Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Writing and Life

I have always known I should write, but other than letters, emails and quasi-diary entries I have mostly resisted this imperative.

Literature has always been more real to me than life.  Growing up isolated in a foreign country, it taught me the language and it taught me how to live. It made me happy.

My first boyfriend encouraged me to write.  He said he knew I had it in me.  It was mostly a long-distance relationship, so I wrote him many love letters over the four years we were together.  When I didn't want to be with him anymore, he returned them and took his back.  He wanted to be a writer and thought his would provide good raw material.  I dumped most of mine in my grandparents' outhouse.  I couldn't bear to look at the childish handwriting, often veering off on a diagonal across the pastel unlined pages.  I never looked back, either to him, or the writing.

The writing that I did keep still feels like I could write it today.  I'm the same person I was at 16.  I haven't learned a damn thing in 30 years.  Not about writing, not about life.

Which brings me to life.  I never aspired to be a writer, because I had no personal ambition to speak eternal truths.  I thought if I could just be understood by one person, that would be enough.  I wanted an ordinary happiness - a lover, a child, an occupation where I could be useful, some friends.  For that I would forsake the eternal truths. That's the bargain I made with fate.

That bargain failed.

I kind of always knew it would.  Somehow, I knew my life would be spectacularly shattered.  That's why I made the bargain.  If only I was never too happy, I would never be in too much pain.  But life thrust on me something, which would make me so happy that I couldn't bear its loss.  My son.  And so I spent my life in fear of losing him. When he was a baby I would wake up paralyzed by a nightmare that he was falling from a height.  But I didn't lose him then.  My fears were lulled.  Until he grew up and refused to live by the rules, refused to stay safe, refused to accept an ordinary happiness.  Recently I started waking up again, with that paralyzing pain that spread from my stomach to my chest.  I tried not to think of him.  I tried to think of my petty happiness (or lack thereof) instead.

And now I've lost him.  And I know I made a false bargain.  If only I had loved him without fear, I would have had a happy life.

That's not possible any more.  So all I have is words.  They will have to do.

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