Saturday, February 11, 2012

A traveler of time (pt 4) Dead things aren't always continuously dead.

[This is part 4 of 4 parts of me musing through a book: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Be forewarned, I have a weird way of thinking... and sadly, my thoughts aren't stayed to the words on the page of the book while I'm reading it. I have a bit of a "time-traveling" problem of my own! I loved this book! It was good for me, I (surprisingly, without knowing I would) learned lots! If you've missed the first 3 parts and you'd like to click back to catch up, you can click here to take you back to the beginning to Part 1.]

Pg 330 – [Clare and Henry walk into a doctor’s office after (again) losing another baby.] "We walk through doors that open automatically as our feet press the ground, as in a fairy tale, as though expected... There are few people sitting abject and small in the brightly lit room, waiting their turn, encircling their pain with bowed heads, and crossed arms, and I sink down among them..... Henry leans over and carefully embraces me. I feel his stubble against my cheek and I am rubbed raw, not on my skin but deep in me, a wound opens and Henry's face is wet but with whose tears?"

How tremendously sad! But how preciously sweet! Indeed, whose tears? When a wound is opened and one is close to the one who cries; then whose tears wets whose cheek? Because sometimes both do. Both seep the evidence of the pain within. But hearts flood with an overflow of their liquefied emotion. The feeling is felt and the wound hurts and so tears bleed from both of their hearts that were touched.

And then, what about the “room” that the couple is found waiting in? “There are few people sitting abject and small in the brightly lit room, waiting their turn, encircling their pain with bowed heads, and crossed arms, and I sink down among them.”

Everyone hates such a room. It’s depressing, oppressing, every kind of “pressing” for everyone. Most people at one time in their lives or another will find themselves sitting (or rather “sinking”) and “waiting” in such a room, in just that state… among others that share in their own sorrows too. Everyone sits “small” there. Even the tallest of men. The broadest of shoulders. For the heaviness of the hurt, the bulk of the burden, the greatness of the grief, the magnitude of the misery, the enormity of the anguish, the immensity of the agony, the weight of the horror, the power of the pain… the devastation “depresses” not only the inside, but also the out.

“Abject.” I had to look the word up. I didn’t know its meaning. The thesaurus gave me answers like these: “hopeless, miserable, wretched, dismal, horrible, utter.”

The Online Dictionary by Merriam-Webster defined “abject” as, “sunk to or existing in a low state or condition; cast down in spirit; spiritless; showing utter hopelessness or resignation. Synonym: mean.”

“Mean” sounds appropriate, doesn’t it? It is! What a horrible place! A mean place! A horrible time! Who doesn’t “encircle their pain with bowed heads and crossed arms” when they’ve been plagued by such hopeless, and miserable, and wretched, and dismal, and utter sorrow?

I’m sorry. In just thinking about it, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry for her. I’m sorry for him. I’m sorry for them. I’m sorry for me. And I’m sorry for you too. And for everyone else in the world… when you’ve been (or are now in) that terrible place of pain… that overwhelming overpowering sensation of sadness.

It’s a storm that comes to every door of every house and blows against every one inside it. It’s a tempest, a squall, a gust, a gale… a blast that tries with all of its might to huff and puff and blow your house down. It’s a season (for there’s “a time for everything” and everyone); and this one won’t be one that passes anyone by. It’s mean in its madness. It’s unfair in its pick. It’s cruel in its devastation. It’s brutal in its destruction. Its goal is to ruin. To shatter. To destroy. To leave in shambles. To break, to smash, to blow apart, to demolish into pieces. Its want is to obliterate you, your life, your family, the loved ones around you. Its hope is to “kill” you if you’ll give into it. But Jesus died to save us from our sorrows. To heal our hurts. To mend our broken hearts. And He’s perfectly able to peace any storm. I must beg to plead with you in the midst of your sorrow; do this, know it’s a season! Know that you’re not to live there forever. Know that it too shall pass. And know, that we ourselves are the only ones that get to decide on whether to let it or not. Some are dead-set on lying down and bedding themselves there until the rest of their days on earth are done. When we were never ever at all meant to stay and get stuck there until God takes us Home.

Pg 336 – [When Clare’s mom dies] "The laborious breathing has stopped.... No heart beats, no blood moves, no breath inflates the sails of her lungs. Silence." 


And it’s silence!!

What a rendering sound! It's weird to watch. Hard! Gut-wrenching! There's panic in the knowing that there's no more else that can be done, there's nothing at all left that you can do. What once lived inside that dearly beloved shell has left.... and in that moment, you wish to grab it back and stuff it back to where it belonged and where it was housed for so long! 

Pg 338 – [Henry says of Clare’s mom (after she’s died) and of Clare in the wake of her mourning:] "She was never less than kind to me, although she could devastate her daughter with a glance. I miss her. Clare.... well, 'miss' is inadequate. Clare is bereft. Clare walks into rooms and forgets why she is there. Clare sits staring at a book without turning a page for an hour. But she doesn't cry. Clare smiles if I make a joke. Clare eats what I put in front of her. If I try to make love to her Clare will try to go along with it.... and soon I leave her alone, afraid of the docile, tearless face that seems to be miles away. I miss Lucille, but it is Clare I am bereft of. Clare who has gone away and left me with this stranger who only looks like Clare." 

Wow, at what death sometimes does to those still left living. Sometimes they “die” too, though the shells of their bodies still inhale and exhale breath. But it’s not necessarily because they want their bodies to, it’s simply because they can’t keep their bodies from doing it. They are, in essence, “gone.” They’re not there anymore. They’ve gone away and left those closest to them that are still living and breathing and still very alive and love them and miss them and hurt for them and long for them to come back to where and who they once were. But they’re too blind to see it. Too sick to sense it. Too pained to notice. Too “dead” to care. Death has robbed them of their loved one… and now, death has a hold on another still living; death holds them too. How horrid! How evil! How mean! May we be too stubborn to let death have us too before our time to be buried.

Pg 342 – [After Clare’s mom’s death when going through her mom’s things, Clare finds a poem that her mother has written:]"The poem Clare holds is evidence, immutable, undeniable, a snapshot of emotion. I look around at the pools of paper on the floor and I am relieved that something in this mess has risen to the surface to be Clare's lifeboat."

It’s funny, isn’t it, what we will find to hold onto as proof that the one we loved really once existed. We find we have NEED for some sort of evidence. Something tangible. Something we can look at. Something we can hold onto. Something we can touch, or taste, or look at, or smell…… But even better yet is when it’s something with feeling. Like the book said, “a snapshot of emotion.”

Pg 346- [Henry says of Clare when he sees her holding another friends baby:] "Seeing Clare with a baby in her arms, the reality of our miscarriages grabs me and for a moment I feel nauseous. I hope I'm not about to time-travel."

I guess we addressed this earlier, but still; aren’t these the kinds of moments when we’re most prone to "time-travel"... when we’re hurt because we’re reminded of what we want but can’t /or don’t have… ... when we hurt with excruciating pain over the reality over such hurt or such a feeling of hopeless despair?

Pg 347 - "I don't want to talk about this. I have no words to talk about it…" 


Know the feeling!

Pg 367 - "I want to kiss him and then kill him. Or vice versa."


Know that feeling too!

Pg 363 - "Is there anything to stop me from giving her what she needs? I can't think of a single reason not to tell her. I stand and rack my brain for anything that would preclude Clare knowing. All I remember is her certainty, which I am about to create. "Persevere, Clare." "What?" "Hang in there. In my present we have a baby." 

 Awww… what a gift hope is!

Pg 364 - "Clare grins at me, and I grin back." 


Pg 387 - "The teacher is almost ringing her hands, "Sir, Alba's father is dead." I am speechless. But Alba has a grip on the situation. "He's dead," she tells her teacher. "But he's not continuously dead. He's CDP (Chronic Displaced Person). Like me."" 


You know, a lot of our “dead things” aren’t “continuously dead” either because we simply refuse to let them be! We’re all guilty of resurrecting some of our dead things… and some of those things have been dead for so many years! We won't let them be dead, we may have buried them... but we keep going and digging them (or it) back up.

And too, sometimes in our time traveling we die again… we die a thousand deaths over the thing that has hurt us. But we’re not ‘continuously dead’ all the time…. we succeed for a time in pulling ourselves from our pits of sorrow…. until we’re knocked back into time again and die another death over that same yesterday’s killing.

Pg 409 - "The drawing is finished. It will serve as a record - I loved you, I made you, and I made this for you - long after I'm gone, and Henry is gone, and even Alba is gone. It will say, we made you, and here you are, here and now." 

It will serve as a record” ~~ I like that! Things that testify that love was once felt and shared and existed in a heart once beating. I suppose that we often take gifts for granted. Or little things that we were once randomly given. A flower. A bear. A tender touch right there…. A held hand. A glance. A kiss. A knowing.

Pg 417 - "I am seriously alarmed, and not forewarned. I ponder the available data. "Clare. We're not getting married today or anything insane like that, are we?"..... "Are you hungry? I made us a feast!" "Of course I'm hungry. I'm famished, gaunt, and considering cannibalism."" 

Pg 420 - ""You don't remember?" Clare is looking at me very intently, as though concentration can move memory from her mind to mine..." 

Pg - 425 "I can feel her heart beating. Or perhaps it's mine." 

Pg 426  - ""Henry, just give me a hint. Where do you live? Where do we meet? What day?"...
"Have faith. It's all there, in front of you."
"Are we happy?"
"We are often insane with happiness. We are also very unhappy for reasons neither of us can do anything about....... When you see me again, remember that I won't know you; don't be upset when you see me and I treat you like a stranger, because to me you will be brand new. And please don't blow my mind with everything all at once. Have mercy, Clare."" 

Pg 429 - ""What happened after I left?"
"I picked everything up and made myself more or less presentable and went back up to the house. I got upstairs without running into anyone and I took a bath. After a while Etta started hammering on the door wanting to know why I was in the tub in the middle of the day and I had to pretend I was sick. And I was, in a way.... I spent the summer lounging around, sleeping a lot. Reading. I just kind of rolled up into myself. I spent some time down in the Meadow, sort of hoping you might show up. I wrote you letters. I burned them. I stopped eating for a while and Mom dragged me to her therapist....." 

      Wow.... that's what often happens in a death to the one
      left living... or trying to live. 
      Woe, what a feeling! That’s a hard hurt!

Pg 430 - "it was all a sort of black comedy. I would go out with some perfectly nice pretty young art boy, and spend the whole evening thinking about how boring and futile it was and checking my watch..." 

Pg 431 - ""Do you worry sometimes that all the really great stuff has already happened?"
"No. Well, sort of, but in a different way than you mean. I'm still moving through the time you're reminiscing about, so it's not really gone for me. I worry that we aren't paying close attention to here and now. That is, time travel is sort of an altered state, so I'm more... aware when I'm out there, and it seems important, somehow, and sometimes I think that if I could just be that aware here and now, that things would be perfect."
I allow my guilt to subside, back to the little box where I kept it crammed in like a parachute..... "The fact that there are bad times makes it more real. It's the reality that I want."" 

Pg 436 - ""... he's not at all what you need." I smile. He's exactly what I need, but I know that it is futile to go chasing through club land trying to find him." 

Pg 442 - "I wonder what she knows that I don't know. I wonder if I want to know what Clarisse knows. I don't think I want to know anything." 

Pg 463 - ""Without Clare I would have given up a long time ago."" 

Pg 477 - "Although Henry is right here in front of me, he has disappeared." 

Pg 488 - ".. and we stare at each other and I think, Don't leave me." 

Pg 493 - "The pain has receded but what's left is the shell of the pain, an empty space where there should be pain but instead there is the expectation of pain." 

Pg 498 - "I will never see that face of hers again, and I regret it bitterly, the face with which Clare will go on without me, which will never be kissed by me, which will belong to a world that I won't know, except as a memory of Clare's...."

Pg 498 - "Today is the thirty-seventh anniversary of my mother's death. I have thought of her, longed for her, every day of those thirty-seven years, and my father has, I think, thought of her almost without stopping. If fervent memory could raise the dead, she would be our Eurydice, she would rise like Lady Lazarus from her stubborn death to solace us. But all of our laments could not add a single second to her life, not one additional beat of the heart, nor a breath." 

Pg 500 - "She'll be okay without me, I think as I watch her, but I know that she will not." 

Pg 517 - [Clare], "I sleep all day. I sleep, I inhabit sleep firmly, willing it, wielding it, pushing away dreams, refusing, refusing. Sleep is my lover now, my forgetting, my opiate, my oblivion. The phone rings and rings. I have turned off the machine that answers... It is afternoon, it is night, it is morning. Everything is reduced to this bed, this endless slumber that makes the days into one day, makes time stop, stretches and compacts time until it is meaningless. Sometimes sleep abandons me and I pretend. I breathe slowly and deeply, and soon, Sleep. Sleep erases all differences: then and now; dead and living. I am past hunger, past vanity, past caring. This morning I caught sight of my face in the bathroom mirror. I am paper-skinned, gaunt, yellow, ring-eyed, hair matted. I look dead. I want nothing."  

Pg 519 - [Dearest Clare,...] "Tonight I feel that my love for you has more density in this world than I do, myself: as though it could linger on after me and surround you, keep you, hold you. I hate to think of you waiting. I know that you have been waiting for me all of your life, always uncertain of how long this patch of waiting would be. Ten minutes. Ten days. A month. What an uncertain husband I have been...... Please, Clare. When I am dead. Stop waiting and be free. Of me - put me deep inside you and then go out in the world and live."  

Pg 520 - "After my mom died she ate my father up completely. She would have hated it. Every minute of his life since then has been marked by her absence, every action has lacked dimension because she is not there to measure against it. And when I was young I didn't understand, but now, I know, how absence can be present, like a damaged nerve, like a dark bird." 

Pg 521 - "It was sweet, Clare, it was sweet beyond telling, to come as though from death to hold you, and to see the years all present in your face." 

Pg 523 - "What am I doing? I am waiting. I am thinking. I am sitting on our bed holding an old plaid shirt that still smells of Henry, taking deep breaths of his smell. I am going for walks at two in the morning, when Alba is safe in her bed, long walks to tire myself out enough to sleep. I am conducting conversations with Henry as though he were here with me, as though he could see through my eyes, think with my brain." 

Pg 525 - "As I'm dressing I hear Clarisse and the kids come in the front door, laughing. Alba calls, 
"Mama?" and I yell, "I'll be out in a minute!" I stand in the dim light of the pink and black tiled bathroom and stare at myself in the mirror. I have Cheerios in my hair. My reflection looks lost and pale. I wash my hands, try to comb my hair with my fingers. What am I doing? What have I allowed myself to become? An answer comes, of sorts: You are the traveler now." 

The End...

I watch for him. And he watches for me. I read his words. And he reads mine. I remember yesterday and imagine tomorrow. He does the same. Us in our two different worlds. Me in my here. He in his there. Me from where I am. He in where he is. I'm looking for bits and pieces to see him. To get a glimpse. To catch a glimmer. To hear a sound. To see a spark. And he's looking for me. I can still hear his laugh in his type written words… amazing after all of these years! And he can still read me enough to even hear mine. We're both thinking... similar thoughts, similar things, similar minds, similar hopes, similar dreams, similar imaginings... lost somewhere in time of what once was, what could have been, what could actually be……. what won’t ever happen.... lost in the imagination and the dreams that we both for some reason still seem stirred enough to continue to dream; even when we both know the reality of the futility of our silly dreaming. Fingers touching through tapped out letters…. Hearts beating separately, but still almost as one. A part of his heart still stayed in mine and my heart still stuck somewhere in his. Goodness, how in the world did that happen? Two hands holding onto each others, the fingers intertwine through the keys of a keyboard and the screen of two laptops to pull their distances so far apart for a few minutes a little closer together. Both trying to savor the moment, trying to relish the sweetness, delighting in the priceless gift of the moment… before one “disappears” from the other again and leaves the mailbox screaming with silence and achingly empty.....

You know, I learned a lot in reading this book. I enjoyed it. It was fun. And as I said before, I found it extremely thought provoking. And what it left me realizing even more than I have before is that I have so much to be thankful for! So much that I don't want to miss!... that I don't want to lose!... that I dare don't want to waste! I so want to LIVE, to be alive, and strive in my moment! I have things that I am both glad for and hate in my past; and things that I hope for in my tomorrow.... but I don't ever want to be so fixed and focused on either my past nor my future that I allow it to rob me of where I am in my present! Oh Lord, help me, teach me to live! Teach me to take notice and savor every second!

[I thought it only appropriately to close (maybe I should have opened with it also!) sharing a legit book review of the book that I have been rave-ing on and on and on about for the last 4 posts: The Time Traveler's Book... book review from thebookladysblog spot.]

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