing to be the daughter/companion of someone who is mentally ill. It is something. It is hard.
So the point of this second post is to talk about how writing the first one felt good. It felt as if I’d finally gotten all the colors lined up on the Rubik’s Cube.
I think that’s what writing does for people. It helps you figure out what you think. When that happens, it’s beautiful like swimming in a clear pool on a sunny day.
There’s nothing more profound than that. I’m just glad.