Posted by: mew | August 13, 2009

Definitely Ambivalent

“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.”

– Seneca



1. uncertainty or fluctuation, esp. when caused by inability to make a choice or by a simultaneous desire to say or do two opposite or conflicting things.
2. Psychology. the coexistence within an individual of positive and negative feelings toward the same person, object, or action, simultaneously drawing him or her in opposite directions.
Also, am⋅biv⋅a⋅len⋅cy.

1910–15; ambi- + valence
Source:  Random House Dictionary

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was nine years old.  At least, that’s the age I recall first articulating my desire to someone.  I wrote my first story at age six, on that pulpy, greyish paper with the lines so far apart you could fit about three words per line.  Nonetheless, somehow I fit a story onto it, covering front and back in clumsy child-writing.

My oeuvre was torn out of my plump little hands almost immediately by our class bully, Doug.  My first-grade teacher, in a show of what we would come to know as her typical incompetence, had chosen this delinquent to keep order whenever she quit the scene (often). Dougie then decided to read my fledgling effort aloud, laughing so much he had to pause frequently for breath.

Over three decades later, I do not recall my story verbatim.  I do recall its subject with piercing clarity.  My beloved black cat, Midnight, had birthed premature kittens earlier in the week, and I had come home from school the day before, practically flying up the drive, impatient for my father to open the garage so I could get to her cozy box full of kitten love… only to find that Midnight had eaten all but one of her newborns, leaving behind only their pathetic little heads and a lot of blood.

It was not, shall we say, a humorous essay.

yellow leaf

But Doug had the majority of my classmates in stitches by the end of his mocking rendition.

I wish I had scratched his eyes out.  I wish I had yelled at him.  I wish I had run to the teacher and risked being known as a tattletale for the next several years of my life.  Instead, I went up to the front of the class, head hanging, blushing furiously, and snatched the page from Doug’s hand.  As soon as the classroom volume returned to normal, and I was sure no one was paying attention, I crumpled my story up in a shameful ball and then whisked it into the trashcan, conveniently close to my desk.

That was just the beginning.  Since then I have burned my words, buried my words, shredded my words, deleted my words, and hidden my words.  Of course, I have also thrown a whole bunch of my words into the trash.  A therapist I had back in my 20s declared that I was “definitely ambivalent” about having my voice heard.  I thought this was funny, which just shows how talented I am at distracting myself from the painful issue at hand, and how obsessed I am with word choice.  But I also knew that she was right:  while I love to write, I simultaneously crave and dread an audience.  (Of course, I hope you know I don’t blame this block on Dougie.  Lots of events and people participated in my egoic conditioning.)

And it is a debilitating fear.  As George McDonald says, “But that is the way fear serves us:  it always sides with the thing we are afraid of.”  I often wonder how exactly Emily Dickinson kept it up.  Because each time I destroy a piece of writing, or hide another short story under the bed, I feel my writer’s voice ebbing.  Art needs an audience.  The loop longs to be closed.  My artistic voice has grown so quiet now, I fear it may soon disappear from lack of use.

That is why I began this blog.  My other blog is intended to get me back into the habit of steady, easy-does-it productivity, just a little something light posted every single day.  But this blog is to expose my writing to view, to practice having an audience.  I am going to dare to show my words to someone out there, knowing there is, practically speaking, likely only a tiny audience for this personal blog, and probably a pretty specialized audience, too, as those few found me through search terms and friendly links.  And by practicing, I hope to make it easier to take this jump, and eventually to send my words out into the wider world, perhaps in search of a publisher for a manuscript….

So it is not a new leaf I’ll be turning over, but a very old leaf I’ll be facing.  I know its contours well.  But I plan on transforming it into something unrecognizable, something beautiful, via a series of courageous small steps in the direction of my dreams.  Hopefully, witnessing the process will be uplifting, entertaining and even helpful for someone out there.  We’ll see.



  1. […] the rest of us unfortunates under the supervision of a six-year-old bully, and the resultant scarring episode.  And I’ve mentioned, but not explained, the froot loops.  So let me get that out of the […]

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