Bargaining (Again)

August 25, 2010

This is from a “free-write” I did  yesterday in my women writer’s group (unedited).  It’s a good example of the irrationality but compelling attraction of the “bargaining” process in Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ “stages of grief.”  The writing prompt (from a poem) was, “If I had done the right thing…”

… she might be alive today, about to turn twenty-three next week, but instead I must have made a series of invisible, seemingly innocent, but fatally important mistakes that contributed to the perfect storm that sent her careening off the shattered guardrail on the downhill trajectory of U.S. Hill, on what may have turned out to be exactly midnight, the day before Halloween, beneath the enormous gaze of the full moon, not long after her fourteenth birthday.

Could this be the source of my mysterious malaise these past couple of weeks: the building up of anniversary memory in my cells?  Year #9, and I must still go through this primal unraveling?   Each revolution of the full four seasons brings us back to an earth cooling down and dropping its decoration, a world that no longer sustains the life of my baby girl.

It’s been a summer overstuffed with activities that mostly defied my nature, demanding things of me I was not designed to deliver.  I am depleted and vulnerable, prone to that nameless sadness that seeps through my broken seams like smoke and chokes me.  Maybe even as I recognize the shape of my loss, in yet another new disguise, I can unmask what’s bothering me and be free.

Or maybe not.

Maybe it doesn’t really matter that every year I integrate what happened a little more, and become more resourceful, and therefore more of a resource to others newer on the path of unbearable anguish.  Or that, on many days, between, say early January and late July, I can even bless Jenny’s death as a strange and terrible grace in my life.  And look how famous I have made her!  Speaking and blogging about her to thousands of people who grow to admire my extraordinary child, dead but never forgotten.

Maybe all those good days are stashed in one compartment, spacious and fertile, while these days of restless sorrow are stuffed into another one altogether, and I catch my foot at the threshold and go tumbling in behind them, and the lid snaps shut, and I can’t breathe for a while.

Maybe it’s supposed to be this way, and there’s no point in congratulating myself on my progress.

Writing practice, or “free-writing” is a great way to get down to the truth of your own experience.  Try this: pick up a collection of poetry, open the book to any page, read the poem, and pick out a line that strikes you.  Write it at the top of a piece of paper, then give yourself exactly ten minutes to write whatever arises, without censoring yourself in any way.  When we banish our inner critic, we are free to discover what’s really going on.  This can be invaluable on a path of conscious grief.

For more about this practice, see any of Natalie Goldberg’s books.

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4 Responses to “Bargaining (Again)”

  1. re: “Try this: pick up a collection of poetry, open the book to any page, read the poem, and pick out a line that strikes you.”

    Hmm. The contemporary Torah commentator Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg asserted that “Torah is poetry, after all.” Now I know why.

  2. robert driscoll said

    ROSA

    How she sat there,
    the time right inside a place
    so wrong it was ready. -Rita Dove

  3. Marie M. Rubey said

    “Sometimes even as I recognize the shape of my loss, in yet another disguise,i can unmask what’s bothering
    me and be free.
    Or maybe not.”—Mirabai Starr

    Sometimes I won’t know.
    Sometimes I won’t know.
    Sometimes I won’t know.
    My comfort is with others who don’t always know.
    Marie M. Rubey

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