A Different Kind of Sayable
I began college as a 23 year old, fresh off the plane back from teaching English in Central America and losing the fifty pounds I’d gained in the three years before I left. They say there are a few responses to trauma, one is flight and another is fight. I have never been a fighter and flight takes a kind of courage I’ve never been able to sustain for long. A third response is to freeze.
I froze at age seven and again at 13 and again at 19, and my skin ballooned, stretched over a body that was the only thing I trusted to not betray me. (Until she did, again and again and again.) I became like a bear, hibernating from the cold and long winter of whatever life brought me toward. I found my spot, cozied it up, and nestled in, sure if I could pretend the wind wasn’t swirling and blustering outside, I could maintain my safety, my sanity, and my peace.
The library became my nest in college. The musty carpet and hushed voices, the cracking spines and the surety of no loud or sudden noises, this my cocoon.
In the stacks I would sit, back against the shelves, and read about world events and poetry, find my favorite editorialists and borrow whole magazines just to read one column. I would copy down phrases (this was before smart phones and google on the go) in my Meade notebooks and later tack them to my dorm walls around postcards from Europe and bits of poetry I loved.
Here I discovered Rilke, the Austrian poet who mingled philosophy with poetry with preaching and politics. In his Ninth Elegy, I discovered myself,
“Here is the time for the sayable, here is its homeland.
Speak and bear witness. More than ever
the Things that we might experience are vanishing, for
what crowds them out and replaces them is an imageless act.”
Making Things sayable, this was an idea that appealed to me. There were so many unsayable things in my life and things left unsaid. I was frozen in fear of voicing the sadness I felt, the loss, the abuse, the confusion, the doubt—all of it was the blustering wind outside the cocoon of my frozen self.
Becoming Sayable became like a prayer of mine. If I could just say the things, speak them, bear witness to them, perhaps I would become unstuck. Perhaps I would become courageous. Perhaps I would become healed. And this is what I have done. For twenty years, I have written through the process of mourning, death, loss, singleness, marriage, doubt, divorce, infertility, church wounds, belief, joy, celebration, grief, homesickness, deconstruction and reconstruction. If it is a human experience and if I have experienced it, I have given words to it.
Some say writing is like breathing but for me writing is like being. If I don’t give witness to the vanishing Things, I cease to be. I hibernate so deeply I die in my sleep.
I have been writing on Sayable.net in some form since 2001. And I suppose I always will. I’m not ready to turn her over or give her up. She has been hostess to my sanctification and witness to my growth. I think of her as a friend and her readers as company for the journey. But I also need her to be a benefactor in some form, a patron of the work I invest in her. I need her to provide for me as I have tried to provide for her. A fellow writer suggests a newsletter like this one, where the extra work is minimal for me to maintain and the opportunity for readers to pay a worker for her work is accessible and easy, the cost of one coffee or a street taco.
It’s hard for me to think about my work as worthy of payment and I think it’s partially because I found life and hope in library stacks, in borrowed editorials and books that didn’t belong to me. I have always wanted to give away my words as freely as the words of others have been given to me. But it’s also hard because I still think of myself as small and simple and nearly invisible, frozen in space and time and circumstance. It is out of my brokenness that I don’t want to ask for help, not out of my health. To be healthy is to have courage, to be brave, to go whether you come with me or not.
Rilke’s poem goes on,
“So show him
something simple which, formed over generations,
lives as our own, near our hand and within our gaze.”
So here is what I want to offer you, dear reader, it is not a printable or secret chapter or some perk just for you. It’s a promise that in this season and this space, I will let you see me, “near your hand and within your gaze,” in a way that I hope helps you see you and Jesus more clearly. I will bring you along with me on my journeys more explicitly, in ways I’ve not done on Sayable in recent years for various reasons. I only want you to come if you really want to come, if you’re really here to ask the hard questions too and inspect your life too and if you find yourself fighting or flighting or freezing and want to be freer too.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is central to my life, my love for him and his love for me a certainty I can’t shake, and a fidelity to the Word of God is important to me. I am not promising you a diversion from Christ. He will still be woven through all my work in this space. But I want to write and think out loud about issues pertinent to the Church today that I don’t feel completely free to do on Sayable as she is, to uninvested readers. I will continue to write there for free for everyone, but for the sake of my soul, I need a fresh space like this one and I want to invite you into it with me.
This won’t be a cocoon, nor a hibernating nest, this is a river on which I’m learning to skate, an aisle I’m learning to walk down, a wreckage I want to explore. I will share words I’m processing about politics, gender, poetry, the Church, faith, doubt, the book I’m working on, the books I’m reading, my marriage, my discontent with social media, and more. I’d love for you to come with me. You can subscribe below for, as I said, about the cost of a coffee or street taco or my favorite chapstick.
Peace to you, whether you come or go, peace to you,