Monday, February 21, 2011

Writing and Resilience

In one of my first posts since renewing this blog, Grieving and Sharing, I wrote about how reaching out to others who are experiencing (or have experienced) loss or other kinds of hardship has been healing for me. Writing my memoir, of course, is one of the ways I've done this, as is (for that matter) writing this blog.

I find writing to be one of the most effective ways of processing the traumas, surprises, and puzzles life has thrown my way over the years. But writing is more than therapeutic for me - the artistic process of transforming the bare facts of "what happened" into stories that can affect others satisfies a deep creative need. I neglected this need during the long period when I was developing my career(s) and raising my family. But in the past couple of years I've been catching up - participating in writers' workshops as well as one retreat and a year-long course, writing short fiction and creative non-fiction based (so far) on my own life. Part of me is terrified that after And Twice the Marrow of Her Bones there won't be any more - that my creativity has dried up - but I'm determined not to give up. In this, Timora is my role model.

Timora was very gifted in several branches of the arts - notably theater and music - but above all she was a writer. She wrote and wrote, no matter how ill, tired, or discouraged she felt, all the way up to the week before she entered the ICU for the last time. She had an extraordinary ability to take her experience of life and put it down on paper gracefully, beautifully, and movingly. She began to seriously develop her writing - especially her poetry - in ninth grade, when she was still suffering from the side effects of her first bone marrow transplant. The first really serious poem she wrote expressed, passionately but at the same time wistfully, her take on her life at that time:

I might have been now
A tranquil girl, with a smile on her face,
And not perpetually cross.
A serene and confident girl,
Who doesn’t fear every shadow.
I might have been now
A regular schoolgirl,
And a girl who returns home from school
With quick, light steps,
Without arriving panting and in pain.
I might have
Joined all the trips and camps
I missed and will go on missing.
Slept at night, with pleasant dreams,
Made peace with myself – no one’s perfect.
I might have
Had friends
Who come to my home and host me at theirs,
And all could have been self-evident,
And clear, that I truly deserve this.
I might have had something to do with my life,
Accepted love from my sisters
And finally stopped weeping
And have been fourteen and five months.
I might

(The Hebrew original can be found here.)

I'm sure that Timora's ability to give creative expression to her inner life is part of what made her so resilient. If I find myself only half as able as Timora was to transform the stuff of life - whether it be grief, joy, fear, or wisdom - into art, I'll be eternally grateful.

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