Posted by: scintillatingspeck | February 21, 2016

The pattern of fragments.

My friend Dave just introduced a revolutionary thought to me… what if I stop trying to write a cohesive narrative, a long-flowing piece? What if I make the whole thing a series of essays? Necessarily fragmented? Because, for fuck’s sake, I’m a single homeschooling mom and it is well-nigh impossible for me to write a normal book? (That’s me saying that last bit, not him.)

It makes sense to me. It also brings me a wave of relief. Could I really do that? I already have so much material I could use. I’d need to write more, yes, but I could do it in bursts rather than try to construct a grand, hyper-organized chronicle. It could be a good meta-reflection of my circumstances and process. My writing, along with my inner and outer landscapes, will necessarily be turbulent. I want the reader to understand my bewilderment through direct experience.  I’d still need to edit and organize and shuffle and re-shuffle. I’d still be looking for patterns, and prefacing, and couching, and whatnot. It’s taking some sort of disjointed shape in my mind.

Here’s what I see.

I grew up and live in the Culture of Disconnection, of Separation, of Competition, of Keeping Busy, of Achievement.

So much of my life for the past 10-15 years has been about deliberately dismantling every habit and assumption I’ve had, based on that culture. I’ve dismantled my approach to politics, realizing that I’m an anarchist. I’ve dismantled my approach to work and money, moving away from hierarchical institutions, learning non-monetary ways of exchange and subsistence to the degree that I’m able, steadily reducing my dependence on the conventional economy.  I’ve dismantled my beliefs about learning and education—I, a lifelong admirer of scholarly work, groomed for the Ivy League, thinking/hoping I might squirrel myself away in the Ivory Tower, directing my energy into graduate degrees and becoming an academic reference librarian, have largely turned away from it. My child and I are unshackled learners, wandering in feral patterns through the woods, through the libraries and museums and cafes when they suit us, through art, through books, through spontaneous conversation, through our bodies, through our breath. I’ve dismantled my beliefs about relationships and families; I think the nuclear family model is too insular and isolating, and the narrow restrictions and expectations of systemic monogamy are a choke-hold on my self-actualization. I won’t privilege a unitary, vacuum-sealed, idealized, romantic relationship over my child, my friends, my solitude, the full, rich panoply of realized and potential connection with others in any form it might take—sexual, intellectual, quiet, playful, intimate, serious, frivolous, light. I won’t allow others to define marriage or commitment or fidelity for me. I won’t wait for The One. WE are the One. Fuck the oppressive, enduring mythology that women are property, that, by extension, we are all slaves to this insidious System, that we should accept the insult to our souls that we are anything less than free to love.

And now, apparently, I’m dismantling my beliefs about what a writer should be, how she should work, how her narratives should flow, what timetable she should be working on, how she will be perceived by her readers. There are writers who have time to write, and money to work with, and editors to lean on. There are writers who have someone doing all the housework. There are writers with no children, or with children who go to school, or whose children are grown, or with children who are attended to by anyone but them. I am not one of those writers. I will have to write differently from them. I will have to change my expectations. I will have to demonstrate that the creative and relational impulse that is Writing is not purely the domain of the privileged few. If my writing seems fragmented, that’s because it is—because it reflects my broken heart and mind, still whole and alive despite all the cracks and fissures. And my broken heart and mind reflect the fractures in the world: our badly damaged cultures and psyches, our landscapes torn apart, our air and oceans modified in grotesque ways, our tribes scattered the length and breadth of the globe, our entrenched, erroneous beliefs that we are separate, that we are not related.

Here is reality. I’m finite. There are luxuries of time and support I will not have. I want to write anyway. I want to accept myself. I want to cease trying to be perfect. I’m at the point of tackling Perfectionism to the ground, that cruel, relentless beast who would sooner muzzle me than offer genuine help—I won’t hold a knife to her throat, though. I’ll kill her with kindness.

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Responses

  1. YES! I love this. Go for it, in good health and with much joy and insight in the journey.

    • Thank you so much, Loma! I’m so happy that a whole bunch of people think this is a good idea.

  2. Yes yes yes!!!

  3. Jen, your writing touches on brilliance in these blog essays. You have a rare gift at using metaphor to paint striking pictures of reality, especially when you are feeling rebellious at the dysfunctionalities of the dominant culture. It’s qualitatively different from your facebook posts. Those seem more like you’re reaching out emotionally. Sometimes your posts also seem cathartic. Dismantling is an insightful metaphor for describing what you’ve been doing.

    About education, soon after I dropped out of what was primarily a military draft dodging stint in college thanks to the largess of my parents (until the maid found the marijuana, initiating a few years of wanderjhar), curiosity spontaneously led me to a lifetime of autodidactic exploration. I’ve always been a generalist and like you, I continue to wander at play in the mind fields.
    Thing is, I got a very good basic grounding in the universal educational basics. Public schools back in the 50’s and 60’s were very good for that. I was fortunate to get a series of dedicated teachers, people who cared about kids learning. Sure we all got “twisted out of shape by society’s pliers.” But that was as much or more of a societal artifact as an educational one. I was fortunate in that my immersion in the “counter culture,” hippiedom, and frankly, my exposure to psychedelics dissolved much of that conditioning.
    That isn’t to say that homeschooling is inadequate for kids. It could be the opposite in the case of people who cannot afford upper crust private schooling. The sad fact is that public education in America has deteriorated hideously. The high school our kids graduated out of routinely graduates students who are functionally illiterate.
    I look forward very much to reading your book and I think there is a very real probability that you will find a publisher.

    • I’m deeply touched, Randle. Thanks also for your ever-vivid descriptions of your life and thoughts! I look forward to having a book to share with you!

  4. This makes so much sense to me, Jen. I guess I’ve always pictured your book in essay form rather than as a beginning-to-end narrative. Sounds like a huge shift for you amidst other meaningful shifts. Yay!

    • Thanks, Jill. It’s funny how many people have now said to me, “Wait, I thought this was the format your book would take anyway.” 🙂

  5. One problem: this sounds perfect! (May we all have such breakthroughs and may we erect ever fewer self-barriers that need breaking through.)

    • Thanks for making me laugh, Kristine! Hope you’re well.


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