Collage of the Soul

2 Oct

When my mother committed suicide last summer, I couldn’t stop writing. Like a woman possessed, I groped my way to the computer no matter how puffy my eyes were or how tired I felt. Writing served as my life line, no different than during early childhood when I realized my mom’s alcoholism eclipsed our lives with sorrow and unpredictability.

The writing I did that summer was raw, stream of conscious and convoluted. I vomited both words and emotions without cohesion; my expression mimicking the nature of trauma itself. Normally at peace with my emotions, I found I couldn’t talk about the incident and at times wouldn’t even think about it. I could only express myself through writing and the tears stuffed themselves or came out cascading with violence. There was no middle ground.

From that writing, I produced an essay that will be published in a book called, “Think Outside the Cell,” a collection of reflections by family members with loved ones in jail, for my mom was incarcerated for a fifth felony DUI prior to her suicide. I also submitted a few other pieces to periodicals for publication. I thought about writing a book but couldn’t seem to conceptualize it, nor did I feel the impulse or discipline to explore my mom’s death on that level. However, I continued to write; this time in blog form about other topics, although themes of my mother’s death and spiritual journey continually wove themselves into the material.

And now suddenly, I see all these fragments of my story desperate to come together into a more tangible form. My psyche needs this to occur in order to be at peace. As psychologist Rollo May says, “Creativity is a necessary sequel to being,” and suddenly – I need to be, evolve, transform and transcend. And so, in the height of a busy schedule, I am finding myself moving to the computer not in effort or discipline or chore but in mad compulsion to experience the agony and ecstasy that comes with trying to make sense of things closest to one’s heart and soul. 

Art is a funny thing. It’s not something that can be willed into nature. May writes, “It is a waiting for the birthing process to begin to move in its own organic time. It is necessary that the artist have this sense of timing, that he or she respect these periods of receptivity as part of the mystery of creativity and creation.”

I know this well. Investing a number of years, I pushed myself to write two books that basically sucked and couldn’t be submitted for publication. I learned in the process and exercised my brain but… they were willed into existence, not delivered by the Maker. On the other hand, a few other projects – a screenplay, a children’s story and some articles –  wrote themselves. I was the vessel through which they came. I think I am becoming that instrument again – in which my mom’s death and related spiritual journey speaks through me vs. me willing myself to communicate.  Will it take time and energy to do this- yes? But can I stop the process? No. The water broke. 

Before starting school, I had a long talk with my friend’s pastor, Reverend Mark who also writes. As I debated the craziness of starting a second master’s program with no strong sense of related career goals, he said that the important thing was that being in a stimulating community (whether at church or in school) would do something to my writing. Would infuse it with fresh energy and passion. He was right. At a time when I have no real time to be embarking on serious writing projects, I suddenly find pockets of time in-between studying and work and life. Writing becomes the relief. The release. The outlet to make sense of new and old experiences. And to praise God.

4 Responses to “Collage of the Soul”

  1. Kevin Brangwynne October 2, 2009 at 5:03 pm #


  2. bub66ohm October 2, 2009 at 5:35 pm #

    I’m with you on this. I’m still waiting to tap into that current myself. I think that I should really pray more about it, it’s definitely not something that I pray about. I want to write songs again but I’m just not able to go there, which is frustrating. In my best times, it was like every time I turned around another one was asking to be written and now, I feel like I’m kind of in a desert with an oasis here and there. I know that part of it for me is to go to that place could quite possibly be painful. I might actually have to stop for a second and the whole world could crash around me. I’m really happy that you are there though. Enjoy and create!

  3. lisesletters October 3, 2009 at 12:29 am #

    Bub – pray about it. I have found that when I’m stuck, praying about creative blocks (or having someone pray for me really really helps.) There is value in the impasse; as well as value in feeling the pain, but I know you know that. I would be honored to pray for your song writing. And Kevin, merci beacoup! Your prayers are invaluable.

  4. Todd Tolson October 3, 2009 at 1:02 am #

    Lise, another thoughtful, beautiful post (as usual)…thank you for sharing your life.

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