August 13th, 2004

The night before last I dreamed of Russia. Cold and white and moonlit.

Two days ago, Sophia said to me, “When I will be smaller, then I will get Simone’s paci, and I will go to the doctor and then I will be dead.”

I feel like I cannot even begin to convey how much I wish I didn’t have to hear this sort of thing coming out of my three year old child’s mouth. I relate it without hope that anyone else will really understand it or understand me. It pains me and freezes me and makes me long to be elsewhere. It’s not that I don’t comprehend that she’s trying to empathize and work through things. It’s not that I think it’s a particularly negative or horrible thing to say. It’s just that hearing Sophia contemplate herself as dead is a lot more than I can deal with. When I had Simone, I thought of her as integral to our family and I found it inconceivable that she might die. Even as she was dying, I couldn’t imagine that such a thing might happen. Now that the life I live includes the possibility of things that are completely inconceivable, I find it terrifying to dwell on the possibility of harm coming to what’s left of my family. I try to tell myself not to be unreasonable, but really, there are no guarantees. I cannot put myself at ease on this because I know better now. It is not out of the realm of possibility that my family might be snatched away from me. I, who have always lived a creative life and meandered from mental what-if to elaborate daydream to brilliantly stupid idea, am suddenly completely shut off from my creative self. There is nowhere to go in my imagination that is tolerable. Visualizing anything scares me into thinking it could happen. I feel a little crazy, constantly trying to reassure myself that it’s not likely that harm will come to my husband or daughter. It is as if a security and comfort about the nature of the world has been stripped away from me forever. I will never again be as confident in the health and well-being of those I love. I will be able to imagine the worst with a clarity that comes of definite experience. It isn’t just Simone that I lost, but a me I will never be again. Most of my life experiences have been a lot more nuanced than this one. They have been gradual and shaded in many strands of gray. So I never expected to walk through a moment that so completely altered me forever. It seems strange to think that I was safe to explore the world creatively when my life had a firm foothold, but now that nothing is certain anymore, I just cannot do it. Contemplating Nanowrimo this year fills me with terror. The wisp of an idea that I was pulling together for that seems juvenile and pointless now, without heart or substance.

This has obvious implications for my writing. I have thought about writing a book about grief. In truth, it’s the first non-fiction book of length I’ve ever contemplated quite this seriously. I’ve had other ideas, but haven’t written one word toward them. I feel like my writings on grief have already been encyclopedic, and find myself organizing my thoughts about it into chapters. It’s not like I’m ready to write it, though. I may never be ready to write it. Still, I am too stiff to let my imagination loose in its proper native land, which is the world of stories, not reality. I don’t know whether my imagination is broken or not, and I’m afraid to find out. I have thought about trying to do fragments again, but I have not worked up the will to try it. When I look at the bits of sentences, anything that I pull together begins and ends with Simone. On the other hand, I know that my ideas and fantasyscapes will not be frozen forever. I have already had glimpses of those places. In the mornings, walking Sergei, I sometimes think up scenes to write without even trying. However, two things concern me. One is that everything I write might be grief-stained. It is true that as an unpublished writer I write for myself, but I don’t want to be the sort of person who thinks they are writing new things when they are writing the same thing over and over. And frankly, I am not a pessimistic writer. I believe in happy endings, or at least zero endings. I don’t want to be constrained by the horrible thing that has happened to me. I am more than that, especially in the world of my writings. My other concern is that when the landscape of my imagination becomes accessible to me again, it might be an utterly changed and unrecognizable place and I might not know where to begin or what to write. I might be lost there, unable to hear the language and transcribe it. This could happen and I know it, because there are no guarantees.

Everything is uncertain.

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