I write for the exact reason Dillard implies–to figure out why I’m interested, why I care, or why I’m bothered. I write often, for example, on the topics of parenting, marriage, and friendship because I wonder about behavior, motivation, consequences, and how to get better in all three areas. I’m not an expert. I’m just exploring. I write to analyze. And I analyze to improve.
Benjamin Lloyd, founder of White Pines Productions, talks about a new live arts production company focused on education, community and supporting artists.
“Withholding distorts reality. It makes the people who do the withholding ugly and small-hearted. It makes the people from who things are withheld crazy and desperate and incapable of knowing what they actually feel….Practice saying the word ‘love’ to the people you love so when it matters the most to say it, you will.” Cheryl Strayed
I am, however, very interested in what happens after death to people whom I love. When my daughter Hana took her own life over three years ago, my agony was excruciating, and what would have been her 29th birthday tomorrow has already hit me hard. Part of my grief stems from imagining the pain she must have been experiencing that led her to suicide. But in 2011, part of my pain came from the abrupt end of our relationship. I would never see her again, never talk, never be able to watch her grow.
But as much as the books are for her, they’re for me, too. They’re my past, my present, and my aspirational future. They’re the soul of my house, if the bane of moving house.
The purpose of the photograph is clear. It is to capture the contents of a moment that will never play again. The clicks shouldn’t be so easily disposable. As Susan Sontag eloquently stated, “All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.”
I wish there were more Bernards out there for people navigating the paralyzing loneliness in the aftermath, but the fact is we are terrified of suicide and have no language yet to help us boldly walk across the chasm and offer assistance or participate in a conversation.
This story, though, is me in my meditation place, sitting with that feeling of depression and discerning if it was a leftover from those days after surgery, or if it was new. Could a massage of repaired flesh and connective tissue, prodded and pulled, release captured emotions from twenty-two years ago?
In all seriousness, seeing our children as sexual and them seeing us that way doesn’t come easy. Talking about sex makes me self-conscious about my own body and experience, and stressed about what I don’t know, as well as what I do. I worry I won’t have the right answer or I’ll expose a troubling or upsetting personal story better left alone.
I suspect the changes that result from our pivotal life experiences are like the rhythmic interplay of swimmer and aquatic environment. We arrive fearful or expectant. The effects of our first tentative efforts ripple outwards, altering the frequency of our surroundings. We get feedback. We adjust.
I would be happy if there remained many names of God, but I affirm the underlying hope for a world in which all peoples, however diverse, would feel sufficiently united to care about one another, to build peace and end war, to do the difficult work of cultivating empathy for the other, to do without some of their own discretionary pleasures to help others acquire some of their necessities.