Yes, Virginia

Ugh I have shin splints now. According to Runner’s World, “shin splints most often can be captured in just four words: too much, too soon.” Well, you don’t have to get all snotty about it. And I like the treadmill. Guess I’m gonna have to ease down, or find another way to sweat.

A friend of mine told me he’s had some work accepted by Poetry. If you know anything about prestigious lit mags, you know how hard it is to get in there. He knew I understood that, and so was therefore thrilled to be able to tell me. I think I did a good job of congratulating him, with my heart. It’s too easy to let the bitter competetive unsucceessful writer take over. Still. I do believe it’s been six years or so since I wrote a good poem.

Saw Under the Sand today, a beautiful and damning English/French movie about a woman whose husband disappears while she naps on a beach during their vacation. She (Charlotte Rampling) engages in some rather unhealthy denial after the months pass and it’s clear he’s not returning. I actually kept thinking of Krzysztof Kiesloski’s Blue when I saw it, which has to be one of my most favorite movies ever. Seeing Juliette Binoche transform through that movie was a vision I won’t forget. One of the reviews of Under the Sand compared it favorably to Blue, saying the latter had “art house pretensions” but I don’t care, I loved it.

Rampling’s character recites Virginia Woolf’s suicide note in the film, and it struck me. I need to read more of her. I can’t pretend that writer suicides aren’t intriguing to me, and so many authors that I admire (like Michael Cunningham) admire her. Her note to her husband read:

‘Dearest, I feel certain I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can’t even write this properly. I can’t read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that – everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer.

I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been.

V.”

Knowing at least a sliver of that pain, I am struck at how things have changed, and yet how they haven’t. There are treatments for depression now, and yet the popular image of depression is so inaccurate, so harmful, that we are still so far from saving the people we could. And what I identify most with her is that part that wants to spare others any pain or suffering. How to explain that when in the depression, death can seem the easier solution, even for the loved ones. That desire to spare others the sight of such ongoing suffering. It’s an incredibly selfish act, yes, but that misses the point. It’s only selfish to those untouched by depression.

This must all sound a little too scary. I’ll just say I’m not going anywhere. But there have been times when it’s been the simple fact of my mother’s slow dying that has kept me here, for leaving life in the face of her pain would be the ultimate in selfishness. There continue to be days where I question the value of everything, and come up short. There are many days where I just hope that some pure moments of joy return. I guess you could say that I have faith they will, but I cannot imagine the form.

Ah, it’s good to at least write these words.

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