the dark

I have always thought I would write a book about my life. I am often inspired by memoirs, and I think I would like to write my own. I just have not known where to start. How do I sift through all the events and misfortunes of an overfull life and choose one thread to begin the weaving of my story? For too long, I have stared at blank computer screens and doodled on the pages of notebooks, trying to sort out how to best write for an audience. Wondering what inspirations and insights I could draw from the details of my life that would interest the reader has only resulted in a series of random thoughts, somewhat meaningful blurbs, and false starts. Meanwhile, the growing congestion in my mind from the contemplation of this life has become a thick cloud threatening to extinguish my soul’s spark, and the shadow that it casts leaves me in the dark.

Writing is no longer a pastime or a hobby, but it has now become a necessity. Where to start seems insignificant, I just need a place for this overflow. I wonder if I can cut a hole in the bottom of my consciousness. Then, as it starts to drain and spill out its contents, perhaps I can form the flow into a collection of words and write my way to clarity. But first,  I will begin with the dark. In order to maintain sanity, I’ve got to find a way write my way out of this dark…

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It is dark. I need it to be dark. The lights are off, the blinds are drawn to shield me from the daylight, and, there is a cool damp cloth over my eyes. Even the smallest hint of light can bring the stabbing pain back. It’s quiet too, but not quiet enough. My earplugs help to muffle the beeping of the machines and the voices outside my room, but the arms I am too weak to even lift still long to raise hands and cover my ears. Light and sound are unwitting accomplices to the pain. I just want it all to stop, but there is no escape.

Every three hours, I get more pills and morphine. As everything grows fuzzy and the pain is pushed back into a corner, I feel just human enough to notice my chapped lips, my dry nasal passages and throat. I ask for a sip of water, I try to talk for a minute. Then, I drift off to sleep for a couple of hours, where I trade the pain for drug induced dreams that exhaust and sometimes terrify me. Before the three hours are up, I’m ripped out of sleep by the return of my tormentor, then the endless, retching vomit that is causes, and more blinding pain.

There is always a family member or loved one watching over me, to hold the bucket for me, to wipe my mouth and face afterwards, to gaze at me with helpless pity. “Just a little bit longer,” they try to encourage me, “then, they can give you more medicine.” I close my eyes and flail weakly for the bucket again as the retching and the vomiting continues. No room for my traumatized brain to even attempt forming thoughts, I just have to endure. There is no escape. I am fighting to live, fighting to believe that this will pass and I will heal, fighting to remember who I am and why I should keep fighting to keep at bay death’s tempting promise of relief.

*                                 *                                 *

If I look at a scan of my brain now, there is a small dark area in the right hemisphere. Death came to visit, and though I fought him off, he left his mark. Everyone talks about the miracle of recovery, the resiliency and regeneration, and my luck. To be sure, I am grateful for the lessons and my survival. Yet, within my own mind, I am aware of the changes wrought by the dark, which are so subtle as to go unnoticed by most. Sometimes, as I take inner inventory, I still grieve for what was lost.

waiting and cold coffee

Some days are open and unplanned, with the potential for promise or complete emptiness. Some days are like this. So, you shuffle around the house in your slippers, restless and undecided. There’s a mug of coffee in your hand that grew cold hours ago. You sit down in front of the computer and run a hand through uneven hair that’s barely there (because you cut it all off yourself a few weeks before), rubbing the bits of sleep out of the corner of your eyes, while trying to figure out how to translate into words the growing congestion in your mind.

You know there is something there, but where are the words? How do you piece them together, and if you did, what purpose would that serve? What are words for anyway? For a frustrated, scowling moment, you resent the constant search and your need for these words. Perhaps, because you recognize that without words, your world would be an endless, barren, colorless landscape. You know, all too well, that without them you would shrivel up and die, and you almost did once….you remember that time when you clung to words, like a life jacket on a sinking ship. That time when you were trapped inside yourself, and as you fought desperately to rescue the words from drowning, those words brought you safely back to the surface of yourself. There you lay for a time, breathless and half dead, drying out on the shores of life…

Since then, the recovery for you both has been mostly floundering, interspersed with brief periods of flow. Then, there are days like these, when perhaps still traumatized and recovering, the words withhold themselves from you. “You have been impatient, you have been needy and too demanding,” they seem to say almost reproachfully, “so, frustrated silence is all you deserve today.” The chair screams in protest as you push it backwards, and resigned, pull your hovering hands back from the lettered black keys.

Some days are full of potential. Some days are just for waiting and drinking cold coffee.