Yesterday after my son came home from his summer job and while we were waiting for my daughter to arrive we sat down and had our usual chat about work, about jobs, about what I did during the day, etc. I was surprised when he said, “Mom this is not good. You must have a pastime. You must do something for yourself.”
I was surprised because I thought that when I go around doing what I have to do inside the house, like cleaning, cooking, washing and all my kids won’t notice how desperate I am. I went to my room just to have a look at myself in the mirror. Even the makeup I had on didn’t conceal the dark circles under my eyes. I sighed and went back to sit with him.
As much as I like to be with my kids or my friends the one question that I don’t like to be asked, the one question that I dread, to use Samuel Beckett’s words:
“If there is one question I dread, to which I have never been able to invent a satisfactory reply, it is the question what am I doing.”
Because the only thing I want to do lately and that I am doing is reading. And I don’t want to have this feeling of guilt if I sit down to read a novel after my kids are gone and I am left all alone in the house.
I dread being lonely. I remember there were times when I used to beg my kids and my husband for some time alone so I could write. I would be in my room and my husband would close the bedroom door and make sure the kids wouldn’t disturb me. And I would sit at my desk alone and work. But I was not lonely then. I was never lonely. And now when I am at my desk all I can think and feel is being alone with my loneliness. Albert Camus wrote:
“Human relationships always help us to carry on because they always presuppose further developments, a future – and also because we live as if our only task was precisely to have relationships with other people.”
Looking back over the past, I become increasingly aware of one thing. My tastes have remained fundamentally the same. What I liked doing as a child, I have liked doing later in life. All those gloomy books I read with great pleasure and the people I imagined were always more real than the real ones I met. I don’t know how to say it to my friends and everyone else that right now reading makes me happy. So it was that I made my own world. Except my world included him. And now that he is gone I don’t know how to step out of my sorrow. Maya Angelou wrote:
“Stepping onto a brand-new path is difficult, but not more difficult than remaining in a situation, which is not nurturing to the whole woman.”
Inarticulate I shall always be. It is probably one of the reasons that I am a writer. I find I can express myself more on paper than I can by talking to people. I have been desperate, miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know that just to be alive is a good thing. And that in my sorrow I am not alone. To quote J.D. Salinger:
“You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them – if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.”