So much in writing depends on the superficiality of one’s days. One may be preoccupied with shopping and income tax returns and chance conversations, but the stream of the unconscious continues to flow undisturbed, solving problems, planning ahead: one sits down sterile and dispirited at the desk, and suddenly the words come as though from the air: the situations that seemed blocked in a hopeless impasse move forward: the work has been done while one slept or shopped or talked with friends.
Graham Greene, The End of the Affair
I’m still here, plugging away. Thanking Graham Greene for the superficiality of my days. Though I don’t agree completely. Yes, the unconscious subconscious continues to flow, solving it’s problems in surprising ways, but I don’t go for the superficiality terminology. My deep hunch is the opposite: pretty much everything is, or can be, infused with meaning. It’s not only about paying attention; it’s about showing up—at the desk, in carline for the third time in a day, in the take out lane at the Russian festival—separating sticky, slippery pierogis with a spoon to dish out by the dozens. Heck, I even had to show up at the dictionary because I couldn’t for the life of me spell pierogi correctly.
Jonah shows up, if begrudgingly, to do his spelling homework. By the end, he can’t stop repeating “I’m sorry” because he thinks I’m mad but I’m only trying to keep him on track and he’s interpreted my actions as irritation and then I’m giving him a chocolate chip for every word he gets down on the page because who wants to have homework as a seven-year-old anyway?
Gabriel shows up for the bizillionth time, asking help finding his Lego Darth Maul head or the silver light saber handle, or his Yodie (pet name for Yoda who has been missing for weeks, though G hasn’t given up — He’ll turn up someday, G intones, ever the optimist).
J pointed out, as we trekked from the garage to the house, weighed down with school bags and groceries, trying to balance on the larger stones John lined the river rock path with (because, let’s face it, those little rocks are kind of hard to walk on with a load—it’s like wading through wet sand—but it sure looks pretty), that when we looked back we could see where the time went. What he meant was we could count the rocks we’d already walked on and we could clearly see how far we had to go. Gee, wouldn’t that be nice sometimes? Knowing how far we had to go, being able to look back and clearly see what we’d already done. Heck, being able to see where we are going! But being the messy humans we are, it all gets too complicated too much of the time.
My favorite line from End of the Affair is written by the woman, in her diary. She is the woman pouring myrrh on Jesus’ feet, drying them with her hair. She is the squanderer, giving every earthly, human thing she has to the one she loves. Many would call her immoral—her character the very definition of immorality, if not also adultery and lust. She falls into belief like she falls into love: unreservedly, to the hilt. It comes down to a certain purity of heart I think.
You were there teaching me to squander, so that one day we might have nothing left except this love of You. But You are too good to me. When I ask You for Pain, You give me peace. Give it him too. Give him my peace—he needs it more.
She can no longer give everything to both her lover and her God, and she knows it’s killing him (her lover). But she’s already spent it all, everything she has. Maybe showing up every day can do that.