I’ve been putting off writing this post for months. Not intentionally, mind you. I meant it when I told my wife I’d write a post for The Roar Sessions, but every single Goddamn time I thought about sitting down to write, I would go clammy and slightly nauseous, and the stack of books that is always waiting for me at the bedside seemed too enticing to resist, and then I’d feel tired and run-down, and hey! Netflix! So I’d watch something instead of writing, thinking that surely the next morning I’d feel refreshed and alert, and then I would feel inspired to sit down and write.
It never happened. As a writer, there are few things more distressing than not being able to find the words to express yourself, and I haven’t been able to find the words for much of anything or anyone for quite some time. Because here’s the truth: there are no words for the ways I roar as of late. The roar is in my body. It’s in my fight. It is in the sharp intake of breath and the bite of the lip that chokes back the sob before I push on through and do it anyway (whatever the it of the moment happens to be). It is in my fury that I have nothing to write about except chronic illness, because the last two years of my life have been consumed by fighting for my wellness. I don’t want to write about the symptoms I live with, or the steps I’m taking to restore myself to health and well-being, and I certainly don’t want to be anybody’s inspiration porn.
And then it hit me. This is what I want to bellow out, deep and loud, and clear as a bell. My body is my own. My experiences are mine alone. My thoughts and feelings, the immense grief and pain and anger I’ve experienced while fighting for my health? Yeah, those are mine, too.
Also mine? The almost irresistible urge I have to counter everything I wrote above my launching into all of the reasons I have to be grateful. To smooth it out. To show you the big picture. See? I’m not all anger and negativity! I’m a good person! I count my blessings!
And I do. Many, many times a day (on most days) I thank G-d and anyone else who may be listening for all of the goodness in my life.
But why, as writers, and as women, do we feel the need to constantly clarify and highlight the positive traits and attitudes we possess any time we share some of the uglier parts of our lives? Why are we so afraid of being judged as anything less than perfectly optimistic and strong and cheerful? I’m a very happy, optimistic person over all, but for fuck’s sake… does that mean I never get to have a moment of despair or self-pity without worrying about the world judging me?
And why, as readers, do we assume that we can read 500 words, 1,500 words, 10,000 words, or 100,000 words of someone’s writing and suddenly feel like we know them and have the right to make assumptions about who they are and how they are? How can we read an essay, or an entire blog, or even a memoir and not realize that we are only getting a small part of the big picture? It seems kind of crazy to me that people who seem to be otherwise intelligent and compassionate human beings so quickly lose sight of something that seems so obvious. Think about your own life, your own family, your own issues and personality. Could you ever sum up the whole of it in print?
When lions roar, it’s usually for the purpose of establishing boundaries. Each pride has their own turf, and roaring is an intimidation tactic. The sound carries for quite a distance. It’s a way of saying, “I am here. This is mine. You’ve been warned.” It’s like the first two of the three steps in the human equivalent of ethical self-defense when protecting what’s yours:
1. Ask them.
2. Tell them.
3. Make them.
My life, my feelings, and the whole of my experiences are mine and mine alone. As a writer, and as a woman, it took me a long time to mature into being able to state this unapologetically, but I’m there. If roaring is an establishing of boundaries, I’ve found my voice. It is loud, clear, and it carries across the entire world.
Mani Schwartz is a writer and artist.
She is very happily married to the poet and teacher, Jena Schwartz.
She has three beautiful daughters and two cool step-kids.
In real life she lives in Amherst, MA.
Online she lives at: