“Perhaps somewhere, some place deep inside your being you have undergone some important changes while you were sad.”



Sadness 01

Okay… I’m trying to get my writing mojo going here. . .  Nothing like a bout of inspirational sadness to get the writing juices going. I came across a quote earlier tonight which I just rediscovered on a blog – the blog of the author of said quote :

“There is an underlying sadness in all art, a melancholy we feel when we face true beauty. It’s that ache, that longing, that we can’t quite describe when we witness something truly wonderful.” – Jeff Goins

So that’s it exactly. I have always felt that my most powerful writing has been born out of angst, out of sadness and more recently, out of grief. Indeed, I have had fleeting yet recurring bouts of anxiety over the thought that I might be tempted to cling onto my grief in an unhealthy sort of way, milking it for its ability to provoke such heart-wrenching pieces of prose as to bring even myself to tears. Indeed, this has been the case at times.

More recently, I have more or less stopped writing. Well, perhaps not entirely stopped, but I have moved into this space of working on my book and if the writing isn’t going to be book related than I find that I struggle to write at all. This all-or-nothing approach has not really been working too well for me. And it doesn’t help that I have been really successful at diminishing the amount of free time I have to write by filling up my schedule.  Now on a certain level I have to admit that, Natalie Goldberg’s suggestion to the contrary, I continue to struggle with writing about Laureen as “The Story”, and instead find myself writing something that is tangential to her story, as though in so doing I could somehow sidestep my own grief.

More recently, within the last few weeks, I have experimented with an idea of creating a book around how there came to be a John & Laureen in the first place and that feels like a more joyous book to write. And that has led me to go back through my old journals and so I’ve been doing a lot of research as to what was going on way back around the late 1990s and early 2000s. I do very much enjoy reading the emails that Laureen herself wrote to me, which date primarily from around March 2001 through the end of 2001. I can so hear her voice, as though she were standing next to me, talking to me. And I find myself smiling and laughing at her words. We were so new to each other back then and our future looked so bright.

And then our whole time together flashes before my eyes and I sit here wondering where our thirteen years went. It all went by so fast but I say that speaking in hindsight for there were moments that seemed to hang forever – the tough moments – and then there were moments where I simply wanted time to freeze and leave us to our joy forever. Alas, life does not work that way. It is all just a tangled bundle of happiness and sadness, laughter and tears, life and death. And in the end it always does come down to death – at least, death of the individual. Who can say, collectively, what our contribution and continuation might be after death? As acres of wheat stalks, bowing to the wind – does the absence of a single stalk in an unending sea of stalks make any difference? I myself cannot say. . .

Thus far, I have managed to write what I feel are two fairly strong chapters for my book and I have a myriad of ideas for other chapters. I need time to sit down and write. And that is to say, time that is free of the fatigue of ten-hour work days plus three more hours of commute time. Only to come home to a dark and empty house – void of the welcoming smile of my beautiful wife who was so happy to see me home, safe again, in our little refuge from a world slowly going insane. We had our little island of sanity where things made sense and my world felt grounded. And then all of that. . . poof!!  Gone. . . in an instant, or what seemed like an instant. One last summer of false hope – of the belief that maybe we had dodged a bullet and would yet see each other into our old age.

But that was not meant to be. It is all a blur now. The only words that remained with me are the words from our doctor – “We must have missed a few cells”. . . A few cells?  And I guess these “few cells” were pissed off at having the rest of the tumor removed because they did triple time in growing back and this time they were staking claim to some serious territory. Her whole abdomen was open range now and once emboldened and embedded the weak refrain is, “there’s nothing more we can do. . .”

And that was it. Game over.

She knew it wasn’t going to be long. She always had that sense about things. And she was right. Something less than three months and she was gone. The only blessing was the deeper she went into it, the more tired she became until she spent most of her time sleeping. In the end, during the last few weeks, she could no longer communicate and I knew she was slipping away. I sat there, standing guard and protecting her. Keeping her as comfortable as I could. It was my last task – the only thing that was left for me to do for her. I had always envisioned myself as holding open a door so that she could discover her true life and her joy. And now, here I was, standing with her on the threshold of her death. And I have to confess, I never saw this coming. Not in my worst dreams did I imagine this “worse case” scenario for us.

I did not intend to write about this today. I simply slid down this slope, one more time. She was my whole life, and I was hers. What an amazing and incredible bond that was. I never expected to have something like that in my life. I feel so blessed that I did have it, and now I often feel as though I am a man walking around life in a haze of foggy, dazed somnolence – half present in this so-called real world while the other half is off in some unreal dreamland in which I imagine that I once lived a life with a most amazing woman. And it really does, more and more, come to resemble a dream. I cannot even really call it a nightmare anymore because it almost seems unreal to me. Slowly I am eliminating her “stuff” from my life, but as I do so, she seems to fade more and more away from me.

Two weeks ago I heard from the lawyers. The estate process is over. It is a done deal. And I am left wondering, “is this what it comes to when our lives are over?” What did her life mean? Her stuff just gets randomly distributed to the wind and then. . . what? Outside of my memories of her . . . what remains? Who will sing her songs? Who will tell her stories? She once said to me, “Who will worry about you as you are driving home at night, in the middle of a snowstorm? Who will make your meals? Who will sit and watch the birds with you and give them each their names?”

No one, my love. No one.

What I have learned in my life, and through my sadness, is how fleeting life is. It comes and goes in the wink of an eye. It is important to be around good people. People who lift you up. Be compassionate. Be caring. Be full of gratitude for every moment of your life. Be love. Because in an instant, it will all be over.  Aho.

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  1. Kathi Hale says:

    Oh, John….I send you hugs….it is so incredibly lonely to know that no one is worrying about us in that special way anymore….

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