The Gift of Love and Writing
Experimenting With Voice
If I look back over my life, I’ve probably fallen in love in every decade – from a schoolgirl crush in my teens to passionate love in the next thirty years or so until my fifties.
Love and its strangulations are the stuff of drama. It takes us to the theatre, to the cinema – or maybe nowadays to Netflix. It buries us in books. Writers grapple with their fictional characters and scenarios in their novels; write poems and plays. Because love and relationships are among the most important forces we address in one way or another.
Here I show various pieces I’ve worked on creatively and therapeutically. As my blogs are based on my own lived experiences, this one presents as much of a risk to me as writing about mental illness. But I speak from a place in the future – many years after these were written. That is why I’m able to share them.
One of the advantages of becoming older is to be able to look back over a long writing life. In recent years love and writing have become rather interwoven. I’ve found surprising insights I would never have discovered without my recurrent free-writes and experimental ways of expressive writing. I explored ways of writing during that rosy flush of romantic euphoria when love first lets itself be known. I wrote with Voices spanning different perspectives and expression: the Wise, the Naïve and the Lyrical.
THE WISE VOICE
First is my Wise Voice. This inner voice is not always easily heard so I have to listen very hard. But it is always one I trust. I find it when I’m very still. I described this aspect of the self through accessing the wisdom of King Solomon in an earlier blog on the Wise Self (see: Blog 9). In a way it feels like the Wise Voice speaks through me, beyond my emotions. It makes me feel grounded too. I’ve used Capital Letters with intent:
I have found myself doing the love thing in my writing. And it is held in writing not in the body. It gives me trust in what real love means for me, shows me how it exists, not through owning it as my particular love belonging to me to give – paradoxically of course it is mine – but knowing it exists of its own accord. Love just is. Love is a gift as Writing is a gift. Without Writing, I would be bereft. Without Love, I would be bereft.
That piece of writing showed me how, in the depths of loving someone else, I might discover a place not driven by ego and need. A new experience. Love comes in many configurations. Writing through tapping into my Wise Self helped me find a new form for loving. It taught me to respect the existence and feeling of love and to trust it as I trust my writing. I don’t know where it will lead me, I wrote but as with my writing I had to trust in the great unknown which is essentially the creative process. And by that I live.
THE NAÏVE (or Inner Child’s) VOICE
The next piece experiments with a Voice trying out the inner child’s viewpoint. No grown-up measured self here. Just straightforward language:
And it is a terrible thing if you want to say: I love you and the words are stuck and do not come out of the throat and it is like a ball of sunlight in the heart. If you say nothing the ball stays there. But then it wants to get its rays out and put the words on them. And if you can’t tell these words – the sunlight swirls around and can’t get out and makes the person uncomfortable with a lot of heat.
And if the words from the heart can’t find a way out through the voice they go round and round in the head all day long and all night long. You want to tell the person you love that I love you is what you want to say. But when the words get so close to the heart it is very scary.
I want to stop the going round of words in my head. I want to speak the words and if I can do that then maybe the fire of the sun will not get stuck inside my body and want to make me explode and the sun will shine its rays in the sky where it belongs.
Children don’t speak like this and very soon I called this my Naïve Voice. I found myself describing adult feelings with simplicity. I move around between the first and second person pronoun but the ‘I’ Voice is pretty emphatic; there is punctuation but with this voice it is tempting to use little and stick to the lower case too.
In circumstances where one / you / I might not want (or not be ready) to say three words with such potency, this voice abandons being sensible, abandons feeling reasonable, abandons being rational. It gives such a freely expressive approach.
Here’s an even younger insistent Voice. A two year old in an adult body:
2 yr old: What I want I want and I want it now and for now and for always and immediately.
Adult Self: You can’t have what you want.
2 yr old: You pretend I don’t exist. I do. It’s because of you I can’t have what I want.
Adult Self: Perhaps. Perhaps not. Anyway it’s good to have the wantings. Wantings are not bad. Just not always possible. A two year old can’t understand how grown ups think. What I really want is the cuddles.
2 year old: I like cuddles and kisses. That’s what I want too.
And so the foot-stamping toddler was listened to and appeased. And the adult was free to write more lyrically.
THE LYRICAL VOICE
The eight o’clock sun is warm on my shoulders as I sweep the path on three sides of our house. I sweep and scoop up the winter-curled oak leaves from underneath stones, the withered wisteria blooms which only last week were fresh in their pale mauve scents, bits of twigs, cut the nettles back.
I could sweep for the rest of my day, the rest of my life like the monks set to sweep whilst brains coil and recoil. I am sweeping and clearing all the days up to this one. They line up behind this morning ready and waiting to be swept – not away – not swept away – but here to be brushed down with all that has been.
Old loves too tightly entwined all prised off, fallen and tumbled through too many years. I have no idea how to do a new love which asks for its own truth ever since it surprised itself into existence. Let it breathe lightly in its own expansive way and find its own form as each day speaks and I listen to its voice.
As I swept the leaves I thought of zen monks in monastery gardens clearing the leaves in front of their huts, purposefully lifting an ordinary task to the level of meditative awareness and practice.
I discovered through my writing a refreshing insight which I hadn’t found in other relationships. One that meant Love was not to be owned; a real love survives on its own terms. It exists in its own right between two people, between friends or even sometimes momentarily in the passing of a complete stranger for a second or two.
Discovering this possibility that I needn’t own Love gave me an enormous freedom to explore these different expressive styles. Because I found new ways to write and experienced Love speaking through me, I released a feeling of loving everybody. That was the biggest surprise. And over time this love has grown in richness and fullness for life itself.
Here I’ve wanted to show how explorations with these different Voices have really transformed my feelings and understanding about Love. Matters of my own heart may be private, but experiences of how I have loved is pivotal to my writing. Not to be swept away with the leaves.
I’ve witnessed myself meeting many challenges with different kinds of loving relationships. Even if writing raises more questions than answers, it does the trick of settling me as I watch the page or screen generously accepting all my words and feelings. As a writer I spill my bleeding heart into my drafts but take the outpourings off the page (or screen) as poems or prose emerge from all my scribbling. Writing holds my passion, my creativity, my life. Fitting then, to end with one of my poems called: Love – in the week after Valentine’s Day.
The chrysalis hangs
over-winter by a silk thread on the branch
which spreads itself across the yellow-blaze-risen sky
It feeds from tiny arrows
shot from the deep secrets of the blood-red earth
It unfurls like a green veined leaf on a May morning
as the butterfly opens its darling wings
ⓒ Monica Suswin February 2016
Poem & Prose from my book ms – Chapter 2: Butterfly