It’s been about a year since my best friend took his life, and in the past year, my writing productivity has largely dried up. At best I could write in my journal, but mostly I looked at the blank page with contempt. When that happens, anguish wins.
I’ve come to realize that I really wasn’t dealing with my grief at all, or even acknowledging it. It eventually manifested into a kind of paralysis that spread to other areas of my life—I wasn’t exercising, I was eating badly, and just going through the motions of daily life, finding it impossible to really enjoy anything. I’m sure that I wasn’t much fun to be around, and I’m impressed as hell that I have any friends left.
The catalyst for change came in November when I hurt my back. After a long weekend at work, working two 10-hour days in a row, I dove into a mindless day of running around, and after getting in and out of the car a dozen times, my lower back just locked.
So here it was, I reached the point where my body was following my mind down the path of non-function. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I could feel myself shutting down, but I knew I had reached the precipice. I could either figure out how to fight back, or give up. This was the point where I had to put my big stupid ego aside and ask for help.
I’m very fortunate that I found a very nice physical therapist who was very patient with my moody and cantankerous bitching. I’ve also found a very nice brain therapist who has been excellent at letting me vent about a lot things that I’ve allowed to build up. Through this process, I started to look forward to writing again. I finally finished a piece that took me out of my comfort zone, which made me take a long look at my goals as writer.
I’ve written in the past about the threats women writers face on the Internet. With my friend’s death happening on the heels of the Charlie Hebdo shooting, in addition to the fallout from Rolling Stone’s campus rape story, I think some of my grief wandered into a paranoia about what kind of consequences I might face for my words. I’ve largely viewed my writing as a kind of commentary, but I’ve become increasingly frustrated with that role. The source of my frustration is really in how dogmatic a lot of feminist discourse has gotten.
In my view, the Rolling Stone story fell apart because the author allowed herself to put her agenda ahead of getting her facts straight, and the magazine enabled her. Realizing I didn’t want to ever find myself in the same position, I started getting reacquainted with some basics of journalism. Even commentary is supposed to have its information together to make a solid argument. What’s bothered me in the past year is that I haven’t seen enough soul-searching. In fact, I feel as though I’ve seen a deliberate unwillingness to not learn the lessons of what happened at Rolling Stone. When I read some articles, it kills me to see how some authors are contorting information to fit their world view instead of building conclusions based on the information at hand. So I’ve often felt like I don’t fit into a lot of feminist writing—I’m not a socialist, I don’t see every man as a potential rapist; I think feminism should really focus more on policy failures than policing behavior. As I’ve looked at some of my work, I fully realize that I’m guilty of the very same things I’ve just criticized. So if I’m going to gripe about feminist writers not holding themselves to an especially high standard, then I need to start with myself.
I’m at a place where I feel like I’m starting over. It’s both very liberating and incredibly frightening. But for the first time in a long time, I feel some real optimism about my life and my work.
I still miss my friend something awful. I always will. What initially brought us together was a mutual appreciation for old school punk rock, but what made us friends was that we both looked for life off the beaten path. He had a generous spirit, and was probably the least judgmental person I’ve ever met. I wish he made it.
May the road rise with you…