This also serves as proof of life, since it’s been so long since I wrote here.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the challenges of being motherless as a single woman. As usual, my friends step in with amazing resources and love-filled everything. But I feel like the Eeyore at everyone’s party this time of year. I dislike sadness, and at the same time, I feel like it can be its own safety blanket. I mentioned it to my married friend and she said that she hates Father’s Day like I hate Mother’s Day. She recommended that I do something that makes me incredibly happy.
Sounds too easy to be true, but… I took myself out to dinner after visiting the U.S. Botanic Garden, which is this heavenly oasis filled with orchid-beauty. It helped a lot to walk in nature. It reminded me that we always get to choose how we’ll look at something like loss or pain. Getting over or getting through is never outside of our grasp.
Maybe it says a lot about me, but I like the idea of visiting flowers that I know are not going to die or wilt while I try to overnurture them.
As many of you know, I can be a little emotional around this time of year. I wrote a little about my mom this morning at my new blog. I’m reposting it here, but I’m also blogging more frequently at joshunda.com – so I’d love it if you could we could follow each other over there.
A couple of years ago, while I was in the Bay Area for VONA (which I highly recommend, as does Junot Diaz) I was deep in a draft of my memoir with the help of kind, excellent teachers. It was probably too soon after my mother’s death at the beginning of 2012. It was only May. Mary Johnson, author of the exquisite An Unquenchable Thirst, mentioned that it was brave to try to write about us so soon and I like trying to be brave. But there was something about the time that opened me up – there is something about grief that is special. It is always hard. It lingers. But it offers contemplation and shoring up if you let it. (I wrote about the deaths of my parents, especially my mom, for Gawker in 2013) I was spring cleaning and found this letter.
In death, it turns out, there is so much meditation on life. When you know the contours of the end, what it smells like, the hollowness of the trivial, the meaning of a real friend, cleaning feces from fingernails and staring down the terror of the unknown, nothing else feels real or deep or confirmed.
I had to stop pretending I cared about facts when you made your quick transition. I used to think information and data were armor. Armed with facts, journalists and writers can get to feeling invincible and God-like. Omniscient. But all knowledge can feel futile in the face of a wounded soul. A broken spirit.
I have no gifts but being a witness to what life feels like, and that is subjective. It is reading the breeze. It is believing the voices in my head are you, ancestors and God. Maybe it means in my grief, I have become mad. My dreams are canvasses of picturesque beauty and upheaval.
When you were on the planet, living flesh, the story that propelled me was that we have parallel lives. That you had closed the door to a specific kind of joy but to be less like you — less mad, less unstable, less Maggie — I would open that door, stand at the threshold, investigate what it was you were rejecting. The intensity of joy and gratitude and not knowing and being still is an unwelcome bittersweet state. It is like living on another planet, or in another world, where time is not mapped in minutes but in how successful one is at navigating life events.
You taught me how to ignore the world and its milestones. How to follow my destiny. How to treat myself regally, no matter the attire or its cost or its worth. I thought you mad for so long for this disregard, considered you inept at life.
In your absence, I know better. Facts are not truth unless they can be felt. What we feel and what we create with what we feel lasts a lifetime. Everything else shifts, no matter our assessment of the shifts. We can be in our moments, owning them, or we can let life’s moments own us. I miss your lucid moments, maybe once a year, when I could drag your essence out of you for a little advice. I hear you, I feel you — it’s different, worse and better.
I feel you watching.
I will try to grow better and more vulnerable and so much stronger.
Your baby girl