“I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas”
– T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
I am a creature who craves rhythm, progress, schedule, and order. I don’t mind some disorder–my OCD does not extend to extreme cleaning or organization–and in fact, my writing process is rather untidy for someone with my diagnosis. I am a sloppy writer; I often tell my students, when I urge them to find their own writing processes, that my process is simply, “Vomit on a page and revise for three years.” That is, I am not beholden to the initial crafting. I am, for all intents and purposes, a reviser. I can be as sloppy as I want in drafts 1, 4, and even 12. But as I start to close in, things become tighter, words more precise, sentences increasingly more structured. As for daily life, I live by a To Do List. I tried for over two years to hold myself to a rigid time schedule, but that initial sloppiness in my personality would not allow it. Instead, I am beholden to a list of Things to Do. It gives some of my chaos order. It allows me to shift and shape my world.
I say this to remind you that I am a writer; I am also a reader. I began reading early as a child, three or four is what I’ve been told. But never, never in my life have I been without words. They have followed me always and forever. I would fall asleep with a book on my face as a child; I never went anywhere without a book; I loved my iPhone because I carried hundreds of books with me, wherever I went. I was always reading; I was always writing. Ever and always. These are my two passions.
I have written nothing but blog entries since my mother passed.
I have read nothing since she died.
I don’t know why. I’ve examined it from every angle. Part of it is the work to be done. There was a lot of paperwork to be dealt with, upon the unexpected death of someone you hold dear. I was, in fact, surprised by the mountains of work to be done, beyond planning the funeral.
Part of it, too, I think, is guilt. How can I resume my passion, a passion so instilled in me from birth by my mother, my mother, now that she is gone? Is it dishonoring her by continuing on with the pastimes I love? How do I move on from this pain? This sorrow? Is there any moving on, ever?
I told a friend recently, “It doesn’t get better, I don’t think. It just becomes familiar.”
But even then, over two months after she’s died, it’s not familiar. I sat down on July 4th to sort through her jewelry. I put her wedding ring on my finger, and it only came to my first knuckle. My mother was a tiny-boned woman, and I, as her adopted daughter, was not. She loved that ring so much, and I sobbed, truly sobbed, looking at that tiny ring on my big, impossible hands.
It is not better. Nor is it familiar. It is nothing but a gaping hole.
I dream of her. In my dreams, I beg her not to leave. Over and over again, she comes to me in my dreams, and I wake, a silent scream caught in my throat.
Is this pain? Is this mourning? Is this constant and forever, now?
I am caught in two worlds, both of them Real. I keep saying, “I need to return to the real world,” when I am with my father in New Orleans, and I say, “I need to return to the real world,” when I am with my husband in Indiana. I don’t know what is real anymore. I feel as if I have two lives that are never colliding, only growing infinitesimally closer to each other, never touching.
Perhaps it’s the fear of escape. That’s why I can’t read, or write. Or perhaps, I don’t want to associate something I love so dearly with something that hurts, so very much. Whatever it is, it is a duality, this loss, these losses, my mother and my words.
I miss them both.