By Liat Faver
Several years ago, not long after my sister’s death, I read the first two chapters of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. I couldn’t continue. The same thing happened when I tried to read Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees. Both books evoked too much pain. I’m sure I’ll be able to read these good books someday, when I’ve gained sufficient distance from my own sorrows, or something. For now, I’d rather drop an elephant on my foot.
Most of my friends know that this past year has been one in which magical thinking was needed. My mother’s stroke, preceded by Hospice, followed by two mini-strokes, and her confinement to bed, the sudden death of a lifelong friend, and most recently, a breast malignancy that brings my own health to the forefront, and the lack of Fairy-Godmothers, have given me a lot to grow about. I don’t get much enjoyment from reading these days, and writing has become mostly a keeping of notes for future “real” writing. For that someday, when I can focus again, or stay put for awhile, or something.
Maybe if I had more help, maybe if I had a spouse or partner, maybe, maybe, maybe some combination of circumstances would allow me the energy and spirit to tumble those letters and enjoy the word-wallowing I like to call writing. Or, perhaps I’m doing the best I can do, and need to realize this is what it is, and be satisfied that time is on my side. It only looks like it’s on my face. Tequila, please.
What gives us creative energies? What takes them away? What makes the writing stop working? I feel most creative when life is satisfying, and it only needs to be moderately so. On the other hand, deep pain can draw me to ink and paper like bees to flowers. However, daily routines with little variety scour away the thrill of feeling emotion. Feeling becomes inconvenient and time-consuming, best relegated to a gathering of wits in a cool room when I can be alone long enough to let the stuff run over me like a mudslide, and if I need to, drown for awhile. And after that, allow my mind to drift somewhere without direction, like a soft movie or TV show. And I am lulled and soothed and the cacophonous edges dissolve.
Some days, I wake up lured to the pages and words and somewhere between that first thought and the ten that follow, the alphabet fades and there is so much to do—so much the same—so sad—so unpromising.
The deliverance in all of this is that these days hold magic, if one watches and listens carefully. When moments of light come from my mother’s eyes, and the recognition and recall are there, and the intimacy of what we are sharing is a precious chapter at the end of our life together here, and I can see that she knows what is really happening and is as present and calm as ever, and she says she loves me, and thanks me for what I am doing, and briefly, she isn’t confused, or frightened, or vacant, or powerless. All the years of singing and dancing, grace, struggle, falling and getting back up, spill into the room she lives in, and time ambles and gallops and the miracle of this love is overwhelming. These are diamond days.