On the thin line between mastery and madness.
So you sit in the back of a darkened theater last night and you listen to one of your heroes speak. But the long arms and carnival whirls of an approaching migraine encroach. And the balcony suites swim and blend with the dim hooded aisle lights and the gurgle of women laughing too eagerly and somewhere in the noise you hear her: Barbara Kingsolver, reading herself in a thick practiced accent, resurrecting Frida Kahlo.
Somewhere even in this head turning itself inside out, you are slowed, quickened, stunned. You listen to her voice, to Frida Herself, and to this thick gorgeous passage she has written with otherworldly rhythm…the rhythm God himself could only write with. Listening is not even enough; You reach toward each word like the immigrant wife you sent for, like the child you lost sight of. You put your hands over your eyes and lean forward so no one might imagine you could be such a heathen to sleep through This and the smallest line of tears file in to the corner of your hot eyes. For you, for her.
And what a juxtaposition. Kingsolver herself talking about the dignity and labor of her craft, about the years of writing scenes she’ll never include solely because her characters, all her characters, demand to be vetted, to be known. Talking about the quiet little room she writes in and how she goes mostly mad in the process, hearing voices and running off to Mexico, to feel the pyramid beneath her own tired feet so that she might not lie to us in its description. The five 1951 newspaper articles she read every morning to pull her back where she needed to be.
Partially, you listen to this and yearn for a quarter of her discipline and uncontainable creativity. For a quarter of her literary confidence. And partially, you dissolve in this wild pain. There might be no darker place you know that this, than this head knocked-off-course, this ocular meteor shower, this shell-shockedness.
And you sit next to your friend and try to laugh at the right clever lines, try to “hmm” and nod at her most poignant advice with your heart as loud as Poe’s and this sudden uncontrollable desire to be held. To be saved from yourself. And you wonder what it is about pain and illness that turns us back into animals.
Afterward you hold your phone in one hand, keeled forward on the city sidewalk outside the theater and brawl with the intensity of a desire to text him one word. Think of the nights when you were captured before and he would lie beside you, one heavy hand cupped over your eyes. And in your wild pain, this was all you could stand, the only thing you couldn’t live with out. And those hours and days raged and twisted and faded didn’t they – the kind of days where time was marked only by the gentle opening and closing of the bedroom door. Morning light, 12:30, Midnight. Light, dusk, dark.
What it is that reverts us, what is this almost unbearable, irresistible impulse to Wail. To cry out in pain - no more than a caught animal - and beg for anyone who ever loved you to return?
In the end, you don’t beg or wail. You borrow just enough poise and guts from this old hero and you walk back into that theater with hollowed legs. Step in to a civilized line behind your friend. You take your inscribed book home and remind yourself what you need to believe. We are not just animals.
Oh, how I understand this. Pain brings out the rawness in all of us, doesn’t it? Uncovers the things we sweep away on brighter days.
Reblogged from been thinking....