Monday, June 11, 2007

Aching, Writing, and Life

Posted by Lisa

Stoic, or trying to be, I held in my tears until they were an ache that threatened to close my throat. I held a smile, closed-lipped, on my face. I told myself to breathe. I left the pre-school classroom where I worked this past year. I closed the door a final time.

This past Friday I said goodbye.

I work with children with autism. I have for years. I am an occupational therapist. Because I am moving, I had to leave my job.

"Why," I asked my husband that evening. "Why can I say goodbye so easily to teachers I work with, close friends I cherish. Yet saying goodbye to a three-year-old girl, a four-year-old boy, makes me feel like a part of me is dying."

The answer to him is simple. "Because they are children." And he's right. This is a snapshot of their lives that will fade in time. Sometime next winter, I can call my friend Holly. We can meet for lunch. My best friend at school, Kim, a fantastic teacher, made me promise to e-mail, and I will.

I write about loss, about emotional struggle. Late evenings, early mornings, I yearn to find the words to describe the way my current protagonist, Rose, feels when she faces her grandfather's physical failings. But do I truly understand Rose's pain? Have I adequately related the horrible emotional lows I make my characters face?

Today I picked up Scott Heim's novel, Mysterious Skin. I hear it is a bold work, beautifully written, with a challenging subject material. How, I wonder, did Scott manage to write this? Did he go to that awful place where his character finds himself?

Each day, I know, is precious. Here today, gone tomorrow. Cliche, but true. In last Friday's blog entry, I questioned what came first for me, the writing or the need to write. Writing, in part, is my way to process that which confuses me, to frame and make sense of the things that confound me, frustrate me, torment me. If writing helps me to make it through my days and to negotiate this world with some semblance of mastery, then I must write. If writing helps me to be calm and centered and focused on understanding myself and, in turn, achieving my own potential as a human being, then I should write.

Now, I am sad. I am empty. I miss my small pre-school friends, each of whom will face challenges as they try to make sense of this world. I have set them free, trusting that others will guide them.

Those children, my innocent friends, have left me with subconcious hauntings that have taken firm hold. Because I must, I will write about them some day. Their names, their faces, their circumstances will change. I will turn them into characters I love deeply. Maybe that will help me make sense of this sadness.


Larramie said...

On some level, Lisa, those children will remember. Probably not you, specifically, but the difference you brought to their lives.

Lisa said...

Such strong emotions will surely resurface in your work. It's funny how much harder it is to say goodbye to very small children and animals -- for the same reason. We know we've made ourselves and our feelings understood to adults and older children, but we know we can't with the little ones and it tears us up to think they'll miss us and not understand. I don't know how Scott Heim was able to write his two main characters -- do we need to have experienced the emotions our characters do, or can we learn through study and observation?

Lisa Marnell said...

Lisa and Larramie, thanks both for your thoughts. Writing, thank goodness, can be so helpful.