As I sit here this morning wondering what I will write about, with too many ideas racing though my head, I turned to a collection of images that are resting on my desktop, images such as this one of Emma James, a naturist from the U.K. who had become part of Naked Poetry book 2. I was struck by the openness and authentic sense of being at peace with “self” that this image portrays.
I have both taken and collected images from other places to illustrate my blog posts over the years. As I looked back at my archive, I noticed how the expression on my face and the stiffness of my body has changed. It has been only in the recent few years that my own image begins to show the same level of self-acceptance as I see in the image of Emma.
I think back to a number of years when I was constricted, barely able to breathe for the tightness in my chest and the vice-grips that had imprisoned my soul. None of it made sense as I had a good life as a parent and spouse with a good career that had earned me a lot of community respect. What had been responsible for my dark state of being within the embrace of family and community? What had changed between then and now when I can once again breathe without worry of the shadows that are still present on the periphery?
My writing since that time of darkness, a writing that had found its way into a number of formats – discussion groups, poetry, reflective journals, blog posts and stories that acknowledge the reality of darkness that broods with a life of its own, within the compass of my life. As the stories emerged, I found myself battling the emerging monsters and ghosts, never able to defeat them, but finding a way to co-exist with them. I created a space where whatever and whoever it is that I identify with as my self, a legitimate space hard-earned.
As the spaces opened up and breathing returned, somewhat to normal, other images of the unconscious emerged, images of those moments in time when I had previously felt whole. More often than not, the images showed a transparent self, one that didn’t hide in closets or in cardboard boxes. I saw myself without the borrowed clothing of others. Yes, I saw myself without clothing, daring to be exposed to the universe. Of course, I was a child, a youth, and later a very young man when these rare experiences were lived. To be graced with these images bathed in light in a world and life that was otherwise darkness, allowed me to remember, to re-member that child, youth, young adult into a much older adult. And so I dared to search again for those spaces and places where I could risk being authentically and transparently myself.
My life has changed, dramatically because of my work with writing and with my risking being vulnerable. I have learned, perhaps for the first time, that it is okay to be me. I now know that I don’t have much choice but to be authentically me if I am to continue breathing without the power of the darkness once again imprisoning me so that I become only a shell of a man.