The Hole in Your Soul

I sat on a bench today and tried another 10 minutes of nothingness.

Again the crunching of footsteps, I flipped my eyes open. Tourists stopping to snap pictures of Morning Glories along the fence.

Closed my eyes. Thought about this documentary, Griefwalker, I saw last night. (I couldn’t get the cable box to work — without Chris and the kids to show me. At least, Netflix worked.)

In the film, Stephen Jenkinson sits by people who are dying. One older woman didn’t really want to face it. Sure, we’re all going to die. But we want to like to live like we’re not going to. Our culture is death-phobic. We must embrace death as part of our journey. It is a part of our humanity. There was a metaphor in the film about setting off the canoe, a metaphor for the body. When useful, the canoe springs leaks, and we patch it. But eventually it sets off from this shore.

There was another metaphor for how we talk to and prepare our families for our certain deaths. We set the table for them. We must acknowledge the journey, like indigenous people; we must bring our family home. Not let them die in hospitals. But so many of us are cut off from our homes. It is a hole.

We may refuse to acknowledge this hole in our soul. We fill it with narcissism or eating or drinking.

I am pathologically happy-go-lucky. Is that my denial?

Living with someone who is chronically ill, how do I talk about the inevitable, the illness, the feelings? I don’t really know anyone who is going through what I’m going through. Am I handling Chris’s Parkinson’s Disease well? Especially for my children? Is my optimism a bit of a veneer? The film reminded me to let people have their space. Don’t rush in and fill the void. Let there be sadness and joy; life and death are both a part of the journey. Let me have space too. It is all part of the loop.

I was alone last night, beached out on the couch in front of the TV last night. One of my daughters is at a service project in Alabama; another goes away tonite for weekend-long party. Chris is directing a play in Florida. And, of course, H. is in college. I was tired — have not had a day off from writing and teaching in more than 11 days. (Workaholism is, at times, how I fill the void in my life.)
image

For my mindfulness project, I was going to walk the labyrinth in Battery Park today, but the gate was locked. So I sat on a bench, folded my hands in my lap, tried to clear my mind. Slowed down.
image

The Statue of Liberty was nearby, and so was the big sculpture that used to be in the center of the World Trade Center. I used to sit by that sculpture when I worked at the front desk of the Vista Hotel in the World Trade Center before work or during my lunch hour.

The sculpture now rests in the park. Some people rush by. The sculpture is a metaphor for the hole in my soul, the sadness. It is okay to be sad. It is okay that the sculpture is there. Grief is not bad. It is part of our humanity. And so is this — a woman sat on the bench beside me, nursing her baby.

The Road Less Traveled

No one knows this about me. But when I was an assistant editor in the biz school at Pace University, I thought for a day or two about going into nursing.

I was in grad school for literature at NYU at the time. I had tuition remission at NYU through my then-husband, but I could also get tuition remission at Pace. I debated about applying to Pace law school, but the campus was in Pleasantville or Westchester somewhere. That seemed like such a trek from my natural habitat of downtown Manhattan!

So I thought about nursing. I’d heard there were a lot of jobs. Besides, I had loved being a candy striper when I was a teenager.

"Acrobat in the Ring", sculpture by ...
I have always loved this sculpture, “Acrobat in the Ring.” by Chaim Gross at the Pace University, New York City Campus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s the thing — I’m not cut out for it.

When my kids throw up, I gag, shudder and turn away. When they bleed, I feel woozy. And when they hallucinate with a fever, I find their hallucinations extremely funny and can’t stop giggling.

I don’t know how doctors and nurses do it — I guess they learn to control these impulses. Maybe I, too, could stifle my gag or my giggle.

So instead of pursuing law or nursing, (real practical skill-type jobs!) I took grad psych classes in critical thinking at Pace in the Straus Leaning and Thinking Center with Dr. Rachel Lauer.

The program blew my mind. I learned so much about learning. For ex., I first learned the word, meta. I learned about methods of thought, rhetoric, kinds of intelligence, and philosophy. I’m richer for it.

Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I had pursued nursing or law,  instead of writing and teaching.

The Road Less Traveled – The Daily Prompt

What  jobs did you fantasize about? Why didn’t you go down that road?

In our Boot Camp For Writers’ workshops, we offer a writing prompt on the road less traveled.