Writing as therapy; I find it cathartic and adore being lost in words and their fluid, malleable meanings. Words are like people. It’s too easy to get stuck in definitive limits. Becomings are better; more promiscuous, more playful. Meaning is up for grabs and can be persuaded to bend and distort. I always hark on about the power of narrative. When your story is not working for you and seems out of control, reclaim it, re-imagine it, and redirect it. Don’t be harnessed by the reiterations and utterances of previous formulas. Write your own story, an entirely new story if you wish. A great thinker and writer landed on my page a couple of years ago: Hélène Cixous. I owe her a lot for her work and her knowing. Cixous calls for us to write ourselves in to the text. History has erased and muted the bodies and voices of many. For Cixous, and I utterly agree, we have many bodies, many voices within our selves. The self is as malleable as the text, as promiscuous and playful as the words. Perhaps these selves exist in latency but for Cixous they can find voice and substance through writing; the body can write its selves so to speak. Giving your self/selves permission to write seems for Cixous to equate with giving yourself permission to live, to express and to morph at your own choosing; not to be at the mercy of finite structures and their impositions. She developed something between a philosophy, a theory, a technique, a strategy, and a style; it’s very hard to pin down. She calls it écriture féminine or feminine writing, without gender or sex you understand; for Cixous we are all polymorphous and multiple, although she does posit an urgent necessity for women and other othered bodies to reinscribe their positions and being.
Reading Cixous, I felt emboldened to trust my own stream of consciousness more than ever before. I want to share this rather strange and intimate example of writing because I feel it captures performatively some elements of what I want to explore here: our difference not only sets us apart from others, but is something that dwells wholly within ourselves, our multiple selves.
The feeling of submitting to thoughts as they come, and allowing something more subtle, more plural, than the rational mind to speak, is peculiarly ecstatic and revealing. Without purpose or intention I allowed my mind to drift around the issue of my French-Portuguese father who abandoned my mother and I while I was still in her womb. I have rarely grieved for his absence, I have however felt resentful over the loss of potential selves, their cultures and tongues, or was that the echo of past traces running through my veins? It matters not. This is what came out, and it was the first experience for me of truly therapeutic writing, and of beginning to address something of the other/s in me.
But I am not French; at least, not this one; another one yes, she is there; unspoken with all the other not yets; perhaps, never will be/s. She waited; hoped, between this and ill feeling; she might be acknowledged, permitted to know herself within this, me, that found a voice; my voice? The voice that spoke me, responded to my imaginal, silent cries. No name came; non, no nom du père to speak of. Who’s law then?
The Father set no limit: I will not do as I was not told. “I will not do, as I was not told”, this, the maternal voice, gentle and Real? His word is a borrowed word, without regard, je regarde, as it has always been; his ground not his own, but still, sought foreign lands; seeded alien bodies.
But I wonder, do you speak? Écriture féminine? Parlez-vous français?
Not enough in his absence; his silence betrays us; shouts louder than his law.
The feminine law? Of feminine writing; in another woman’s tongue, another woman’s mouth. We share this tongue but you are down there, hidden and silent. You refuse to meet; don’t come to my mouth; or, perhaps, I refuse you. No matter, non, I am here and you are there; it is never enough, will never do; it is neither here nor there; we are neither here nor there, no matter, non, except, I was told, I will not do. His lack, his void, yet I am dark and unknown. His mute non sets my limit from afar; his absence overwhelms my presence until I break, “I will not do what I was not told; I will not do.”