Tangled Yarns

Tangled Yarns

Thursday, April 21, 2011


I struggle with anxiety issues. Random terror that makes me breathless, and not in the fun Marilyn Monroe kind of way. It stops me in my tracks and puts my life on hold. The external me cannot function, every option, every action has unseen consequences, and they are too terrible to contemplate much less risk. But even as my body refuses to move, my mind is never still.
The images are from The Sandman, written by Neil Gaiman,
illustrated by Charles Vess, Copyright 1990 DC Comics, Inc.

Words, phrases, dialogue, song refrains, whole chapters of books…they keep me company and drive me mad. Wheedling, cajoling, pleading, begging, asking, pushing, demanding, bullying, screaming, threatening – they want me to release them, share them, use them.
But that fear, that agonizing indecision locks my lips, and freezes my fingers on the keyboard. Words are dangerous, sneaky things. They mean one thing while dancing sweetly in your head, but once let loose? All your best intentions may be lost. Mercurial little things, words. Impertinent, fickle and utterly unpredictable. To one person, your words may whisper sweet encouragement, while to another bitter, stinging condemnation. And you can’t stop them. Once spoken or written, they take on a life and mind of their own, much like mischievous children. Oh, you think you can make them mind. I mean, really, you brought them into this world, and by God, you can take them out of it. Isn’t that a morbid delusion?

So I resist. Why imperil myself and others with the devastation these merciless little terrors can wreak? Instead I try to calm them. Music, movies, pointless games and, all too often, food. They may quiet for a time, granting me moments, sometimes whole days of serenity. Fool me into thinking I have control once more. So I reward us all with new friends, unread books!

Used with all respect offered to Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess,
copyright 1990 DC Comics, Inc

Because with all the pain words can engender, they can also bring unmitigated joy. Soaring, blissful, take-you-beyond-the-horizon happiness. And the most inspiring thing to me? Is that I find this joy because someone else was willing to brave putting their unruly words out there for others to see. For all that I love music, or that movies can make me laugh or cry, it’s only other people’s written words that prod me to share my own. News articles, books, blogs, posts, tweets – there is something about the image of letters marching across a page or screen that makes me contemplate their meaning more deeply. Ponder their nuances, mull over their tone, consider what made their author decide on those words in that order. Occasionally, all that reflection is overwhelming, and I end up frozen again. But more often than not, it triggers a release. Sometimes it’s a violent torrent, ideas bleeding from my consciousness, leaving me woozy. Weapons that they are, words can wound their owners as well as those they are wielded against. Damned double edged swords. Other times, it’s just soothing. Firm, gentle pressure, a mental massage letting go of all the tension. I never know which it’ll be, or what will spark a reaction.
This time, it was an unexpected treasure. A sci-fi novel, an urban fantasy whose author treated me to some rarely used words, like atavistic, and mitotic. (I mean, really, mitotic? Outside of a science text? Gotta’ love that.) Impressed and amused, my constant companions could not sit still. They’ve been wiggling and giggling all morning, tickling me. They’ve been conjuring funny fairy dances and all manner of silliness until I just had to sit down and let my fingers join in. Hopefully, this time I will not lose the courage to risk letting them dance with the rest of you. If so, please remember that I’ve tried to teach them manners, and I hope they don’t offend you.
The work of these two artists helped shape my love of a good story,
and the belief that books with pictures are not just for kids.
copyright 1990 DC Comics