Monthly Archives: December 2014

Knock Out Punch

‘Stop all the clocks,’ says WH Auden in his poem, ‘Funeral Blues.’  ‘Cut off the telephone. Stop the dog from barking with a juicy bone. Silence the pianos and with muffled drum, bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.’

 The first time I heard this verse, I hadn’t lost anyone, really. A few neighbors had passed away. A cousin died. We all felt sad in the way children do when they see adults cry. But it was never personal. Since then I’ve lost my in-laws, both parents, and many friends.

Before mama died last week, my siblings and I had surrounded her with songs, prayer, assurances of our love, promises of good behavior. Mostly we sounded like a bunch of six year olds trying to make a very good impression on someone who already knew us all too well. With her passing, Auden’s poem returned to me, especially the first line. Because when someone so important to us dies, the clocks should stop. A silence ought to fall so everyone on earth can drop what they’re doing and ask, ‘What’s going on? What happened?”

 Grief is the unwanted journey. The boxer who waits inside a dark ring. Please, you think. Just give me a minute. Give me a moment. Please stop the clock. But grief has no mercy. It jabs and jabs and knocks you down until after a while its not even worth fighting.

 Auden’s last verse says:

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

You live there. Down at the bottom where the darkness of your grief rips a hole in your chest, confirming what you already knew.  You won’t ever rise again. But strangely, and in opposition to how most things work, that admission of defeat brings peace. The hurt begins to ease. You are able to acknowledge that death is part of life. That it’s coming for all of us, even if, as I believe, we’re simply moving on to another place.

The clocks can’t stop because they would never be able to start again. What feels so singular, so personal, so tightly packed on the inside, is universal. We all grieve. We all become orphans and widow-ers. The ones left behind. Most of us are lucky enough to realize what we’ve had within our small communities of friends and family. In lonely times we draw our memories around us; an embrace from everyone we’ve ever loved and lost. Then we take a deep breath. Feel lighter. Discover that we don’t hurt as much as before. The boxer puts down his gloves and the ring fades. Life goes on.

A Piece of My Mind

For someone who considers herself a writer, I have a hard time explaining things. One night at Zumba during a particularly tiring routine, I gasped the words, “I feel like I’m in a concentration camp hauling rocks, with no dinner in sight.” Since we were dancing to the theme song from, “Love, Actually,” I was asked to lighten up. But I wasn’t whining. I was pretending. I just forgot myself and did it out loud.

Weird scenarios jump into my mind all the time. Like last summer, when I saw a small crack in the cement outside my house with a tiny bit of moss sticking out and a strange bug on top of it. My first thought was, “So this is how the alien invasion begins.” It made perfect sense to me. I also enjoyed the imaginary dystopian world that followed where I became a freedom fighter with my own plane.

My regular life is rich and satisfying. The one inside my head is darker. Strange music drifts through the background, the melody dependent on the scenario. Say I meet a neighbor downtown. They might nod and keep walking. If I’m spending time in my alternate universe, I may hear the words, “Meet me at midnight. We’re starting the revolution.”  (Cue heavy African drum music)This is why I often have a vacant look on my face. Because I’m someplace else.

My childhood report cards read, “If Judy spent less time daydreaming, she would accomplish more in class.” Maybe. But I don’t think I could have handled the boredom. The truth of my adolescence is that half the time I was checked out. No wonder I could never figure out the coolness factor. One time at a friend’s birthday party, a girl from my grade six class caught me singing out of a window. I was pretending to be Doris Day sending forth a wistful love song. The girl looked at me like I was deranged. I knew then that we could never be close, because she just didn’t get it.

I’m at the age now where I make no apologies for being exactly who I am. It’s such a relief. I love reading books because they put me in the company of other dreamers. But writing is my way of getting all that crazy stuff out of my head so I can remember to buy eggs at the store. Not every day dreamer is a writer. They may have something else going on. Those who write, paint, sculpt, sew or sing feel a lot less stress. If you don’t let off steam from all those zany ideas, your head might explode.

We all feel that desperate yearning, that frantic call from our secret ourselves, asking to be released into the world. Find your outlets, my friends. Don’t be afraid to expose the real you to the world, unless it involves pulling down your pants in front of strangers. Then, never mind. Otherwise, get to it. Over and out.

(I just received a secret call from the white weasel who lives under our garden shed. The mice are planning a take over…