Patti and the monkey

Tim sent me the following email last week:

Hi Danny,

Thanks for Shut Your Monkey. I’ve been working on quieting my inner voice for 40 years mostly through meditation. I’ve added Shut Your Monkey to the list of books that have helped me over the years including Be Here Now, Ram Dass; The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle; Experience of Insight, Joseph Goldstein; The Art of Living, William Hart; and Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Sogyal Rinpoche.

Where your book has been extremely helpful is in discovering those nooks and crannies where my Monkey has been hiding and impersonating my voice with subtle little comments that I didn’t recognize as coming from him. So thank you.

I do have a question for you. I’ve been following you for a number of years and was especially touched by your willingness to be so open about your wife’s illness and death. I’m wondering how that inner voice was part of that experience?

Tim


Here’s what I wrote in response:

Tim:

I’m so glad my new book is helpful.  Thanks for letting me know.  I am flattered to be in such august company.

As to the inner voice and my wife….

When Patti was first injured, we spent a lot of time looking for information. We were in a fairly narrow niche among people dealing with spinal cord injuries: 1) my wife was a woman (obviously), 2) we had a 9 month-old-child and 3) we lived in a big city and 4) she was over 30. There just weren’t many people like her (one more way Patti was special).  We were in a constant quest for information about our particular situation and it was hard to come by in those early days of the Internet. So I started a bulletin board called curbcut.com and it soon became a vibrant community for sharing information and support. You can see part of an archive of it here. The discussion we had there had to be frank to be useful and it became increasingly normal and comfortable for us to tell total strangers some pretty intimate stuff in order to get useful feedback.

Similarly, when I started drawing, there was very little information and inspiration about illustrated journaling. Hannah Hinchman had a book, d.price had a zine, but otherwise not much. So I formed a community on Yahoo! that quickly grew to 4,000 members. 

In both cases, I found that sharing what I was going through with other people helped me and help them. That’s why I wrote Everyday Matters and eventually A Kiss Before You Go and Shut Your Monkey too. And that’s why I have been blogging for all the years: because turning the things of my life into words and pictures helps me understand them better and sharing them with people, even strangers, makes even the worst moments seems worthwhile.

The monkey doesn’t always agree. He told me many time that my sharing was actually exploitation, that I was turning my family into fodder for my bottomless need for attention. That may be true. But so is my other point: when I turn my experiences into some sort of art, it makes my life richer and clearer to me. And when I make art, it seems natural to share it. That’s what artists and writers do.

Sharing stuff publicly hasn’t had many negative consequences beyond the whining of the monkey in my head. And it seems to help other people too.They write to tell me that I am not alone in my feelings or that my description of an experience has helped clarify it for them too.

The monkey has a lot to say about every one of my projects. He has been particularly vocal about my book/podcast/newsletter.  Nonetheless, creating them has been helpful to me and hopefully to others too so I persevere over the cries of outrage in my head.

I hope that’s helpful. Thanks for asking,

Danny