Welcome To My Bed

Having It All: Impossible, But I Want To Anyway

Over the course of the past several days, I have started (and stopped) writing several things to be posted here.  One of them is an essay I've been kicking around for a long time about my unbridled and slightly neurotic love of my fellow New Jersey writer, Junot Diaz.  The other is a very personal bit of matter-of-fact prose about where I was when my father died (it was not at his hospice bedside, as I'm sure a lot of people I'm acquainted with have probably assumed).  The reason you haven't seen either piece, besides the fact of my self-imposed cease-and-desist, is the fault of a complicated breed of anxiety that I've been trying to chase down an name for awhile.

Confession time: I have a really hard time with the personal politics of being a writer.  I get very wrapped up in the ugliness of rejection letters, the even-worse pangs of jealousy over the success of my peers, and the general sense that I am completely missing the "community" part of the writing community I try very hard to contribute to.  I worry about how I seem infinitly more than how I am actually doing as far as any given project is concerned.  This is the unattractive truth: I have still not gotten past constantly looking over my shoulder, wondering what other people think of what I'm up to, and that insecurity rears its head at very unfortunate times, often causing me not to attempt something for fear of publicly fucking up.

I could blame this insecurity on growing up between two very opinionated sisters who have always singled me out as the "odd" one, but in recent years they seem to delight in all of my bizarre tendancies and creative projects in a way that is the most overwhelming support I could ever ask for from people who do not do the same things I do.  I could blame a long string of codependent friendships and relationships that made me believe that the only way to feel important was for me to be a better friend or girlfriend than some other candidate, even when the person I was trying to impress was the wrong person for me in the first place.  I could blame the coded language of rejection letters that comes to me as nightmare narration--a string of vagaries about why I am not worthy written so tersely as to be impossible to parse, or my troublesome take-on-everything-and-smile-through-it personality that has me often over-booking my time so that I cannot do any of the things I take on all that well.  All of these explanations are really just excuses.

I don't want to talk about Ann-Marie Slaughter's now-infamous "having it all" article, but I think I have to get closer to the bone of what I'm talking about.  We all know that the idea of "having it all" in the first place is ridiculous.  The concept was a crutch used by the feminist movement back in the day to open a window into the workplace for my gender, and I am grateful for the autonomy it afforded my generation, but the implication that women must live multiple lives simultaneously in order to satisfy the world at large is part of what frustrates me about being a woman.  I don't think my days would be so fraught if I had a penis.  Maybe that's just an assumption.  But in talking to my male friends and my boyfriend about this, it seems like the assumption may be right.  Most of them aren't constantly concerned with who's doing what and how they can be seen as the most successful of their friends (at least not that they've admitted to).  The way they talk about it, their experience of success is measured against an internal benchmark.  More "personal best" than "best of the rest".

I wish I had the emotional acuity to ignore the influence of outside pressures, or at least to process it in a way this is actually productive.  But I'm not sure I do.  For example, the Junot essay: it's about the ways we make authors we enjoy into imaginary friends, and how that person is destroyed if ever we become familiar with that same author in the process of living his everyday life.  There are turns of it that are meant to be funny in an over-the-top kind of way that I am sure are well done when I think about them in a vacuum, but when I consider my audience, I'm not sure my speaker won't be read as obsessed, insane, and definitely very creepy.  The piece about my father is even worse to think about as something others might read, as its whole premise is wrestling with what I'm sure many people might say I should've been doing in my father's last days.  Both pieces are about teasing out the ways perception alters our experience, but I can't even bear to show them to anybody.

Which is utterly ridiculous.  Junot Diaz will probably never read what I have written about him, not because I will never publish it, but because he is busy with his own reading and writing life, which I'm pretty sure does not involve any version of me, real or imagined.  And I can think of plenty of things no one has any right to tell me how to do: topping the list is how I was meant to process and attend to my father's passing.  But my problem with the politics of these sitautions remains; at once, I know it's impossible to please everyone who might stumble across this humble blog, but I convince myself that if I don't write with pleasing an audience in mind, I might as well never show my work to anybody in the first place.

At the core of all of this is the fear that if I write only for who is reading, I will lose the integrity of my stories.  On the other hand, if I write only for myself, why publish?  Finding a balance would be the obvious solution, but I'm not quite sure how to get there.