Going through a split during the holidays . . . a reflection

Poignantly . . . I’m sitting in a coffee shop recently looking at my sweet husband and daughter and remembering, eight or so years ago around the holidays being in the midst of splitting with my then-husband (now ex) and having to pull over in the car as “Landslide” began playing on the radio to sob and sob. And here is the song again, different singer but much the same arrangement and I’m trying to reach back through time to that sobbing young woman and tell her: “I’m so sorry, but it’s what needs to happen, crappy as it feels now. You will have a whole new life in less than a decade’s time, and a richer, fuller perspective from this and other sorrows. You will have sweetness again, and more importantly, you will taste it and appreciate it fully, knowing it’s ephemeral, but at the same time substantial, significant, healing.”

Time makes you bolder, and children get older, and I’m getting older too.

The Sweet Sadness of Endings: November Montage

Fall always makes me feel melancholy, but not in a bad way. The pang of it lets me know I’m registering the passing of time and noticing and appreciating, for the most part, the experiences that come and go, especially the sweet moments with those people, creatures, and places I that I love. How to bear the existential crisis that comes with acknowledging every last person, creature and place will at some point cease to exist? I’m still working that out. I like this quote from the movie Don’t Look Down: “Your whole life you’ll always be saying goodbye. Don’t let that keep you from loving.” Love is the salve that eases that never-quite-healed wound that inflicts everyone the moment they are born; without it, the wound becomes infected with despair. With it, despair is muted and life, however ephemeral, feels significant, even holy.

 

 

"The Beautiful Has Fled" by Charles Sims

“The Beautiful Has Fled” by Charles Sims

 

My November

by Robert Frost

My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted grey
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise

 

 

Opening scene of the film “Melancholia”:

 

When I am dead, my dearest

BY CHRISTINA ROSSETTI

When I am dead, my dearest,
         Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
         Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
         With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
         And if thou wilt, forget.
I shall not see the shadows,
         I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
         Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
         That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
         And haply may forget.

NaNoWriMo Angst: Get Behind Me, Perfectionism!

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Good Lord, what have I gotten myself into? I know what you’re going to say: “If you’re signed up for NaNoWriMo, what the *&^% are you doing writing blog posts? Get thee back to thy novel!”

Well, that’s a good point, but I’m trying for a little catharsis here about all the anxieties and insecurities this commitment is bringing up. Here’s a sampling of the self-sabotaging thoughts coming up for me:

  • I haven’t done enough research.
  • I haven’t done enough world building.
  • I haven’t done enough character building.
  • I’m not talented enough to pull off a decent novel.
  • I’ve made this thing way too complicated.
  • I don’t have an outline.
  • It’s selfish to work on this when I have a baby at home. It takes too much of my time and mental energy away from her.
  • I’m behind.
  • What I wrote last night is straight-out crap!
  • I’ll never make the word count.

In looking at these, aside from the guilty thought about my daughter, which does not hold up to reality-testing scrutiny, since I would of course drop everything if she really needed me, I can see that all the other thoughts really amount to the belief: “I’m no good.” Or maybe more specifically: “I’m not perfect, therefore I’m no good, therefore it’s better not to try.”

Well, F you, perfectionism! I hereby give myself permission to:

  • Explore through writing the story.
  • Write crappy stuff.
  • Not make the word count, as long as I complete at least four pomodoros of writing each day, or two on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Be a mom who takes care of her own needs and wants as well as her daughter’s.
  • And oh the unthinkable: Enjoy myself!

One last thing I’ll note before getting back to those pomodoros (if you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, see here) is that I was going to blame my internal editor for stalling me, and pronounce, “Get Behind Me, Editor.” And yes, my editor is wanting to stop after every other sentence and revise, which is part of why I’m doing NaNoWriMo, to get out of this habit or at least be able to write in a different way. But the my editor likes to edit, and for him (it feels like a him, although I’m a her) to edit, I have to write; thus it’s not my editor who is really holding me back, stopping me from even starting. It’s this bee-otch Queen Perfectionism inside me who wants to rot my soul with inaction. Down with her, I say again, and back to the real writing at hand . . . fellow WriMos: who’s with me??

Hold me tight, and fear me not: The rescue of Tam Lin

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Image “Tam Lin” by Wylie Beckert. Used with permission Please click on image to visit her portfolio.

 

Since I first became acquainted with the story of Tam Lin (or Tamlin), I’ve run across some different iterations of the tale in song and prose (to see the Child Ballad [39] in full, go here). Essentially, the story runs that Janet, a well-to-do but lonesome and rebellious young lady, sets off one day on her own to Carterhaugh, where she longs to be, despite the warnings of her father or parents. Once there, she offends Tam Lin by plucking roses, and after a little row between the two over this in which Janet asserts her rights to Carterhaugh and general independence, the two become lovers. The result, naturally, is that Janet, as her father suspects, becomes “with child.” But how can she love this baby, begot in such an unnatural way? She returns to Carterhaugh and declares to Tam Lin that she won’t bear the child, but that if it were a fully human baby, fathered by a man and not some otherworldly being, she would love and cherish it. Tam Lin then reveals that he once was human, before he was abducted by the fairy queen, and that this Halloween she may be sacrificing him as a “tithe to hell.” On the other hand, he tells her that if she can wait in secret until the fairy procession arrives on Halloween night, pull him from his white steed, and hang onto him as he turns into all manner of frightening creatures in her arms, that he will again, at the end of the ordeal, be a man, and she will be able to love him, and their child. Janet, of course, succeeds in this rescue. Afterwards Tam Lin reverts to a “naked man,” and Janet wraps him in her cloak and takes him home to be her true love.

I don’t want to analyse the images in Tam Lin too much, but rather let them continue to work in me as they have done since I first discovered the story. There are many elements of the tale I find compelling, including Janet’s defiance of her family, and following of her impulse–I don’t see this necessarily as healthy rebellion mind you, but I rather sense it as a giving in to what begins as an unhealthy longing or obsession, as when we do something rash out of loneliness and/or temptation that might end very badly. But this is a redemption story, and what is most touching to me is Janet’s bravery in not letting go as her fairy lover shapeshifts into multiple terrifying creatures.

This reminds me of the Jungian advice to pin down an image that comes to you in active imagination, to not let it go until some understanding of its meaning has been reached. More deeply though, I feel this motif of holding on to the shapeshifter to redeem him (seen in other tales as well) is a moving depiction of what it’s like to endure harrowing emotions without letting them run away with you, nor shutting them down. Sometimes it is scary to live in this world, and scarier still to face that we have brought on our own misery or ruin. Yet there is something deep in the mystery of it all that waits for us to recognise and love it, to cut through enchantments and disenchantment and hold on bravely no matter what. Then what began badly can end in the triumph of human love: at the end of the story, Janet manifests the positive, redeeming side of mother-love, wrapping her naked lover in her cloak. Such maternal love is probably the most healing form love can take, towards others and ourselves. The fairy queen, as a counterpoint, seems to embody destructive, possessive, dark mother-love. This is how she reacts to Tam Lin’s rescue:

The Queen of Faery turned her horse about,
Says, Adieu to thee, Tamlene!
For if I had kent what I ken this night,
If I had kent it yestreen,
I wad hae taen out thy heart o flesh,
And put in a heart o stane.

Yikes!

The following rendition of the ballad, for me, while leaving out the fairy element of the rescue plot, captures the soul of the story of Janet and Tam Lin. Enjoy!