Monday, April 9, 2012

Uncovering Skeletons

Write to me of loss, I said. I'm interested in loss. Tell me about the first time. What did it feel like?

I wrote about losing my wisdom tooth, I've written about losing contests, I asked you to write about your losses. Succinctly, freely, instantly, 250 words or less. Some of you did, and it was fantastic.

Deb at Kicking Corners wrote about an old loss that somehow uncovered more recent losses.
Michelle at Buttered Toast Rocks wrote about the good kind of loss - the little loss of selfishness that comes with being a mother.
Larissa at Papa Is a Preacher wrote about the necessity of loss for growth, the divine plan in loss and even used a parable.
Masked Mom wrote about a loss of something indescribable as a child, but clearly a loss.

Jane In Her Infinite Wisdom sent me this marvelous link. It's a project driven by loss, to uncover the commonalities across the board in all kinds of loss.

Casey has a whole blog dedicated to dealing with cyber losses. Check it out here.

I had a few other responses, too. A fellow blogger commented on the BlogHer version of the post and wondered if it was necessary to examine losses.

A friend of mine told me this in an email: "I apologize, but I'm not gonna write about loss. I'm trying to explain, but I'm having trouble getting the words right. So simply put, I'm not gonna write about loss cuz I don't want to."


Only a very small part of this whole exercise comes from a creepy voyeurism on my part, I promise. I have been pushing my writing (obviously not my blog writing) to its limits and beyond lately. I've tried to stop being so polite, so proper. It has been the sweatiest of exercise for me. I don't like to sweat, but there is the hope that after I'm all showered up, I'll feel better for having done it. Not feel better for the sake of a kind of therapy, but that the writing will feel better - healthier, more toned, leaner, stronger. I believe in writing for therapeutic reasons; I don't necessarily believe in publishing said writing. I do, however, think we can use these intense emotions, these moments in our life that take our breath away (for good or for bad) to enrich our writing, rather than skimming merrily along the surface.

There is a price, though. It's sweaty. It's uncomfortable. It's exhausting. It sometimes takes you places you weren't quite prepared to go. Sometimes it frightens small children (this is why I write after they've gone to bed.) If you've read my blog for any time at all, you may have realized that I like to examine things. I appreciate so much all of you who chose to examine along with me. You are my comrades, my co-conspirators, my fellow travelers through the madness that is writing. I have nothing but the utmost gratitude and respect for all of you. As always, if you don't see your link or if I've overlooked someone, LET ME KNOW! I want to include everyone. Thank you.

So, my 230-some-odd words on loss. I wrote four different pieces to get to this one. I had to peel back several layers of defenses and I probably could stand to peel a few more. But I wanted to get this done, so I could share the lovely work you all have done.

It hurts in the center of my chest, and when I breathe around it, it leaks out my eyes.
I can't write this. It cuts to the quick and it hurts.
It divides muscle from bone and leaves me a lifeless, spineless heap.
It exposes my useless mask and the skeleton it hides.
We hide our skeletons, not in the closet, but right under our skin.
They prop us up, they keep us walking, keep up the framework of our appearances.
These skeletons aren't hanging out forgotten, underneath out of season clothes, dust bunnies, defunct vacuum cleaners and the shoes I forgot I had. That's not where our skeletons live.
They walk around just under the surface, always there. They hurt and they break us when we bump up against things unexpectedly. Like a picture. Out of the blue, just pops unexpectedly where there was nothing before and you bark your shins or stub your toe.
I didn't stub my toe. It hurts just behind my ribs, that skeleton that covers my heart. Protects it and other soft and vulnerable things. It hurts. The bruise is from the inside. It threatens to burst.
All unnatural, unnerving to see the skeleton on the outside. The little bit of bone, out of place, poking through flesh. It sickens. It must be addressed. It must be healed.
I don't want to write this.
It hurts.

21 comments:

  1. loss is definitely an area we all can relate too...

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    1. Yes, indeed. Thank you for stopping by!

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  2. I finished this post today and published it. It had been sitting unfinished for almost a year and today I opened it, read through, changed, deleted and added. It is about loss, which surprised me when I thought to myself this evening..."I wonder what's happening on Periphery?" I'm pretty sure it is longer than 250 words...but it is on topic, albeit by accident!

    http://reasonable-thought.blogspot.com/2012/04/oneofthemostdifficultdaysinmylife.html

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    1. That's a bit of an eerie coincidence. It's strange, but since I've been mulling over loss especially these last few weeks, the topic has turned up serendipitously in all sorts of places.
      Thanks so much for sharing this beautiful piece of writing.

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    2. Everyone is in bed now and I just re-read your poem about loss and it made me cry... you have such a profound way with words, such an enviable ability to transport your reader into the visceral experience of your writing...Thanks!

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    3. Wow! Those are such nice things to say.

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  3. So raw it hurts to read it. You put us right there with you. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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    1. You're welcome. Thank you for ponying up, yet again, for one of my little sweaty exercises!

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  4. Beautiful. This is something that connects all of us, whether the loss is big or small. I kept avoiding this exercise, telling myself I didn't have anything to write about. I think I was afraid to uncover the very feelings you expressed.

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    1. You should do it! I want to read what you write.

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  5. You, YOU! will be the death of me. Or make me stronger, I dunno.
    Here's what I wrote, after our little BlogHer interaction on loss -- I believe it is close to 230 words:

    I wish I was a drug addict. When I get this way, get to this stage, I wish I could snort, drink, smoke, sniff, shoot up with something – anything – to dull the pain. The kind of overpowering pain that mutates from emotional/psychological to an actual physical one, a tightness that grabs a hold of your insides and squeezes unrelentingly, a sadness so deep that it is beyond screaming or crying. If I had the guts, I would cut myself. But I swallow the bitterness, the ache, and the hurt, and turn my gaze outward, around me, in hopes of landing it on something, anything, to bring me back to the here-and-now. In some respect, I’ve gotten quite good at willing the pain away, at least temporarily. Because it is not fooled. This pain has a sneaky way of returning, in the most incongruous times, stemming from the most(seemingly) innocent events. It takes every bit of strength I possess to ignore that fact, to concentrate on the next step, and the next, and the next, until I am delivered from the inevitable abyss. But in moments like this, when my throat is so tight I can barely breathe, my eyes are burning from tears that won’t run, and my chest is about to blow up in an explosion of guts and forbidden memories, I wish I was a drug addict.

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    1. "Yes," is all I can really say. I hope that means something close to what I really mean.

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    2. Yes, yes. Thank you for sharing this.
      I don't want to be the death of you, but I'm so glad you pitched in with yours. I can very much relate.

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  6. Thank you so much, Lou. I really appreciate your linking to my blog in the post. I'd have participated, but I've already told my story. Not that I'd mind telling it again. I'll tell it over and over, until the world knows her name...but I think 'the world' might get bored of that.

    Wishing you all the very best,

    Casey

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    1. I'm so glad you stopped by so I could see your wonderful blog! It's an interesting and good thing you're doing.

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  7. Thanks for the link-up, and for your version that's been re-worked 4 times? A piece of me wishes we could see the other versions too, to see how you peel the layers, but I get it at the same time. This is your most raw version (so far?) and therefore your most powerful, and the one that most people will somehow connect to. This is good.

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    1. Thank you for playing writing games with me!

      The other versions aren't very interesting and don't much resemble this particular version. I think you're right about the rawness thing - loss is so personal and so universal at the same time. I can write about a specific loss powerfully, but it might not carry that same power for you because you haven't experienced that particular kind of loss. Peeling back the specifics to the raw emotion worked for me in this because the raw emotion, no matter the loss, is kind of universal.
      Part of the reason also that I've been contemplating writing about loss is because I find that such powerful emotions are hard to write about without resorting to cliche or overused images. I think we have culturally developed a code for these kinds of things over time and it's hard to break out of those few images sometimes. I don't think I'm there yet, but still working on it.

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  8. Well done....I've read it several times. Probably several more....with tissue on hand.

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    1. Thank you, darling. And thank you for your lovely reminder of what we gain from losses. I needed tissue for that one, too! :)

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