Thursday, 4 April 2013

The Sound of Silence

The Edge of the Great Beyond

It isn't often that I go back and revisit pictures I took, but the photos in this posting are from the shoot we did January 1 that became the basis of One Place, Six Perspectives, now in its last three weeks up at Pages Books on Kensington. I ended up shooting a lot of things that really weren't exactly West LRT-related (unless you have a predilection for parkades), and have wanted to go back and explore more, but haven't really found the time. But I want to return to explore it eventually....

And still in the moment of introspection/retrospection, I've been revisiting my blog entries from the last two years to see "how I'm doing" and find it achingly awkward to read pieces where I thought I was doing better -- and I guess compared to where I was starting from, I was -- but realizing now that I was just barely putting one foot in front of the other, and sometimes, barely that.

Construction old and new

The good part, if I can say that with a straight face and without quotes, is that the path back is still one with exponential growth ahead, but when one starts from less than zero, any glimmer of less horrific is an improvement of sorts. When I was reading Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking at the beginning of September last year, this paragraph struck close to my heart.

Real sky, fake forest

Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes. In the version of grief we imagine, the model will be "healing." A certain forward movement will prevail. The worst days will be the earliest days. We imagine that the moment to most severely test us will be the funeral, after which this hypothetical healing will take place. When we anticipate the funeral we wonder about failing to "get through it," rise to the occasion, exhibit the "strength" that invariably gets mentioned as the correct response to death. We anticipate needing to steel ourselves for the moment: will I be able to greet people, will I be able to leave the scene, will I be able even to get dressed that day? We have no way of knowing that this will not be the issue. We have no way of knowing that the funeral itself with be the anodyne, a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the heart of the difference between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness itself.

For people who need to be told where to go

In the last two years, that relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness itself filled my brain with a confused, off-key, 140-decibel orchestra and choir until last Thursday, when the sonic wall was breached by a primal shriek generated from within. Whether it was triggered from an offhand remark by someone, or just the sheer necessity that it was time to be done with (and, frankly, not only am I not sure, but I don't care), it is not unlike what my friend who recently had back surgery has also discovered. Once the initial post-operative agony begins to recede, there is the realization that much of the original, painful hullabaloo has stilled.

It's quite disconcerting, in the sense that your mind becomes so inured to it that when it doesn't drown out your thoughts, it is almost creepy.

But that's not a complaint.

1 comment:

  1. Very well written. Thank you for sharing this and all other posts, Linda.


Books for Sale

The shop is currently empty.