The big topic this month (March, 2021) is women’s rage. Most women I know are exhausted by it. Most women I know would still keep quiet about a sexual assault. Most women I know have suffered minor assaults; every woman I know knows someone who has suffered a major one. The damage that spirals out from this stuff! Just how you deal with it yourself might depend on whether you are someone who is depleted by rage, or someone who is energised by it. Some of us soak up our traumas, damaging mostly ourselves. Others hit out against them, damaging both self and others. I’m not talking right or wrong here. I’m talking genetic inheritance and almost certainly familial, social and cultural conditioning.
I’ve just published an article in Life Writing journal entitled ‘Life and Art: a Research and Practice Journey’. It was great to have the opportunity to reflect on the process of working on my play, Bloodlines, a Polish Memory, (which is to be published later this year by Five Senses Education Press). Part of the thrust of the article was to consider how I had been changed by the process of both writing the play, and by the research and interviews with survivors of Polish trauma in World War II and their descendants, from which the play draws. I’m not for a minute comparing my own experience to that of my interviewees but I have been struck by the long tail of sadness I have retained from my research. I now wonder if it will ever leave me, which I know begs the question of why on earth I should feel myself entitled to move past it when so many have suffered the kind of damage you just can’t move on from. And now I am finding myself responding in something the same way to the waves and waves of female human pain to which we're linked with every click to every site we may follow or engage with. It seems quite simply unsolvable to me, just unutterably sad and too big a task to begin to address with any realistic hope of change.
But I’ve also just read Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge (a bit late, I know!). This book is a masterpiece of observation, evocation and empathy. So perhaps, as ever, art is the way through. I hope so.