December 27: Joan Didion

Joan Didion just died. The only book of hers I’ve read is The Year of Magical Thinking. I tried a year ago to reread it and the library ended it and I didn’t renew it. No books during the pandemic, only audio and ebooks. We just watched the documentary about her which I had started a while ago too. I felt her differently in the book. More emotional, more real. I could see how she could be so constantly prolific. They said she was a perfectionist, very controlled.

The first time I read her book about her mourning her husband’s death and her daughter is sick in it but I don’t remember her writing about her death. Turns out she wrote another book, Blue Nights about that.

I found the book and a book by a knitter writer who writes about losing her daughter very suddenly and much younger than Didion’s, maybe 5. The girl goes to the ER for something sudden and just dies. She the author starts knitting when she is trying to deal with her daughter’s death. I remember they adopted a child later after. I read these two books right before my child turned one. I think getting through the first year you feel like you can let go a little. The fear of the small child dying is there all the time when they are little; anything can happen. I was most scared of her hitting her head in the bath, slipping. My sister slipped in the bath and went to the hospital but they brought her back fine.

Having Covid right during this loss of someone you love to Covid is strange. Now his daughter has it. The funeral will be January 3; the wake is January 4. It will be real when I’m in the house and I see his chair in the living room. Then I will know he is really gone. And I will see his office with his computer that I sometimes did yoga in when he wasn’t sitting there. Lemon sandwich cookies. Peanut butter. Peanut butter sandwich cookies.

I try not to write about intensely personal things in this blog. I know not many people read it; luckily my clients don’t read it. I warn people not to read it, like at the beginning of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events; in the show it starts with the song, Look away and in the book it’s a long few pages about why to not read the book. You won’t like this apartment, It’s very dark, the real estate agent told me. Now here I am in it.

She says something in the movie about preparing for separation and other things. I’m never prepared for anything real, but I’ve prepared in my mind for my child to keep walking away as she’s supposed to, getting bigger, more independent. I remember when she was around 2 and talked about something that happened and I hadn’t been there and I was struck by her having her own little life, a lot of which was already not accessible to me.

The only thing to do is wait for invitations to join her doing something. Today I read a comic book, part of it, out loud to her. We downloaded a sight full of comic books. I’ve stopped my daily comic. Discipline is like trying to hold dry sand. It falls out. Consistency. That’s why I started writing in here again. When the pandemic started in March 2020, I got consistent with blogging everyday. I can’t remember if I was doing the comic. I was making art everyday, a lot during sessions in the small closet office.

Now with this other wave of the pandemic, here we are in quarantine, but we’re all older. Covid isn’t as frightening as it was then; it’s still frightening as it should be because it can take people from you. It can put you tying yourself in knots worrying if you gave it to someone. When I realized I knew I had it before the positive test, I was scared I gave it to someone in my new suite. I hadn’t had much contact with the others, but I’d seen one that day when she opened the door for a client and asked them to wash their hands. We all had masks on.

The letter I wrote them, I should have taken a photo. It was guilty feelings wanting to be assuaged that I didn’t do anything wrong. My paranoia that they would hate me was ridiculous and self centered. Then I worried about a few clients who came in person the week before.

You feel like you want to be cleared. You want them to know, I did everything right. I have all three vaccines. I don’t go to parties. I don’t go out to eat. That’s a bit of a lie. I went to eat with two friends at a Mexican place maybe two weeks ago. It was huge and very empty.

A client of mine found a Guilt Group, a monthly meeting of people who feel terribly guilty about something. Some of the people actually did something bad and feel terrible about it. But most people in the group were like the person not driving the car who survives. You didn’t do anything wrong but you feel guilty for being alive. One feels guilty about giving her partner Covid and him dying. I can’t remember if my client said it was one of those things where maybe he gave it to her. The group is mostly full of people attached to their guilt. They don’t want to let go of it and carry it around with them like a blanket, even though it makes them feel terrible and often depressed and obsessed. My client and I go through the facts of her guilt, her not even knowing if anything happened. I can’t think of a comparison. I wonder how people feel who almost got on an airplane that crashed, or one of the 9/11 planes. There are stories. The person feels guilty that they are not dead because they changed their flight; the kind where they didn’t know anyone on the flight.

I’m like the annoying person who says I look so fat really because they want their friends to go on about how thin they are. I don’t do that, but I think the Covid thing I do. I want people to tell me you didn’t get anyone sick or if they did it’s not your fault. One client took a test and was negative so I don’t have to worry about killing any of his unvaccinated relatives. The other client tested positive but we established that I’d seen him too far from the symptoms to have it/be contagious. Another one I urged to get a test. The horrible thing about it is all that seems far away. You’re not around the people. The clients themselves are young except one. I just started the don’t come to my office rule the day the sick client would have come, so I know there is no guilt to be had.

I made a vision board with my daughter today. We each made one for the new year. They look completely different. Maybe she will let me post a photo of hers. I haven’t finished mine. I found a quote about Covid in National Geographic. I was looking for something about the pandemic for 2022 as it will be part of being alive this year.

“The meaning of the pandemic is that we are all vulnerable and connected. This is so much bigger than the virus, because love and caring are bigger than anything-” I think the rest had “especially” and “suffering”; I didn’t want those words in my vision board. It was a random quote but quite beautiful.

It’s true with my clients. We are not usually connected in such a universal strange PTSD. I’ve been to two Covid funerals, not people dying of Covid. The first was my 90 year old uncle in LA maybe summer of 2020. It was on Zoom and it started out with seeing and hearing everything by the grave, but then the sound cut off and none of us could hear anything and nobody at the funeral was at the Zoom controls paying attention to it. The other was recent. It was not a funeral or memorial. It was just close family in the synogogue listening to the Jewish Kadish. It’s one of the few parts of the Bible I like. It has a beautiful rhythm and you forget what it means.

Yitgadal v’yitkadash sh’mei raba b’alma di v’ra chir’utei; v’yamlich malchutei b’hayeichon u-v’yomeichon, uv’hayei d’chol beit yisrael, ba-agala u-vi-z’man kariv, v’imru amen.

Y’hei sh’mei raba m’varach l’alam u-l’almei almaya.

Yitbarach v’yishtabah, v’yitpa’ar v’yitromam, v’yitnasei v’yit-hadar, v’yit’aleh v’yit’halal sh’mei d’kudsha, b’rich hu, l’ela min kol birchata v’shirata, tushb’hata v’nehemata, da-amiran b’alma, v’imru amen.

Y’hei sh’lama raba min sh’maya, v’hayim, aleinu v’al koi yisrael, v’imru amen.

Oseh shalom bi-m’romav, hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu v’al kol yisrael, v’imru amen.

English: Look it up yourself. I forgot it’s just a lot of glory of god and nothing in their for mourners.

John Dunne, 1663 is infinitely better, maybe not comforting, but confronting. The last line is a stretch. Maybe it’s just telling us to wake up and if you can be awake in the moment you have killed death.

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee 
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so; 
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow 
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me. 
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be, 
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow, 
And soonest our best men with thee do go, 
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery. 
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, 
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell, 
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well 
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then? 
One short sleep past, we wake eternally 
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die. 


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