“A sigh just isn’t a sigh. We inhale the world and breathe out meaning. While we can. While we can.” ~ Salman Rushdie, from The Moor’s Last Sigh
Tuesday afternoon. Partly cloudy and warm, 69 degrees.
Last night I dreamed about my father. We needed to buy nitroglycerine, not sure why. Corey, my mother, my father, and I went to an old-fashioned hardware store. The man who helped us told us that we needed to be very careful not to jostle the canister when transporting it, so my dad also bought a weird-looking cart in which to move the canister. My dad and mom went to get the car. My dad called and said to meet them at the school. There was no school anywhere near the hardware store. Corey and I were lugging around this heavy cart with the canister, and I was really worried about moving it so much because I had seen what the nitro could do. The hardware store’s manager had poured a little bit around a door knob and the wood around the doorknob melted.
When we didn’t see my dad and mom, we went back inside the store. Then my dad called and wanted to know where we were, why we weren’t at the school. I told him that we couldn’t find the school. He got really mad and started yelling at me over the phone, and I heard my mother in the background telling him to calm down. Corey and I went back outside to see if we could see them. They were across the street in my dad’s old Falcon, and when I looked again, my dad was punching my mother (nothing like this ever happened in real life). I ran up to my dad and grabbed him from behind. My mother said that he was beating her because he was mad at me. Suddenly, we were in the middle of the street, and traffic was all around us. Then the dream ended.
“Heart on fire, ashes everywhere
— there’s no return from a red like that.” ~ Manuel de Freitas, from “Fado Menor,” trans. Richard Zenith
My mother still has the ability to make me feel like a six-year-old just by uttering four words: “Don’t lie to me.” This was an oft-heard phrase when I was growing up, and it has continued well into adulthood. As an only child, I was blamed for anything that happened, and very often for things that didn’t happen. Example: My mother once had me in tears by accusing me of flushing a bottle of nail polish down the toilet. I hadn’t done such a thing, and it never would have occurred to me to do such a thing.
Today, she pulled into the driveway behind the Rodeo and wanted to know who had banged up the car. “There’s a big one on the front and one on the back.”
I told her that there were no new dents, that the one on the front had rust on it because it had been there so long, had been there when I got the Rodeo, to which she responded, “Don’t lie to me.”
I wasn’t lying. I don’t lie. I’m not a liar. I felt sick to my stomach.
“The past beats inside me like a second heart.” ~ John Banville, from The Sea
My friend Mari asked me in an e-mail what I’ve been doing. I responded with the following:
What am I doing? Thinking about how I used to say to myself that May Sarton didn’t start writing professionally until she was in her 50’s, and that was the perfect excuse. What’s my excuse now? I try to post something every day on my blog. On days that writing is just too hard, I usually resort to something from Jon Stewart or a single poem. I started two novels during NaNoWriMo, but failed to finish either of them. I dream in French sometimes, and I still write poems in that time between sleep and wakefulness, only to forget them entirely before I can write them down. I dream about my few friends, now scattered across the country, and I imagine lives for them since I am miserable about keeping in touch. I bought GRE prep materials so that I could take the GRE this year and apply to GW’s PhD program by January of next year. I wonder if I’ll really do that.
What am I doing?
“and I am only nerves, strung on constellations,
meridians and vectors quivering.” ~ Cynthia Huntington, from “Meds”
I began this post three hours ago. In between I’ve played stick with Tillie and finished reading a book that I started yesterday. I wonder if I have anything to say. I wonder if I ever have anything to say. I wonder why anyone would care what I have to say. I wonder what the point is, the point to this blog, the point to me.
What am I, not who, but what? Am I doomed to be stuck in replay mode forever, that same track over and over again, the one in which I pine over the future that is not and bemoan the fates over the now that is?
I told Corey that I think my brain is full of holes, and I do. My mother thinks she might have early Alzheimer’s, and then she tells me that I’m just as bad at remembering things, so as usual, I take her words to heart, and I think, “my brain must be full of holes because I cannot remember things.” And is this post yet another attempt to dissect the person that is my mother, to try to see past her words into her DNA, the strands that define her, as if in so doing I might finally begin to understand.
No. I will never understand.
“Oh, my friend sometimes the realization runs through my head that I am actually living a supremely dangerous life: for I belong among those machines that can explode! I can’t emphasize that strongly enough. The intensities of my feeling make me shudder and laugh aloud.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche, from Selected Letters
My friend Mari’s father died in February after a long illness. We both loved our daddies, but I would not say that we were “daddy’s girls,” or perhaps we were. Who knows. My father, when he comes to me in dreams, is always different, as in each dream is different, and I wonder if I’ve forgotten who he was. I don’t think so. But when I dream of family members, it’s always the past; everyone is younger, like my cousins who aren’t really my cousins—when I dream about the females in the family, they are always young, like they were when I used to care for them in the summers. And one other strange recurring theme: I am always very close to my male cousin, the only male with four sisters. In my dreams, we are always very, very close. We can tell each other anything.
My dreams are my past, replaying itself, unfolding in different ways. I rarely dream of future selves, either the past or now, alternative nows. But my father is in my dreams much more than my mother. I suppose my dreams are my way of maintaining those connections that in real life have faded into pale, almost transparent threads, from lack of work, lack of maintenance, which doesn’t actually make sense because on a woven blanket or on a quilt, those areas that fade the fastest are the ones that are touched the most.
So does this mean that because I touch these people so often in my dreams, then the imaginary quilt is fading?
I have not answers, only far too many questions today. No answers. No defining moments. Only standing on the porch hugging my arms close to my body, trying not to let a single tear escape as my mothers says, “Don’t lie to me.”
More later. Peace.
All images by Peder Severin Krøyer, Danish painter known as prominent member of Skagen painters
Music by Maggie Eckford, “What If”
Today It Seemed I Had Nothing to Say
that hadn’t been said already—
my head full of moldy
hay and feelings
until you asked me
what it was like, for a change,
to have no barred owl
brooding above the barn,
and so I went stealing again,
up the worn wood loft ladder,
hoping to startle up
a glimpse of something
that even now might heft
itself lightly through the mouth
of the mow, and drift just
out of view, off-levelly,
all hollow and feather pillow,
folding and unfolding
and folding itself silently into
the forest where its terrible
utility moves like a shudder
over every living thing.
~ Todd Boss
- To Darla, From Dad: Letter from the County Jail (darsba.wordpress.com)
3 thoughts on ““My heart is maneuvering in rings of trembling darkness and unreasonable echoes of over-thoughtfulness.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from Congenial Spirits: The Selected Letters of Virginia Woolf”
Today I received an article from my best friend, Betti, in the mail. I’ve found it online, though:
It is by Daphne Merkin, titled “Who’s Sorry Now?” It talks about the book by Adam Phillips, called Missing Out. Phillips says that the idea of an unlived life is more common now due to affluence. He says that it helps us know what we want, and also can inspire us to change. He thinks some of it is “written into our Darwinian-determined reality, which underscores our ultimate insignificance in the grander scheme of things (the fact that “we are nothing special – on a par with ants and daffodils”).
It looks like an interesting read… In any case, you might want to read the article. I might have to inter-library loan the book…
There was someone I worked for once that looked at me a certain way when she thought I was lying – and I felt like I was lying, but I wasn’t. I recently had a conversation with my ex-boss, who worked with that woman also. She wasn’t fond of her either. That comforted me. I guess when you know that you’re not the only one that was on the receiving end of weirdness, it feels better.
In my family, though, my sister is thirteen years older and has a different perception of my mother and her remarks. She’s not one to talk about it. I know that my mother’s mother made those type of remarks, so I can see the legacy of those coming down the generations. Plus, I was the black sheep and my sister was always held up to me as, “Look at her, she’s perfect.” I know she’s not perfect. Maybe she has regrets, too, but I guess I won’t ever know.
I care about what you think. I don’t know what the answer is about wanting to do something but not being quite able to make oneself do it, but you aren’t alone in that. I’ve often wondered if the executive function part of my brain was damaged somehow, or perhaps genetically inferior?
My mother used to have some trouble remembering, but she made it to 84 without a lot of trouble. There was a time between operations when she couldn’t remember our names and had us all confused, but it wore off. I’m told that is common in older people that have anesthesia. My kids make fun of me for not remembering things, as I poked fun at my mother and both of us joked about having Alzheimer’s. Maybe we had just had too much junk food…
Ah, well… Some days I feel like I’m riding a rollercoaster… And, I’m always grateful at the end of the day when I can curl up in my pajamas in my bed with a book (and if I’m lucky, a cat). The day is over. Nothing is required of me for 12 hours or so…
If I don’t paint a masterpiece or write a poem that will be remembered for a thousand years or even if I just don’t pass on a million dollars to my children… maybe that’s okay. I was here and did my best. I was kind. Maybe it’s just enough to be loving to someone and to enjoy one’s life.
You matter to me.
Wow. That’s a great comment, especially at the end. I wish that I could have your outlook sometimes.
The thing about my mother is that if I write about it when it happens, then I’m okay. I’ve purged myself. Yes, it bothers me if I think about it, but that raw hurt has passed. Everyone thinks it’s such a great thing to be an only child, and in some ways, yes, it is, but in others, it’s the complete opposite of what you would think.
Ah me. We all have our burdens at the end of the day. Thank you for your caring words. It’s nice to know that I’ll get feedback from at least one person.