I have been reading since I was a very small child. I love books and getting lost in the stories and the words. At times, even as an adult, I will go back and revisit some of my favorite children’s books and authors. I have found, in some instances, that books written for children, when read as an adult, take on a whole new meaning. Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece is one of those. I remember coming home from my year abroad and sitting on the back porch reading it. Tears poured down my face as I neared the end. I hadn’t understood the message as a child. As someone moving into adulthood, it hit home hard, especially the following lines:
And then one day, one came along who looked different.
“I think you are the one I have been waiting for,” said the missing piece. “Maybe I am your missing piece.”
“But I am not missing a piece,” said the Big O. “There is no place you would fit.”
“That is too bad,” said the missing piece. “I was hoping that perhaps I could roll with you…”
“You cannot roll with me,” said the Big O, “but perhaps you can roll by yourself.”
And it does, and it becomes it’s own Big O – solid, whole, free. It learned to roll on its own and take off all its sharp edges. I realized reading those words that no one could be my missing piece. Yes, we can find partners, lovers, friends. But ultimately, it is up to each of us to become our own people, without needing others to make us complete.
Throughout the years there have been other authors I return to. I use Hemingway’s A Movable Feast quite a bit for inspiration (and say what you want about him, it’s truly the only book of his I adore). I love nonfiction as well, as it keeps my brain learning new things, or going back to understand some of the trials and tribulations others have had in their own lives.
After the death of my husband and years of self-absorption and denial, I found two books that became seminal for me and I will always have them. The first one was written by the late Caroline Knapp, entitled Drinking: A Love Story and did so much for me when I was in the throes of destroying my life with alcohol. It is a powerful memoir, one that shows how debilitating the disease can be, as well as how she fell deeper and deeper into the well of it, until something happened and she knew she needed help. Much like her, I was a high-functioning alcoholic at the time and knowing that she had gone through what I was experiencing physically and mentally were so comforting. It is a tragedy to me this day that she died and we will no longer be blessed by her incredible, honest prose.
The other book that saved my life during that period, and still does to this day is from Marya Hornbacher called Madness: A Bipolar Life. It chronicles her battle with this horrid disease, and made me feel less alone, less afraid to be institutionalized, and come to the realization that it will be with me forever, but there will be ebbs and flows. She is a strong woman. Her writing is powerful. I would recommend any of her books.
These are my bibles. I have numerous other ones but these are the ones that are touching me today. While I am still attempting to get through Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace, I will always look to him for inspiration and thinking outside of the “box” when it comes to writing. Dave Eggers is another author I adore, for his honesty and his talent.
This morning my partner called and he said his mother, who has been visiting, began to read the book I had purchased years ago but have been unable to read. It is Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, which was published the year after my husband’s death and is about the sudden death of her own husband. Here is a brief synopsis:
The title of the book refers to magical thinking in the anthropological sense, thinking that if a person hopes for something enough or performs the right actions that an unavoidable event can be averted. Didion reports many instances of her own magical thinking, particularly the story in which she cannot give away Dunne’s shoes, as he would need them when he returned. The experience of insanity or derangement that is part of grief is a major theme, about which Didion was unable to find a great deal of existing literature.
I spent years thinking magically, when I was sober. Hoping that my husband would reappear. I still cannot read that book. Her pain shadows mine, and even though I thought it would be a balm, I couldn’t make it through the first chapter without falling apart. One day, I will face it.
Until then, I will keep exploring the realms of other writers – their style, how they find the perfect words (not too many, just the right ones), and my voice will emerge. I have numerous stories inside of me. I hope that I will get the chance to share. For others who are in pain, for others who need hope. And for the times when I need to find my own solace in someone else’s words.
© Sorrow & Kindness