It’s October – Where is Zental Floss?

So I’ve been writing. In fact, I’ve written a lot of words – on a novel. Yes, one of those. I’m in the third act and trucking along on the first draft. Will it be good? I don’t know. Probably not.

First novels aren’t usually that good. Okay, exceptions exist. Always.

But I’m not that lyrical a writer – not yet anyway. I have modest goals. I don’t need the money. Although that would be nice.

So I suspect when I finish draft number one that I’ll sit on it for a bit. Will I even have the guts to start revising? Because revision is a whole other ballgame from getting that first draft done.

I’ve never gotten this far before. Several years ago I finished NaNoWriMo with about 55K words give or take on a novel, but it was a mess. Most of it was the middle and I couldn’t figure out how to finish it up. I didn’t write it in order, and it was written in Word, so it wasn’t as easy as using Scrivener to move sections around. And frankly, by the time NaNo ended, I was done with the story. I just didn’t like it that much.

Maybe it was the story I had to write and almost finish to just do it.

Last year for NaNoWriMo I rebelled and wrote over 50K words on blog posts – both for this blog and another one I was contemplating. A dark and ironic political blog. Hah! Nobody wants to read such things, but I got a lot of venting out during November.

Now in less than a month, NaNo calls my name again.

Where I’m at with my story is this – it’s part of a series, I already see that. Otherwise, the book would be inordinately long. It’s a genre story. In a category that I’ve made up, but it borrows heavily from Romance and Chick-Lit. I call it “Dame Lit” because it’s really chick lit grown up and gotten divorced. You know, for the boomer, over 45 set. But positive and optimistic – yes, there’s a HEA or HFN. Which for those in the know is the hallmark of the romance genre – the “happily ever after” or “happily for now” ending. I’ve got a lot of nice things in the first book. So I think NaNo will be for book two of the series.

And that way, I don’t have to do any big revisions to book one. Ha. See how I did that. Just pushed over revisions to another time. Like December or something.

On another note, October. Where did September go? And most of August?

For us, August was for some significant birthdays – My father-in-law, my father and my mother. My mother turned 80. My father-in-law 87 and my dad 84. Now every parent is 80 or over in our family and yes, we have all of them present and accounted for still.

Then in September, it ended. First, back in late July, my husband’s aunt died at 95. Then on September 6 his uncle died at 97. Then seven days later, my father-in-law died – yes, at the age of 87. A mere youngster.

So now our parents are starting to look like more normal families – it was rare at our age (I’m 56 and my husband is 59) that we had all four parents still. Now we don’t.

Weird. Who’s next? Unfortunately, the race is between my parents – even though they are both younger than my mother-in-law, they both smoked for decades (and my mom still smokes). Neither is in great shape. The one who will live the longest will be my mother-in-law (she of the siblings who lived well into their 90’s.)

And on a more positive note, we will be grandparents again – my husband’s oldest son and his girlfriend are having a baby boy next March. We’re excited about that. And for the gender balance as Nugget is a precocious 2 1/2 year old girl. I of course have already stepped in it, as I’ve offered my screed on names, which is never a good thing to do. Parents are going to do whatever they want on names . . . (I keep telling myself to shut up on the topic.)

When 2014 started I predicted that it would be a year of funerals. I wasn’t wrong. I’ve been to three in about six weeks. I can take a break now, really.

And I’ve got a few ideas to not completely abandon this blog, too. It’s been fun and I want it to continue to be fun. And I want to finish the novel and write the next one.

Can I do it all? (big breath.) I think so. Thanks for hanging in there and reading this.

Writing & Reflection – 3/13/93 – A Question of Suicide – Part 2

Again, these entries were written over 20 years ago in a very dark period of my life.  I am not there anymore, thankfully!   But . . .if you feel that you are vulnerable to suicidal thoughts, please do not read this post.  I would hate to contribute to darkening your journey even a little bit.

Yesterday, I posted Part 1.  Before I present the entry today, I promised to talk a bit about how I got out of the pit.

My period of time in this pit had been triggered by a very brief relationship, one that I thought would be easy to handle.  I was wrong.  I wrote a lot in my journal during this time and had to remind myself that the abruptness of the end of this relationship had set off a tumbling downward into a trough of despair.  Were I not in analysis at this time, I might have been able to brush it off, or utilize compulsive activities like eating or buying stuff to numb out the pain.  But I was just at the point where these old coping behaviors no longer worked.  That’s a tough time because until you have something more positive to replace the old behaviors and thinking/feeling patterns, you’re stuck.  For me, the downward spiral was sudden and overtook me completely for awhile.

The while was about six to seven weeks.  But those were probably the hardest six to seven weeks of my life.  I realized my friends were unable to help me, and my therapist certainly couldn’t be on the phone with me 24/7 even though she was available when I needed her.  I wasn’t close to either of my parents (and they were definitely contributing factors in my despair) and I wasn’t about to burden my son.  I did write in my journal, but looking backwards, I only found a few entries written when I was at my lowest point.

Believe it or not, I managed to get to work most days and nobody went hungry.  If I had to describe my mood, once the despair hit hard, it was like I was a walking shell of a person.  I must have “passed” well enough, because nobody moved to get me committed to a mental hospital.

In essence, I had to tough it out.  I wasn’t ready to consider medication at all (later, a sponsor who was a psychiatric nurse said I should have taken meds – that “pain” was the not the same as “suffering” and I was suffering.)

I also agreed that I would call my therapist before I did anything rash.  I certainly had fantasies of non-existence that primarily ran to just not waking up the next day, or driving off the bridge, things that would be quick or painless.

But I suspect the final healer of this deep depression was time.  As time passed, and I continued to talk about it and tread water emotionally, I began to see some sort of light that started small but got a bit larger and brighter day by day.  The day I woke up and realized I wasn’t considering death was a good day.

This is the journal entry I wrote the day after the one I posted yesterday; it, too, is pretty dark, but there are a few moments of some perspective:

 Last night it was ugly fat cow don’t deserve anything.

Tonight I still feel dark thoughts, murderous suicidal thoughts.

Wait Without Hope

The only semi-answer to suicide is I wouldn’t get to see how the story turns out.  If I kill myself, the problem with that answer is that I do know [how it turns out].  I die anyway and maybe I’m raped, beaten, tortured by someone else, or ravaged by a disease . . . AIDS or cancer, etc.  Maybe I’m hit by a car and go into a coma state.  Maybe . . .

So with suicide, I exercise a measure of control over the end.  I pick the time, I pick the method.  I can do it rationally.

But I’d be living without a sense of mystery . . . trading that for control.

All of life’s the tug of:

The Mystery – the “Only don’t know” and “Wait without hope” and along with this, the tremendous anxiety and knowledge of inevitable human suffering and human joy.  The pay-off is creativity, love, beauty but only maybe

And Control – and along with this, quelled anxiety and “the end of the book”, but also no spontaneity, a lack of joy, a lack of emotion, a “living dead.”

And the problem is – I can only control myself and my reactions.  Not other persons, places or things, no matter how much I try.  The greater the pain of living – the more I want to control it, to clamp down on it.  Suicide seems to make too much sense if I’ve chosen the control side.

Something happens after death.   I go back to the source, maybe I return and maybe not.  I don’t care – all I know is that I’m out of my gross body, and out of emotional pain and human suffering.  And that trade-off seems worth it.

The downside is not seeing how [my son] turns out, not seeing grandkids, etc.  But maybe I’ll have a spiritual way of doing [this], so that won’t matter.  I’d like to think [my son] would hate me if I died, but he’s sure to hate me more as a mother if I stayed.

Being a paralegal is deadening to my mind and spirit.  And my body brings me nothing but shame.  No one else can stand to look at it, including me.  It will be horrid thin or fat – especially old (thin or fat.)  Whether filled or empty, it’s just sacs of skin.  Disgusting.  Disease festers there.  So what’s the point?

The only pleasure I feel is [sensual] – my heart is like a stone.  I do love [my son] but that’s it.  I know I am completely alone.  I pay someone to listen to me and mirror me – big deal.  My friends don’t get it and never will.  There are no men – they reject me because I am who I am.

I lost me completely somewhere and I am coming to terms with that.  I’m not coming back and it’s only [a matter of] time before I need to end this nonsense.  Planning needs to be done to protect [my son] but other than that there’s no real point to living just to feel depressed and lonely over and over again.  To be financially strapped, to be bored, to be continually rejected, to not want to be here much longer.

These are too familiar feelings and, as a thinking, rational human – I don’t know if I can stand just existing.

I don’t know if I can Wait Without Hope – for the murderer.

 

Well, that’s dramatic!

I didn’t harm myself, I never stole pills, and didn’t “accidentally on purpose” get into an accident of any sort.  Actually we did talk about those accidents in therapy and I knew if I somehow just showed up with a cast on my arm one week, that this would entail much conversation about whether this was an accident or not.

I mentioned that one other thing that contributed to healing was poetry, and it was during this time that I had discovered T.S. Eliot.  Here’s the end of the portion of East Coker, from Four Quartets.  This will probably be a more familiar portion of the poem, but it continues with the theme of waiting without hope, but attempts an answer that is, dare I say, more hopeful?

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

 

 

 

 

 

Writing101 – Day Two Prompt

Today’s prompt is simple – If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?

I let my imagination take flight and, as it moves about, the images come tumbling out, gathering speed and velocity.

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan; the Guggenheim Museum on the edge of Central Park; the Parisian hotel room we stayed in overnight on the Champs Elysees and the outdoor cafe where we had hot chocolate and croissants. The Swan Inn in Bradford-on-Avon near Bath, England, and the open hearth pub where my husband got proper drunk from the on-tap ales which were significantly higher in alcohol content than what we had in the U.S. Traveling the backroads of rural Louisiana to the marker where Bonnie & Clyde were gunned down, itself suitably “gunned” down by tourists; and sitting in an old Bourbon Street bar having absinthe, the table sticky from eons of humidity and people’s handprints. A Shrimp truck on the North Shore of Oahu, the flavors both familiar yet unique, and then to a beach filled with large turtles ambling about at their own pace, oblivious to us silly humans.

As I settle back and remember these and other journeys and sojourns, I focus in on one room in particular. It is a small room, not terribly significant or special in and of itself. We’re told to come into the room and to just stand there and we do, along with our host. The outside was warm and we had been sweating as we always were on this trip, from both the heat and humidity, plus the exertion of walking, but here in this room it is cool. The air seems still and I feel immediately at peace. I suspect, but don’t know, that nobody has entered this room in a few days. After we are in the room along with the host, we hear a bark and a small dog happily joins us – a Lhasa Apso, his tail wagging.

“This is where he stayed when he came to give his blessing,” the man says. Looking around, I see a small bed, and a chair that reclines with a reading lamp, as well as a small chest of drawers. As I said, unremarkable in appearance.

I close my eyes and picture the scene – the monks escaping from their homeland, crossing to India to just survive long enough to set up another monastery to take in  children abandoned or orphaned, to teach them and others. They finally have a building after many years and it is their privilege to host the Dalai Lama who will bless the building, providing them validation for having left Tibet for this new world in Dharamsala, India. They are the survivors who are charged with carrying on with the traditions and rituals of their faith to the new generation.

Here he sat, here he slept. A man – just a man. But even so, he left a tingle of himself in his wake –  his DNA sloughed off cells that have infused this room in this building with his essence and I am at peace just by being here.

And as I remember this, I remember another room, another man and another bed. I don’t remember his name, just that he was restrained gently in the bed, his chocolate colored skin taking on an ashy tint, the restraints so he wouldn’t flail and hurt himself. His agitation due to the cancer that is rapidly killing him. There is a boombox nearby with a CD on a continuous play of soothing music. As I walk in the room, he looks peaceful and at rest. No flailing this morning. I smile to myself, thinking – well, thank goodness, the poor man. He’s about my age and has brain cancer. As I walk a bit closer, though, I realize with a start that he is not asleep, but rather, he is dead. It’s like a thud inside me to immediately realize this. I turn around and walk to the nurses’ station but don’t immediately find one. After about five minutes, a nurse happens by and I tell her about the patient and that I think he has passed away.

We return to the room together – she the professional and I, the volunteer. She is efficient but also kindly, checking a pulse and her watch, and saying, yes, he is gone. Now she has work to do – family to call, tubes to remove, restraints  to remove. She tells me I can stay with him or, if I’m uncomfortable, I can leave, but she is going to find his chart and call a sister. I say, no, I’ll stay until you come back, it’s fine. And it is. After she leaves, I walk to the chair and sit down, bearing witness to this man’s pain and his release. I don’t know him, but I sense that in the second time in the room, that something has changed in the energy and then it hits me.

I probably initially came into his room just a few minutes after he had died; now, about ten minutes later, I sense a huge difference in the room’s energy as if whatever was left of “him” has now taken its leave. The body on the bed looks more like just a shell that once housed a man who lived and loved and probably was loved in return. Who didn’t think he’d die in his 30’s of cancer; who probably hoped for more time but not getting that, just did his best to live as long as possible, until the cancer had taken enough of him that he was left to flail helplessly in a hospice unit.

There is a sense of peace here now. A sense of completion. Later, I cry about it but for now, I just marvel at how even in death it takes time for the soul or spirit to depart its host and go where it will.

Different rooms on opposite ends of the earth. In both however there is the imprint of lives, of life, one of a renowned holy man, the other of a man who in death is at once both holy and whole.