Nikki Giovanni: “Writing is a conversation with reading; a dialogue with thinking.”
And so if my writing doesn’t make sense, know it is because ultimately, my thoughts are not for you.
So we’re always trying to just tell the truth as we understand it, and I want my students to understand that. You have a voice, use it. Never let anybody take your voice away from you. That’s what’s important. And don’t waste — I’ll go back to that — don’t waste what you know. You’d be surprised at how many people actually waste what they know, not to mention waste what they feel.
And so what I want to say is, I’m telling my truth. Some days I don’t say it loudly enough; some days I don’t describe it well enough. Some days I use the wrong tone of voice and don’t make enough eye contact during the telling. But at least I’m telling. At least I’m speaking. At least I’m standing up where you can see me and I am being. I practice. I’m not going to waste what I feel.
And some days, I think it doesn’t go so well because I am still figuring out what doesn’t suit me. What flavors don’t agree with my palate. I’m still making sense of this. But that’s okay, because with all the life I’ve lived and plan to live, I have to decide what I will carry and what I will not. I have to determine what will stay in my memories and what will float away.
As Nikki Giovanni said, “I just didn’t let that which does not suit me determine who I am.”
Often, the people I come across– in my work, at the grocery, at my family gatherings– assume I am ignoring them. They assume I have strong feelings of negativity related to them or something they said. And so often what I do not say, but maybe what I should start saying is that I have no room for violence in my life. No room for violence of thought or action. I do have moments of anger, which is a seed of violence. I do have moments of irrational seeing red, which can be a plot from which violence grows. I know this. But often it passes as quickly as it surged up within me. Often all I need to let it go is the frown of my eyes and the turn of my chin. All I need to do is to wrinkle my brow and recognize, this does not suit me and move on. Move forward. How do we move forward? I want to know.
You asked me how are you and as much as I enjoy your company and enjoy your words I did not want to answer your question. How are you. Can’t we talk about anything, something, else? How am I? How am I. Let’s talk about words and books and the sunshine and the dancing and the life that you’re living. I don’t know. How am I?
How do I seem? A stranger was in my home today and I find myself re-looking at everything familiar. How do I seem to someone who has no context of me? Can you glean any meaning from my things? I hope not. I hope I am more than my things. I hope these things do not form a bigger picture. I hope these things are as nonsensical to strangers as they are to me at times. The random bits I’ve collected and set out. I hope you see that they are there for no reason. Only something from a moment that was. That did not live.
A friend recently told me how she and her fiancé don’t discuss their days. They don’t really talk like that. For ten years they’ve been best friends and now betrothed and they don’t do the “how was your day” thing. She said they mostly just observe together and enjoy each other’s company and share their observations with one another. She didn’t ask if that was weird. She didn’t ask for any opinion at all whatsoever. She stated the facts and the conversation naturally evolved to something else. I miss that. Let’s talk about something bigger than my days, which so frequently and unfortunately end empty. Unanswered questions. Unfinished sentences. Unclear meaning. That end with my highlight being heartburn or tea in bed or a podcast that prompts me to write. I don’t think…even when my days were full…were those really something worth discussing? Sometimes the motions are impressive– yes, I agree, but that is not my truth. That is like the oath you take before you tell your truth. Forced, obligatory. Whatever comes next is truly your own.
If I had never had those full days, I wouldn’t know what it’s like to be hungry now.