laying low


I can’t help but think that if it weren’t for my stroke, I’d be graduating from my MFA program right about now. Instead, I took a leave of absence and now face an additional Fall semester ahead with mixed feelings–the refreshing point of being in a program where I now know very few people…and the sadness of potential loneliness.

I’m feeling a bit left behind, and I’m not sure what to think of that, as I read plenty of emails these days with graduation announcements, and graduation news. Happy for my friends! Happy for you! Happy graduation! I’m grateful for the semester off, resentful of why I have to take this time.

In some ways, it’s a huge blessing that these weeks are incredibly busy for me, full of work and family responsibilities. I’m exhausted, craving afternoon naps (a previous rarity for me) and fantasizing about remote vacation locales, but at the same time I haven’t had a lot of time or energy to wistfully glance at the happenings surrounding “graduation time.”

But alas, I do feel a little out of sync. The things that distract me are not outright joyous things–and I wonder if I hadn’t had my stroke if I could handle them better. In fact, I feel downright emotionally constipated; I want to scream but somehow I cannot, not without ruining the delicate balance around me. Everything feels so precarious.

As a result, I am utterly exhausted, these trapped emotions inside of me are like a lead weight pulling me to the ocean floor.

While I drown, I compose my face so that I look as serene as possible, in order not to alarm and upset the ecosystem around me. Other people are trying to swim, too.

In the interim, I try to dream (the figurative kind of dreaming, not the literal kind–I haven’t remembered my dreams since the stroke)…what could I do to help myself? Could I go on a trip? And where? What could make me feel better?

I’m having a hard time trying to soothe myself these days. Where have all my coping skills gone? I’m going nuts, I am holding my breath, I am waiting, waiting, waiting. Waiting for my mental capacity to return to 100%, waiting for the grief to pass over this family, waiting, waiting, waiting!

As a writer, I create characters, and encourage them to have eventful lives. I do not let them suffer too long by themselves in a house–that kind of lonely suffering doesn’t make for a good story. So, as a character in my own life story, what could I do to move my narrative along?



Filed under Life, MFA, The Stroke

4 responses to “laying low

  1. I’ve found that one of the best “cures” for suffering is to reach out to those who are suffering more, or in a different way anyway. It helps put things in perspective. Maybe a Habitat for Humanity gig, or one of those Peace Corps for Grownsups programs.

    I can relate to you on the not-graduating front. When I was a senior in college I flunked one of my required classes. I had to stay behind and re-take it the following year; so my entire class graduated without me. It was a pretty low point. But the good thing is that in the new class, along came someone who became one of my lifelong best friends and the godmother of one of my children. So, you never know how these things will turn out.

  2. The other day I went on a hike up in the redwoods. I got lost, but stuck to the trail; there was plenty of daylight left, I had had a big lunch, and I still had a bottle of water. Loosing myself literally, is sometimes the best way I know of, to find myself again.

  3. Here’s a story-writing answer for that–something I tell myself and my students:
    to look inside the character for what is hiding there that might bring movement and an end to stasis
    to look outside for events or news that impel the character to act or react.

  4. My mom always used to tell me the same advice you gave, Susan.

    Jade, one quote from a friend: “I don’t think fiction’s a good guide to how to live.” Meaning you shouldn’t feel compelled to go out and be social unless you want to. Hermitry is good sometimes too. I’m in a sorta-hermit stage right now and it suits me fine. (Though I’m slowly edging my way out of it.)

    I don’t know if it’s a genre thing, but I don’t let my characters suffer alone much either — instead, I inflict communal, shared suffering on them, and then force them to deal with it in some way or another. Sometimes they triumph, sometimes they ask why, and sometimes they just find a way to deal with it.

    One last thing: I am so out-of-synch that I appreciate it as an advantage. People who are in-synch seem to be missing out on a great vantage point on the world. Bless you for being out-of-synch, Jade. Even when, like now, it sucks. I think embracing being out-of-synch is a way of moving on.

    As for the loneliness — that’s what writing is, at least for me. Why the hell else write? That loneliness is little affected by the lonelinesses caused by social interactions or lack thereof, at least for me. It’s a meaty, important loneliness we can chew on for years, one impacted by long, deep relationships but only very rarely by classmates. Maybe one of those rare creatures will thump your way this Fall.

    I hope so.

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