It is possible I am pushing through solid rock
in flintlike layers, as the ore lies, alone;
I am such a long way in I see no way through,
and no space: everything is close to my face,
and everything close to my face is stone.
I don’t have much knowledge yet in grief –
so this massive darkness makes me small.
You be the master: make yourself fierce, break in:
then your great transforming will happen to me,
and my great grief cry will happen to you.
Rainer Maria Rilke
(Translated by Robert Bly)
In this poem, Rilke gives us “some of the best descriptions we have in literature of the trapped feeling of depression and distraction. The state we enter when we have lost our tide,” writes David Whyte in his book The Three Marriages. He goes on to suggest that rather than try to get around the feeling of being stuck, we should see it having as much right to a place in our life and resolve instead:
to go right into the exile and sense of burial itself, as if our malady is not the visitation of loss itself but the inability to feel it fully. [Rilke] suggests, in effect, that our ability to know what we want is first of all, often marked by an early and profound experience of its very absence. In a sense, he is saying that one way to come to love is to do without it for a long, long time.
Whyte’s notion that, faced with solid rock, we have to work our way through the darkness towards some as yet unknown new place seems relevant both in relation to many aspects of life, but I’m interested in its implications for writing at the moment. I’ve arrived in Madrid, and will be travelling to Valencia later today. Reading through some of the posts again, I’m aware that the tone of many posts are, understandably, laced with melancholy. But this doesn’t strike a right note any more – I need to reach a new place in terms of language and tone. The language of being in the darkness makes a useful connection between writing and exploration, the process of moving blindly, towards the discovery of something new.
Often when I’m writing I feel that I am moving in dark, closed space, looking for fragments, new understandings. It’s a place that is entirely different to the one I was in during the early months after Mark died, when it seemed that the muscles had shrunk and withered on my bones. After my first exercise class for a long while I started to cry; because of the music, because of the emotional release after stretching, because of the awareness that there is damage in me, and the pain of it reminds me why.
But slowly I am straightening out, and as I’m finding ease in my body again, I’m also beginning to find a more peaceful place in relation to my present. It’s not upbeat, sing song positive voice that I want to give space to now, but it’s not a devastated, broken one, either. It’s one that expresses struggle and resilience, determination to find a path through the dark solidity of her situation – occasionally smiling along the way.