Embarrassed

I’m always embarrassed when I look at my old writing. Like week-old relics from the past from the times when I was a horrible writer. Except, it was a week ago.

It’s so strange. Maybe I’m just too judgmental. I am incredibly judgmental of other people’s writing and I hardly ever like what anyone else writes. In my head I just think that I could do better. I mean, I’m reading Jane Eyre right now and I don’t think I could write better than Charlotte Bronte. She’s like, primo. But everyone else on the internet, floating around posting our opinions… I feel like none of us are very substantial writers. And maybe that’s the point.

Maybe the point is that we’re practicing. My mom is a writer. She worked for a newspaper before I blessssed her life and she quit her job to take care of me. She told me something she was told on the job – her boss said, pointing to people in the office, writing (on typewriters!) “look around. He was a business major. She was accounting. He was teaching. Don’t get a degree in writing. If you have a gift in writing, then you have a gift in writing. Just get educated about what you want to write about. That’s the real preparation.”

Maybe that’s why I get so heavy on the people who are putting their efforts into internet blogging… Because all of us are basically doing the same thing. Writing about a subject that we know more about than anyone else. Ourselves.

Our generation – we don’t generally research culture and ideology to write informed pieces on whatever. We write our heated opinions. Or more typically, in Christian circles, our experiences and thoughts on God. Not that this is wrong. I was listening to Grace, Eventually by Anne Lammott, the first Christian author in whose writings I’ve indulged, and I noticed a pit of frustration turning over in my stomach. I couldn’t figure out why – I liked her writing style before – was it her voice, listening to her on tape? No, I liked her voice… What is it?

I pondered this for a while and then I realized. What she’s writing about! She’s literally just writing about herself! Her experiences as a liberal Christian with pro-choice ideology, a ski trip with her son, the time she binge ate apple fritters and ice cream from a gas station – they’re all just about… her! Not that I would claim that she is not knowledgeable, because I’m sure she is, but for some reason she chose to simply write about herself. Curious. And a little infuriating. Does she really think that just writing all these little blurbs of her life down into a book will impact anybody? A little arrogant, honestly.

But then I remembered, oh. It did impact me. When I read her book the first time, it deeply impacted me. I was a bright eyed new believer very confused about how my liberal ideals and past life could fit in to the virginal, well-behaved culture with no cussing I was dipping my toes into. And my mentor Chris handed me Traveling Mercies. And it was nice to know that I was not alone in the struggle. That there was a women named Anne Lamott out there with a background like mine, with struggles like mine, with thoughts like mine. And I know many a liberal Atheistic convert to Christianity has found solace in the words of Anne Lamott, simply speaking of her life.

So that’s cool. Once I remembered all of this I realized that sharing our lives with each other can make us all feel a little less alone. Books can be great mentors and friends, and can speak to us if we let them. Blogs, I suppose, can do the same. And there is no shortage of experience that needs to be written about, since practically every experience can be related to – and the ones that can’t, we can most definitely learn from.

At some point, if we’re going to be serious writers, we should probably read hard books – classics, to expand our vocabulary, think new things and discover new ways of writing. I mean, seriously, if all of your vocab comes from the internet, what you write might be kind of bland. When I stepped into the before-mentioned Jane Eyre for the first time and had to look up every other word – and realized the deep, beautiful imagery she used to describe a bedroom – and how incredibly she could define wood – my writing was put to shame. It’s good to be humbled in the face of genius. And I’ve realized my writing is kind of bland, and my vocabulary is extremely limited. Eventually this will limit what I can write about and how I can speak.

And then, of course, if we’re going to write about things specific – racial issues, culture, feminism, Christianity, it will be highly important to learn the history of these very real sections of the past (and present.) I’m regularly ashamed of how little I know of American History. Just reading and learning everything you can is important.

But until then, or if you don’t have time, just write. Write to get better, write to share your experiences. If you’ve got the writing bug then probably one of your purposes on this earth is to write. It will make you feel good and hopefully impact other people. We all need someone to relate to. The internet (and honesty!) make this more possible than ever. I’m certainly embarrassed 10 minutes after I post something, but I’m gonna probably just leave it there. Who knows who needs to read the ramblings of a confused, rambling 22 year old from Michigan.

I could walk in

I could just go over and walk in. The banging on my door at 8 this morning, I don’t know what that was about. I didn’t check. But those people I see across the street as I strum on my guitar – one man with no arm, two plain looking gents and a girl in tight Nike pants  walking across the lawn. Those people are sure interesting. A little unsettling – what are they doing?

Strumming, strumming, observing. I poke my head to the window and hope they don’t see me. What if they see me and get angry and come over and shoot me? Maybe that’s what that banging on my door was at 8 this morning. Maybe they’re collecting cans, going from house to house, because they’re homeless, and found a way to get into my complex and were knocking on all our doors. That’s silly, isn’t it? They’re coming up to a house… Spread out like girl scouts ready to sell. I expect them to knock, but the man with one arm opens the door. The two men walk in after. One has his arm on the Nike girl’s back. What are they doing? Should I call the police?

Hey, the door’s open. I could just walk in. I never think about it because it seems impossible. Like, that’s a restricted zone. It has a force-field.I’ll get zapped. But for all intents and purposes, there is no reason I couldn’t approach that old brown beautiful house with all it’s mysteries hidden inside. All these wild thoughts that rattle in my brain could be answered. How do you get that brave? I watched Batman last night. I bet Batman would walk in. He’d just walk right in and look around and take no shit. And I’m just left here wondering.

Police officers are brave. To just go in to a place like that and look around. Although, they do have guns. Could I ever handle a gun? I probably wouldn’t be too welcoming if I had a gun. Could I bring them cookies? Even if they are dangerous people, are they really going to shoot me if I bring them cookies?

The door’s still open. What would happen if I walked in? Maybe they’d just look at me, confused. Maybe I’d be killed. Maybe they’d be happy for company. I know a lot of people live there, I’ve seen so many different people go in and out. I’m not sure if it’s several apartments or one big house. It’s brown and pretty. The windows are white. There’s a huge, obstructing tree right in front, with no branches until over half way up. White people walk by casually, wearing clothes that are familiar and comforting. I would be scared to walk by casually. My upbringing has made me scared, my town white-washed and perfectly safe. It has made me curious, suspicious of houses across the street. I have no idea if I should be.

Maybe they are a loving household, but my gut disagrees. I feel as though I am wasting time with these thoughts. But this is the nature of my brain daily. Scattered and confused. Wondering some of the most impossible things to ever make conclusions about.

Unless, of course, I walked across the street and knocked on the door. (It’s closed now.) I could ask how they are, what they’re up to. If they want to go get breakfast at McDonalds or something.

But of course, that would be foolish, because people are dangerous.

And I’m a woman. And it’s true, people really are dangerous.

Why can’t life be a little more welcoming, a little less threatening? And if the world actually is not as threatening as I think it is, I wish I could know. But I guess I’ll never know unless I go and walk into the neighbor’s house, but of course that would be foolish and dangerous and scary. So I’ll all just sit here wondering about the private lives of everyone else, behind closed doors. We all will. At least, I’m hoping I’m not the only one who does this. I’m hoping that this isn’t isolated experience.

I assume we all yearn for relationship with other human beings, crave to know their stories. Sometimes, especially, those who are so different from us. Craving to know what goes on behind closed doors, to know the story of the dog-walker wandering down the street, the gas station employee with the nose ring, the 4.0 MIT graduate. But whatever, we won’t, because the world is scary and we’re insecure. And the world really is scary. And we really are insecure. And it’s no one’s fault. This place is just broken and rotting, behind closed doors of middle-class neighborhoods and from where I sit in run-down Jackson, Michigan. And hidden behind cellphones and averting glances on subways and blanked hardened stares forward so that no one will talk to you. To me.

I’m just saying, okay, I’m just saying. I wish I could go over and walk in, sit down and be offered a drink and hang out. I wish I could know their stories. But I never will. Cause this world is too scary and things are so dangerous, especially since I’m a woman. But here’s the thing. Aren’t you so excited for a world where there is no fear? Where we can knock and enter stranger’s houses, because no one is truly a stranger?

This world I crave.