Sometimes when I write, I find myself asking ‘why?’. Why lay yourself bare for all to see, confronting your demons so publicly and with an emotional honesty I’m certain has made some people wince with discomfort borne, maybe, from understanding some of it a little too much?
In these internal revelations I have come to understand that I have to write, that I actually have no choice, because I need to:
- makes sense of what happened to me;
- help others make sense of what happened to them;
- effect change;
- feel the human connection.
Guided to watch ‘Jeanette Winterson; My Monster and Me’ by a friend on BBC iPlayer I allowed the discussions to soak me with relief, justification and inspiration. The levels upon which her story resonated with me far outweighed the actuality of any real similarities.
As I listened to her read sections from her book ‘Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?’(2011), a sequel to ‘Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit’ (1991), the reflection period of 20 years allowed her to make a different sense of her story; one more eloquent, more understanding and more forgiving. I valued and appreciated her ability to convey that we are forever changing in our understanding of what has happened to us, gaining more wisdom and insight as we keep treading the path.
There were many times in the programme that I stood next to her, almost in conversation with her. As she paused for thought in the clothes factory in Manchester that her mother had worked all her life, she wondered what her own life might have been like if her birth mother had decided to keep her. The social hostility around in 1960 towards unmarried mothers would have been extensive. But as she wondered, I also had to wonder what my own life might have looked like had I not returned from the Mother and Baby Home to my mother and grandmother and been adopted, as she was. The hostility of 1970, a mere decade later, was very present although a decade of revolution had passed. I wondered how that would have played out in the North West of England, with Jeanette in Manchester and me in Southport, just 40 miles and a decade apart.
She also talked about her resilience and how she ‘got through’ so many things to the dismay of many, only to be forced into an inevitable period of confrontation of herself sparked by the end of a relationship; an exploration which in fact nearly killed her. It was the end of my own marriage that took me to my emotional knees and allowed an open space from which I could finally heal from all that I had suffered during my formative years and open up to myself through writing – and I will remain eternally grateful for the opportunity to do so, since it has given me so much freedom.
During the whole programme I wanted to know about her and her story, how she made sense of it and how she healed from it. It made me wonder about my writing and I felt a surge of YES! that is why I write, because essentially we need to make sense of this thing called life – a philosophical conundrum from time immemorial .
The human condition itself needs us to understand what we’re doing here and what it all means. We need to understand ourselves and each other because that is how we connect. And when we connect, we can forgive. This is not an easy journey and society has much in place to stifle this inner need. All hatred in society comes from a sense of disconnection, the ‘them’ and the ‘us’ of which I speak regularly. Society uses racism, homophobia, sexism, stigmas around mental health and homelessness and children in care and abuse, endless means by which we can be separate from each other. But I write because we are all connected and because when I listen to someone else undergo that journey, as I did with Jeanette, I feel a sense of connection that makes me feel alive, human and at peace.