Literary Greats Always Cheat at Golf

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Heaven's Coast by Mark Doty

"I no longer think of AIDS as a solvent, but perhaps rather as a kind of intensifier, something which makes things more firmly, deeply themselves. Is this true of all terminal illness, that it intensifies the degree of what already is? Watching Wally, watching friends who were either sick themselves or giving care to those who were, I saw that they simply became more generous or terrified, more cranky or afraid, more doubtful or more trusting, more contemplative or more in flight. As individual and unpredictable as this illness seems to be, the one thing I found I could say with certainty was this: AIDS makes things more intensely what they already are. Eventually I understood that this truism then must apply to me as well, and, of course, it applied to my anxiety about the future."

The first of many passages that arrested my attention in this beautiful, sad, heartbreaking book. Mark Doty wrote this while his lover, Wally, was dying and after he was dead. I have been looking for what I should read to prepare me for what's coming. Even though as Doty, and everyone else on earth notes, no preparation really works, the only way out is in and through. There is so little written about what it is to lose a parent when they are young, when you are young. People have written about what it is to lose a parent when you feel the weight of things unsaid, but I say things to my mother all the time. (Although I have a very difficult time expressing my love for her unironically. But I am sure she sees through me. I am the kind of girl who can say "I love you" to all her friends but not to the one she really loves. Unless it's through a mouth full of food.)

I am worried about what it will be like to lose the person in my family I am closest too. I don't know how to be in my family without my mother. My father and my sister without a doubt love me, but they also, clearly, like each other best. I don't know how it will be when there's no one there to really keep me in my family.

I am reading Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking right now. I suppose it's a little creepy that my research is mostly centered on what it's like for your lover to die, but as the grief doesn't tend to center on missing a sweet ass to nail, I find a lot of it applicable.

Illness and grief are intensifiers. I keep finding myself focused on the unnattractive things which are heightened. The strength of my neediness, my loneliness, my anger and insecurity, but there are other emotions that are highlighted as well. Familial love often feels like it takes a back seat to other sources of affection. Rarely does love of a parent feel urgent. Right now my love for both my parents feels terribly real. In a way far apart from loneliness, it raises my awareness of the capaciousness of love.

My friends have risen to this task, not that I say it to them enough. The violence with which I need bothers me, the fact that I am insufficient to save myself is scary. I find myself trying not to test its limits, but my friends, when I have allowed it, have created a a network for me, a series of connections that I perceive more than I ever have before. On the other hand, the depth to which I am scared of being dependent, to which I am bothered by the vulnerability of connection is worrisome. I have never admired people who submit themselves to the obliterating neediness of love, but in some ways it seems an enviable immersion. Will I always miss out on this because of fear?

The intensity of this period has shaken me out of what felt like a long, dreamy spell of depression. The sadness I feel is now much more and much more urgent. I am miserable now. In a way the strength of it is almost relieving, because misery of this level is ultimately unsustainable. I have felt better from feeling this terrible before.



Post a Comment

<< Home