I’m sitting here listening to some of my favorite songs, trying to figure out which ones capture me the best. Is it the Indigo Girls‘ “Least Complicated” – “I’m just a mirror of a mirror of myself” – or is it Over the Rhine‘s “Latter Days” – “There is a me a you would not recognize, dear?” I seem drawn to songs, to lyrics specifically, that remind me that I am not always who I show myself to be. I wonder what that says about me; I wonder what that says about my writing.

This week, I reread Cassandra Lane’s amazing essay “Skinned” about her hurt, pain, hate (I’m not sure I can capture it -just read it) about white people and the pain we have caused her and her ancestors. I was struck, as was one of my students, with her unbandaged honesty, the way she told how she really felt, as ugly and off-putting as it might be.

I remember David Ulin saying once that he was always impressed by Paul Theroux‘s honesty, his unflinching ability to speak the truth about himself even when it was certain that the reader would like him less for it.

I find myself, as I cull through my music collection and note my own predilections, wondering if I do the same. In my best moments, rare as those are, I think I do. But in those first moments, those first drafts, and in those moments when I want to be a bit too cute, a bit too profound, I lose myself and become that “mirror of a mirror,” that “shadow of myself.” But then maybe we all do.