Note: BWIWD = Back When I Was Dying. See previous posts December 9 and 10.
Interlude: From My Journal
It’s been nearly two months since I began to document April’s intense three-day journey. Each time I sit down to write a fog descends. I’m sleepy, dopey, as if the amnesia is still trying to grab me, take me under, so that I won’t remember, can’t remember . . . At first I didn’t notice this malaise; it took awhile to realize that I’m not my usual snappy fierce articulate self. I seem to pause over every sentence, fiddling, fidgeting, eyes closing, body tired, so tired . . . And I drift back to previous sentences, paragraphs, chapters, to juggle the words, the rhythm, the tone. Sometimes I seem to be nosing about for an opening, peering into spaces between sentences for a way in, a way down, or up, or over, to find and describe other, invisible dimensions that seem to lurk about, tease me with their opacity. Brain feels mushy, confused, wants to drift off, let go . . .
I decided on this Interlude, in hopes that writing about the writing will wake me up.
In the past two days, I’ve gotten word of the recent deaths of two friends, Bill in Idaho, and Amelia in New Mexico. From what I hear, it appears that both were prepared to go. A number of months before Amelia passed her friend Win said, thinking to cheer her up: “Well, you must be glad to get this [chemotherapy] over so you can get on with your life!” Only to hear Amelia reply, “And do what?”
And Bill, who nearly died in an accident years ago, when he broke just about every bone in his body, had lived so intensely and dramatically since then that his friends figured he had wanted to die, and kept trying to finish the job. His legendary outdoor feats included kayaking over cataracts and, when he finally edged over, they found his body floating in Idaho’s River of No Return.
When I spoke about Bill to Diane, a mutual friend, she said that she too, often catches herself “wondering in a very positive, curious way, what it [death] will be like.”
These two deaths, and Diane’s comment, coming now, when I am most in doubt, feel like subtle whisperings to go on, tell it, shake off the amnesia, share with others . . .
Yet, in order to tell what happened I must activate my left brain. But the experience was so ineffably right brain! And in order to recreate the experience, I must revisit it, over and over again, plumb its depths, how it resounds, reverberates . . .
Every morning as I start to write, the forgetting descends. Like I’m drugged on a sleeping pill, and must jerk myself awake, over and over again, day after day.
I have to keep waking myself up, so that I CAN tell it. Knowing that I’m meant to, that I’m meant to tell it. That this is part of the bargain, the completion of the “experiment” alluded to in the title and that I will soon describe.
But first I seem to need to slog through the details of “when I was dying,” both the medical details, and how I was feeling and interpreting those three days and some of the dimensions that the experience provoked. Dimensions nested within dimensions . . . more and more, no bottom line, no place I can say, here . . . this . . . is . . . where it ends, where the buck stops. No first cause. No cause and effect template. No linear chain. No contrasting polarities. Maybe that’s the problem. How do I keep going when the “momentum” that usually propels a story keeps forking, braiding, seeping . . .
And yet I do trust gravity, this strong sense of going downhill. Ultimately the waters will run together.
(Could there be another source of this strange reluctance to keep going? Are there forces arrayed against the telling? I wouldn’t be surprised. For if I can do justice to this tale, it might ramify in unexpected ways, might even disturb the cultural trance of daily life.)
Diane’s take on my strange malaise: “Maybe sleepy amnesia is a) the super-ego’s way of denying death; b) the first step on the path toward death; c) the poppy field in Wizard of Oz. . . or all of the above.”