I'm in the downward loop of the roller coaster, the part where your guts gets gone, where the disconnect between you and the rest of the world is disconcerting. Depression is not how, it is why. Depression is not when but who cares when? I drive and the music plays and the muted sand colored suburban houses flash past me with the blinkered cars beeping and my baby in her carseat and my children/husband/body well, all is well. I had dreams last night of tidal waves and killer whales chasing after me as I held my children and ran. Each time I'd come to the point where I realized no matter how fast I ran or where I hid I could not save them and blink the dream would start over. When horrible things happen those most closely affected wonder what is the meaning of life, why do we do anything? For me, this is highlighted during January, February and March, followed closely by the rest of my life. I have always closely related to Anne Sexton here in My Friend My Friend:
And if I lie, I lie because I love you,
Because I am bothered by the things I do,
Because your hurt invades my calm white skin:
With no special legend or God to refer to,
I think it would be better to be a Jew.
For the comforts of religion and more so faith. Although many including I have decreed the subjugation and at times dehumanizing rules of certain religions, I cannot deny that there is a weak and wounded part of myself that would like to be bullied into behaving, that would like to be scorned into productivity, ritual, that would like to exchange freedom and self-creation for rules created thousands of years ago. Some ballast against the incredibly daunting and at times, terrifying enormity of the Universe and my appallingly minascule place in it. My mother told me once, in a brilliant stroke of observation, that many people get into marriage because they want, secretly, to have someone to provide rules and to provide a God like meaning to their lives, and they are, to their own confusion, increasingly angry and let down as the marriage reveals that they have in fact only harnessed themselves to another mortal being, capable of failing even themselves most profoundly. Even the most staunchly individualized person can find themselves desperate for a larger rulebook than their own moral compass when confronted with life's inevitable losses and random, swift blows to the heart.
Maybe it was the constant fear and lonliness of my childhood, but I have always had an extestential evaluation going on inside of me. When I turned 15 and became, overnight, immensely appealing to boys (and troublesomely, men) I scorned each and every glance, whistle, appreciative remark. They have no idea what matters in life, I thought. ( This clearly explains why I felt so many million of miles removed from my friends. Who thinks like that at 15 without a Pope telling them to?) I've always known what matters in life, and then underneath that, there has always been The Question:
Why does it matter?
I look to those who act when meaning is challenged. When I read Holly's latest update, I wonder intensely how she is going to survive this, most particularly how she is going to survive getting up, doing her makeup, her hair, making breakfast, vacuuming, framing pictures, running errands: the minutae of life. I cannot understand how people make themselves do these things after the loss of a child. I suspect there is some profound and irrevocable place inside of me that is missing what these people have. I have barely held up enacting the mundane in my life as is. The common refrain you do it for those you love falls inside of the deepest well of longing in my heart but for them, what either? If tragedy can and will cut them down, because life ends, for all of us, and because, most importantly to me, this part of the question- because we suffer so very much, then why?
I suspect the only way I could survive this kind of tragedy would be to alter my life in such a dramatic and enormous way that it reflected even in some small way the enormity of the loss.
Move to Africa and campaign for malaria protective tents. Move to Alabama and start an organization for abused children. Polly Klass' father started an entirely new life after her kidnapping and murder. I carefully watch Kate for clues at to how she is doing what is, to me, the greatest feat of strength a human heart can endure- continuing on after the death of her child. She has other children, some very young- Georgia just 6 months- and a husband, a house, a job- she couldn't just upend her entire life and start over without dragging all these people she loves with her. So how, in the face of constant reminders of her loss, underneath the weight of an emotional pain so intense and degrading I cannot imagine, how does she do it? What does she believe about life that keeps her going?
Small beliefs flicker inside of me, but I have always been a person driven deeply by emotional instinct and a primal desire to survive. I had only a few years of childhood that were innocent and happy before the day to day became painful, lonely and scary, and we had no religion or faith. I had only what I created out of novels and my imagination. Some part of me is simply satisfied enough to be the kind of person who perseveres to keep on going when things feel impossible. I wonder what if? What if there is more to it all than I can see? Possibility. And sometimes, that is enough. Our unity is a kind of religion. We are all in this together, the human family. We all live and we all die. And sometimes, that is enough. I have four children and I want more for them that what I have, more faith in a larger meaning than I have. I crave for them what I do not have. And sometimes, that is enough.