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Bringing the Pain: The Catharsis in Expression

I was reading today, and it got me thinking about how many people there are who are allowing themselves to move through their current and past difficulties by way of blogging.

I get a lot of joy out of reading blogs of personal truth. Ones where the blogger is sharing their experiences and how they are choosing or have chosen to overcome it. I thought about the fact that in years passed, we’ve often kept our journies secret. Hidden away in diaries meant for one set of eyes, only. Left with the only way of getting it out, in speaking to a therapist, counselor or non-judgmental friend. Some of us couldn’t share our world and purge our afflictions at all, but instead kept them locked away in our minds. I wonder how much better, resolved, shored up, the world must be today in finally being able to bring into the light all of the many trials, the lessons learned, the change that has taken place within ourselves — Solely by writing it out and allowing the world to see us as we are.

There is no shame, or certainly shouldn’t be any, attached to speaking one’s truth. Writing gives us the freedom to put it out there and leave it on the paper. So many forms of artistic expression is about bringing the pain. Shedding light on that dark corner that’s covered in heartache and cobwebbs. Making it the source of the expression, and then delivering it in a way that turns into beauty, genius… Art.

Many, many moons ago this very idea of bringing the pain, became pretty clear to me. I’ve sung for the most part of my life and have been in a few gospel choirs, growing up. I remember one day when we were practicing a new song, which I had a solo in, that we would be performing the next day for the congregation. For a while leading up to this practice I had been struggling with my own depression and issues surrounding it, but in that moment I was in a zone. It was as if there was no one there with me. I sang that song with every bit of my struggles, every ounce of my pain, poured into it. When we were done, I opened my eyes to see tears running down every choir memebers face and I could see right then that they had also sung from the same place that I had. We all layed our sorrows out in a plea to God to take them, heal them, and make us free. I walked away feeling so much lighter as that dark cloud of depression had lifted from my shoulders and into God’s capable hands.

The next morning when we were about to perform, I remember being a nervous wreck. My best friend had decided she wanted to see what my curly hair would like brushed straight, while dry… If you have curly hair, then you know that this is a recipe for a really bad look. Here I was about to leave to perform this solo for which I was completely terrified that I would butcher, and I looked like I had stuck my hand in a live electoral socket, with no time to fix it before I had to leave for church. Okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad, I looked like Chaka Khan. This was the 90’s though and that hairstyle was not all the rage back then, unless you actually were Chaka Khan.

Back to the story…. The whole way there I kept thinking, “Would my voice crack? Would I be off key? Would the song translate for the congregation the way that it did for all of us the day before, at practice?” And then came the thought, “Will they laugh at my hair?” That one, I didn’t care too much about at this time, as I was more nervous about the song and not falling apart. I tried to take a few calming breaths and put my fears at ease.

I have always had stage fright, which makes singing pubicly that much more difficult. In an effort not to collapse into a pile of nerves, I close my eyes when I sing and pretend that it’s only me there. We sang the song and after church one of the choir members came up to me and said, “It was really good, but it was nothing like practice. There was something that you brought yesterday, that wasn’t here today.”

At the time I felt crushed that I had failed in accomplishing the goal of making this song translate to the one’s hearing it — But I realized then, what was missing. At practice the day before, I had brought the pain and left it on the floor. When the practice finished, all of what my heart had been holding onto, was gone. The next day in performing, that pain was no longer there. I had reliquished it and gave it a way out. It, and all of the emotions surrounding it, didn’t live inside of me anymore.

Anyone who writes will tell you, that their best writing comes from their worst times. When they are sleep-deprived and overly stressed, dealing with situations that are getting the better of them — That’s when they turn out their best work. And I beleive it is this way because this art requires us to bring the pain and then leave it on the cutting room floor. To bring those unseemly experiences, the worries and heartache to the paper, and relinquish it all as the ink dries. I’ve never found it harder to write than when life is going smoothly. There’s almost nothing that brings more contemplation, fueling the words and packing them with heartfelt emotion, than the lack of contentment. We need the pain, to bring forth the expression, the artistry.

I read so many wonderful bloggers, and I hardly ever think about their use of writing, or turn of phrase. I am impacted by their work through the underlying emotion, intention, their experience of pain and their desire to overcome. That I can feel permeating from each word.

I watched a movie a while back about Ernest Hemmingway, and what I saw more than anything in this movie was his need for life to be out of sorts and disruptive, in order for him to furiously write. I think this is true for most, if not all, of us who do what we do with passion. I usually don’t write about anything that has not touched my life personally. I write from my experience of things. It has to come from a very real place of sadness, frustration, elation, desperation, in order for me to write about it. There’s a poetry to most all forms of expression where life shows itself coming into center view. All of these fluid, moving parts swirling around one subject – Heartbreak.. Love.. Pain.. Lonlieness.. The passion drives us, but the pain makes it relatable. Translating it into this universal language of which we can all understand.

When I think of all of the emotions that surround experiences, those are what keep us distracted, unfocused on the actual issue. But whenever I write about it, those emotions take to the background as the real issue itself, claims the focus. Each time, whatever it is that I’m writing about becomes clearer to me. All of the sudden I get the one part of it that I couldn’t fully grasp before, because that part now plays the nucleus which ties everything together.

I, for one, am so very glad that we live in a time where anyone and everyone who needs an outlet to express and share their truths, has one. I am constantly amazed at how very many people are out there dealing with the same kind of emotions tied to their own experiences, as I am with mine. How this makes us relatable to each other and also shows us that we are not alone in our struggles, but that we are human. This is why freedom of thought is so vital, and freedom of expression, so necessary. It proves to us that though we all may be fighting our own battles, both our suffering in them and our conquering of them, does not go unseen or unshared.

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