I’ve been trying to get back to writing this blog post for months. But my writing seems to be suffering from some kind of inertia, much like the rest of my life did until about a year ago. I was thinking about how hard it was to move from the couch to the front door in the first 2 years after my company died, 10 months after son died. And then once I started going out again, trying to be part of the world, I realized that at first it felt like I was pushing a massive boulder up an infinite hill. Yes, this was my own private hell, although I couldn’t think of what I was being punished for. My boulder didn’t roll back down again, but I worried constantly that it would. The worst had already happened, but I still imagined there might be bad things at every turn.
I wondered if I would ever get even a fraction of my energy back. Things move so slowly when you’re in the dark. Progress is imperceptible. I managed little things in those 2 very dark years. I cooked. I started a writing group. I could temporarily illuminate the darkness by bringing people into my home. That was a start. It was the beginning of the end of isolation. Then I went on the road trip and made my film and almost accidentally I wasn’t back to work but I was back to living. Doing and finishing little things led to doing and finishing bigger things.
It was almost as if I had too many programs open on my computer. Everything was so sluggish. It was like I’d left the computer on for far too long, never doing a full re-start. So powering up was so very slow for me. Some invisible code was rushing around trying to make connections between things. Before the connections were instant, I was firing on all cylinders (forgive the mixed metaphors). But after my loss my random access memory seemed totally fried.
There is only so much memory in a device. But there is infinite memory in a human mind. When the one person I’d known, loved and spent my life with died, all of the references to our shared history died too. These infinite memories became inaccessible, jumbled and disconnected. I didn’t know who I was other than my son’s mom. My other identities were insignificant in comparison. So restarting me took much longer than an overworked computer. Powering up was so slow. It started about a year ago, and little by little I see signs of new memories being formed, new connections being made (with myself and others) a new history being written. I still feel slow, not the old me.
Reading this article in the NY Times about wisdom reminded me of my conversations with myself about powering up. “Older people have much more information in their brains than younger ones, so retrieving it naturally takes longer,” according to a study they cited. Since I am no longer creating new memories with my son, I guess I got stuck in the old ones, even though I try to forget them. Maybe it is the forgetting that scrambled who I am. I’m using an old operating system; memories that help me retain a connection to my old life. Maybe it’s our losses that make it take longer for us to power up.
I was walking in the park yesterday and saw how long it took for these swans to take flight. They were slow getting started but beautiful once in flight.