Jennifer A. Chin (cswallow) wrote,
Jennifer A. Chin

The wake of loss, the mileage of memory

Everytime I part from my Ben, I walk away and don't look back, putting the firm cap of carrying on over the sadness of living apart. This is my long-distance relationship, and this is what I chose. New York pulled me out of depression, and it gave me my life as a dancer - the pursuit that sets my mind and body and soul into delight - but it also gave me the knowledge that Ben and I live these days apart because of a choice I made.

I spend most of my day in bed -  dragging myself up in the morning to deliver promised work - before collapsing back into weary afternoon sleep. I've been reading, also, Joan Didion's "Year of Magical Thinking." It is not her usual polished, quirkily beautiful prose. It is her homage to her husband and daughter, both of whom she lost within less than 4 months of each other. As I read it, I kept thinking about an essay I wrote shortly after my grandmother died. My wise and gentled English teacher, Ms. Vosovic, handed it back to me and we had a talk. She said, "sometimes you can't write about something that is too recent, and too raw, it is simply too difficult to speak about it yet." I felt that way about Didion's book - it was too raw still, I kept thinking, "this was written too soon," for I could not read it without being drowned a regret that was poorly masked in attempts at rational thought. Throughout the book, Didion repeatedly asks herself, "What could I have done differently to make John (her husband) or Quintana (her daughter) still be alive?  She tried to absolve the fault, analyzing in excruciating detail every moment leading up to their deaths, wondering, how could I have done this differently.  I could not help thinking - at its very core, this is what is is to be apart from a loved one. I am constantly wading through the sensation of leaving, of self-blame for being away from the family and loved ones, for I already know that I regret the days apart. I am often torn by jealousy, of those who aren't missing out on my loved ones' lives. I live with it, but I have never sat easy in the decision.

There is a simple poem by the Poet Laureate, W.S. Merwin. It reads:

Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle
Everything I do is stitched with its color

This is the feeling that Didion writes about in the wake of her loss. How every object and photograph and place reminds her of a memory that now glows with significance - that significance being We were there together and it was good. And I wonder, why do we tie ourselves to when we know the grief of loss is inevitable? And already I am clinging to the memory of the weekend, to where we went and the feeling of knowing I would wake up to him in the morning, his arms enfolding me. Isn't it like that with all emotions of loss - even the lost relationships? The ones that, through one person's failings, or both, fell apart in our hands? There are places and sensations that bring memory with them, they come upon me inevitable and unpredictable as a rip current. Suddenly I am halfway to another beach, carried into remembrance, and I never even felt myself going.

The weekend. It was so full with everything. A new possible dance partnership, the slow awakening that comes with the unfurling of sensitivity to one another's movement and mood, the sensation of potential and self-awareness. I danced so much that today my muscles feel weary. I give them this Monday off, knowing that tomorrow I would be back at practice, beating unfamiliar routines into them. I came away with a new awareness of my "problems" - those things I do that hold me back from completely free, beautiful dancing. Resolving those problems is what drives me into the studio, day after day, in pursuit of perfection. And finding that freedom in dancing, finding myself alive, is the only way I can accept my choice to be here.

The possible dance partner is in Boston, and Ben is in Durham, so I ironically find that most of my next month will be spent not in New York City but instead in carving my commitments across miles, spending less than 12 days in my city of dreams. Weekends are gone, and with them the possibility of attending birthday parties and book clubs, museum-hopping or city-wandering. I hope that conviction, good humor, and good health will carry me through. And before I know it, springtime will be here, heralding what I hope will be success and happiness.
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