How Can I Be Vulnerable?

For some time now, I have been thinking of myself as a failure as a writer. It was unconscious at first. I would tell my family and friends about wanting to be a writer even as a thread of guilt wound itself around my neck, choking the words inside of me. But nowadays, I don’t talk to anyone about my dreams because I have all but given up on them. I try not to let it bother me, but deep inside, I know I am a failure.

There are days when I chalk this up to my inability, nay, unwillingness to expose myself to others. I am THE most closed off person I know in this world. Hell will freeze over before I let anyone into my heart. The sun will rise in the west before I start trusting someone enough to share my thoughts with them. My friend “Daenerys” (That is not her real name obviously, but that is the first ‘D’ name that came to my mind) is the exact opposite. She wears her heart on her sleeve. I have gotten so used to hiding my true emotions from others that it comes naturally to me. When people ask my opinion on something very close to my heart, my first instinct is to lie. It is a natural defense mechanism. If people don’t know the truth about me, their words and barbs won’t hurt me. The flipside is that the truth and lies have gotten so entangled I can hardly distinguish them anymore. My mind is a convoluted tangle of thoughts.

This character trait of mine, I believe, is not something an artist should have. For example, take Fiona Apple. I don’t know if you have heard of her, but she is one of my favorite singer-songwriters of all time. She is an amazing artist whose songs are raw and full of emotion and passion. She has been in the music industry since 1997 or 1998 and it is a testament to her astounding talent that every single record of hers has been critically lauded. When I listen to her songs, I feel like she has taken what is going through my mind and illustrated it in a way more beautiful than anything my mind could ever create. Take her song “Every Single Night” for instance where she sings of how her mind works ‘every single night’.

Every single night
I endure the flight
Of little wings of white-flamed
Butterflies in my brain
These ideas of mine
Percolate the mind
Trickle down the spine
Swarm the belly, swelling to a blaze
That’s when the pain comes in
Like a second skeleton
Trying to fit beneath the skin
I can’t fit the feelings in
Every single night’s alight with my brain

I am at my creative best only at night when the world is quiet and peaceful. And the above lines perfectly illustrate how I feel when I am creating something – whether it be a chapter in my never-to-be-published book or a pencil portrait of someone. The emotions which the art brings up inside me threatens to fill me and burst out of me in a wave and when I am done creating, I feel spent as if I physically exerted myself.

I hope one day I will allow myself to feel things like Fiona Apple does. But this begs the question – are those who have suffered deeply the only ones capable of feeling so deeply? Fiona Apple was raped when she was a teenager and she also suffered from anorexia. Having been brought up in an upper middle class family with overprotective parents, I can’t say I have ever suffered deeply. Does this mean it’s simply impossible for me to feel things so acutely?

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Getting Reacquainted

Before yesterday, I hadn’t read a romance novel in three years. That’s a big deal because I used to be crazy about romance books, especially when I was a teenager. I used to read everything from PG-13 YA books to R-rated bodice rippers. I even gave the erotic stuff a try, but decided that they were not for me. Like porn movies, these books had a sex scene in almost every page and the plot was ridiculous and exaggerated. But still, they fell under romance and so I read them.

But slowly something was happening. Romance books were losing their lustre in my mind. Maybe it was because nothing much was happening in the romance department in my own life. Maybe it was because I realized how stupid most romantic books were. I started to hate romance books. I hated their formulaic plots and their cliched tropes and their misogynistic portrayal of women. Mostly I hated that reading romance books didn’t make my pulse race anymore. I hated that they didn’t make me hug a pillow and sigh dreamily anymore.

So, I gave up romance books and moved to other genres – fantasy, sci-fi, thriller, horror etc. Basically everything under the sun except romance. Sometimes a pleasant memory of me enjoying a romance book would pass my mind and feeling nostalgic, I would carefully pick out a romance book that had earned great reviews and start reading. But ultimately, they all let me down. I decided I was too ruined for romance.

Then, I came across a list of feminist romance novels on the internet. The term itself seemed like an oxymoron. How can a romance novel be feminist? It was like saying that a porn movie was a piece of cinematic art. But piqued, I downloaded a few of the books from the list onto my Kindle and started to read.

The first book I read was a novella called “Ember” by Bettie Sharpe. I have to say the book totally pulled the rug from beneath me. It was unexpected and absolutely enjoyable. I finished it in three hours and started with the next book from the list – “The Governess Affair” by Courtney Milan. At first glance, “The Governess Affair” seemed like a normal Victorian romance novel about uptight lords and ladies. But it is so much more than that. I haven’t finished it yet, but I can tell you this: I have thoroughly enjoyed the book so far.

Now, I’m not saying I’ve completely crossed over to the dark side… er, the I-Love-Romance side. I have both of my feet firmly planted on each side. Maybe the reason I hated romance books was because I was reading the wrong ones. Maybe the right ones needed a little effort on my part to be found.

On a totally unrelated note, Gerard Way’s debut solo album “Hesitant Alien” totally rocks and if you haven’t listened to it yet, you should get out from under that rock and listen to it. It’s a really fun record, I promise!