I’ve had a pretty harrowing week so far. Now that I’ve had some time to reflect on what could have triggered the numerous meltdowns I had in the past few days I realize I’ve been reacting based on old scripts which of course have nothing to do with the here and now but have gotten so deeply entrenched over the years that “losing it” has become a knee-jerk reaction.
I read—more like devoured—Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in the past couple of days. It’s a Pulitzer prize-winning (and Oprah Book Club!) novel about a father and his son trudging through a post-apocalyptic American landscape, trying to survive on what morsels of food they can find and avoid being killed and eaten by the few remaining humans they come across. A harrowing story to be sure, and if it had been written by anyone else than McCarthy, I doubt I would have made it past the first few pages, but it’s the kind of book you can’t put down once you’ve started it and from the first, I was drawn in by the poignant relationship between father and son who have nothing left but each other and the great love and tenderness they share to keep going day after day.
As I was reading it, I was able to enjoy the writing and keep my emotions detached from the gruesome world McCarthy describes. But then when I finished it in the middle of the night, I exploded into bitter tears with the realization that for much of my life, I’ve been walking around feeling pretty much like these fictional characters did, more in tune with my own inner apocalypse than the actual living world around me.
Since I couldn’t go back to sleep, I read a book review in Vogue magazine about a successful book editor’s memoirs relating his descent into his own private hell of crack addiction. Now in his early 40’s, he’s managed to get sober and stay that way for the past five years and according to the interview, this book was the catharsis the author needed, helping him to honour the life he led even through the worst of times while also attaining some kind of closure. I was uplifted by this story and after that I fell into a long sleep and had the very rare experience of dreaming simple, almost pleasant dreams.
No big surprise then that this morning I had a story forming in my mind. It was writing itself out as I was going through my morning rituals of walking the dog, feeding the kidz, getting myself ready for my painting class starting today. So I pulled out one of the beautiful notebooks I collect for those moments of profound insight and inspiration, and I started telling the tale I’ve only told a handful of people about, one that should be long gone and buried by now but which has left me with unhealed scars. It’s time I make peace with the past, release the old hurtful memories, turn them into creative fodder and move back into the present.