2:40 a.m. pain - drink water - take pain med. - sit - try to remember dream
3:37 - lay down
Can’t sleep - get up - pain - take xxxxxx - make coffee -
Go on computer - read written words from yesterday
face what u know to be true in ur bones + keep walkin' FACE WHAT YOU KNOW TO BE TRUE AND KEEP WALKING …
I’ve been rewriting this essay daily for several days - on and off for several weeks - the longer I work on it, the shorter it gets. I’m thankful for that. The first draft was 40 pages long …
“I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”
"to wrest a few precise scraps from the void as it grows, to leave somewhere a furrow, a trace ... " Georges Perec
as Sol Dewitt said to Eva Hesse :
" ... getting people to engage with their own consciousness ... "
Everything about me is fragments - fragments written on receipts from purchases from drive-thru restaurants from taking my son for his addiction same thing in and out daily… fragments from journals, fragments from Tweets … resisting the dark voice of self …
The above is how I began this essay weeks ago … it ended differently every day … depending on my levels of pain. There’s no way to write about my day without writing about pain. There’s also no way I can imagine going through so much pain for so long without having the companionship of my writing self, a self obsessed with meanings and words, unlike the self in me which feels the pain.
I’ve deleted most descriptions of pain. The editor within ends up half-lying about everything. Pain is impossible to explain. To write is a distraction anyway so why describe the very thing one seeks distraction from (I think this at 3:59 a.m. on a day different than the recorded day above ) - this is the day I feel I must “abandon” this work - it’s been weeks of me struggling to finish it.
Art is never finished, only abandoned. - Leonardo da Vinci
My writing self is an endless seeker of meaning and words. And it doesn’t always exist so I’m not about to take it for granted. The self in me experiencing the pain is somehow freed by the self that writes “about” it.
Lately, pain has made my writing even more fragmented than it’s been in the past. It’s acted as a definite painkiller for me. Of course writing has always been a type of painkiller for me and it serves that purpose now.
Perhaps it’s the movement of my fingers over the keys or the holding of a pen or maybe it’s the idea of watching things from a distance, a type of detachment, more powerful than meditation or anything else I know.
Fifteen years ago I was given a pretty hopeless cancer diagnosis. It’s really a miracle I’m still here and now. But three years ago a surgery left me in pain. So here I am.
I usually wake several times a night. Often there is pain. Sometimes there are words.This is how I write. Always there is reading. The reading brings the writing. I’ve never stopped writing. Not since I was five years old or however old I was when I learned to write.
I should say that as soon as I could hold a pencil or crayon, something in me came alive. I probably made drawings and paintings before I wrote. Perhaps it was the other way around. But, mostly, they were the same thing. Art saved my life.
I was (and often still am) a stutterer and, when I was growing up, I could barely speak. Drawing and writing were the only things that made me feel it was possible for me to communicate. And when I say “communicate” I don’t mean that anyone took an interest in my drawings or my writing. I mean I was communicating with myself. And the older I get the more I realize I’ve always only been communicating with my self.
I used to call my notebooks “diaries.” This past year I’ve been reading through a great number of these diaries / journals / notebooks. As a daily activity, I’ve been picking out fragments from old diaries and copying them into new notebooks. Sometimes I throw the old notebooks away. Throwing notebooks away sometimes helps me feel as if I am freeing myself of the past. But for every notebook I throw away, ten more appear. I often feel I am drowning in notebooks, in diaries, in words.
I’ve been asking myself why I write ever since rob asked me to write this piece.
I see writing as a compulsion, a need. And reading is, for me, one of the greatest pleasures in life.
There’s always a diaristic element to writing and reading, a seeking of intimacy through the words written and read.
It’s always felt like I was keeping track of life for myself to myself. And it feels like a need which rises up in the present moment over and over again. The words themselves are not as important as the action of writing itself.
I suppose what’s exciting about writing: one never knows what will happen. Even in the midst of excruciating pain, anything’s possible. It’s like living in an alternative universe. It’s a book being narrated by me to me. Or you to you. But really I don’t know what it is or what it means, this endless compulsion to write.
I remember a nurse running into the recovery room when I first woke from surgery. She was laughing hysterically, shaking one of my notebooks at me. I had hid a pen and notebook in one of the surgical socks they gave me to wear. “I took this out of your sock!” Shouted the nurse, as if trying to make me understand what I had done. “You thought you’d write about your surgery!?! What’s that about?”
I never thought anyone would find the tiny notebook … but I did think, “Perhaps in the time between the beginning of anesthesia … between the countdown and the surgery … what if some words come floating up … what if … “
Bobbi Lurie is the author of The Book I Never Read, Letter from the Lawn, Grief Suite, and the morphine poems. She lives in New Mexico. http://www.bobbilurie.com/