Someone once remarked to me that my topics here on the Naked Notebook could be considered “depressing.” Frankly, this observation surprised me. Exploring themes of grief and loss, as I have been doing lately since the death of my mother, has never seemed depressing to me at all.
But the comment got me wondering: why do I write on these topics? What compels me, when I take pen in hand, to tell of my mother’s death? To write of how, in dying, she was somehow larger than when she was living?
Then I remembered. I don’t really write my posts at all. They write themselves. That’s how I know the notebook is truly “naked.” My posts are the truth. Maybe not the whole truth, but nothing but the truth, all the same. It’s like I’m a windchime, and words are the wind. I make a pretty sound from time to time, but it’s really the wind that’s doing it. I’m just hanging there, waiting.
Maybe I’m reading too much into the whole “depressing” thing, anyway. It’s entirely likely that my subject matter is not responsible for that perception at all. The Naked Notebook’s monochromatic color scheme alone could be to blame. I didn’t choose it to be funereal and macabre. It’s just that I’ve always been drawn to darkness. When I was 5, black was my favorite color. I even insisted on black gravel in my fish bowl. A photo in black and white, to me, instantly looks at least 20 percent more artistic than its color counterpart. That’s just how I am.
Blacks, grays, they’re edgy. I’ve always loved edginess. In music, in art, and in people. Things that walk the line between dark and light. Because that’s what we’re all doing, every day.
Anyway, enough of this pseudo-philosophical crap. I’m talking about my blog. Specifically, whether the Dead Mother Posts, as I so irreverently refer to them, are depressing. I certainly don’t think so. I’m not feeling depressed when I write them. I may be feeling acute, maybe even melancholy at times. But that’s the richness of life, isn’t it? Deep feelings, both good and bad. It’s not all sunshine and roses, in case you hadn’t noticed. Yeah. I figured you had.
I would never have believed I’d be quoting reality TV’s Dr. Drew Pinsky, but he said something on an episode of Celebrity Rehab (everyone needs a guilty pleasure, right?) that stuck with me. He said that he’d always considered people who were capable of deep emotion to be strong, not weak. (He was talking to Heidi Fleiss at the time, so he was, no doubt, really reaching deep into his proverbial bag of tricks.)
Never mind the source; I love the sentiment. I, too, admire people who do not shy away from the difficult, the poignant, the acute. I don’t mean wallowing…I mean possessing a willingness to go there, to learn the lessons, to be with the experience. Whatever that experience may be. It’s not negative – that’s a value judgment. It just is.
So here I am, mining the depths, holding my breath, diving down. Coming back up to the surface, humbled but stronger.
My readers, you get it. You have been supportive, receptive, empathetic. You don’t flinch in the face of deep emotion. You, too, are strong in all the ways that matter. And I appreciate you more than you know.
My husband, who does not consider himself a writer, said it better than anyone: A death is as astonishing as a birth, he said. How very, very true that is. Astonishing. I’ve witnessed an astonishing experience. And I’m writing about it.
My mom herself explored these ideas. She devoted much of her adult life to the study of grief and loss. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, her emphasis was complicated grief. I feel I am honoring her by learning all I can from her illness and death. My grief isn’t complicated – at least I don’t think it is – but it’s mine.
That I ruminate on those experiences isn’t an expression of sadness…it’s an appreciation for the complexity of being human. It’s not about having a happy life or a sad life. It’s about having a full life.
So if there is a reason for the Dead Mother Posts, I suppose it is one of self-discovery, of honoring the moment. I haven’t written these posts to depress my readers or to marinate in misery and self-pity. An eternal optimist, I’ve never been good at any of those things. But I am a contemplative person, and I want to give this time in my life its due.
After years of rejecting the idea, lately I’ve come to embrace the fact that I am, at least in part, my mother’s daughter. She would be pleased that I’m taking the time – and making the space, here in the Naked Notebook – to work through things in my own way. She’d like the Dead Mother Posts. I’m just sure of it.