Friday, August 31, 2007

The Necessity of Denial and Other Things

When I find myself weeping and the object of loss fades away until my depressive mindset substitutes another reason for tears, I try to slap myself inwardly: I try to allow tears about Rachel without bleeding into tears about my extremely negative self-view. So I am lost in the middle of a dark wood at 52; what’s more important is she whom I lost.

When you lose someone very close to you it ignites other fears. The thought of losing Kathleen is or one of my other daughters is unendurable, of course. How could a man bear that? How do mothers with multiple sons lost to war cope?

One of the saintliest men I ever knew was a cardiologist, Dr. Srinatha. He lost his entire family in India in one crash (he was the only one not in the vehicle). He was the most compassionate of men, patient to a fault, willing to explain anything, and he never complained about being called to the CCU at 4 AM. His presence was always calming and his smile spiritually reassuring. I do not think his demeanor was solely a product of nature; I like to think grief helped transform him into the saintly being he became. Although grief can also bring lead to bitterness and isolation, the economy of the closed heart must eventually fail.

We need others too much. I hope I’m not leaning too hard on Kathleen. Sarah tells me to be a “poshead” and not a “neghead.” I’m in total agreement save for the wiring in my brain.

As for living with the conscious threat of a loved one’s death, it can’t be done sanely. We simply cannot operate while consciously cognizant of mortality, our own or theirs; such knowledge is existentially crippling and must be practically delimited, yes suppressed, to accomplish the smallest endeavor. Every action depends on faith, whether we trust our legs to rise out of a chair or trust gravity while pouring water in a glass.

We must live in denial to live. We cannot indulge in the Descartian (Cartesian) luxury of questioning every underlying assumption. That leads only to an obsessive unbelief in our own existence. Derealization, as the shrinkolas call it.

One thing that mixes up my grief: The writers conference. I was told point blank by two agents that my writing couldn’t earn money, that hardly any writers earned money. Writing for money had been my new goal of self-redemption, a way to get off the disability wheel that throws Protestant guilt at me like a gorilla heaving turds from a cage. And now I hear from the experts that my dream is wrongheaded.

This is no time to listen to them or analyze my chances, but the timing didn’t help. I was sad enough not to need my face rubbed in it. I don’t want to give up hope but this is no time to globalize about my future and my future goals. This is a time to take the long way home through the graveyard.

Sarah leaves tomorrow; God bless her! I may get back to the work of writing when she’s gone. I didn’t want to waste my time on it while she was here.

I’m in a public library trying not to cry. Earlier during my lunch break between the two halves of my mushroom identification class I did cry. But I cleaned up pretty good.

Last thing I want is to have someone stop me and say, “Woman, why do you weep?” Who wants to hear of your loss? Why spread the peanut butter misery of this world any thicker on the planet's crust?

My essay in Blue Fifth will soon be re-printed in the Schuylkill Review (forgive the spelling). Always nice to be wanted.

My sister wrote Kathleen that she worries about me sometimes if I don’t blog. I wish I had the energy to visit the blogs of all those generous enough to comment here.

I still don’t get the Princess Di thing, ten years after her death today. I think it was her innocence, or the innocence we projected upon her—the same kind of innocence Marilyn conveyed. The same kind of innocence Rachel looked back to. We don’t want the innocent to suffer. We want to save them.




  1. Craig, when I hugged you at Art in the Gardens, said I was so sorry about your daughter, your grief, I wanted to tell you not to go to that Writer's Conference, not to spend you energy or money there. I think it has the potential to become a good conference, but it draws no one we have ever heard of yet, right? I don't want some lackey I have never heard of telling me how to write because they got a free cottage to stay for the weekend on the Mendocino Coast. If they'd have featured you as a poet to advise me, I would have paid the fee. I mean that sincerely. Had you ever heard of any of those people presenting, ever read their works? I would love to see the conference become a destination for fine writers/presenters but, as it is, I wouldn't let a comment from it discourage you.

    To me, that would be like me letting a workshop presenter here who has done 1500 watercolor seascapes that all look alike tell me that I need to work a bit more traditionally, less magically to sell. That's just pure bull.

    Love to you and lovely Kathleen...


  2. Yeah, talk about being ground to dust. I lost my daughter. I lost my dog. Then I lost all confidence in my ambition to one day be a self-supporting writer through the comments of agents.

    I'm stripped right now, my sense of personality is very tenuous, I am fearful and my mood is labile. But I did just fix this dial-up connection so I can go online more often.

  3. I wouldn't listen to those wrong-headed negative a**holes. I am working on making some money writing. So far I have made $5.00. But it is a beginning.

  4. Anonymous12:07 PM PDT

    raises hand.

    question on meaning: pre-op

    If my 'priestly' neighbor runs into me and sighs; says he just returned fro Las Vegas last week, where he played black jack and won five grand --

    Does he mean:

    that he's an opportunist who's just taken advantage of a sad nervious situation for profit?

    On the other side:

    If peter declairs to me in disgust, that his wife knelt the other day in the aformentioned's dog's shit ---

    what might that mean?

    either way

    i don't like it.


    the r ealonewhovaccumseverydailyatthelibrary.

  5. You make me think of a child's librarian I know in NC who may indeed vacuum at day's end. I don't like to gamble, either. The joy of winning never assuages the pain of losing for me. Must be my depressive personality.

  6. Just read you poem 'Outing' published in Umbrella and thoroughly enjoyed it - especially the paper clip image and the final line which is particularly effective.

  7. Anonymous5:49 PM PDT


    If I could offer this thought. You are an artist. Writing for profit is a craft. In a similar vein, I'm reminded of the countless Nashville song writing 'rules': never exceed 2:50 minutes, get to the bridge in 1 minute, get tothe first chorus within the first 30 seconds. I admire the Nashville songwriters for their craft, if not their art.

    The best art breaks all the rules. Witness Cats in the Cradle. What agent/scout/intermediary would have endorsed such a behemoth?

    You're smart enough to crack the code, should you wish and certainly more than dexterous enough in prose to handle any directive. But leave your artistic sensibility at home --two different animals really sharingbut one commonality: the written word.

    take care

  8. From what I recall, Joseph Heller's Catch-22 was turned down by about 30 agents and publishers (I can't remember the exact figure), which shows how wrong these people can be.

    Wishing you and your family all the best.


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