She liked to sleep with the window open. And now, so do I. I guess this teaches me something about life. I’ve changed. Could that be possible? That would be fantastic.
I have enrolled an online writing course. I’m so inspired I text to a friend, these people already know how to write. I don’t tell her I need to kill time. The house feels bigger and bigger every day.
The teacher urges us to be generous with our flaws, so we open up. Hitting rock-bottom opens you up anyway. What’s important and what isn’t becomes crystal clear. I am no longer innocent.
Now I know – yet I don’t exactly know what I know now. Life is uncertain, I’m not in control. I didn’t know that before. Life was… what was it? Why was I so anxious before?
Living in the moment is too difficult, I guess. There’s simply too much emotion. But I find ease of mind in reading. Reading is not a waste of time, I tell myself, climbing the stairs. I can still read. It brings me back to life, maybe because books are written by human souls. I need human souls now.
I underline sentences and copy them in my notebook, I’m collecting epitaphs of broken lives.
I’ve read Aftermath (Rachel Cusk). Then Outline. Then Transit.
I’ve read Rosa Montero, The absurd idea of never seeing you again. In this book she talks about loss without mentioning the one who’s gone (only one or two times). What a gem. Montero smuggled Curie’s entire diaries in her own book.
I’ve read How to be a person in the world, Heather Havrilesky (‘Polly’). Polly advises people on how to live, she does it in capslock, as if shouting will help, and yes, yeah, FUCK YEAH, shouting might actually help, it crushes the deafening silence, it overpowers all these voices in my head: pull your shit together, lift yourself of the carpet, scream, scream, SCREAM.
I’ve read Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton, but this book doesn’t count, the two of them are still together. Flashforward: they split, now she is not with hem but with her.
The problem with self-help books – and I’ve read many of them the last nine months – is that they really are self-help. They help the writer. He or she crafts a new life out of whatever it was that pushed him or her down on the carpet in the first place. You sense the relief. You envy him, her, he, she’s making a living (out) of this former mess. That makes your situation worse: you want it too. How for god’s sake does anybody pull that off?
You get crushed, then you recover. You’re a different person. In an uncanny way this feels good.
It’s about taking action, I guess. Mini-steps. I used to hate mini-steps. I was someone of ‘big pictures’. Now I laugh about that.
‘You’ve heard it a million times that it means nothing anymore. Find your voice. It’s almost condescending, patronizing. Tell you what—you already have your voice. Use it,’ the teacher says.
Anything she says about writing you can say about life, maybe that’s why I read all these books about writing.
Before finding a voice, before using it, you might need to find something else. Maybe she has left me to do that.
But this restless feeling…
This difficult gift in disguise…
My friend tells me to walk, to find refuge in nature, to mourn and grow with it. I watch the birds outside the window. I wait for my favorites: long-tailed tits, a fluffy, playful, sixpack of birds, never alone. I love the birds. I tell myself this is nature, this is ok: sitting in the door step, drinking coffee, watching the birds.
What is loneliness? What is anxiety? What is grief? I’ve felt so lonely, so anxious, so sad, this last year, that it has no meaning anymore. Maybe that’s the meaning. Maybe that’s what crisis offers. The worst you could imagine has happened. You learn that you’re still there. You open up. You have to.
I sweep the house with a broom. Cobwebs float in the air, never landing, yet somehow this pseudo-cleanness comforts me. Do I need all these machines? Do I need a vacuum cleaner? I’m emptying the house. I take stuff out, piece by piece. Dealing with life is hard core editing. While I do this I remember the story of a dog who lies 12 years on the grave of his owner, shedding tears.
Of course I miss her. We do have a story, even if it had flaws, or because we had flaws. Yet I don’t believe in being happy living alone. I don’t believe in mindfulness that way. We’re social beings, she says. She’s right. That’s why it’s so difficult.
It takes time, people say, but maybe it also takes space. Or taking space. Showing up. Listening to people. Not listening to people. Being present in the world.
I hear more sounds because it’s silent: the birds, their different voices, I even think I hear the leaves. I hear children, far, far away.
Life is precious, difficult. Almost every day there are moments I want to quit. Life is overwhelming. People are. And then something good happens. A small miracle of kindness. Somebody shows you a picture, you smile.
In one of the books I find a quote: To read is to cover one’s face, to write is to show it. Living is…showing it. In a terrifying state of despair showing up, in a state of joy being there.
I think of Rebecca Solnit. Despair is often premature, she writes. A form of impatience as well as certainty. Yet you don’t know what’s going to happen. Or when, and how. You just can’t tell. That uncertainty is the space of hope.
Maybe nothing really matters, in a good way. Maybe things close and open at the same time.