Often I have some idea of what I want to say when I sit down to blog, but this evening I'm just aware of a pile-up of stuff -- I don't know what I want to say about it all--I just feel like rambling on about some of it and not even straightening out the tangled syntax.
Last week I read something that really shook me up:
"The Crack-Up" by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
He wrote this personal essay--three essays, actually (if you click on the link above, be sure to read all three, if you are so inclined)--in 1936, when he was thirty-nine years old and realized he was broken, damaged, in ways he felt were irreparable... and since he died five years later, partly self-destroyed, I guess he was right.
I've tried but I've never cared for F. Scott before, but in this piece, he was so unsentimental, so surgically precise, in his depiction of his own utter spiritual desolation, I was stunned with admiration.
I thought I should write something about it--or something as honest myself.
And I couldn't.
I mean, I just could not start.
There's a forcefield guarding certain things in my life (you know, love, death, that stuff) I couldn't get past. And that's part of what blew me away about "The Crack-Up": that F. Scott even could write it, nevermind how good it is.
I've written about this before but it bears repeating that having a terrible burden generally appears thrillingly romantic only if you don't have one. And who doesn't, sooner or later?
"The Crack-Up" is excellent in its complete lack of glamour. Nothing diaphanous, nothing glowing, beckoning on the end of a pier.
Writing honestly like that is good, because eventually everyone bears something burdensome, and it seems to help to read and write about it. It's helped me, anyway, at the most basic level, to say, to hear: Oh, there it is. It really is that bad.
The point is most definitely not to get sympathy. No! It's to get truth. This is a core tenet of religion/philosophy, right? Look. See. Even if it's damn bleak.
(Where one goes from there, well, that's another question. I would hardly look to F. Scott for help with that.)
So I kept thinking I w/should give it a shot, and each morning I woke up intending to blog about it. And couldn't. By Sunday afternoon I was so depressed I could barely move. Not metaphorically, either, I mean I could hardly move my body, it had become so leaden. I just sat there and dreaded the arrival of 3:30, when I had agreed to go to a movie with my neighbor.
But when my neighbor came and knocked on my door, I got up off the chair and went out into the day.
Though I'd dreaded it, I had also thought it might do me good to get out, and it did. We went to see Clint Eastwood's latest, Gran Torino, a movie so sweetly well-intentioned you forgive it its amateurish screenplay, with dialogue along the lines of the old Korean War vet saying to the kindly, fresh-faced Catholic priest of the kind we haven't seen since Bing Crosby, "Father, a man doesn't go to war and then just forget about it. He sees things that haunt his dreams."
Just terrible clunkers.
And its message of redemption is ridiculously see-through.
I loved it.
It was a godsend.
I left the movie theater reminded that toxic stuff needs to be dealt with in its own time. Or not. At any rate, pushing doesn't help. And redemption doesn't necessarily come with a sign on it saying, "This is it," it comes in unrecognizable and sometimes unwelcome forms.
Wait for it.
So, yesterday, Monday, instead of trying to write about eviscerating pain, I asked the publisher if I could write the revision of the Great Moravian Empire book I mentioned typing out.
Actually, it's a geography book on Slovakia, from the same series that I wrote titles for, for four years--work I took a sabbatical of sorts from almost a year and a half ago.
The old text was so interesting and so impersonal to me that I truly wanted to do the update.
Luckily no one else had signed up to do Slovakia, so it is mine.
I feel comforted to have a safe, predictable writing task again.
Writing is like travel--you keep upping your comfort level; but there are times when you've pushed too far into discomfort and, if you're lucky, you get to pull back, you're wise to pull back, before an anaconda smothers you.
This is one of the things I adore about Star Trek, for which I am tremendously grateful--it's been such a comforting, cheering travel companion this past year. Bad things happen, but none of the companions we care about ends up like F. Scott.
Or if they do, maybe, come just a bit too close, Mr. Spock is there with his kind and loving hands to ease the pain: "Forget, forget..."
Of course we, I, don't really want to forget old acquaintance, but sometimes it sure helps to take a cup of kindness, whatever form that may come in.
For me, right now, writing about Slovakia looks like just the thing.
Bonus: they pay me money! It's so little, you wouldn't believe it, but they give it to me, not the other way round.