On Art, and Vulnerability, and Sisterhood
All my best writing happens in my head, I am sure you can relate. Most of it while I am riding my bicycle through this glorious city. The thoughts flow and beautiful things are created. There is no worry over grammar or how others will percieve me.
My writing simply is.
I often wish my thoughts could run straight from my head onto paper. I am sure I would have created some lovely masterpiece by now. No work required.
Instead it seems that when I do finally sit down to collect the things that have been swirling around in my mind and actually create something, I find myself posed with a pen in hand and a blank sheet of paper and I can think of nothing poetic or dark or clever that isn’t first ripped apart by my inner critic before it finds any form of life on the page.
Art is frightening like that. Once it becomes a reality it can be torn apart or misunderstood. It can be loved one moment and shot down the next.
I have never had a sister, I grew up with only brothers. Here in Amsterdam I found an unexpected sister in my housemate of a year and a half. I love her like family, and have had the pleasure of being completely me around her. One thing I learned from allowing her into my life – all of it, every day – was the level of vulnerability it takes to let someone in is a bit like art. It is frightening.
She graduated with her (2nd) bachelor degree this week. In ‘Direction of Documentary Film’. While attending the premier of her documentary my heart was pounding. I was nervous for her film, for her art. I had watched the ups and downs of its creation, heard her wrestle with the insecurity of telling someone else’s story, and listened to both the good days and the bad days. I knew how much she had poured into this film and I waited with baited breathe to observe the response of the audience.
It was raw, and touching, and funny. I was so relieved to hear others in the theatre interact with the story. I was so incredibly proud.
Sisterhood is like that. You feel proud of the success of another. Not jealous or competitive, but simply proud. I am so proud of her. Because I know it didn’t come easy and I know her intentions. I know her.
Vulnerability allows that. It allows us to see art with new eyes because you know the heart behind it.
When I was seventeen I got a license in cosmetology, the fancy way of saying I became a hairdresser. I sometimes wondered about why I chose to do that, especially now that my work and passions lie in a world so far away from cutting hair. But on reflection I have realised some of my most important lessons in life were learned on the floor of a hair salon. There women were vulnerable as you held in your hands the power to influence their perception of themselves.
Their beauty, their creativity, their identity, was so often connected to their appearance. To know how to navigate that tricky place is valuable in the world I frequent now. Those working in prostitution know the feeling of relying on your appearance to validate your worth. Literally.
I keep finding myself in situations where I need to be vulnerable in order to really love and know those around me. But it is hard. And it hurts. Love and art and sisterhood are most beautiful when they pull something out of the deepest recesses of your heart and expose it, without walls or pretence, to potential misunderstanding and competition and pain.
Last week I spent a lot of time asking if the risk is worth it.
I let a piece for this months SheLove’s theme ‘STAND’ pour out of me with many conflicting emotions. It was so vulnerable. I regretted writing it. Actually, I regretted writing it before I even started. I’ve shed a lot of tears this last week, and felt rather “over” going forward with work and with my often stunted attempts to create. One of my SheLove’s sisters and ever-fabulous friend who also edits my writing, said to me over a twitter-direct-message-conversation (I keep having those, but they are seriously inconvenient… 140 characters anyone?) that she wanted me to “…STAND, knowing your voice matters.”
I haven’t really felt like standing. I haven’t felt like letting people in. I haven’t felt like facing the world of prostitution. I have felt a lot like hiding. There are always those voices to chime in and tell you what you can’t do, or even worse, what you shouldn’t do.
You shouldn’t be too much, too emotional, too honest, too trusting.
Watching my housemate recieve the congratulations on her film a few days ago reminded me why it is okay to open my heart even when it is hard. If I hadn’t, we would have just been a couple of girls who lived together, not sisters. And every time I write, as much as I absolutely dread the potential that someone will actually read it, I see my circle of sisterhood widen, as those around the world connect with a heart that is aching and raw, and well it sucks that my heart is like that, but at least it makes me real.
This week I read Sarah Bessey’s gorgeous and timely post here: In Which We Do It Anyway and I think pretty much everyone who has ever asked what is the point in creating or loving or well pretty much doing anything, should just let these beautiful words sink in.
Plus – I kinda think you should watch the trailer for my housemate’s film, cause seriously, how amazing is it that she really created something wonderful: Savannah en haar moeder Give her an internet high-five for graduating too.
Also, for the days when I am too distracted to write, I absolutely love having this program on my computer… Ommwriter – it’s almost as good as writing in my head on a long bike ride in the city.
Finally, in case you missed it, here is my über-vulnerable piece for SheLoves: Standing, in the Place I’m Supposed to Be
And FYI – if you feel like you are or aren’t standing or have any kind of STAND piece to write, you can link-up a blog post about it here: STAND