I have always been a lover of the fall.
This makes little sense, or, rather, has never made much sense to me. Or, more true: has confused and troubled me. In my life, September and October have always been the cruelest of months. And, yet, too, somehow: my favorites.
It was of a September fifty-two years ago, leaving an abyss of myth and unresolved absence, that my father died. It was ten years ago September that Allen, leaving with me parts of himself that only I knew and loved, died. Steve sat me down to tell me, and then, a ridiculously cruel few days later, came the phone call in the middle of the night: somehow, Steve had died, taking parts of me only he knew (and, loved; I miss being loved for those things as opposed to in spite of them) with him. And, it was this Sunday, last October, when Peggy, my sister, opening new chasms into which poured Tennessee Williams-esque levels of unresolved, family dysfunctions, died.
Too, before this existence of mine now, with its nearly-mad-making absence of aim or order, each September would begin a finally (for me) defeating, exhaustive round of the same pattern of events; a calendar shaped by commerce and tradition and the tedious, delusional need to impose earth-shattering import on the mundane and meaningless in order to sustain the illusion of “a life”. I could no longer keep up with the others there (anywhere, everywhere) running, running, twirling, leaping, running, jumping, dancing, and ever more running, all that racing done just to avoid the risk of stopping long enough to realize all the frenzied Dervish whirl meant nothing, left one not just exhausted, but depleted and, worse, unseen.
And so I left. I was as absent from my life as my father, Allen, and Steve. It had stopped being me, whoever I was, and instead, had become me trying to be the shape others expected – demanded of me. And I was never enough. Never wholly right. Always on trial and judged inadequate. Had I not gone, the weight of all the measuring of me being done in that world where I was less and less allowed, more and more terrified of the consequences of being myself – would have crushed me until there would have been nothing of me left except the continued loss of who I was, wanted to be, might have been.
I am awful with time and cannot tell you how many years ago this happened. I am also awful with fiction and truth, and, like Proust – not, I hasten to add, that I am comparing myself to him as a writer – with memory: I know memories cannot be trusted, change colors with time, lose the leaves of details each season and grow new ones the next. I, like those fall trees, deciduous, have been, for some time, shedding.
Deciduous and decide both come from related roots, having to do with falling off, cutting off. Knowing what to let go, and when to let go of it, never skills at which I have excelled. I am struggling now with cutting away at my novel. I am struggling now with cutting away at my life – still. Again. I am struggling now with letting go of things and people and emotions and angers and fears that no longer serve, that are no longer active. I am struggling now with this, the Fall of my life, and my fears about the future and regrets about the past. I am struggling to accomplish all these things, to handle all of these things with grace and dignity.
Fall has always been my favorite season. I would like to find it within myself to believe this, the fall of my life – despite what seems to have been a long march of loss and cutting off and falling away to a barren, cold dormancy – could be a beautiful thing. I am trying to find the beauty in the letting go. By cutting away I hope to expand the space of possibility for new growth, and, from the losses, the terrible, traumatic losses, I am hoping to learn something. Anything.
AND TOO . . .
And on that note, here is a link to an essay by one of the world’s greatest short-story writers and most gifted, insightful novelists, Elizabeth McCracken, about editing and lessons learned. Click here for Elizabeth McCracken’s Incendiary. And if you’ve not read her latest, Thunderstruck, oh please, do yourself a favor and read it today. I own multiple copies, should you be unable to purchase one or borrow from a library or friend.
Speaking of multiple copies, I have many versions of Wuthering Heights. But I need this new one from The Folio Society [click here] with an introduction by Patti Smith. YES, PATTI SMITH. I’ve been obsessed with Wuthering Heights since I first read it as an eight year old. It was my follow-up to Diary of a Mad Housewife. My childhood reading list is a chicken/egg sort of question: Did the things to which I was exposed make me the kind of crazy I am or is the kind of crazy I am what drew me to the things I loved even as a child? Who knows? I do remember (or, think I remember) that I wanted to grow up to be avant-garde-to-marginally-insane, promiscuously and madly-sexualized, specializing in liaisons with inappropriate, beautiful, dangerous strangers, devoted to horrifying men who could never love me in return, and be the secret in every attic (to borrow from another Bronte). I suppose you could say, despite the fact I am something of a failure in most every area of my life, I did succeed in that list of childhood ambitions. Now, I want this book, but it is $70.00. Wow. That crazy (or rich) I am not.
AND FINALLY . . .
Another alteration for the Fall – (aside: so proud of the portmanteau of Fallteration – as I spent HOURS the other day trying to come up with one for EMOTION and NEGOTIATION to no avail) – I have stopped drinking. It was getting out of hand. It seemed time for a break. Alas, some of my best Tweets were wine-soaked. Oh well . . .