the ‘not writing’ chair

So, this little share site of mine isn’t going as planned. When the idea first popped into my head, I was going to record every moment of my move and write myself out of the pain. My dear friend gave me a journal with a personalized inscription inside to encourage me. My family sent many a reminder to just write.

“It’s not that easy!”

“You’ve done it before.”

“What? The writing or the starting over? It’s all so tiresome.”

The last time loss happened I wrote a short story. It was fast and loud. It shook like a freight train on the page. It was published. It won an award. I read it aloud to an audience. Then, I threw the words in a box.

The loss before that, I wrote a poem. It was snarky and arrogant. It wreaked of my ’20s. It was published. I got the magazine in the mail with a check. I cashed the check and threw the words in a box.

It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the acknowledgement. It’s just that the words the stories contained were painfully honest and raw. (I imagine that’s why the editors liked them.) The words were my truth, and I was embarrassed that I had let anyone read them. So, the words had to be locked in a box.

Now, here I am. Writing (or not writing) about loss again.

This whole loss-writing-healing thing is getting old. I’m getting old. The voice in my head who whispers the words is getting old. So, I’ve been reading. One book a week. Yes, on this chair. There’s nothing wrong with reading. Every good writer must read. It’s just that I’ve been reading to avoid writing; because if I’m going to write about this loss, it has to be real. As Hemingway put it, you have to write hard and clear about what hurts.

The truth is, loss is ugly.

Loss is a hateful punch to the gut. Loss makes you drop to your knees and cry in all the soft parts that, frankly, I don’t want people to know I have; because people with soft parts get shivved. People with soft parts get that look, you know? The look you give a puppy with one eye.

I’m also finding this loss is different than the others.

Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s all the moments I’ve sat with friends in witness to their losses, but I somehow feel practiced in the art of letting go. It’s almost routine, like a plant you water and then go about your day. This isn’t to say it’s not incredibly painful; it’s just so common — too common — that words become cliché.

ONE ART | Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

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