I am forever aswim in my own stream of consciousness. Socrates and I would have been very close friends, I’m sure, as I have exactly zero capability not to consider and reconsider every thought I have or decision I make in order to better understand its origins. What is it that motivates me? (Curiosity.) Why I am threatened by not being understood? (Because I need to feel known and seen.) What is it, exactly, about okra that grosses me out? (Simple: the slime.)
As Socrates put it, before being put to death, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” And my life, well, it’s very deeply examined by me̶ in a way that is exhausting.
Frankly, it’s very tiring to be in a constant meta-conversation with myself. But there’s no stopping it.
So to keep things lively, I made my streams of consciousness public. I wrote a book about a time in my life when my house and my marriage fell apart at the same time. And, in it, I laid it all bare: the bouts of ego-driven rage, the stupidly shallow things I screamed at my husband, the bottomless self-doubt, the times I laid on the kitchen floor at night sobbing because I didn’t know what else to do.
There is a scene in the book I almost took out — three different times — because it makes me wince every time I read it. In it, I have just succumbed to gales of sobbing after I have carried my son through the front door — because it was hard to park, because it was pouring rain, because we’d just come from a stressful doctor appointment, because I wasn’t handling anything well. I find myself back down on the floor (what is it about lying prone that feels like waving the white flag?) as my son circles me, saying, “Mama? Mama cry? Mama?”
And I don’t — I can’t — even look up to comfort him.
When a friend read and edited the manuscript for me, someone with whom I worked at Redbook magazine when I was editor in chief, she handed it back to me with her notes and said this: “It’s intense in spots, Stacy.” I nodded. “Like, really raw.” I nodded again.
Then she said, “People are going to read it.” What she meant was that people in the magazine industry were going to read it — and then have an opinion, possibly judge me. Maybe it would hurt my career in some way.
Some feelings aren’t meant to be edited. Some stories are meant to make people wince.
But that had been the point: To show that sometimes life gets really, really dark. And it’s okay. The book was also about forgiveness and acceptance and strength and honesty and how you get there from the ugly stuff.
Fast forward a handful of years., I am in a different job. I have a personal blog where I blog about personal stuff. I work in social media, and so I participate in social media, sharing in this dance of public sharing we all do in one way or another. Every day I stumble across amazing, brave writing that women (and men) are doing about their lives and their pain: struggling with mental illness; losing a child, whether to cancer or jail; harrowing tales of rape or abuse and the years of healing that follow.
During this time I wrote a post about the frenetic pace of life and work called “I Want To Revolt.”
“I don’t know how life got like this. Is this the life our parents lived? Working so hard and with such force that you are literally empty every day when you get home, barely able to see through making a meal for yourself and spending some time with your beloved child? Falling into bed and into a heavy slumber you awaken nearly drunk from, coaxing yourself out of bed and to do the rigmarole once again?
I want to revolt. I want to stamp my foot and say NO! I want to pack my bag and grab my child and head to the place or the time wherein we work to live and we eat to live and we live to live, instead of giving so much to that which gives us our daily bread that there’s nothing left to do but eat the bread and indulge in more butter, please, because it will be your day’s sole pleasure.”
It goes on in its ranty way, but I loved the piece. It expressed what I was feeling, what I think a lot of us feel. And then my boss asked me to take it down.
I was stunned. It was such an ordinary complaint — not meant to be an indictment of where I worked but rather our culture at large, which every one of us has a piece in creating.
Of course, I took it down. Only a fool bites the hand that signs off on your direct deposit. But it is interesting to learn what kinds of honesty can be tolerated.
I actually once edited myself, taking down a post I had written guerilla-style in the middle of the night on my iPhone when my boyfriend and I were breaking up — the slow and painful dissolution of our relationship had been painstakingly recorded on my blog, but two days after I posted it, I made the post private.
It was private, painfully private, the ultimate stream of consciousness post, typed with no forethought and no editing. I left the typos in it, capturing its immediacy in amber. But after a few months, and then a few years, I made it public again.
Some feelings aren’t meant to be edited. Some stories are meant to make people wince. My friend may have been right, that being so raw might not have been the greatest strategy for my magazine career.
But for my role as a writer and a truth-teller, splashing around publicly in my streams of consciousness has been very, very good, surrounding me with a subtle chorus of “yes” and “me, too,” creating company and comfort that radiates outward.
So come on in! The water’s fine.
(Photo credit: Stocksy.com)