Monday, July 30, 2012

Absence and Intimacy

"Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.  But no, that is not quite accurate.  There is one place where her absence comes locally home to me, and it is a place I can't avoid.  I mean my own body.  It had such a different importance while it was the body of H's lover.  Now it's like an empty house."
- C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

I, like most, choose my music according to my mood.  And lately (as in the last 8 months), I've mostly listened to Samuel Barber, Eric Whitacre and selections of Bear Mcreary's music written for BSG.  If you don't want to listen to the music videos that I've linked to, they're all hitting the same tonal/emotional key: grief & melancholy.   Sometimes I listen to music with singers and words (lot of Fiona Apple's new stuff, which is fun and weird) but mostly I'm steeped in weeping strings and chords that don't always resolve.  My Katy Perry (don't judge me!) and Billy Joel CD's lay patiently waiting to be picked up again, but I can make no promises about my desire to listen to candy-pop or soulful americana.  Right now, the soundtrack of my life is the mournful and sobbing moans of an orchestra because clever words aren't really doing it for me right now.

It's hard to find words to describe the last 8 months.  8 months of going to bed alone.  8 months without any private, intimate moments.  Lewis' words about the loss of his wife (to cancer) and how it makes his body feel like an empty house ring painfully true for me.  I'm not just talking about the sudden and much loathed celibacy (though that is part of the conversation).  I'm talking about intimacy that looks like this:

  • holding someone's hand while you walk the 20 feet from the car into the restaurant
  • having someone who holds you while you cry in the dark in bed at night b/c work was hard or your grandma is sick or you're so tired 
  • sitting on the couch together and watching TV programs too late into the night and then staying up longer to talk about what you've seen
  • casually leaning your body into the body of your lover in the midst of a large gathering, their body momentarily a place of rest and comfort in a loud and busy crowd
Cliff's absence does spread out over everything like a fog that never dissipates.  But it's also like the numb ache of a lost limb, like an itch that I am unable to scratch.  People offer to watch Gareth for me all the time, in an effort (a very generous and kind one) to give me time to myself.  But what most don't understand is that my life is FULL of time alone.  When Gareth is asleep (at 8? at 9?) I am overwhelmed by the sheer time ALONE before me.  I can watch movies, tv shows, read, troll facebook, have a drink, but I do it all alone.  And I KNOW that I can invite friends over and sometimes I do.   But I'm not speaking about the presence and intimacies that you can experience with friends.  That is similar, but it is NOT the same.  I think that anyone who has lost a spouse or gone through a divorce or experienced the vacuum of intimacy after a betrayal understands what I mean.  I hold my mother's hand.  But it is still not my husband's hand.  And no amount of wishing or hoping will make it so.

Sometimes I consider not writing these things down because it could become a self-indulgent flagellation.  I worry that I've become the mourner who wears sack-cloth and ashes and strolls through the town center bewailing the tragedies that I have undergone.  And really, I'm not interested in the pity and disdain that comes from airing out your private laundry in public. I truly want to write about something else, about other feelings, about a different life than the one I'm living in.  But what's that saying? Write what you know?

Unfortunately, this is what I know. 


Christianity 101 said...

I hear you. Loneliness is the thing I fear most for you and that there is so little that can be done. Don't worry about whether you are doing too little or too much grieving or that you can't feel anything else right now. Just feel what you feel and write it down here. This is the best place to little by little drain the wound.

Love, Daddy

Katherine Willis Pershey said...

I read a lot of blogs without commenting, and have been reading yours for a couple months as a lurker. But it doesn't feel right not to respond in some way. I know that part of my hesitation is that I do not want to convey any pity or disdain, however unintentionally. I do feel a profound astonishment when I read your reflections. You are an incredibly gifted writer and you convey your experience with such clarity and depth I am all but speechless. I'm holding you in prayer as you continue along this path.