4 A.M.

March 26, 2010 § 2 Comments

Me at 9 or 10

At 4 a.m. I was thinking about my childhood bedroom. It had pink walls, white bookshelves, and a gold rug. Now I remember the gold rug—at 4 a.m., I just remembered “gold” and was thinking “gold trim?”, “golden brown furniture?” though I knew those were not right. And maybe the gold rug is wrong too, but it will do for now. The colors hold the child self that is still here, intact.

I was alone a lot in childhood, but especially alone when I woke up at night. I never knew what time it was, only that I had been asleep for hours and the house was quiet.  I would turn on the light and be Margaret, an activity. I pushed my seeing deep into the back of my brain, a darkly vivid place that was like a magic castle, with rooms neverending. I thought it should be a forest, but it was a house—I imagined that when I was older I would push further and find the forest. I investigated left and right: where thoughts came from and where they went. I painted my consciousness over and over myself, layers like the glaze on pottery.

I’ve spent my life trying to unveil myself, to lovers and friends, to the world in writing. Intimacy has always mattered more than money or success. And yet in therapy there was a moment when my therapist was saying that he didn’t think we’d make more progress until I was ready to let him in entirely. I said, “But I will never let anyone in entirely. It’s out of the question.” I felt then the presence of the child in her pink and gold room and knew she was me and I her, still, and it didn’t seem wrong.

He was shocked at the finality of my words. He said that, if such were the case, therapy wouldn’t work. I replied that I doubted anyone ever let a therapist in entirely; they just believed or pretended they did. We argued this a little, but it was a pointless argument.

The child keeps painting herself on the walls. She’s profoundly lonely yet balanced in the dark. I’ve given up trying to force the container. Once, when I was still in therapy, I battered my defenses down until my ego, that bundled nub of self, slid off its pedestal. I was a flickering spark in a maelstrom of unconnected images, my mind churning and thumping like an overstuffed washing machine. The dislocation, loss of control, the feeling of being tossed around like a dirty sock was terrifying beyond words; I had just enough me left to note that this must be what psychosis was like, or more simply: this must be psychosis.

I was lucky; I’d been investigating altered states for years and had some scraps of advice. I looked at my hands. I looked at the fingers, the thumbs, the raised greenish veins and knobby knuckles; then I looked at my arms and legs, their contours, bumps and freckles; I sank into my body’s posture and aches. Gradually the churning lessened and my ego anchored. The images retreated to their ordinary ocean, lapping my island self.

I know I didn’t try to open myself properly. I know there are ways—yearas of meditation, etc—to do it more safely. But love, therapy and memoir- writing were my big gambles. The child doesn’t want to try anymore. She thinks adulthood is a mug’s game.

(In the poem below, the indentations are where the line continues…obvious in some poems, annoying in this one with its short lines. WordPress is hard to work in, sometimes. I can’t conrol the text.)

There is a solitude of space
A solitude of sea
A solitude of death,
  but these Society shall be
Compared with that profounder
  site
That polar privacy
A soul admitted to itself—
  Finite Infinity.

Emily Dickinson

A Chrismas Story

December 11, 2008 § Leave a comment

It’s a little late, but I want to write a book for Daniel for Christmas. Whitney says he likes Spiderman and rocket ships. I went to amazon.com to look for toys and games and found the usual junk. He’s four. This may be his best Christmas. Shouldn’t he have his own book about a boy named Daniel taken up in a rocket ship by Spiderman to visit the weird creatures on a moon of Jupiter? I’m thinking he’d be interested in how astronauts deal with having to go to the bathroom. The recycling of urine: fascinating when you’re four, and still deep inside the mysteries of the body, your body, your one and only. (That sinuous, silky feel of being a child. Nimble, agile, balanced, low center of gravity!) He’s four, and sometimes life at home is a drag. Why not go up on a rocket ship with Spiderman? I would. I’d go with the aliens of our 1980’s mass fantasy—world peace or anal probes, adjust for type. At the time,  I wouldn’t have (a little timid) but now? Now I’d go almost anywhere that’s unquestionably strange.

So I want to write a story for him, and I guess I won’t have time. I’d have to be utterly happy with it. I’d want it printed somehow, or at least handsomely bound. And I’m afraid if I started writing about Spiderman I’d make him too much my own. I’ve already got him living on the West coast of Mars (Jupiter is a little too far, chilly) with a talking cat who escaped from a top-secret lab, Count Chokula and Young Frankenstein, Sid Vicious and Mary Poppins.

I’d do better to stick with astronauts and recycled pee. But what about drifting in black space, held only by a slim tether while one fixes the that part of the warp drive that’s making a whimpering sound? Is that part of his fantasy? Or does he just like the explosion, take-off, the shimmery acceleration as the rocket splits open the sky?

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