Friday, September 4, 2020

While Waiting for Godot

I don't know about you, but I'm creatively drained. Some of you have been hunkered over your novels or poems or entirely-new-genre-you-have-invented, neurons firing, fingers flying. Some of you have paced your living space, talking to your characters, listening to what they say, taking notes.

And then, some of you are me...brain blank, soul deflated, for whom every task seem enormous. This summer I've felt as though I've been trapped in a never ending performance of Waiting for Godot. For those of you who aren't former drama majors, Godot is a two act play in which nothing happens. Literally, nothing. Two characters, on an all-but-empty stage (there is a tree) waiting for the mysterious Godot, who never appears. In the interim, the two characters talk, sometimes in gibberish. A few other characters appear, announce Godot's imminent arrival, then disappear. Godot does not arrive.

"We should go," says one character to another. They don't move. Curtain.

That's where I am right now. I should go. I don't move. 

The last six months have been soul-sucking for the world, with a particularly loud sucking sound over the U.S. Life has lurched along in other places, but not at my house. Or in my head. My writer's brain hasn't died, but it's certainly dormant. I listen to a lot of music--classical, folk, pop, rap. Mood elevators without a prescription. I walk my constant companion, a 16-year-old rescue dog named Ms O. Ms O's arthritic pace forces me to take time to smell the roses. Or whatever else is in the air since June's roses are long past. (Lately, it's been a Mount Everest of mulch in a neighbor's yard.) While O's nose works over every square inch of suburban sod, I am forced to notice sights like this. (Tried as I might, I could not find the words "Some Pig" hidden in this beauty. Enlarge to see that it's dew on a cobwebs. On a shrub.)

My husband has been working from the kitchen table since March. Like me, he was a drama major. That means his normal speaking voice can project to the back row of a theater. Three rooms away, even with the door closed, I can hear his end of Zoom meetings. I've learned more than I have ever wanted to know about international chain supply management and finance. 

I know I'm privileged to be living in a 'good" Godot World--healthy, a roof over my head and at least one guaranteed income. If only I could write. People have written in far dire circumstances--I know of at least three writers who wrote not just while they were in chemotherapy--they wrote during the treatments, needle pumping chemicals into them. People have written in bomb shelters and fox holes. In prison. While trapped in the true prison of an abusive relationship. So why can't I, sitting in my cozy sunroom, Ms O at my feet, coffee mug at hand....just write? 

Because in Godot World, you can't move. You never know why Didi and Gogo (the Godot characters) can't leave...they just can't. (There is no motivation for anything in Waiting for Godot. It's for good reason it's been classified as Theater of the Absurd.) 

My only defense for the present day absurdities, is to find an alternative reality, the only (legal and relatively healthy) way I can.

I read. 

I am an indiscriminate reader. I will attempt to read anything (although life is too short to waste it on crummy writing...I'll give anything shot for at least the first chapter) But just as you can't take any old remedy for what ails you (Pepto-Bismal for a migraine? Aspirin for a broken arm?) I am more selective in my reading.

There are always my "comfort food books" that I rea whenever I need a warm hug--Charlotte's Web, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Diary of a Young Girl, Harriet the Spy, The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  But since March, I've made some new friends:  Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (her newest book, The Enigma Game comes out in November--can't wait!), Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland, They Went Left by Monica Hesse, Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai, Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby, The Women of Copper Country by Mary Doria Russell, Sadie by Courtney Summers, The Chaperone by Laura Moriarity and anything by Ruth Sepetys and Erin Entrada Kelly.  And that's just the fiction.

My true love is non-fiction...real people in other difficult times. The following have kept me company in the sunroom: Lifeboat 12 by Susan Wood, Voyage of the Damned by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts, 999 by Heather Dun Macadam, Rust by Eleise Colette Goldbach, Nomadland by Jessica Bruder, Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker, Daring to Drive by Manal Al-Sharif, Five Days at Memorial by Sherri Fink. 

I love graphic novels and memoirs, too many to mention. A special place goes to this year's Newbery winner New Kid by Jerry Kraft. Kraft's story resonated with me on so many levels.

What do all these books have in common? All of them are about strong people, enduring tough times. Why these books? Why not something funny, fluffy...a little chick lit, a little David Sedaris? I'm not looking to escape; there is no "escaping." I'm reading to heal my damaged soul. I'm reading to experience others living through tough, even brutal times. I'm looking for the brave, the selfless, those who thought themselves cowardly, but who really weren't. Not saints, not sinners. People who persevered. 

It's basic bibliotherapy. I've always found my comfort in books. 

I still am.

1 comment:

Carmela Martino said...

Wow! What a great photo, MA. Thanks for sharing your journey. I'm glad you're finding solace in bibliotherapy. Hugs to you!