Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Unedited Selves

Do you have any space in your life where an unedited version of you can appear?
In a friendship? A romantic relationship? At work? In nature? On the page?

Recently, a long-term participant in my contemplative writing courses noted that this is what she appreciates most about our practice together. I had mentioned that I first appreciated this practice because the writing is unedited - not the "finished product" we usually see (though that has changed over time with the proliferation of social media and blogs), but a more raw, direct, unedited version of writing. It helps calibrate shame we have over performance, continuity, how our minds actually work, and natural creativity. Of course, what this shows us is an unedited version of our MIND, which is something most of us are afraid of seeing, as if we will find only dysfunction there.

What the student then said is that she experiences the allowance of her self to be unedited in our classes. I felt a deep spark of joy at this idea - unedited selves. An in fact, our unedited selves are selves we even hide from our own (conscious, dominant) selves most of the time.

If we are afraid of our unedited selves, then we are afraid of ourselves. And if we are afraid of ourselves, we are blocked in so many fundamental ways that we shouldn't be surprised when we can't write. As another student said so many years ago (to paraphrase): "I came to these classes to become a better writer; I realized I had to first become a better human being." I encouraged this student long ago to think of it less as "becoming a better human" and instead "figuring out she is already a better human than she realized." This happens through being honest with ourselves, accepting our unedited selves, and is best worked on with others, because most of us have such a hard time being kind with what we don't want to see in ourselves.

If you lack spaces in which to experience your unedited selves, where can you find them? Make them? Offer them? After all, I teach because I need to have spaces, too. I, too, need to constantly stay in touch with my unedited selves.

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