Thursday, April 12, 2012

A poem on grief and the evolution of a writer.

Grief comes in waves.
Like a cycling tide, it ebbs and flows;
Bringing in and carrying out.
There's a swell of love immediately following a loss
And you ride it for as long as it will carry you.
But the fear of that long stretch of forever
Where you have to learn to live without
Errodes away at you like the lapping waves on your shore
Carrying grains of your sands out into oblivion with each foaming crash.

It's all too familiar.

-M.L. Hamilton

I did it once. I can do it again.

My stepmother passed away yesterday. I wrote this on my personal blog and I honestly can't articulate it any better, so I'm going to repost it here.

She passed away at 1:50-something [yesterday] afternoon. My dad called me 40 miles from Memphis carrying a load of all that was in the apartment they kept in Little Rock while they were out there for treatments. When he got home, he called back to take me up on the offer I made earlier to help him around the house. I'm like him in that you know we really need the help if we bring ourselves to ask for it. I made arrangements right away to travel [there today].

For a moment when I hung up the phone, time stood still. In the same moment, I saw Stephen Elliott's name appear in my notification bar. I didn't even bother to read his Daily Rumpus before I replied to him to say it was a comfort to see this routine, ordinary email come at exactly the right moment to show me that while I stood frozen with grief, the world still turned and life, time, and the universe all kept going without me for a moment.

I also told him it felt like a great wave was crashing over me. Like I could finally exhale a breath I had been holding for nearly a week. I shed a few tears, and then went on half-heartedly through the rest of my day.

I broke the news to [my son] just before bed. He pretended to cry and I held him. But then he pulled away from me and said, "wait, I don't cry when people die. I cry when you're angry at me." I laughed and said that was a different reason to cry. That there are lots of reasons to feel sad and lots of reasons to cry. Losing your grandmother is certainly one of them and I made sure to tell him it was okay to feel sad and okay to cry if that's what he felt. Later, he asked me if we would have a memorial service for her. He still remembers [my brother's teenage nephew's] last summer. He asked if maybe we could bring his cousins and they could play. I said they'd probably all be there, since she was their grandma, too. There's something so endearing about a kid being excited to see his cousins under the circumstances. It's as if death can't shatter his optimism. Really I know it's that he just doesn't understand the abstract scope of it.

She fought with all she had until there was nothing left to fight with. In the end, her kidneys and liver failed and her lungs were so damaged that even if she had survived this episode, they couldn't have treated her for myeloma any longer and she would have been gone soon anyway.

She didn't raise me, perhaps, but she loved me like a daughter and I loved her like a mother. I will never be able to thank her enough for the happiness she brought my father when he thought he'd spend the rest of his days in grief-stricken loneliness. He found love not once, but twice in his lifetime. And for all the words said by each of us about how unfair it seems to suffer this loss twice, there is the unwavering fact that we're so incredibly lucky to have gotten the chance.

Be at peace, Alicia. I love you so very much. Thank you for the light you imparted into each of our lives.

My writing has taken on immense changes over the past year. I haven't really touched my fiction since last writing, but I've stumbled into accidentally writing a memoir. It's been my emancipation proclamation. I can not begin to articulate how freeing it has been to take all those experiences, all that baggage, pull it out of me and imprison it on the page. I started with working things out through One day, I decided to admit something to myself in the private pages I write there and before I knew it, I was outlining my sexual history and the next thing I know the document is 5800 words long. It has since doubled in size as I saved it off and continue to expound upon it.

I'm spending more time on sites like The Rumpus and McSweeney's than places like YA Highway. I feel like I fit in better there, though they're not so much writer's resource sites as they are writer's hangouts. Maybe that's why I like them. I feel like you can only read so many lists of writing dos and don'ts and so many op-ed pieces about traditional publishing vs. self-publishing and ebooks vs. dead tree books before it just all becomes noise and every possible opinion on it has been said and you've learned everything you can from that sort of avenue. I have a backlog of resources like that to catch up with, so I try to spend my time elsewhere rather than gathering more of the same.

The Rumpus has been a huge inspiration. I feel like the writers there are becoming my mentors without them even knowing it or needing to know me. The raw, honest humanity in the pieces written there has me enamored. I read Stephen Elliott's The Adderall Diaries because of his Daily Rumpus emails and now I'm reading What It Means to Love You. I'm reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed because of the amazing Dear Sugar columns she writes there. I picked up You Must Go and Win because of the really intriguing things Alina Simone has to say and because I love her music and because Amanda Palmer speaks so highly of her. I backed the pornography documentary Public Sex, Private Lives on Kickstarter because of Lorelei Lee's Letters in the Mail letter. I'd like to learn more about her and what her life is like. I have questions to ask of people I don't know and will probably never meet. Their lives are fascinating only in part because they do fascinating things. Mostly their lives are fascinating because they know how to express it in story form and not just linearly.


I keep leaving and coming back to grief. Like I take little breaks from mourning to act like it's another ordinary day.

Ebb and flow.

Isn't everything like water in some way?

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