Sunday, July 10, 2016

Has anyone ever exposed themselves to you?


Do  you have a pile of papers on your desk, or scraps of scribbled inspiration? I came across a poem I wrote in 2007 when I was going through a rough period, suffering from great loss. Two good friends had died, and one was dying. The kids were doing their own thing; the grandchildren were growing up and away. I felt like everything I cared about was going, going, gone. And then, out of all that sadness and chaos, a new baby was on the way... my ray of hope.

Today, as I reread Going-Going Gone, I remembered the reaction it garnered that evening when I nervously read it at open mic. Most people in attendance looked away or met my eyes with sad expressions, although it was not my intent to get sympathy. I was merely venting. I was very uneasy pouring out my angst in front of a roomful of strangers in the back meeting room of a neighborhood bar that served delicious pizza.

I will always remember one of the poets, Ken Brown, a neighborhood guy in his 40s. He had long scraggily hair, a ruddy complexion. He was a creative literary genius who could/should have been a beat poet. He wrote with brevity, yet his work spoke volumes. He had a signature sign off when he finished reading. He tossed his papers over his shoulder onto the floor.

Ken was a full-fledged alcoholic. But he was the only person that night who commented after I read. He scraped his chair back on that crummy floor at The Mac (where the St. Louis Writer's Guild met once a month for readings) and stumbled up to me. As he came closer, I backed away, uneasy as he approached. With a blast of alcohol breath, he said, "Aww darlin." He leaned in, kissed my cheek, and shook his head as he walked back to his seat. It wasn't a come on, or pity. The late Ken Brown was expressing empathy. I will always treasure that moment.

Writing about your angst can be a release, so if you feel burdened by personal problems, overwhelmed by events, or the world situation, journal your feelings. Share only if you want to. Write for release. It helps.

And when you are at an open mic and someone undresses in front of you, makes you feel uncomfortable by baring all, exposing their deepest emotions, remember we are all human, and a little empathy goes a long way.  

11 comments:

Connie said...

It can be difficult but also cathartic to write about what causes us pain or sadness. I agree that when someone expresses their innermost feelings, that empathy is the best course of action.

Bobby Barbara Smith said...

People find it difficult to address pain. We all have it. We should learn to discuss it openly. I guess the alcohol, fed the one man's courage. I bared my soul in a few short stories. So far CS has not emphasized ;)

K9friend said...

Ken sounds like a man who had a story to tell.

Pat
Critter alley

Julia Gordon-Bramer said...

Cheers to Ken! I'll never forget him.

DUTA said...

I've experienced great loss - that of my brother. I wrote some short poems about him and about my feelings in two languages: romanian and hebrew(I'm no professional writer nor poet ), compiled them into a booklet and sent them to relatives and aquaintences. I don't think I could have read them openly; it was too painful. After he died I felt as if part of my body and soul was taken away from me, and those poems were too personal to be read aloud.

Sandi said...

Ooh, Linda, with your brief description here I feel like I know Ken. A kind man who easily spoke his mind. Probably experienced loss himself. You can see it in his compassion. And directness. Aww, Darlin' indeed. Sometimes the most broken people are the most together.

Sioux said...

Linda--The best writing is the kind that exposes us... even if it's fiction.

It sounds like you need to write that story about Ken.

Karen Lange said...

Writing is cathartic for me, even when working on freelance projects that have nothing to do with what I'm feeling. It helps lend purpose and work through issues somehow.

Mary Horner said...

That is a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing. I feel like most of my poems are cathartic, and don't share as many of those, but I'm getting close, I think. I've been reading a bit about emotional Intelligence and empathy, which is very important in any relationship, especially business, where it's been ignored for too long!

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Writing is definitely cathartic for me. It isn't always easy to share, but the surprising thing is how many people understand and relate. Great post.

Gerry Mandel said...

Thanks for telling me about this posting, Linda. I think all writers, to some degree, expose themselves. Or at least they should. It's not easy, at times so difficult and you never know, until you read it aloud to others, whether or not you can get through it. Last night a guy read a story about a dog he loved. The dog died. And the writer/reader copped out. He said "we put the dog down".. a term I absolutely hate.. and then went on to get another dog. He never exposed himself, and will never know just how more powerful a writer he could be if he took that road. You mention Ken Brown. How well I remember him, and the first time he showed up, drunk, at the bar, interfering with the readers. Until he eventually became a participant himself, and turned out some of the most powerful writing heard at The Mac. I was MC the night he made his initial disturbance, and I went over to his table and asked him to tone it down, be respectful. Instead of hitting me (he was with a couple tough looking dudes), he said "sorry" and was quiet. He also said something about writing. I suggested he write something and join us next month. He did. And the rest is Ken Brown history. I still think of him and miss his guts, his individuality, his sensitivity and his in your face attitude. Great post, Linda. Thanks.