There’s this Toni Morrison quote that often tumbles around in my head: “At some point in life the world's beauty becomes enough. You don't need to photograph, paint, or even remember it. It is enough.” This feels somewhat foreign to me, a Zen aspiration, a hands-off approach to being here on planet Earth. Yet, I think it tumbles around precisely because it is so anti-will-power; because against our destructive, ravenous capitalist background, it suggests enoughnness.
Let’s pair that quote with cartoonist Lynda Barry’s recent story post on Instagram, where scrawled on a small note paper she wrote: “DRAWING TO HAVE AN EXPERIENCE - RATHER THAN MAKE A THING THAT IS GOOD OR BAD.” What Barry suggests, at least to me, is also a sense of enoughness. What if we put aside good or bad & let ourselves go, grow, explore, wonder, fuck up, explore, experience? At the core of Morrison’s words is a similar invitation: experience. Not to catalogue, narrativize, bisect into Good or Bad, but to feel enoughness.
When I was growing up, my Mom had a saying: “It’s the meaning you make of it.” She meant that it’s important to notice what meaning we ascribe to the events of our lives. She meant that there is always a fork in the road where we can choose our response, our interpretation. It was empowering to her & I could always see why. I’m a writer, after all.
Making meaning is the writer’s impulse. But there are positives – & drawbacks – to making meaning.
The positives, well, folks, so many of you writers out there know this by heart & practice. By making meaning of the events in our lives we can confront our shadows, fully feel our joys, investigate our scrambles, untangle memories, connect to ourselves more deeply, & if we’re lucky, connect to humanity at large. Heck, if we’re knock-it-out-of-the-park-lucky, we can connect to Divinity. Whatever that may look like for each of us.
Those are some yummy positives. What are the drawbacks of a mind that is busy making meaning? That is the tender territory I have been occupying. Lately, in wanting to overlay a transparency of meaning over certain events in my life, I find myself exhausted & humbled. Meaning withdraws like a turtle into its carriable cave. What am I left with? Uncertainty. Questions. Murk. One drawback of a mind that is making meaning is an air of conclusion. I find that lately I’ve wanted to walk in the rain, just to feel the rain. To I’ve wanted to feel sadness (or confusion or doubt) fully, without prescriptions or self-help or by roads. I’ve simply wanted experience and enoughness. As some of you know, I’ve named 2023 “The Year of Touch” & it’s for a reason. It’s because I’ve been craving these two e-words a lot over the years (ahem, over the decades). I want touch, to enter the tactile, to center living over summarizing.
I am so proud of how far I’ve come. Of my story. I’ve embraced Bipolar Disorder, written a book that’s a love letter to my medication, steadily gone to therapy, rebuilt relationships, taken vast creative risks, started a portable creativity school - the list goes on!
But then there are some days, some nights, where I need to put my story down. Don’t we all? I need to put meaning down with it, like a suitcase, & take a good look around.
There is nothing to “photograph, paint, or remember.” There is only the battering rain against my eyelids, my own tears, & the desire to experience it.
This week, in the spirit of Morrison, under the guidance of Barry, I found myself called to collage. It started with junk mail. I spotted the bright colors of a catalogue & whooooosh! in came an odd impulse: rip these up, put them together again, put your analytical brain down, have fun. I didn’t have all of the materials - double sided tape, a glue gun - so I trotted over to Walgreens & bought them. When I sat down under the desk lamp’s glow, my aim was to abandon all notions of Good or Bad. To keep it low stakes. To move paper around until it gave me a feeling. To enjoy myself. To taste color. To relax. As I collaged, I jotted some notes down on precious textured paper that Angel gifted me before I left for MacDowell. Notes, or permissions. Let this be an experience, I thought, jotting down “against a narrative thread.”
& That was that, dear reader. I invite you to do something equally anti-conclusion this week. To live inside a color. Or sound. Or feeling. I’d love to know how in your life you already carve out time & space to just experience. Let me know in the comments! May we collect ways, together, to foster enoughness.
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Thank you for being here. In this digital space, yes, but also in the world at-large. I’m sending you ease on the breeze, & colors, colors you can sink your teeth into, colors you can taste.
With ample maple syrup,
Gratitude for this glimpse into your making meaning of making meaning. It nudges me to think about basketball, sports, how on a Sunday at Clark Park in the rectangle of that court I can feel pain, triumph, defeat, pride, shame, trust, regret, anger, desire, pleasure, rage— and then I can step off the sideline and walk away, leaving those emotions behind me and carrying them with me somehow at the same time. A meaning is made simply by experiencing it, and it loses its meaning without the experience. There’s a freedom to that, I think. The same way safron could be the colour of genocide in a country I come from- or it could just be the sun dipping past the horizon for the day, the sky stomping its heels. Thank you for the colours of these thoughts running now like paint across my canvas.
My therapist told me I am always trying to make meaning, even when in the middle of things. This was a very helpful and cathartic read. Thank you for your words!