Imagine every aspect of your life shattering. Refuge evaporates, not found within your family, home, and work, not in sleep or in your mind, because each one offers a hostile environment – of your own making. Everything disintegrates at once, relentless.
I lived through this experience and more – from being declared sick at age six for being gender dysphoric to twenty one months in a Federal prison camp, and as horrid as it sounds, as much as I’d choose death rather than surrender my integrity again or be the weak-minded fool, living through it made me a better person and a better writer.
Trauma means drama, and drama works in storytelling. Two events over this past week reinforce this for me, one positive one and one unfortunate one. We lost Whitney Houston on Saturday, a tragic loss to all who loved her. Comments surface now suggesting she asked for it, she brought it on herself, and why should we feel any sympathy?
Technically, she did bring it on herself, but I like to think we take a higher road than such judgement, just as with Amy Winehouse last summer. I see the human cost, in fact I feel it, because for anyone who runs a gauntlet of omnipresent trauma, the person just knows what hurt feels like. We humans tend to the judgemental, somehow elevating ourselves over those who stumble. We love to strip a person of dignity or even humanity, and it irks me every time.
On a positive note, Adele brought a tractor-trailer to the Grammys in order to carry away her hardware, and she earned every ounce of those awards. Over the course of my fifty seven years, so many voices stand out, so many with power, with ability to hit notes that drop jaws to the floor, yet I believe without reservation Adele claims honour as the best I’ve heard. And, can she tell a story.
The astounding success of her latest album combines a peerless voice with personal storytelling. According to what I’ve read, Adele wrote the songs based on an intense relationship that went awry and left her reeling. When I hear Set Fire To The Rain, it’s not hard to grasp. Her voice reeks with emotion, and every hurt she feels, I feel.
Unlike Adele, my emotion flows through my fingers, into my writing. The hurts, arguments, and fear in my head provide a bottomless reservoir of topics and situations. The novel nearing an end now will be the lightest of my works, and even its characters experience trauma. When this one goes in the done bin, the writing ride intensifies thereafter. Coming themes: a vigilante group working against domestic violence, a woman who loses her life when EMTs refuse to treat her, while her basketball playing partner stands accused of steroid use, a 15 year old in 1969 who accidentally outs herself and is horrifically assaulted, a fifty seven year old telling a friend the story of a priest preying upon her as a child, and a bi-racial lesbian couple attacked while sailing.
Rather than let trauma own me, I own it, redirecting memory into productive uses, by speaking with students, by writing on this blog, through my work and schooling, and most especially, through my writing.