Saturday, August 9, 2014

Prompt: Adrift

I am still adrift. Awash on the waves, stalled on a windless sea.

Note: Like my last post, this is one of the most personal of this blog. I hope you’ll share it, and maybe find some kernel of value in it. But if you prefer, just consider the prompt, and perhaps try your hand at stream-of-consciousness writing, which I described and modeled in the previous post. If you’d like, please feel free to post some or all of what you write in a comment here.

Eight nights ago, the police stopped a known drug dealer. He sped away and soon was racing at 120 miles per hour when he crashed into Tammy White, my best friend’s other bestie for more than 20 years. She died en route to the hospital.

We mourn. Grieve. Fear for her grown son, drowning in shock, loss, emotion. Begin to deal with the aftermath of a life cut short. Think What if it were me? Grieve. Talk about Kubler-Ross. Rage at the police. Wonder who was protecting and serving Tammy White? Mourn.

And the thing is, while I mourn for Tammy, and her life lost so senselessly and shockingly, it’s the living I truly grieve for. Her son. My friend. Left with a gaping hole, a wound, in their lives, their hearts, their souls. Left to pick up the pieces of their own lives, and they wrap up the remnants of hers.

There’s something else. Something that feels selfish. What if it were me? Not only, Who would mourn me? But What have I done with my life? What will be my legacy? And, at least a passing nod to What would the poor person think who had to go through All My Stuff?

I learned years ago, as my family dealt with my grandparents’ deaths, that all the trivia of daily life gets mixed up with the profound, the sacred, the profane. Moments etched in memory. My grandfather kissing my hands goodbye for the last time. Practicing in the mirror saying that he died, because I kept bursting into tears while trying to find a dogsitter the night before Thanksgiving, because I’d planned to take her to my parents, and we all spent Thanksgiving at a hotel instead. When my other grandfather died, one of my most treasured memories from the wake is all the women who told me how he delivered their children, cared for their families, came to their homes in the middle of the night when their husband had a heart attack. The irony—perhaps the beauty—of death is how it brings together the living.

My strongest memories of Tammy are a trip I took with her and my friend, a working trip for them to Savannah and Charleston. There were many bumps on the road, including some major personal and professional stress for them, and during a difficult time in my own life. But what I remember is laughing. Shaking our heads over hotel mismanagement, going out for drinks and dinner to celebrate success, sitting in hot tubs, relaxing, talking about children, partners, dreams. Celebrating life. Not big, not grandiose, just…life.

But in this past week, I feel like the crash—or the phone call—severed my mooring ties. I can’t seem to find my way, to gather forward momentum, to move on. My energy goes, as it usually does, to others: my daughter, my friends, my work. When I sit in quiet, I deflate, my shoulders curling forward, hands on my belly, where my stress centers in sharp pain, my head drooping. A lump. An unenergetic, uncreative lump.

I’m not saying this to ask for sympathy, though people have been very kind to share it. It’s the sharing, really. Like I said in my last post, maybe someone will read this and recognize some of what they themselves are going through and feel less alone. I share, because even in my grief, I recognize that I can let my light shine, and someone might see it, and it might strengthen their own light, however dimmed by their own burdens. Too often we hide it all inside—even sharing this here, I have hidden most of this from my daily interactions with people—and I believe it hurts us, kills us to do so. What we hold inside is like the Spartan soldier’s fox, eating us alive.

And it’s not that I’m not thinking about writing. I have, actually, had some ideas about my book, of which I’ve managed to write maybe 100 words. I took a rejection of a short story square on the chin, flailed for awhile, then thought of another opportunity and turned it back around the same night. I’m actually rather proud of that.

Two things that have suffered the most: my vision and plans for this blog, and my efforts for ConTemporal, both wrapping up this year, and planning for next year. When I think about *doing*, that inertia overwhelms me, and all I can do is… “Float, just float,” like Claire Danes advises Holly Hunter in Home for the Holidays.

“Sorrow floats”, says John Irving in Hotel New Hampshire.

And “hope floats”, as Sandra Bullock learns in Hope Floats.

But as Chuck Noland found in Cast Away, and Pi Patel found in Life of Pi, even when you float adrift on the ocean, eventually the currents and tides will bring you ashore. Even with death, Life goes on.
I’ve heard many translations. Here’s one I love: The light of the universe that shines within me recognizes the light of the universe that shines within you.

Dogs in House
Houdini, Brindle, Eggs

Music (movie) Playing
Hayao Miyazaki, Whispers of the Heart

Time writing
~1 hour

August word count

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing Margaret. It was pretty courageous of you and I think you've got the right of it. Do what you can and drift when you have to. Just keep your head above water and, eventually, you'l find land under your feet again.

    Take care