Sunday, September 10, 2006

Entirely Personal Post

Was reading an online article about the 9/11 survivors of Cantor, Fitzgerald. Only a handful of people who worked for that company survived: only 2 or 3 who were at work that day, and the rest were people who'd taken the day off, missed a train, etc. A friend down here knows the CEO, went to school with him--the CEO survived because he took his kid to his first day of kindergarten.

Anyway, those interviewed said they'd dealt with the emotional stress by working very, very hard over the last few years. They claimed it was therapeutic and better than dealing with their emotions directly.

I mean to draw no substantive comparisons between my own situation and World Trade Center survivors--just that that observation struck me as accurate. The emotional devastation we had to deal with as a result of Robert's illness was almost entirely internal--on the external side, Robert was destroyed, but it's hardly the same as an event on the scale of WTC. I wrote some things, prior to 9/11, though, that compared my own sense of emotional devastation to the destruction of a city. Oddly enough. I could never do that now--it would seem too over the top, or grossly inappropriate. But, at the time, it felt true enough.

Sorting out why it's so hard to graduate from this low-residency program . . . the structure of the program will carry through to my post-program life: writing, reading, annotating--it's all been taking place inside my office, so there's no reason for that to feel different. My own path to the MFA program, though, has been in response to Robert's illness, so coming to completion, then, with this, is a trigger to examine my own feelings about What Happened.

That is, the work hard method of dealing with emotional stress makes sense. I spent nearly four years coping with the overwhelming constraints of his early illness: doctor's visits to multiple specialists, all the time; multiple PT/OT/Speech therapy visits per week; multiple and changing medications; surgeries and medical tests on a regular and routine basis; trying to figure out how to feed him when his acid reflux was at his worst. Oh, and during that time period, I was pregnant and gave birth to another child. I would not recommend this.

For the last five years, I've been in process toward and completing this MFA--going to Bread Loaf in the summer of 2001, taking courses at Maryland as a non-matriculating student, then applying and attending Warren Wilson. I think working this hard has been an essential remedy for the emotional stress--not just a sense of outlet (that's just therapy), but a sense of purpose, of making progress with something career-related that is actually important to me.

To have this much behind me, this much time and space and growth, makes it easier to stare down the constraints on our lives at the end of this particular personal path of mine--everyone in my family has grown--and I suspect that our own growth has spurred Robert's. If it were different--if I had spent the last few years focusing on staying afloat and trying to come to terms with what had happened, I don't think I'd have been able to do so. Coming to terms with something makes of it a static and unchanging thing--it's always present in its most horrible form. It's only growth that makes it seem distant and smaller. You can't come to terms with something until you've moved away from it in both space and time. Then it has perspective. Staring at it constantly won't make it smaller or more manageable.

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