Alright, this is going to be disgusting. You’ve been warned.
Anyway, I’ve been getting a bit braver in some the writing I’ve been doing privately. But even though I’m progressing, I find I can still only be so brave.
I have written a lot about my fear of revealing things about myself and people in my life through my work. This morning my internal tug of war around this – the urge to purge nearly as strong as the determination not to – reminded me of how I felt when I had a 48-hour stomach bug recently.
Several times in those two days, I had on overwhelming urge to throw up. My skin got clammy, the room spun slightly, and I started to heave. Better get to the bathroom, I thought. But if I did, then I’d have to let go and do the thing I hate most in the world. Throwing up is terrifying. You lose your balance. It’s hard to breathe. You are completely vulnerable and out of control. And it’s hard to know when it’s over. Just when you think you’re done, there’s another heave - another moment when it’s hard to breathe, when you think you could die, right there, on your knees in front of the toilet. But in most cases, afterward you feel better.
In each instance during my two-day affliction, I refused to bring myself anywhere near the bowl. Instead I vigilantly avoided thinking about purging, and alternated between deep and shallow breathing, as seemed fit, minute by minute. Again and again, I kept it down.
As the hours wore on, I regretted not giving in to the urge to just fucking release the bug. I was prolonging my own misery by holding onto it. Yet when a subsequent wave of nausea would overtake me, I’d resume basically doing Lamaze so I wouldn’t have to endure the horrors and indignities inherent in puking.
Back to writing. I think it’s Natalie Goldberg who makes the analogy of the importance of “vomiting on the page.” But the prospect of releasing certain ideas and stories is even scarier to me than retching, even though avoiding it is clearly keeping me uncomfortable for longer. I’m working on this…