Who Am I?
Such an awkward question.
There is the I
Found looking out from my eyes,
Seen looking into those eyes,
There is the history. There is the present. There is the future. All are here, now.
To give you a glimpse is a risky business. Where are the appropriate boundaries? What will give you the insight that lures you to my stories and poems?
I started life a bit of a rag-tag collection of deficits and strengths. I’ve made the most of both of these, you’d be amazed at what a deficit can do for you in life. A life spent escaping pain with drink can become a life spent exploding pain without drink. Pain is a story, it is the story, the struggle against loss or against oppression.
A linear look at my life reveals that I’m born in Halifax. The mythology about my birth, my birth according to my mother, speaks of a major storm passing through just before and after I arrived. I shan’t say more about that even though the story goes on. Not long afterwards, just as I was adjusting to life as it was, I was dragged, kicking and screaming, to Ottawa, our nation’s capital. We continued to move often, even when my father left the airforce, but we stayed in Ottawa. We also stayed in neighbourhoods where we didn’t stand out. It was rare to see anyone who didn’t look and sound like us. Still, I felt isolated. The only time I felt such a sense of isolation was during a visit to Beijing; after two weeks I was nearly insane with a sense of nakedness.
Unlike many children of military members, I was not good at making friends; if I was, I wasn’t good at keeping friends.
One of the best years of my life was the year I got roller skates for my birthday! I spent the entire summer in an adventure novel written in my head while the wind rustled my hair. I was fast, faster than anything, and I loved that speed.
Other summers I spent my time climbing trees and creating stories. For an entire summer, my brain was afire with the stories of Tealigeath, sent here to save the world from imminent danger. I wish I had the notebook with those stories and poems. Lost during one of those many moves, I didn’t have the heart to resume until I was reignited by a high school teacher. Thank you!
I took a sort of Rumschpringe after grade 10; after a few years of exploration, I returned to school. I found interests that I’d never had found in restaurant kitchens or nights of cleaning office towers. I found ideas, languages, and a world of opportunity. After 5 years finishing high school and continuing on to college, I was cleaned and ironed out, ready for the big world.
I spent twenty-plus wonderful years writing technical manuals, designing systems, and both learning and teaching. It was a dance that kept me delighted. I was constantly learning and exploring. There were bumps and scrapes, but it was the summer of the roller skates blended with the story of Tealigeath and stretched out over years.
Change is the strongest force I’ve met. I’ve met change many times. This time, change took me off that pedestal. I was no longer the ballerina that pops up and twirls when you open the jewel box. I was betrayed, this time, by my body. I became the Amazing Crumbling Queer; my spine began collapsing a bit ahead of schedule and at an alarming rate leaving me to live my life in a world of physical pain.
The long term result is like the song by Chumbawamba “I Get Knocked Down” with the refrain: “I get knocked down / But I get up again / You’re never going to keep me down” and I never was kept down.
Was that time spent well? Should I have made other choices? Would I be a published novelist now if I had taken another path? I don’t see that. The way to realizing my writing is the path I took, looking down, looking up, and now looking inward and outward. Finding the humanity in us all, the commonality that we share but cannot always connect, it’s here and there, and it is what I pour into my writing. We spend so much time looking at our differences, I want to find our commonality and respect our differences. I’ve always wanted to save the world.
As this progresses, I will share my insights here and I will spend my time expressing the places and people I have seen and been.
I’ve gradually found a way back to the story-telling of my youth. I can do it with greater skill now. And I can do it for other people; I’m no longer alone in a tree, telling myself epic tales. I’m here, with you.
© Wanda Phillips and Penciled In, 2014-2016