A Deeper Truth | My 9th Grade Relationship with WRITING
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My 9th Grade Relationship with WRITING

My 9th Grade Relationship with WRITING

I had a good friend in high school who dated a girl. I think we were in 9th grade. I remember their relationship distinctly because it was the most immature relationship I’ve ever witnessed. They fought everywhere we went, all the time. It was almost funny. I’m sure we made fun of him. But his relationship was like the Israeli/Palestinian conflict — a constant feedback loop of battling the validation of one’s experience. Most of the time I couldn’t believe they were fighting….again. I never understood this relationship until I studied psychology and family dynamics. I also remember being at my friend’s house and his relationship with his mother was basically the same. He would sort of whine and fight with his mom in majorly dramatic ways. It never seemed to go anywhere, other than I guess him getting his way. But it required a lot of tantruming.

I know what you are thinking. What the hell are you talking about? Why are you telling us this story?

Because it has everything to do with my relationship to writing.

I fight with writing like she’s my 9th grade girlfriend and I have no idea how to be in relationship. I whine, bitch and complain. I’m jealous. I want all her attention and none of the work. I don’t understand why she doesn’t put out when I want. I don’t understand why she plays games with my head, leading me on so tantilizingly one moment and then acting distant, leaving me lost and alone.

I hate writing and I love it. It feels impossible to develop a more emotionally mature relationship with writing. I seem to want to continue on in dysfunctional banter with her. I want to stay tangled in conflict. It’s easier. I can somehow get more attention by complaining about my relationship.

Why is writing this way? Is it just a huge battle with oneself? Was my friend’s immature relationship just a huge battle with himself? Was his girlfriend just battling with herself? Are we all just battling with our pasts, looking for ways to break free into new realms, yet too afraid to do so?

No relationship has been more confusing to me than the one I have with writing. I want to make sweet love to her and then I hate her and want to talk about her behind her back. I want to pass notes. I want to triangulate others into my misery and agree with me that she’s no good. But when it comes down to it, I can never let her go.

Writing and I will always be in relationship and no amount of couples therapy will break us apart, no matter how dysfunctional. We have something to learn from each other. I read a quote the other day by Pema Chodron that said: “Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.”

Sometimes I wish writing would leave me alone, but then I don’t know what I’d do without it.

  • William Fraker
    Posted at 05:42h, 21 July Reply

    I am convinced I suffered from undiagnosed dyslexia. I don’t think the southern educational system I grew up with in the middle 1950s had much of a sense of learning disorders. Beginning readers were placed in three groups: the achievers, the average, and the slow. I don’t know if teachers associated the level of one’s reading with the level of one’s intelligence, but I think the institution found it easy to assume the association. My cohorts in the advanced group tended to be tracked as superior through high school. Those in the middle were expected to fit into the system of education as structured, without much concern. Those of us who struggled with reading were perceived as less than smart. Masochistic messages, arising from the frustration at not being able to get ‘the mystery’ of reading on par, rose unmercifully. I looked forward to activities that did not require reading aloud. I maintained friendships with those who also struggled, while longing to be with those in the advanced group. Fortunately, I found alternative activities to construct self-confidence around as I grew into adolescence. I hoped as I went through the grades that others would not see the fault line – my being less than really smart. I also maintained the longing to join the ‘in group’.
    I had a second issue that may have contributed to my delay in reading. I am an identical twin. I remember coming upon articles in child development, after I finally made it to professional school at an Ivy League institution, about the secret language of young twins. These articles used largely observational evidence and case studies. The thrust of the literature suggested that twins often developed a separate and preferred mode of pre-verbal communication that caused delays in meeting the normal milestones of verbal language development. A certain level of ‘social dyslexia’ may have been a prelude to my language dyslexia.
    My brother and I grew up in a rural area where most of our hours were spent in social settings with others our age only on Sundays. We were taken to Sunday school at a local church and to extended family gatherings. We also went to kindergarten in the year prior to entering elementary school. Learning to share toys, line up, maintain a relative level of quiet, and dressing up in funny looking costumes in plays for our parents were my primary educational achievements. I remember a couple of rocky moments in social integration in the kindergarten year. The first incident involved a personal encounter with the ethical. My kindergarten teacher kept a bowl of candy in her living room, just down the hall from where the kindergarten classes were held. The temptation overcame me and I remember stealing a piece of candy. My mother was naturally devastated on learning of my inhibition. My memory of her crying, while driving from the school and her words, expressing the fear that she was raising a future criminal who would spend his adult life in prison, penetrated my childhood entitlement. Although somewhat hysterical, my mother’s degree of emotional discomfort and disappointment etched a sense of the ethical that reinforced the other lessons of social interaction I learned in kindergarten. The fear of losing a parent’s love, or triggering sever displeasure, was a motivation in curbing uncivil behavior, even if there were other digressions. Another incident from this period involved a visit to a local television studio. My brother and I dressed as cowboys, with toy pistols, joined the “peanut gallery” during a children’s program. All I remember was that we were escorted off the program early because my brother and I teamed up to challenge another child – I have no idea what about. We weren’t brought back to appear in juvenile television. I own a certain degree of social dyslexia before elementary school. Reading dyslexia, however, took over as a larger deficit by the time I entered the first grade.
    If it weren’t for Dr. Seuss and his books, I don’t know how I would have learned to read. Although it was not until late into the second grade and the beginning of the third, that the graphics and rhymes that dominated these books allowed me to overcome my fear and dread of reading. Going to the library became fun. I devoured the collection of Dr. Seuss in our local library. My world shifted, even if I did not catch up with the ‘advanced’ group at school. Books became a source of delight.
    I went on to excel at college and gain four masters degrees from prestigious universities. I continued to struggle with foreign languages and my spelling required keeping a dictionary close at hand. I was nagged by my doubts and fear of having my intelligence fault line exposed and did not have the confidence to seek a doctorate.
    Forgive me for running on. I know today business provides amble opportunity to engage in business writing. I use my Facebook page to share brief daily monologues on the birthdays of culture bearers. I continue to engage in the ambivalence of joy and avoidance in my struggle and love of writing poetry. I look forward to my writer’s group this afternoon. Jason, your article obviously struck a chord. Thanks for sharing it.

  • JMac
    Posted at 08:12h, 21 July Reply

    Cool William, thanks for sharing that. Fun to learn about you. Very interesting experience. I never did well in school. I was an athlete and got all my self esteem that way. I always thought I wasn’t very smart. It was a philosophy class in college that helped open my mind. It also helped me to see that I was a thinker. I sometimes still have a hard time with this — that I”m just a good faker and get people to believe I know something.

    In terms of reading, I’m a very slow reader. I read all the time and have like 5 books going. But I read slowly. I think i’m needing to think deeply about every sentence. It takes me longer to comprehend, but I think that’s partially due to my main process of thinking which is more about “ground” than “figure”. I need the information to integrate more fully into the gestalt of my knowledge, whereas I believe others can read new information and register that more quickly as just new “figure.” This is my hypothesis anyway. : )

    • William Fraker
      Posted at 09:23h, 21 July Reply

      I have a similar reading style – slow, with several books open at the same time.

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