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Monday, April 13, 2009

Thank You Robert E. Brown

If the print version of the Boston Globe folds, the loss of habit while spooning into maple syrup sweetened oatmeal at my stool by the breakfast counter will be devastating; but what I’ll miss the most are the joyful surprises I encounter when reading it. Take last Friday when I opened to an Op Ed piece. Before completing the first paragraph, I dropped my eye to the end to identify the author. Who was this writer with words that felt like coming home, whose story flowed as smoothly as a glass of sweet tea? Turns out he teaches writing at Salem State and Harvard Extension School and he authors a blog which I clicked on a few hours ago. Gathering the Light

If you had asked me this morning while I was pulling the wine glasses from yesterday’s Easter dinner out of the dishwasher, I would have told you that accomplishing any writing on my own blog today would be a stretch. Self doubt; self loathing, self what-ever-you-name-it stacked alongside each dish I placed on the cupboard shelf. How could anyone be interested in another essay related to my oh-so-introspective passage of self discovery? Then I Googled Robert E. Brown, the Op Ed columnist, found his blog and read this:
“It may not be truthiness, but when we write about ourselves we’re making it up. Put another way, we’re making more of something and less of something else…when I write about myself, it’s an act of self-creation.”

He goes on to write about how he portrayed himself through out his 14 Op Ed pieces that have appeared in The Boston Globe over the last 23 years—once as a mugging victim after an encounter in the subway, another time as a patient, having damaged tendons prior to a vacation, in one column he was a dad whose son’s coach is called away to the reserves, and once he was a son himself of an Oldsmobile driving father--

Near the end he says:
And after all, how is it I know myself? And what is the nature of the self — myself – if not that chronological collection of selves I have published for 20-plus years?”

My daughter catches me occasionally, scrolling through my blog, reading my own text as I wonder what others think. Is it self indulgent pap or is it truthful prose? Occasionally there’s a surprise. Did I really write that and do I still feel that way—or is it, as Robert Brown wrote: “a bit of self creation?” I admit that there are essays that I’ve re-read (especially the descriptive pieces) that are terrible, and yet, would it be honest to go back and edit or erase in order to recreate myself as a more talented writer? Hmm, I feel pretty sure that would be a lie.

And so, I sit here at the computer today, sighing a little. It appears that there will be no grand unveiling for me, no aha moment. This guy has been writing formally for years, and he’s still posing questions similar to those with which I have concluded so many Middle Passages entries since February. That said it must have been synchronicity or some kind of karma that pulled me to his column, leading me to read his blog today because Robert E. Brown nailed it, and in doing so jump-started me again. Perhaps over the last 68 days this blog has been self indulgent; and if so, please forgive me. But I'm not sure what else to do because the only thing clear at the moment is that it's helping me to know myself more, and that word by word, day by day and blog post by blog post, the exercise is creating a better me.

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