Kat Murry is featuring her poetry at open mike.

by Kat

“Why did I write it down? In order to remember, of course, but exactly what was it I wanted to remember? How much of it actually happened? Did any of it? Why do I keep a notebook at all? It is easy to deceive oneself on all those scores. The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself.”  ~ Joan Didion, “On Keeping a Notebook”  (1)

I have 2.5 notebooks filled with, as I titled my black polka dotted notebook, “poetry, prose, and other musings — with illustrations.” I’ve even jotted down notes post-therapy sessions when I sat in the space above the racquetball courts trying to make sense of reframes presented and questions posed. Keeping a notebook is a way of seeing my thoughts through and then learning to communicate with others about my vulnerabilities and fears. Sometimes reading what I’ve previously written is easier for me than speaking about painful things for the first time.

So this weekend I found myself crying in J’s car after spending the morning at community writing group.  I should probably provide some context at this point: J asked me to be the featured poet for March’s open mike night, and I felt both excited and terrified by this opportunity.  I was also incredibly proud of myself for learning to speak my truth aloud. I’ve been documenting my coping skills development and emotional growth since last winter, when I started the PhD program and found community amongst fellow writers.

“It’s very sterile and very misleading to hear about battles only from people who either have already won or at least have already experienced the stability of intermediate victories. It presents a false sense of how hard those battles are. It understates the perilous sense of being in the middle of them. It understates how scary they are.” ~ Linda Holmes, “Present Tense” (2)

I’ve had a lot of emotionally intimate conversations in cars with incredibly comfortable seats and adjacent listening ears. Often I’ll find myself sitting in my friend’s truck post-writing circle and in the safety of that space, words come flooding from my mouth. I share my worries and frustrations and feel heard. I’ve been learning that being vulnerable can feel okay.

“It’s remarkable you were able to get into a whole new program, establish a new support group, and be where you are now. I see someone who’s pretty amazing and isn’t so odd, even if she doesn’t see it sometimes.” I remind myself: “It took going there to be where you are and you don’t need to be ashamed of where you’ve been.” “You are smart and I believe you’ll figure this out, even if you don’t sometimes…” My therapist is relentlessly optimistic about my social-emotional growth, annoyingly so sometimes.

The first poem I wrote in a long time — “Cacophony” — happened when I ventured to womyn’s writing circle for the first time as I gradually moved from the espresso bar nearby to the table where a small group of womyn were sitting. That night, I felt heard and supported, rather surprised I read my work aloud to those womyn.

I’m amazed that I’m in a place where I, Kat Murry [pseudonym], am planning to feature my poetry at open mike night. It’ll be during Womyn’s History Month, which seems fitting somehow as I’ve slowly explored and expressed my own backstory. It’s been a long year of writing notes to myself and being intentional about finding ways to connect with people, even as “I felt disconnected and fearful.”

I’ve been well-supported this year as I’ve worked through this process of being present and kind to myself as I practice inter- and intrapersonal skills. I’m learning that vulnerability is scary, but manageable; so I’m sharing, not in spite of these ever-present anxieties, but because of them.

  1. Joan Didion on Keeping a Notebook — http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/11/19/joan-didion-on-keeping-a-notebook/
  2. Present Tense: Allie Brosh, Donald Glover, and Hurting Right Now — http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2013/10/29/241585887/present-tense-allie-brosh-donald-glover-and-hurting-right-now