It has been an interesting week since my last wondering—ups and downs with quite a bit of snow for this area on the ground in the meantime. Yesterday we had a big melt, so it’s almost as if it never happened at all. Feeling my writing brain working again but still taking it slowly, I feel the ideas percolating, which is the first step. I’m taking David Lynch’s advice to write everything down. He does a convincing job conveying what it feels like to have had an idea and then lose it. Before we get into all that, here’s the playlist for the week:
Our dog Clyde had a very rough week. Temperatures outside got down to the single digits, something he hasn’t experienced much in his life. Clyde had arthritis in his hind legs and hips. He’s also entered that elderly/geriatric stage of life at 13 years old. On Sunday, he threw up his breakfast and slipped into some pretty profound lethargy for the next 48 hours. My wife and I were convinced at one point he was dying. Just laying there, labored breathing, seemingly unable to move. But he would always pull himself up and use body language to show we wanted to go outside to use the bathroom.
By Tuesday morning, he’d eaten and drunk so little we were getting distraught. I was up in the middle of the night, hand-feeding him a little bit of plain white rice at a time, which he would very slowly eat. We also cooked him up a couple of unseasoned scrambled eggs, which he was more enthusiastic in devouring. Yesterday (Sunday), the weather warmed up to in the high 40s, and we started to see some more mobility. He’s still stiff until around 10-11 am. But yesterday, he did climb onto our bed, showing he wanted to get up close and cuddle. We took him to the vet this morning, and they laid out a hospice care plan. He’s lost more muscle mass than last year’s check-up. This is all sort of the norm at Clyde’s age, but it’s hard to process sometimes, especially having lost Lily in August.
My writer’s brain has been mulling this all over and thinking about the irony of love. It is such a positive emotion mostly, but when it comes to an end, through a break-up or death, I don’t think there is anything more painful. But we enter into love knowing this is in the back of our heads; it will have to end someday. I have always seemed to reject nihilism, even as misanthropic as I can get. I think the nihilistic reaction to the pain of love shows insecurity, someone with that mindset is afraid to feel those feelings. But experiencing the full pain of love is a way we grow and further realize who we are.
As I have experienced it, Western culture has such a toxic relationship with death & loss that it hinders human development so profoundly. We expect grief to be done in private and get uncomfortable when someone expresses their grief to us. I always seem to come back to this, but I think it’s tied in part to our cult-like worship of Capitalism. When you look at how products are marketed, it’s always under the presentation of making you happy and giving you fulfillment. I would always roll my eyes at those Coke commericals that play in the movie theaters where they show people living their best life, and it seems to attribute the experience to a fizzy drink. Television programming often has people grieve and then move on in the next episode rather than the real-life experience of feeling like you’ve moved on only for months later to become teary-eyed, remembering how it feels to have that gap in your life. I wonder if any of you reading this have some recommendations of honest grief being shown in film or television?
In terms of writing, I am still working my way through the DIY MFA syllabus (linked here). I took the advice of the packet’s author and am spending three weeks on a lesson, so I’ve just only begun the second one. Last week wasn’t very productive due to Clyde’s needs. I have some story seeds I’m interested in doing something with. One feels more like a short story or maybe a novella, probably more the former. The other definitely feels like something more extended. I watched some videos about youth group mission trips to Africa and started to think of how an incredibly dark satire could be woven out of some of the people’s obliviousness on and leading those trips. It’s a tightrope to walk because you have to contemplate if you want to make any of them sympathetic but not veer into a veiled apologia for their exacerbating of problems the United States has already caused.
Then by chance, I stumbled across this story about Renee Bach, a U.S. missionary whose actions led to the death of 105 children in her care. She often “went with her gut” when it came to treatment. I think I might spend some time this year reading up on this case, making notes. I’ve realized from watching documentaries about directors and writers this can often lead to nothing, but those ideas can be used in other places. I am fascinated by people’s delusion, usually white, American, and & “of faith” who can be so presumptuous. In situations like this, I think my instinct is to listen to someone who knows what they are doing rather than assume I can be guided by an invisible hand. In terms of story ideas, I have a penchant for not going easy on myself and being drawn to things that start as my wanting to condemn my own culture. Simultaneously, people have to experience some enjoyment in reading it, always a tricky line to walk.