Haunted When The Minutes Drag

Sadness Sees You, charcoal and pastel on paper, Fumbling For Light, 2013

Sadness Sees You, charcoal and pastel on paper, Fumbling For Light, 2013

“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

Ye gods, these nights just won’t quit. I keep clinging to the idea that this won’t last, but damn, I’m not sure what’s going to be left of me by the time I come out the other side.

I hold together fairly well during the day, although I seem to be on the verge of tears a lot of the time. But once the sun goes down, I start to unravel.

I stare wide-eyed into the dark. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I listen to the sound of my own breathing and the ghosts inside my own head.

I hate being alone at night. I’d give almost anything to have someone’s arms to curl up in at night: for comfort, for support, for the sense of safety and security.

But that wouldn’t be fair, so I sleep alone.

I dream of him, every night for the last week. Last night it was as if he’d never died, and we were back to trying to figure out how to make our lives work together. I woke up feeling like my chest had cratered in, my head aching. I am sleeping only five to six hours a night.

Every night I struggle for air, every morning I wake feeling hungover, exhausted and in pain, both literal and figurative. My joints are aching again, my ribs tender and sore. Grief slides within the muscle, twisting and binding. It wraps the bones, invading the joints. Every night, I am being unmade.

My friend Sarah urged me to get it out on paper:

let it spill
grab it
make a mess
get it out

So I did. I picked up some charcoal, scribbled with some white pastels, and the drawing above is the result. It is only the second time I’ve ever created art from an emotional place, and the first time I think I nailed it perfectly. The eye is open just a hair too wide: startled, staring, haunted. Disbelief and pain.

I am a little startled at the result, actually. But I feel a little better, and I’m hoping against hope I won’t dream tonight.

I still have 22 nights to go.


Interlude #9


Seven months today. The seconds and minutes and hours keep piling up and up, until a vast gulf of time and space separates me from where we were us.

I described myself as a galaxy last night. Beautiful and shining and full of stars and light and life…all of it held together by a supermassive black hole in the center. The place you and I were, until you died in a supernova that took me apart and scattered me far and wide, collapsing in on yourself until not even light could escape. Here, deep in the core of me.

I want to dive headlong into it, and see if I can survive to come out the other side, into the alternate ending: the Disney instead of the Shakespeare, the place where you and I made it and got our happily ever after.

But no. 

I am sitting here, gazing at my half-finished project, my newest piece of art: a large piece of embossed copper. I am slowly going blind from the dazzle of it. Every once in a while, when I sit back to ease my eyes or my aching hand and arm, I look up for you, for your smile of encouragement, your pride, your interest.  

Seven months gone, and I’m still looking for you.

You never really got to see me create. This was the gift you gave to me, sent to me as a lifeline to survive without you, and with it, you have saved me. I hope somewhere you can see, that you know what I have done, what I continue to do, in your name.

I don’t know that I would have come back to it otherwise. You and I both know our most of our energies were likely to be bound up in keeping you whole and sane and functioning. I don’t know that I would have had the time, with you and part-time school and full-time work. 

I know your hand was in this. I can feel it when I pick up a brush without fear, trace a line in charcoal with confidence and grace. I can feel you when I burnish the copper, I can hear you tell me you love me every time I own my new title of artist. There is so much of you in me now, and all around me. 

I think you may have pulled an Obi-Wan on me, babe, and become much more powerful dead than alive, and you had one hell of a zing when alive.

There is so much more to me now, because I am two made one, two souls bound. It may be my talent they see, but it’s your soul that produced it. 

Two made one, forever.

Embossed copper, detail

Embossed copper, detail

The Soul Knows Its Way Home

“We have art in order not to die of the truth.”
~Fridrich Nietzsche

And it’s true.

Somewhere inside the howling hell that was my broken mind and shattered heart, my battered soul sent up a distress call. As my soul sang my pain and my love and my grief to a listening Universe, something came to answer the cry, to offer solace and comfort and healing. Something came to help fill the empty spaces, the places he left behind.

White Birds, Detail

White Birds, Detail

Art. Art came to my rescue.

I was always a haphazard practitioner before. I’d have a crisis of confidence, or get utterly wrapped up in my love life, using almost any excuse to avoid the stuttering anxiety of perfection’s pursuit. I never felt like I was quite good enough, because I couldn’t do whatever I wanted on demand.

I never stopped to think what I could do, easily or not, was still more than the average person. If it was easy for me, if the piece didn’t take much time or didn’t require a lot of agonizing, I dismissed it as amateurish, unworthy. And if I couldn’t do what I wanted to do – whether I’d taken the time to master the technique – I would be convinced I was just a dilettante, messing about while the real artists looked down their noses.

I was, in other words, a blithering idiot.

Dustin’s death scoured away not only illusions, but fear. After all, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to the next day, so what care did I give about whether or not I was perfect anymore? I had something to say – verbally, visually – and I needed to say it. I had to say it.

And now I am saying it, in every media I can sort out. Words and poetry, paint and pastel, whatever I can bend to my purpose, this calling. Anything and everything, to soothe the bottomless ache where he used to be, where he is still.

I never considered myself an artist before. I never needed to, never felt like I’d earned it. That isn’t true anymore.

I am an artist, because now my life and my sanity depend on it. I am an artist, because I have no other choice. I am an artist, because either my soul creates, or my spirit dies.

I create to live.