You’re Not the Only One
It has been at least six months since I have written a poem or even something with any substance. Writer’s block happens to every writer. There are always articles in the writing magazines I read that offer suggestions to writers who are stuck in a void. So I can tell myself that I am not the only one, but I understand how those words have very little meaning to someone struggling with loss.
I have used the phrase countless times. I tell my daughters that they are not the only ones struggling with motherhood. I tell my mother with dementia that she is not the only one in a wheelchair (although she believes she is). She always replies the same way. She says, “I don’t care about others. I’m my own person. I’m the one who has lost everything I used to have.” I know she is right. We can’t really find solace by comparing our difficulties with others, although we can find empathy for them.
I studied in college to be a journalist. I was assistant editor of my high school newspaper, rewrite and feature editor of my college newspaper, and after graduation wrote many articles for local magazines and newspapers. I had to stop when I felt like I was intruding on the privacy of people I was sent to interview. And I didn’t like the need for brevity since one of my major problems as a writer is overwriting. When I think about the situation in France, I think about the power of the pen. Right now I feel powerless because words won’t come. There are no phrases or lines that come to me in the early morning hours that I can turn into a poem that could touch others.
I have been to my computer countless times to write about a very emotional event in my life. In November my oldest daughter adopted a seven-year–old child with a tragic and horrifying past. I need to protect her privacy and keep her safe, so I have not been able to write about her. But she has changed my life in ways I can’t even explain. My daughter has rescued her. She is growing and changing and is a sweet, lovable child who is so traumatized by the past that she is unable to share it with anyone.
I have a book waiting to be self-published, but it’s held back by a cover design. I have a young adult novel partly written about a teenage basketball player whose father walks out the front door the day of his son’s basketball tournament and never returns. I started a story about an older woman with Alzheimer’s who finds herself in the park on a cold, snowy night. She does not know who she is or where to go but is transformed when a homeless dog approaches and rests his chin upon her leg. All are incomplete pieces halted by writer’s block.
It’s the absence of poetry that has me saddened the most. It’s a new kind of grief for me, blending in with all the old ones. If I can’t write, who am I? I have never stopped writing since I was a young child writing my first story about a family of bears. I have grown afraid of my own words. I commend the staff of Charlie Hebdo who certainly have reason to fear the effect of their words and their cartoons but find strength in the power and freedom of speech. I can tell myself that I’m not the only one struggling with writing. I can find strength in the struggles of others. But in those moments before dawn when no words come, when I feel bereft and alone, I wonder if the passage of time in my later years will only be filled with absence instead of meaning.