Friday, December 13, 2013

Every Walk Is A Sort of Crusade




The manuscript I've been working on for two years is almost done. By almost done, I mean I have one last essay to write to bookend the thing, to give it a completed narrative arc, if such a thing can be said of a memoir of the diagnosis of chronic pain and managing to live within that cage and to call plaintively out from it like a baboon.

The truth is there is no decent satisfying American coming of age narrative arc, except my going from innocence to experience that shit happens.

William Styron, the novelist who was struck by severe depression in his late 60s and wrote Darkness Visible is the illness narrative we are most familiar with and -- after a hospital stay -- he got better.  This is good and right.  That's a wrap, a bedtime story.

It's not happening for me. Therefore I must learn to pace the cage. Not expect to be repatriated to Health, a country in which I was a happy mango-eating native.

I must learn to be thrilled by small things like a zoo animal does a peanut or a banana. Forget my birth forest.

A perfect pink sunrise. The titmouse that got stuck in the bird feeder. The warm wet-wool scent of my children. I must not catastrophize, but stay in the moment, appreciate what is. If this all sounds to you like an affirmation poster in a Used Car sales lot, I agree with you. Nevertheless. What else is there?

Styron coined the phrase the "walking wounded" to describe the chronically ill, and I like that. I am thankful I have to guide me Thoreau's essay On Walking which he wrote as he was dying. "For every walk is a sort of crusade." And every piece of writing is too.