Thursday, February 17, 2011

where the car disconnects from the rails

a counter-intuitive photo for this post: goofy in the face of sadness

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.
Tricky said...

For a moment or two I actually believed that I had written this. And then I noticed that it wasn't full of grammatical errors and that the names referenced were unfamiliar to me.

There is loss everywhere this week, I fear. Thank you for voicing what I haven't been able to say.

Julia said...

Ah, Maggie May! If you ever start to think of faith, you need to begin with a definition of "God is love", and a lot will suddenly make sense. I think you have so many of the pieces, the glimpses, the scraps of truth about the things that *always* matter, but they just don't fit together yet.

And if you ever start to think of faith, you need to consider where suffering fits in it. For it does.

Courage happens in the midst of pain because the only thing more impossible than moving forward is standing, doing nothing, in a cesspool of despair.

We keep going because, really, what other option do we have?

SJ said...

You know I struggle with all this same shit too. Depression is an ugly thing, and its so damn hard to discern sometimes whats real and whats the chemicals.

I do believe in God. I always have, and I can't not believe because...I just know. I honestly dont know how people who don't handle each day. I know that I was created for something good -and that keeps my head above water. And so were you MM, and that's not me preaching at you, its me showing you that you LOVE so deeply, that you are here for a purpose. You brought those babies into the world -I can't think of anything closer to godliness.

I love you. Lets keep our heads down and we'll get through all this.

Corinne Cunningham said...

My heart is aching after reading this. I think you wrote about so many questions that we all have... and it is all heightened when you become a parent. When there is so much more at stake than just us. And you're right, sometimes just wanting more for them - is enough.

Anonymous said...

Another beautiful piece of poignant writing asking the question I think we all ask when we hear of a child dying or any of the arbitrary complexities life hands us. Every day I ask a version of that question.

Anlla Amonett said...

Beautifully said! A human family... that is a good family to have ♥

Annie said...

Dear Maggie,

Please hold on to that thought, and you have answered the question for yourself: "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 don't believe in any religion. I believe religion is manmade. But I believe in men and women- I believe in humanity. I believe there is love, and that is enough. We all hurt and feel pain, but we all feel joy and we give love.

I care about you, Maggie. Everybody who reads you cares about you. Your honesty helps us to identify our own feelings and emotions. You are a good, loving person. I believe being a good, loving person is what life is all about. There is no perfection, there is no one way to do anything or to live a life- there is only love.

Take care of yourself, and know you will work through these bad feelings- you always do, you always have. You are loved, and you give love. That is enough.

michelle said...


That's all I have to say

Anonymous said...

Ahhhhhh.... so familiar. You are not required to believe in anything- just put one foot in front of the other. And curiousity is a good substitute for faith when faith is on vacation. That you wonder is your strength! Hugs.

Anonymous said...

sometimes i feel this way too, and i am a believer...
i pray...

your write is awesome!!
love youuuu!

Elizabeth said...

Hugs to you. I know, actually, that were you to face loss of the kind that you speak (the loss of a child, in particular), you would face it with the courage of those mamas. You have that sort of love in you, despite your early struggles. You do have it, and it's evident in your face and in your children's faces. It comes out in your writing, in your rawness, in your actions. That sort of love is effortless. I don't think losing a child is something that we can even imagine, not even for a second, not really. Those who have who I have known speak the language of love, over and over again.

Anonymous said...

in a platonic way, god is the Idea of Love, absolute love, pray to love... when i pray i feel better...
i write, i paint... a relief!

love you so much, maggie!!

Ellen said...

Your blog today touched me...I felt some of what you said and I am digesting these make me think and ponder and I appreciate the wake up...

Take care dear lady...

mosey (kim) said...

Annie said what I was thinking too - that religion is manmade.

But I have been trying to define what faith means to me lately, and although I'm still wrapping my head around it, I do think it's pretty much as you've defined it for your family. Which is the point - faith can be in anything - God, family, nature, love. And if we practice our faith, however it's defined for us individually, then we have it. That's it. It doesn't mean we're not going to be depressed, or have ups and downs, but it does mean that we trust in what's coming next.

I think you have that. In spades.

mosey (kim) said...

Gah. I don't think I got my point across, but whatever. What is more important to say is that - you are most definitely enough.

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

When words fail me, as they so often do (or I them), but the emotions must flood out, I turn to poetry ... again and again ...

So allow me, Maggie May, to share with you and your readers a poem I read recently by Ellen Bass, called The Thing Is ...

The Thing Is
by Ellen Bass

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you've held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think,
How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

Be well.

Mwa said...

You put it all so well, and I recognise it too well for my liking because I know that way of thinking, that slope down to the dark bits. Do you find you can hardly find anyone who understands you where you live or are you lucky to have a few? (I have my sister.) I'm sending you some love, virtually. Hold on!

Cid said...

I don't think we can truly live unless we are constantly questioning why? Thank you for asking so eloquently.

Ms. Moon said...

Who among us hasn't wished for a power higher than ourselves to rest our heads and hearts on?
And yet- it is not within some of us to believe, no matter how much the child within us wants to have that magical solace.
And we have to make do with reality.
Which sometimes is more than enough and sometimes is not.
And look- even Mother Theresa doubted her faith for years and years and yet, she kept on doing what she did, even though she could not feel her god, because it was the right thing for her to be doing.
I love you, Maggie. Hang in there.

Caroline said...

Yesterday I was driving to my Cardiologist's appointment and although I was nervous and didn't feel like praying I did anyway. I was having a crappy day: kids sick, I had an important doctor's appointment, everyone was in a bad mood. I told God that sometimes I doubt Him but that I was choosing to believe anyway. I need to believe, I said.
Peace came over me. Then I stopped my prayer and looked at the other drivers and passengers in the cars beside me and thought, "We all have purpose." We were all created for a reason. Maybe our life together on this planet is simply to discover that reason and help others? Maybe that means to endure something difficult and share our suffering?Maybe it's not some huge reason but little kindnesses we show--even just to our own family? Maybe that means to be open to the love others offer us?
You help me when I come here and read what you have written with such honestly and openness. When I read the other comments, I see that you help so many others too.Your wisdom and questions and humility make us feel more connected and we live in a world that SO needs that REAL connection.
With regards to loss, I can't imagine losing a child. I agree with you I don't know how I would cope. I suffer when I think about it. My coping strategy is just not to think about it--which works about 50% of the time.
One of my favorite quotes by Madeleine L'Engle kind of sums up my spiritual beliefs, "Those who believe they believe in God but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself".
Love you, Maggie May. You words inspire us.

98126res said...

ahhhh, hugs, sounds familiar to my own childhood too. i now see so much wonder and mystery and beauty and life (you speak well of this). my own journey was jagged. but 2 yrs ago I set on a solid path curiously by googling "how not to take things so seriously" landing on a Dutch woman's website called Be YourSELF by Judith Hamerlinck. darn, she took the site off only a few days ago, to move in her words "to another form" and "our Selves would not be apart". her free self-pub book was available at smashwords but i see she took that down too. i have the Word doc if you're interested in it, let me know and i can send it to you. a 400+ page is my daily remedy for any feeling or situation, practical in nature, changed my life where costly methods failed. happy friday, gia

Annandale Dream Gazette said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
red-handed said...

Life has meaning only if one barters it day by day for something other than itself.
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Marion said...

Hang in there, girlie. I think February kicks ALL our asses and it's almost over...

That picture on your wall? I've had the exact same one on my wall for over 25 years.

This, too, shall pass, Maggie. Sending hugs and prayers. Blessings!!!

anymommy said...

Depression is not when but who cares when.

That line resonates. I love your writing, even when I hate what you're going through.

Middle Child said...

Boy have you given me food for thought - and thank you for this

Suburban Correspondent said...

Oh, my, I get the tidal wave dreams, too. I hate them. I always thought that huge tidal waves weren't real, only a figment of my imagination. You can imagine my horror when that tsunami hit Thailand back in 2005, right? On top of the normal horror everyone was feeling, I was thinking, "Those things actually exist?!?"

San Diego Momma said...

You are good. You are good. You are good. Right where you are. Let the current carry you and deposit you on the shore.

(I know how you feel.)

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