I have written about this a bit already, but this is an unprecedented amount of time for me to not be able to move at will and as the healing process drags on, so do the lessons I am learning pile up.
I have learned a lot about vulnerability and about internal sense of terror, and waking up in a state of emergency and how to talk myself down, about how much I have relied my whole life on an idea of myself as someone who could run away when necessary, even if at times in my childhood I was paralyzed - either mentally or physically - unable to move.
I have had nightmares about people leaving me. I have had nightmares of being humiliated. The thing is when you can't move well it's like being in a nightmare in real life where you can't move even if there is danger. In real life, I have not been threatened in any way. All that has happened is John, my wonderful husband, bringing home all the groceries, doing 99% of the cooking and cleaning and being wonderful. A few friends have come round periodically. I do hobble down and up the four flights of stairs at least a few times a week just to see the outside and sometimes get to a local meeting of friends for an hour or so.
But underneath this reality is a history, that history acts in a way not dissimilar to the way tectonic plates can rub up against one another to cause an earthquake. In other words, it's not always predictable and the stresses can cause major disruption on the surface.
The good news is the fracture is healing - almost fully healed. I find the fact a bone can heal moving on a cellular level, because that implies perhaps I can heal from past trauma. However, the way the bone has healed is through being very gentle, and the only way to be gentle is to be still, and to be so still brings up the terror...which - each time it arrives and I can remain still and nothing happens to justify that terror - can in fact Also be healing to my psyche. Those parts of the wounded soul that suffered stress fractures and sprains, that were never allowed to heal, not properly - where the only option I had was to keep going, try to outrun the pain, outrun the Goddamn pain, never let it catch up, dammit and eventually - just - shut - down.
This shut down place is a kind of cold emptiness. This is the place I tried to run away from as a young teenager, it's the place I was dropped into when doing long art projects by myself and is why I ran to theater, where I could be with other people, have fun, do something, relate to others in a structured way and not have to be stuck with my own shut down cold empty place.
So, guess what I'm also dealing with aside from the terror? You guessed it, the cold empty place.
Now, all of this has been around the whole time. Guiding me, making me move this way and that, unconsciously mostly - sometimes masquerading as ideas, sometimes as 'intuition' (which I do believe in - by the way - intuition - but this isn't real intuition - it's a kind of life-like looking facsimile - Very close to the original, but not the original - that masks premium-grade rationalization like a motherfucker), etc.
And for the past close to 8 weeks, the jig has been up. There has been nowhere literally or metaphorically or any other way to run or hide. Just me and the cold emptiness, beneath which is the terror.
BUT - and I don't Think this is Pollyanna of me (but who knows) - there is a gift here - I Think. Which is each day I sit through this, a muscle is developing. That muscle is the: not running away muscle. It's the one that may allow me to Live Through This as it were. Going through my old diaries and journals early on in this process of being immobilized accelerated that challenge. BUT - here's the thing - I just kept at it. Perhaps if my ankle had not been sprained and foot fractured, I would have had the opportunity (along with the obvious motive) to run screaming out of my apartment and into the park or wherever. Anywhere. Just. Go. Don't Feel This. It's Too Hard.
But I couldn't. So I didn't.
While I am now a bit more hesitant to send out my book because there is now more 'raw' me in it (in form periodically of excerpts diary entries going back to 1973 through to 1992), something else more important has happened.
A couple days ago, I realized internally, not because of anything that had happened on the outside, because I haven't really shown much of the revised book to anyone yet, but internally - amidst all the confusion and crushing self-doubt mingled with unremitting shame and self-hatred - there was a small, still voice that said: the book works.
The book works.
This probably doesn't sound like a big deal to you, but to me this is Huge. I backed away from it, in the same way I used to back away from my watercolors after making tiny changes and hating it, and then would turn around startled and realize: oh. wow. that painting is good.
This was like that.
The book works. The structure, the one I know has and will continue to cause agita to the vast majority of agents and publishers, perhaps all of them, it works. Because it does what I want it to do. It is the book I would want to read. It reveals my grandmothers gradually, layer by layer, like an archeological dig - and just like such a dig, you have to connect the dots yourself and you may be wrong or right and with each layer your assessment of who these two women are or could have been will shift.
There is no 'hook' other than there are two women's lives lived in the 20th Century, two lives the types of which we rarely if ever see and never in this level of almost forensic detail. When Dick and Jani are alive at the same time (in the book), my life is interwoven a bit here and there. The fact I am their granddaughters should be abundantly clear.
Dick and Jani were opposite in character, and yet both fierce. I live in the shadow of the conflict of their competing ferocities. I had no role models of the 'feminine' as one would be led to believe it exist in the (primarily male generated) popular culture. Maybe no one does. Maybe that's a big pack of lies that many of us are brainwashed into thinking is real.
I don't know.
But Dick and Jani are not particularly cozy women. I find them both darkly hilarious, and I doubt most women's lives, if narrated honestly are 'cozy' in the way we are led to believe. In fact I would even venture to say that the kool-aid of the feminine we have been asked to drink has something much more to do with the terrorizing of women like Catherine in Taming of the Shrew than a 'natural' state.
I have not had children, but I have been pregnant and lost a child. That wasn't cozy. No one I know who has ever told me about labor says it's cozy. It's fierce. Mothers are fierce. What does this have to do with this milquetoast idea of soft voices and doilies? Not much.
And neither are Dick or Jani. And neither am I. And neither is my mother, or any women I know well.
So how does this relate to healing? Well, healing isn't for 'pussies' (to use the lovely lexicon of our current election season). To be still is hard. To be gentle I find almost excruciating. Non-violence is probably the most hardcore way to live of all. (I aspire but do not claim this non-violence mantle to be clear - but it is a goal).
I don't know how to end this post, but I think I will use the epigraph for Dick & Jani. It is apt:
Have compassion for everyone you meet,
even if they don’t want it. What seems conceit,
bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign
of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen.
You do not know what wars are going on
down there where the spirit meets the bone.
- Miller Williams