Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Grief is the most difficult of emotions; it is difficult to experience, difficult to be around, difficult to understand.  You know you have lost something, perhaps an irreplaceable something or someone; you know how it effects you more from what you now do not feel than what you do feel.  It is not a seething, boiling thing such as anger.  It took such a splendid writer as Joan Didion an entire huge book to evoke some of is presence and consequences, and such was her effect that she left you with the suggestion that there was even more she could have adduced. While understanding what grief did to and for her, you can only imagine the potential for its effects on you.

By the time a person reaches age forty or so, grief has made some sleep-over visits to the point where, where you are in a non-grieving state, you are able to deconstruct some of the earlier versions:  your innocence, for example.  Ha.  You call that a grief?  I'll see that and raise you two Blue-Tick hounds and a mixed breed named Molly.  I'll offer you Silverman and Boren and Joe-Ann.  What about Cake and how about...?  And then there was that job where you were going to head a department in an MFA-granting program in modern fiction?  And what about that gig of head writer for an HBO spin-off series based on the play Steam Bath?

There are large griefs, middle-sized ones, and tiny, momentary ones.  After each one arrives, you try to pick up your remaining marbles or chessmen or cribbage pegs or whatever the hell you use to keep score and try to get into another game.  Persons about you find it difficult to talk around the elephant but somehow, because you feel close to them, the elephant disappears.

Grief is a natural consequence of being alive but knowing that does not make it any more welcome.  Grief is like being that guard, Bernardo, on the battlements at the castle where the ghost of Hamlet's father is seen.  Who's there?  he says, and sometimes when you feel grief, you ask that question, because grief is also the ghost of past losses which you temporarily forget.  There they are, hovering, waiting to pack on to a present grief.

Sometimes, in the midst of grief, you laugh uproariously because it is the natural explosion of the tension caused in the first place by grief.  You once saw Jerry Lewis, being auditioned for a role in a long, serious TV drama.  It was a role he very much wanted and after he read his lines, he brought out, literally a bag of props which he attempted to bring into the audition.  The insistence on using the props lost him the job.  He was real and believable enough without the props.  Grief is like the bag of props,  You hurt and mourn enough without them.  Time to move on.  Time to write something else in a way you have possibly never thought to write in before.  Any grief pushes you beyond what you think you can bear to lose, as though you were so confident about the things you had in the first place. Grief is your entire connection with life, objectified in this one next loss.  Grief is you vulnerable in a way that seems as though you had set your identity on a line and cast some dice.  Grief is liar's poker with reality, the loser buys the next round.

Grief is a reminder that you have had persons and places and things and abilities of matter to you.  Grief is Reality at closing time, "Last call."

1 comment:

Storm Dweller said...

I find myself going back to lines from "The Bug" as I read this:

"You gotta know happy and you gotta know glad.
'Cause you're gonna face happy
And you're gonna face sad.
Everything can change in the blink of an eye.
So let the good times roll before you say goodbye."

That acknowledgement at the end there is specifically where you brought me too... let's enjoy it while it lasts, because it's not here forever. I have to wonder at times what benefit we human derive from becoming so attached to whatever or whoever it is we attach to, knowing that we're in for a world of hurt if that object of affection disappears from our lives. In my circumstance, I can only think that it's less about keeping score, and just finding joy where it's available to be found, sometimes in spite of the pain, sometimes to assuage it, and at other times because I know that it's fleeting and it gives me just enough motivation to push through anyway.