Sunday, March 22, 2009

Blessed Detachment

Back since I rededicated myself to my own projects last December, I have written almost every single day. When thinking about the question "What makes you a writer," the topic of the concluding panel for this June's Philadelphia Writers' Conference, I'm pretty sure behavior like that qualifies a person. 

But lately I've been experiencing a whole new level of immersion: at night, when I dream, I am not only a character in the dream, but also the recorder of the dream. 

I literally dream of being a writer.

The sensation reminds me of standing in one of the bathrooms at my friend Ellen's house that had two sinks across from one another with mirrors above them. Standing at one you see yourself in the mirror before you, plus watch yourself looking at yourself in the mirror behind you, which reflects a smaller and slightly offset version of the first picture...on and on. Counting the reflections would drive you batty.

Granted, I've been doing a lot of writing. In the past eight weeks I've experienced one of the most productive writing periods of my life. I've been working on one of my own projects each morning—either writing my memoir about moving on after Ron's suicide or rewriting my novel about a dancer who survives a suicide attempt. In the afternoons I've been writing about my editing clients' writing. In between, when I can find a few moments, I've been writing commentary on assignments submitted by the writers who took my eight-week writing tutorial, "Develop a Confident Writer's Voice." Somehow, three weeks ago, I even squeezed in a blog entry. Then at night, apparently not able to cut myself a break and simply live my dreams, I dream about recording them as well. 

I have dreamed about searching for the right word as I try to set the dream down. I have dreamed about writing my blog—and of course wake up with the words dissolved. I have actually forced a break within the dream scene to explore aspects of it further—for untapped "pockets of story," as I suggest my students do with their work. Last night, for example, I dream I am married to this young black man. I know nothing about him; perhaps it is an arranged marriage. In a moment of emotional honesty more easily found between strangers than between mates who have expectations of one another, he shares with me that he is in a huge amount of debt—one of the unspoken problems that plagued Ron. Within the dream scene, my internal monologue: "Damn, why didn't I check for that before marrying this time?"

Then, still dreaming, I pull back and watch myself writing about it. Who is this black man, why did I marry him, and will this end in tragedy? In my dream, I watch my pen...and discover the man is rock-turned-country star Darius Rucker. He has serious earning potential. Debt or no, we'll be just fine.

I think these dreams reflect the most healing aspect of active writing, a paradox true for us all yet the awareness of which is sharpened with daily effort: in the stories of our lives, we can be both protagonist and author. Like my protagonist Penelope Sparrow, choreographing in front of a mirror—she feels the dance and watches it at the same time, a process that allows both full sensory immersion and the detachment necessary for editing one's choices.

This past week was crazy busy. One son coming and going on spring break, shaking the house with a cough not yet healed from walking pneumonia as we dealt with his car issues; the other getting in a flurry of activity before ending his co-op and heading back to Drexel; my Dad needing an emergency heart procedure which required my mother canceling elective surgery; the discovery of a heart problem in my mother requiring tests; and then, on the first day of spring, the birth of my younger brother's precious baby daughter, a miracle in itself if you knew all he'd been through in his life. Not many thought he'd live to see this day. The circle of life swirls and blows around me and I am at its eye, writing.

And all week, for the first time in the eleven years since his suicide, I've been experiencing a miracle of my own. By virtue of blessed detachment, my memory has been bringing up images of Ron's handsome face, smiling at me.

1 comment:

Amy Kirk said...

I can't help but be struck by all the heart issues in your family. I hope as your heart heals, so will the hearts of all those around you. :)