March 29, 2010

Ideas Die Too

I’ve been thinking about mourning.

First of all, many writers work out things in their writing, and among those things is grief. The less we deal with things, the more they bubble up in our work. We lose people whom we love ~ or we hate, or both ~ and we have to work through that. Kubler-Ross’s famous stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. This makes it sound like a linear process, but when it’s related to human emotions nothing is linear.

But, the thing is, you don’t just grieve for people or pets. You grieve when you lose anything. When you lose that favorite watch, you miss it. It’s not nearly as earth-shattering, of course.

I have a friend who lost a son at six years old. This charming little boy was born with a severe birth defect. We talked about it. She said that in this situation there’s all kinds of grief. They didn’t know that the boy would be born with a birth defect, so when he was, my friend had to mourn the loss of this perfect child she had had in her mind. Then, as he went through more and more surgeries and was attached to more and more machines (breathing machine, feeding tube, brain shunt, catheter), she was continuously mourning. Then, when they finally had to make the decision to take the boy off life support, they had to mourn all over again.

This boy was so sweet. He was obviously in pain a lot but he always had a smile for his mom and brothers. He would just beam. He couldn’t talk, but he could express himself. He loved the taste of salsa on his tongue but he hated getting his hair cut. And his mom is one of those ideal mothers that everyone should have.

Something I learned from this is that you mourn not just people and things but also ideas of things. When you don’t get that perfect job or an agent that you’d really connected with doesn’t take your book, the reason it’s so hard is that you had this idea in your mind. You’d created a future with this in it. Then, when it doesn’t happen, you have to let go of it and create a new future. This is something my husband and I had to go through a lot during our series of miscarriages. You’d just get your life rearranged and then ~ Bam! ~ it’d all be taken away.

I don’t write all this for sympathy, but just to say that ideas are just as real as people sometimes, and you mourn them as well.

What I’m Reading Today: Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn. I’ve heard such good things about it, I had to pick it up. I’m really enjoying it.

PS A nice rejection from a litmag with an invitation to submit again.

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