25 February 2011

On the writing

The book project is slow going. Making the decision to start with one of the more poignant scenes from our narrative (our last night with Ewan) was a bold decision and I think, the right one. In theory, I know what to write and have sufficient skill as a writer to describe those final hours with passion and precision. But in actual practice, it is extraordinarily difficult. The most I've written at any given time is 800 words (about one page, single spaced) and  after each attempt, I find myself depleted, angry, sad, and unable to sit at the computer without feeling as though I'm tempting a torrent of tears to explode out of me. For several days after each of these sessions, I find myself unable to think of approaching it again.

In the immediate aftermath of that final night, I was able to write about it more easily. There was plenty of emotion behind it, but it was not nearly as excruciating as what I experience now. In those initial days, I understood what had happened. I knew he was gone and not coming back. I was with him, holding him, looking at him, and remaining present in each of those agonizing final moments. I saw him in the casket. There was no mistaking what had happened.

For all that awareness and understanding, I concurrently have no doubt that in those initial days and weeks, I was in a state of mental and emotional shock. I couldn't possibly take in all at once what was happening and how it would change my life. To experience all at once what had happened would be overwhelming to a degree I couldn't comprehend. In a matter of three weeks, I had given birth, waited through a number of surgeries and invasive procedures my son was not expected to survive, gotten spotty and irregular sleep, and buried my child. Over time however, the shock (much like an anesthesia) wore off and I felt everything. Literally: everything. Tears required little to no inducement, mornings were greeting with a sense of foreboding and dread. I often wondered, what wouldn't I feel today?

Nearly five months have elapsed between then and now. I have experienced and continue to experience every possible nuance of sad or angry emotion that you can think of. And so when I look back on that night, it is through a lens of all I have experienced and felt since then. Rationally, I understand exactly what happened. But emotionally, it is completely incomprehensible to me that this could have happened more than once in the history of the world. It is that profound, and now that I've encountered hundreds of other mothers who have experienced the same kind of grief, the incomprehensibility gets deeper and heavier for me. So when I look back, I feel it all. I remember that night, I am in it, and I feel everything with no shock to protect or numb me. It is like undergoing surgery without the anesthesia.

I've journaled and pondered about my feelings and how best to proceed. I need to be honest, which means I can't detach myself and write clinically about that night. If I did that, you would know it and quite rightly throw that book across the room or in the bin. I've come to the conclusion that I have to keep going back there, and that it's probably not going to get any easier. I will probably exit those writing sessions with waning energy and more tears than I can possibly hold. That's going to be part of my cost. I will need to go gently and slowly. But it's worth it. I was there and I've seen what has happened in the wake of Ewan's life and death. And I remain convinced: it's worth it.