Ruin is a gift

Sometimes, there is nothing left. Whatever was is reduced to debris. Broken and scattered. With just enough shape to cling to the memory of what it used to be. Cruel as that is.

At that point, it doesn’t even matter why it broke. The thought of having to figure out how to repair and rebuild is nearly as devastating as the loss itself.

Replicating what was isn’t possible. Emulation is just that. A copy. A replacement for something that no longer is. Something that didn’t stand the test of time, the world around it, or me. A monument to a memory. And somehow that is far worse.

So, I remind myself that ruin is the path to transformation. A chance to truly want and embrace something new without destroying anything to make room for it. Not a clean slate, but one full of wisdom, insight, and experience I didn’t have when I built before.

Ruin is a chance to keep what works and rethink everything else. To legitimately start again as an affirmation of resilience and the belief that from ruin springs new life previously unimagined.

And that is the whole point, I think.

Without ruin… would I ever truly dare to tear down everything I have built to make room for something new – even if I knew I had outgrown it? Would I ever be bold enough to envision the changes ruin necessitates? Probably not.

Ruin seems always the gift unwanted.
And yet, it is a gift.

Ruin is a gift

Blogging is not a selfie stick

I haven’t really been here for years. And I come back a little reluctantly. Not because I do not wish to return here, but because I find myself locked in a battle of wills. Me against myself. And I am losing. That makes no sense, and ironically, that is exactly the whole point. I am fighting shawdows I have created myself.

Somehow, in the midst of life and living, I stopped writing. And as my proverbial pen dried up and started collecting dust on a shelf, the inner voice that lived through those writings fell silent, resentful and inevitably…. forgot itself. Like a muscle atrophying for lack of use, no longer serving the single purpose for which it was made.

I did that. To myself. Because I stopped writing. It wasn’t really a conscious choice, just something that kind of happened along the way. The same way Life kind of just happens while we’re busy sweating the small stuff. I didn’t mean to stop. But I did. And now, here I am… at odds with myself, because every word is an unwanted struggle that makes me aware I have grown ‘apart from myself’. If that is even possible? I think it is.

I could list a thousand valid reasons why – and I have – validating to myself why I didn’t have the time, or the need, or the wish to lay bare a piece of myself in random words on a random blog amongst millions of others. There is no arguing with the rationale of that sentiment. But the truth is,… if any of these had been the reason why I stopped writing, then I would have found a way around it. Found a way to keep a place and time for the words and the voice I loved so much.

No, I simply grew disenchanted with the whole thing. It stopped being … special, somehow. So many blogs and voice and words all around. Who has time to read them? Who has time to care that they exist? Why add more to that pile? Isn’t that a waste of words?

It all started to remind me of the (then) emerging selfie hype… where every photo in and of itself was an occasion to be shared and validated, and where the value of life and individuality was somehow measured by the ability to photograph and display it. Extra points for style and originality.

It reminded me of something Susan Sontag said in her amazing book, On Photography – a MUST READ for anyone with a love of photography and the complexity of truth and perspective in photos:

“A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refusing it—by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by converting experience into an image, a souvenir. Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs.”
– Susan Sontag, On Photography

Writing came to feel like that. Like words were being selectively produced for the sake of ‘being different’ and ‘self-promotion’. A battle for attention won or lost based on the accumulation of popularity. Hits, visits, ping-backs, awards, cross platform exposure … blogging was the selfie stick that extended reach and improved framing. All the while the craft of writing seemed reduced to a secondary element. One which one could easily be forgiven if manhandled in the pursuit of pleasing a haphazardly impatient and largely indifferent audience.

“Don’t say too much. Make it short and sweet. Easy to read.”
“Don’t go too deep, and don’t use big words. Keep it light and fun.”
“Don’t forget to tag and tweet and ping and share. Or no one will ever find it.”
“Don’t” … “Don’t” … “Don’t…”

In the end, I got sick of it. Sick of writing for to fill a void that could never be filled, and add just more words to an endless pile of excess. So, I stopped. And got used to being silent.

Coming back to read my own words now, years later, I hardly recognise myself in them, even though the words themselves ‘fit’ perfectly within me. Like the phantom memory of a severed limb. I know instinctively, they are mine. And that is when I truly realise what I have lost by forgetting that voice.

I feel a bit like someone who just started a diet or quit an addiction. Day 1. Nothing yet accomplished except deciding not to postpone it till tomorrow – again. That in and of itself is a small victory, I know. But still, such a long way to go. It’s going to be ugly and awkward, while my pen and I reconnect with the snubbed inner voice. But that’s okay.

This is Day 1.

Hi, I am a writer.
I got lost in all the words.
It happens.

Blogging is not a selfie stick

A cafe in Paris

I remember sitting in my hospital bed, looking out the window. The nurse had just been in with the results of the scans and the conclusions drawn based on them. She’d seen the look on my face and asked if I wanted something to calm me down before the surgery the next day. I was baffled. Baffled that that would be her concern. Baffled that she would think it was the surgery I was worried about.

I’d thought that when you give a 21 yr old the verdict that she’d never bear or have biological children of her own… that they’d offer to send in a a therapist or someone to talk to who knew and understood what that really meant. Even hand out a damn flyer, you know?

To them, I guess, it wasn’t so out of the ordinary. I even remember a few days after the surgery while I was still confined to the bed, they compared me to a girl in the next room who had just undergone the same surgery, telling me with a look down their noses that “SHE wasn’t in pain and was dealing with it just fine”

That’s probably when it really hit for the first time. The feeling of inadequacy and humiliation. Reduced to half a woman and now not a good patient either.

I spent 16 days in total in that bed in a place that felt a world away from my friends and family – and even when they did come to visit I couldn’t deal with it and just closed off. Most of the time I just lay there alone, feeling trapped and alienated from anything and everything – most especially myself.

Until the 8th day. Then I got a new “room mate”. A woman about my mom’s age. She’d had surgery on her leg and was bedridden too. Her family visited a lot and were very nice. She and I talked, not about what was wrong with us, …but about everything else.

One day when we were bored, we somehow ended up imagining that we were in Paris, having lunch in one of those small cafes. I was mobile at that point and would often go to fetch things for her from the cafeteria or snack carts down the hall. I guess that’s what started it – me bringing in a tray and serving up coffee for her. When the nurse came in later to check on us we were both bawling with laughter and spent the rest of the day living out that little fantasy, even speaking with poor French accents.

Afterwards, we of course blamed the drugs and being couped up in bed for so long. But for us both, it had been a welcome escape where we had been reminded of all the things we could still do, instead of those we couldn’t.

I left a few days before her and saying goodbye was actually kind of hard. The week we’d spent together had been so intimate that it felt like much longer. She even gave me her phone number and I gave her mine, both of us promising to call to keep in touch. Neither one of us did.

Perhaps, the reminder of that time was too painful for us both to want to dig it up again. Perhaps, we were just so relieved to be out of that place and get on with life that we forgot. Or maybe we just didn’t know what to say… chained to a bed, completely dependent on nursing staff and overhearing everything that’s said, even when you try not to listen in… it makes talking easier, I guess. Being up and about again… it was too easy to run away. So we did.

I haven’t thought about her or that cafe in years, and don’t know what brought it to mind now. But truth be told, she should be remembered. It – she – was the one bright spot in the wash of numbness and pain of which my life consisted at that time. I really hope she is well and happy. I hope she recovered fully, and I guess, in a way… I hope she remembers, too.

Whether she does or not, I – at least – will always have Paris… *smiles quietly*


This entry was originally written in November 2009. For more info, see Not by choice
A cafe in Paris