A case of the shakes

Sometimes I start shaking. When I have conversations down to the bone. It starts in my legs or my arms, gets into my core or maybe my core starts shaking first, I’m not sure. Those small puppies without sweaters – think of that. Except I’m usually bundled up because I hate being cold. I could be driving home from a great conversation. In the dark, city lights, street lights, green lights, red. It could be a hard conversation – discussions about issues I don’t want to talk about. I’ve always prided myself on being honest in my writing. I suppose that’s why I found writing. As a kid what was a pen saying to me that nothing else could? It’s no wonder I was drawn to something that required truth. But even before I consciously knew there were unspoken boundaries I wrote. I wrote poems about my best friends and poems about my hamster dying. But I think the first poem that did it, the first poem I shared with a teacher was all the things my dad promised me when I’d go to his house that I didn’t get. It wasn’t just the horse, the McDonalds, the toy. He was good at giving money and candy. It was the fact that I was freezing, that my feet were always cold, that I’d sit uncomfortable in the corners of the couch because I was too afraid to ask for anything. I was too afraid to tell him all the things I wanted and needed to tell him.
And so I’d get home, go to my room and cry and shake because I had no where else for it to go.
Writing is as natural as breathing for me. And telling the truth, being honest in writing – well duh.
I never really acknowledged that I was a shaker until maybe 2 years ago when I really first started writing the poems of my childhood. I knew I did it, but I never really cared to ask why or to understand it. It was like going to the bathroom, changing your underwear, picking your nose – it was something I did in private, a part of my body and a part of me that no one else saw. It wasn’t until a friend asked me how I got all of that energy out. What I did with all of that silence? It had to have an outlet somewhere. I would shake, I told her. My entire body would shake. Up until then I thought it was just a weird tick. I’d never really given the thought air.
What I realize now is I had been writing the same poem since I was 12 or 13 years old. I wrote different things of course, but I always came back to the same ones. The ones about silence, screaming. the ones about my heart exploding, the ones about freedom, the ones about wishing my dad would die so I’d know why I was feeling so much pain. I didn’t know where it was coming from. I felt maybe death – everyone feels pain after someone dies. I needed a reason, something solid to place it in. And I internalized it all. I didn’t rage out, I didn’t do drugs, I didn’t drink or runaway or sneak out of the house. It was just my poems and me and finally a therapist for a brief period and sometimes my aunt, sometimes my mom, sometimes a friend. But mostly my poems and me.
I don’t feel like I have to write about those things anymore in my poetry. Or if I do I can get past the blinding pain I felt and write about them honestly with myself out of the way. I can, i hope, look at them as they were. I know I don’t carry so much of that weight anymore.
But the shaking. i still do that. I’ve learned to start writing about the things that scare me, the things that flat out terrify me, the things I never talk about. And I suppose the shaking is one of them. I’ve never given it the proper time in the light. Speaking honestly is hard for me. Telling people what I need and hearing the things that they need – that’s still hard. It’s awkward and my mind goes blank and I’ll stare at the wall and someone will have to push and say “what are you thinking.” And then I’ll have to push and actually say it. It can be exhausting for me. It feels epic to try and change generations of skirting the issue. It feels a little overwhelming at times. But I want to try, learn from my writing self how to speak the truth. And perhaps at some point the two can sit down and have a flat-out conversation.

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