Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What I've Learned


Two weeks ago, I lost my grandmother to a long battle with Alzheimer’s. This week a devastating tornado ripped through the southeast and, thank God, all my family suffered was power outage for several days. Many people lost their homes, businesses and even their lives. Then Thursday, my son had a bike accident and had to receive five stitches right under his eye. The doctors were amazed he didn’t damage his sight. Excuse my language, but it’s been a brutal ass couple of weeks. I’ve experienced heartbreaking loss but celebrated life and miracles, too. And through it all, I’ve written.

In the days after my grandmother’s death, my mother said to me, I don’t see how you can write. I’ve thought about that and realize that I had no control over Mama’s passing, the storm or my son’s accident. The only thing I did have control of was the story in my head—its plot, direction and characters. And the emotions—grief, anger, fear, joy and anxiety—that are sometimes very hard for me to express verbally, I poured into the story. I didn’t have to be strong on paper. Or brave. Or hold back tears. Or be less whiney. Though the circumstances my characters experienced weren’t the same as my real life issues, the emotions were. And through them I could let it all out like I was opening a trench coat and emotionally flashing the world.

I honestly don’t know what Dr. Phil would say about that. Maybe that I’m a control freak. But one question he would most likely ask me is, how’s that working for you? I would have to respond that being able to write saves my sanity. God knows it’s hard work and is not always fun, but it is still a joy, if that makes any sense. It’s cathartic and healing. And while one of the most difficult things to write was my grandmother’s obituary—I still don’t think I did her justice by capturing her spirit and life in those few words—I thank God that He gave me a gift to write it.

Even through the changes the last two weeks have brought, I haven’t lost sight of the peace my grandmother now has. Or the power of love and kindness that has been exhibited in the storm’s aftermath. Or that my son walked away with stitches and scratches that will eventually heal and fade. I also realize that what some people see as stories of love and suspense are places of escape for not just the reader but the writer.

6 comments:

Michelle Polaris said...

Naima,

All my thoughts and prayers are with you on your grandmother's passing. Big hugs.

Wynter Daniels said...

So sorry for your loss. Adversity often brings out the best in people and I think in creative folks, pain brings out some of our best work.
Bottom line is, whatever works for you to deal with your emotions is okay.

Dita Parker said...

First of all, I’m so very sorry for what you’ve been going through, Naima. That’s some serious business right there. I’ve lost two loved ones within the last thirteen months, and not a day goes by that I don’t wish I could call them, see them, touch them. And when I remember I can't and never will, it’s like losing them all over again, you know? For the rest of my life I’ll have to live in a world without them and damn if it doesn’t hurt the soul.

Second, there’s nothing control freakish about what you’re doing, but I’m biased because I use the same outlet, even if it is for a different reason. All I know is, if I didn’t have writing, or dancing, or drawing, or some form of creative outlet, I’d be fit for a funny farm, I’m sure. So flash the world. Flash away!

And last but not least, the bad may make you sad and mad, but it also makes you grateful and humble and sensitive and raw, and it gives you pause and perspective, doesn’t it? And that’s not a bad place to be. So keep writing through the hurting and loving through the suffering and giving thanks while you’re cursing, and now I’m crying and it’s all your fault, Miss Naima, but that’s life, right? Often crazy, sometimes a bitch, so much fun. Worth every second. Always.

Naima said...

Thank you so much, Michelle! I really appreciate it. There's healing and joy even through the grief when I think of her whole and without pain. She was a magnificent woman and I'm just so thankful that I had her in my life for as long as I did.

Naima said...

Hi, Wynter!
And I know that may seem weird to some people. To be able to write--especially what I do--even in the middle of dealing with death. But you're absolutely right, the strongest emotions can bring out the best work. And that book will most definitely be dedicated to her.
Thank you, Wynter!

Naima said...

Damn, Dita! You have me tearing up over here! *a very watery chuckle* God, I was driving down the street last week and out of nowhere it hit me that I will never see her face again in this lifetime. And I started crying. I just want to sit by her bed and look at her, you know? And I know that sounds incredibly selfish but there it is. That said, I wouldn't wish her back here, suffering so I can be with her rather than the peace I know she has right now.

Writing so kept--keeps--me centered. And you're right. I so don't think it's a bad place to be. Thank you, Dita. So much. So very much.