I’ve been thinking to myself, thinking that I’m not ready for real life to start up again. Apparently my lizard brain thinks that the last two weeks of December are not real life. Dunno what’s up with that. It’s not like I have this starry-eyed notion of Christmas; most times I don’t even like it. I just don’t see the sense in wrapping something I’d rather just hand over with an “I love you.” I also don’t see the sense in waiting all year to give my husband things he’ll love. (He’s the same way. he brings me something cool a couple of times a week.) It could also be that recently Christmas has just been plain difficult and has lost its flavor for me. (right?)
Whatever the case, I’m glad it’s behind me but I’m dreading the upcoming weeks.
I am involved in several activities by design several months ago when I foresaw my state of mind. I’m not happy about that right now. It means I have to participate. Grand jury, Kiwanis, school, writing, quilting. No, I do have to. Of course I may choose not to, but integrity and responsibility require otherwise, which I knew would be the only things that would propel me forward. So I’m thankful that I know myself, but I’m a little short on truly appreciating it right now.
Here’s what I know, why I scheduled these things for myself back then: It’s when you least want to do something that you need it the most.
Case in point: I got hit by the don’t-cares on Wednesday. I’d gotten free tickets to the Book to Screen event at the Palm Springs festival for Tuesday and Wednesday. I was excited to go for a week, and I’d relished the movies on Tuesday–and now in retrospect I see that I avoided conversing with anyone beyond polite howdies. (Seriously. I skirted rooms and stayed close to the walls and avoided eye contact. )
Wednesday promised to be interesting, since authors and screenwriters would be talking about their work. My favorite stuff.
But Wednesday morning I lollygagged and waffled and I was struck by the sudden fear that I would get in a wreck to or from Palm Springs. I finally decided to GO around 11am, surprising my husband, who’d been certain I’d stay, given my ambivalence.
The series began in the morning; I got to Palm Springs at 1:30pm, in time for the fourth talk.
I went for two reasons: integrity/responsibility, and David Ulin. If you’re given $200 tickets, you use them. And David Ulin was moderating a talk on the film, Genius. I didn’t know if I’d get to talk to him, but I really just wanted to hear what he had to say at the symposium. (David was one of my main profs in my MFA program, and it’s his voice I hear when I write or edit.)
I told my husband that I believed I’d get something unexpected out of just showing up, and I did. The talk itself was brilliant and insightful. But beforehand, David stopped to talk with me for about ten minutes, and because of it my faith in myself reawakened. The fact that he took that time to connect underscored his words: What I have to say matters, and my writing resonates–our writing resonates–even when we don’t know it’s connecting with anyone.
I thought about this all day afterward. Why do our stories move others? I’ve been focusing on story more and more in my classes because I believe they move people beyond the superficial recognition of another human being to actual connection with who they are. That toddler in the back of the ambulance in Aleppo moved people in a way that event reportage could not.
What does it mean when something resonates?
I think it’s like your body is an echo chamber that reverberates when it hears a story that has the same emotional weight that the one you’re living has. It doesn’t matter if the stories are exactly the same. Tonally they’re the same. My mother-grief and fear about my missing son is the same as any parent’s grief and fear.
It always takes me aback when people respond to my ordeal with, “What I’m going through is nothing like what you’re going through. Yours is so much worse.”
No, it’s not.
There’s no measuring stick. If it’s ripping you apart it’s your own private hell. There’s no measuring one hell against another. The keen is the same.
That reminds me of a part in 13 Hours when one of the men paraphrases from the Joseph Campbell book he’s reading: “We carry heaven and hell inside us….”
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that we hold eternity in our hearts. So why not heaven and hell?
I found this interesting article about Shakespeare when I sought the exact *reference for Campbell’s quote:
In his greatest works, he strikes a chord with the essence of the human existence. Shakespeare causes us to turn our eyes in to our hearts and see there the greatness of man, and the horror that man can inflict upon the world and upon himself.
He makes us realize that, like his characters, we have a choice in what kind of person we shall be and that heaven and hell are not foreign concepts in our existence, but they are the consequences of our actions and how we live our lives. Heaven and hell are inside us, and are manifested in us as conscience and virtues. . . .
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. . . .”
The thousand natural shocks . . . .
The grief is part of the journey. The heartache. The silence.
Children are born to break our hearts. I’m sure I ripped my mother’s to shreds. Never meaning to, but still.
Because of this I understand and forgive and hope. I still fear so much that Jake is dead; every day I wonder, so much so that a callous has developed on the question.
On the way home from the symposium, traffic was at a standstill on the I-10 EB freeway in Indio because a young woman had fallen from the Jackson overpass. I’d Googled it while sitting there, and at the time I thought she had jumped. (I’ve since driven under the bridge again and can see how someone could fall off.) When I thought she’d jumped, I wondered if the victim had had anyone stop for her when she was alive. And then I thought, with fierce gratitude, that just that day, David had stopped for me. That act will resonate in me for a long time to come.
Here’s what’s resonating in me right now, and it ain’t cheesy. I love the first question. I’ve been saying it a lot lately.
*Campbell’s quote comes from The Power of Myth.
You can find more info on Bill Moyers’ website: http://billmoyers.com/series/joseph-campbell-and-the-power-of-myth-1988/