Compulsion/ Panic drives my compulsion. Panic. Where does this anxiety come from? Why is it here? Is compulsion really just another name for "American"? Compulsion to eat, to distract, to fill this body with poisens. To escape. To escape this world. Last year was the first year that I thought this world was too much, too hard to bear. Last year was the first year when the word "optimist" dropped out of my mind as an appropriate description of myself.
Six months. For six months I desended into a hell realm I never knew before. It started on June 6. The day I came to know that Sooz jumped from the bridge above the Taos Gorge. Even though they did not find her body for five more weeks, I knew. Her delicate bird like body was found downstream weak from the aneorxia she had battled for years. Compulsion. The last time I saw her I stopped by her trailer out past the Allsups on Highway 14. She told me in all seriousness that she was down to eating one chocolate earthball per day. There was pride in her voice.
She cried that day. She said she was so happy to see me and that in the seven years she'd lived in that trailer,no friend had just dropped in as I did that day. We took a walk with Chloe and her big white dog, Arthur. We walked on the dirt road behind her place covered by a warm New Mexico sky.
Sooz and I hugged a few times that day. She told me that she loved me very much. She did not tell me that she'd gotten out of the hospital two days before for her first suicide attempt.
She was the first loss that took me to my knees.
Then, a month later, Lauren. That one will be unraveling itself in my psyche for years. Best friend on a parallel path for thirteen years. We held onto each other through birth, death and divorce. It was a slow moving path that eventually led us into each other's hearts. To each other's sweet kisses. To each other's beds. How could and when did we turn the corner that would destoy us? How could the deepest green ocean of her eyes turn from tears of the most sublime love to eyes of rage I can never/will never understand.
I know that I will never know all there is to know, but I do know that her mother's daily beatings of her as a child figure prominently into this equation. I will never stop thinking of her as a miracle.
But then, three weeks later, I got the call about my daughter's father and his suicide attempt in L.A. This must be some surreal joke. Not my life. Not reality. Swimming through a pool of clouds and ocean and dust with our six year old daughter- on my own. And then the hidden diagnosis comes to the surface. Scitzophrenia. And all the barely held together fragments of life shatter. And all the broken pieces of life finally make sense.
All my peers. The three people who I met and joined hands with the first month that I moved to Santa Fe, thirteen years ago,vanish from my life in one swift blow.
And I am left standing with a perfect child at my side, underneath fire, mountain and sky. I look past the wreckage. And I live.
Grace descends upon me unexpectedly. Yesterday, up the mountain, Chloe fell down over and over in the first winter snow. Making snow angels and laughing. I have not seen her laugh with so much joy in a while.True/carefree/in-the
moment/no thought/laughing joy. My heart brims with tears. I am so grateful to see her joy intact.
Intact after so much grief, so much loss bestowed upon her young life/large spirit. The day before her cockateil,Penny died suddenly. Teflon poisening released into the air when I cooked dinner. A hidden poisen that no one mentioned at the pet store where we got her one year ago this month.
Penny was an amazing bird, funny and quirky, always biting on our earings. She was so affectionate and never wanted to be confined to her cage. She was eating popcorn and picking between the dog's toes the day before she died.
She graced me/lying on the bed when she was dying. She was laying face down in her cage. I picked her up. Her tiny breath was still coming and going.Very shallow ,yet life was still there.
I lay down on the bed and held her limp,still body to my chest. I stroked her softly. Sending all the love in me enegetically, hoping that her life could be spared. With what must have taken a tremendous amount of energy, she moved her small sweet head and looked at me with her beaded black eyes. I looked down at her and was filled with grace. She offered me a transmission, an acknowledgement, a thank-you. A mutual sharing of life before the small breath subsided.
Grace. Where is grace to be found? I cannot deny it because I have experienced it and I know it exists. It once descended upon me on the F Train to Brooklyn when I was twenty six years old and my roomate was dying of AIDS. I know that grace cannot be sought after successfully. It hides and appears with it's own agenda and light touch.
Like in the movie, "Wings of Desire", it brings awe and relief. It brings with it an unspeakable experience of the greatness of life. And yet, it does not pay the rent. Does not necessarily change circumstances. Does not spare a life. All the things the personality longs for. And yet, when it appears, all circumstances have the possibility of being viewed from a different perspective.
Grace. My daughter's middle name. Perhaps I should have made it Joy instead. Do I wish the experience of joy for her more than grace? A difficult question for a mother to answer.
From my mother's perspective I would rather her know joy and happiness.
For myself, I would choose the depth of grace to the impermenance of happiness. But, for my little girl? In my heart of hearts, I would like her best to know simple joy. Days in sunshine. Swingsets.Picking strawberries. The clean cool taste of freedom. Playdates. Swimming lessons. Recovery from the brokenheartedness of being her father's daughter.
Norman Rockwell prints in our own Santa Fe,solar powered kind of way. Is that really what I want for my daughter, who I named Chloe Grace?
I have no idea. I do know that I want her to find her way to herself as beloved to life, to her body, to this earth. I want her to find her path, her love and her way. And I will pray for grace.
Today I was cleaning out my office and came across some freewrites that I did for myself last winter. I thought I'd post a couple of them for you to read. When I look back upon them I realize how much writing continues to heal me and how much my life continues to expand and grow as I stay close to myself and close to the page.
I so encourage you all to re-read your writing goals on a daily basis so they can really sink in. Break them down into smaller pieces if necessary and give yourself some realistic deadlines. Even if you are writing for ten minutes, three times a week, you can move forward with your work. The most important part is staying with it. And being gentle with yourself. Keep the pen moving.
As for feedback, we need to keep refining the process. Some of it was positive this week, but some of it bordered on being destructive (I know it was well-meaning). Please really refrain from placing a judgement on a person's work. For example " that was a depressing story". That is not helpful and it may make the writer self concious. Better, is a commentary that expresses specific
feedback on a part of the piece. For example, "I really liked some of the vivid description you used when describing the inside of your house" or "I wanted to know more about your brother and think that you may want to elaborate that part of the story". I think it would be best from now on if people post the kind of feedback they want. For example " I am piecing together these two freewrites as the opening to a short story about my family. Are there specific parts that resonate with people? Is it too confusing? Does anyone have any suggestions for how to create a transition between the two major topics?
Feedback is not about complimenting each other or even commenting on each other's topics. Even in a positive way. It will inhibit you. You will feel obligated to give each other approval. You don't need approval. It's already yours. You are all writers. You are all doing great. I mean it.There, now that's out of the way. Now, go on and ask each other for specific, constuctive help, if you want it.
And remember, it's fine to use this forum as a safe space to keep exploring without feedback, editing etc. etc.!
On we go...................
1. Write for fifteen minutes this week on the following three topics:
Trying too hard...................
Where my heart lives....................
2. Write a list of the twenty things that you can do that bring you joy. Post it by your desk.
3. Write one thirty minute writing on one of the following topics
a. Go back and look for themes in your writing. Take two-three of your freewrites that share a similar theme and begin combining them into a full length essay, monologue or story.
b. rent "Wings of Desire" from your local video store. Watch it in bed with a bag or bowl of popcorn after your kids are asleep.
c. Be aware of your breath this week. Breathe while you write.
Above all, keep your spirits high and keep your pen moving!