Friday, April 25, 2008


I've been feeling exhausted lately, but after an evening of painting I feel absolutely re-energized. I wouldn't even bother writing about the extreme tiredness that has accompanied my week except that it fits this photo of Louie so well that I couldn't help but make some sort of connection between the way I've been feeling to his frumpy bottom lip and relaxed pose.

Last night I layed in bed reading a book (Writing as a Way of Healing by Louise DeSalvo) in preparation for the oral defense of my thesis. I've barely even had time to think about any of it and so it felt good to take a few minutes to reconnect myself with the project that I've already grown distant from now that it's finished.

I read a chapter titled "Writing Pain, Writing Loss" and thought about how writing helps me to clarify and better understand the experiences and emotions that are muddy or unclear to me. My thesis revolves around the idea of a sense of place. It is a memoir and explores the past 3 years of my life. It's about loss, but it's also about what I found. Last night, for unknown reasons, a question popped into my head and I wrote it into the margins of my book: "What did I lose, really?"

If I were to boil down all of my losses into one little nugget of truth...there is an emotion at the center of it all that is just as raw as it ever was. It still causes tears to spring to my eyes. It still causes a lump to catch in my throat. It still causes a sharp, deep-pitted sensation somewhere inside of me that I can't quite locate. There was one central experience that encapsulates all the losses combined--and that was the death of my dog, Abe.

I set my book down and attempted to follow two lines of thought: one was the feeling of true groundedness and connection I felt with the land I lived on and the love I felt for Abe; the other was that tight knot of loss I felt in losing both at the same time, and also my grandpa. I should clarify, however, that I didn't actually "lose" my house. I sold it. I sold it because the town it is near lacked the opportunities I desired and I couldn't afford to keep it as a vacation home. Although it was extremely difficult to leave that place in the country, in it's own way, it was necessary. Sometimes following one's heart hurts like hell...and this is one such example.

I didn't expect such a barrage of emotions to come swelling to the surface last night, but now they don't seem to want to go away--at least not yet. Writing past the surface has caused me to look at things from an altered perspective and to realize that these powerful emotions are much more of a gift than a loss. I am grateful to have loved so deeply. But it surprises me how easy it is for me to relive that place and time--as though I could turn around and it would all be there.

This coming Friday I will defend my thesis. A part of me is looking forward to it. Another part of me just wants it to be over. And yet another part of me wonders what it will be like on the other side of a three year struggle. Of course, life is never so black and white, simple, or well-defined. Defending my thesis won't cause me to quit missing Abe. It won't bring back my grandpa's smile. It won't be what connects me to a particular place. It won't rebuild my family. It won't fulfill my dreams. It won't do a lot of things.

Instead, life will just keep moving forward in its own mysterious ways. I'll make more mistakes to be replaced by unexpected joys. I'll keep trying to follow my heart, one little step after another. And, most likely, I'll be altered by life over and over and over again.

In the meantime, Louie has found a new obsession. It started today and the timing is frighteningly uncanny. You see, when Abe died I put his ashes in a ceramic urn that I made myself. The lid has a deep bowl that curves downward, just the right size for his old tennis ball and collar. It sits on the bookshelf, not getting much attention except for an occasional dusting. Today, however, Louie noticed that tennis ball. And now he can't quit thinking about it. He has sat in front of it for hours--whining, begging, and whimpering for us to give it to him. He walks away from it only to return. We haven't given it to him (yet?) because he has about a zillion toys and I don't want Abe's tennis ball to become something to be forgotten about.

But in all honesty, it trips me out a bit.

I find it strange how life gets weaved back into things. I'm not even sure if we ever lose anything. Tonight I painted for several hours and, during that time, everything felt right. All the difficulties went away. The worries, the doubt, the problems that I've had to deal with. My exhaustion was replaced by a feeling of energy. And I am reminded, once again, that none of this would have happened if all that pain and loss wouldn't have come before.

Maybe Louie is psychic. Maybe Abe's sending messages from beyond. Maybe Louie is just obsessed with tennis balls. Maybe things will never be easy. Maybe these tears will never go away. Maybe I'll keep loving so much that someday my heart will burst.

And maybe, in the end, everything will work out perfectly. Or maybe, just maybe, it already is.



megg said...

WOW - I loved this. I would really like to read your thesis someday. The concept of home and place is one that comes up for me again and again. I wrote papers about identity being wrapped up in place in University. It amuses me that I ended up moving as far away from my 'place' as I have. I'd love to read your take on it!

Something made him see that ball for the first time - whatever it was, it made YOU stop and think so it did its job! Maybe Abe just wanted you to know that he misses you, too!!


Sacred Suzie said...

Oh what a moving post dear Jessie. You got me all teared up, for I can really relate to so much of this although not the thesis stuff, LOL. Which I know you will get through just fine and then so much more energy will be released into your creative side and onto the canvas.

Loss is the hardest of phases and sometimes the phase is always there but will ebb a little with time. Loss of home, of friend, of family...that's a lot to say good-bye to but to love deeply is the real treasure. Better to have loved and lost, right?

Anu said...

I really loved reading this post. I love reading all your posts and get excited when I see a new one on your blog. You always capture so beautifully your fears, passions, excitements and trepidations. When you talk about your painting and living your passions you give me some hope and a glimpse, an example of what light at the end of this tunnel, this search I'm on will look like if I just continue following what tugs at my heart strings and follow my intuitions. Thank you so much.

Annie said...

Jessie, I believe all is right and well with the world and trying to figure it out makes us a bit crazy, but still we try :-). I also believe we never really lose anything, ever, it is only the form that changes.

Karen said...

What a wonderful post--made me tear up a little bit... I've been thinking a lot about 'stories' lately, and now I've just been to two blogs talking about stories, their impact, and how they last...

Good luck with your thesis.

Sharon said...

Oh, now you have me teary-eyed, too...
Get him his own tennis ball.

By the way, I'm still sleeping with Sony's sweater... me, a 65 year old supposedly grown-up woman... and I'm not ashamed to admit it!

GreenishLady said...

What rich and beautiful thinking, Jessie. Your heart just knows its way, I think, and you can trust it. Good luck with the thesis defence. And with everything that follows.

Melba said...

Oh Jessie you know already that I love you. I love your tenderness and how deeply you feel. I always think of you but I will send you extra energy on Friday.
let me know if you need anything!

Anonymous said...

I love you, Jessie.

bee said...

oh, girlie-two-shoes,

i think in order to write the comment i hear my heart making, i'm going to have to take some time and absorb this post more...reread it...think,'s beautiful. and i love you.

Colorsonmymind said...

Just today-I was editing photos of some teenagers I photographs recently and I melted similarly to how you describe when you paint, and then on the way to the grocery store I noticed I was thinking of who I could call-feeling a bit raw or empty-reflecting that the recent info about our last miscarriage opened up some of this grief for me.

Working at what I love helps so much, and I feel as though I just can't write what I am feeling right now after reading this post-with one tear rolling down my cheek, except...thank you Jessie for being a stranger and one of my best friends. I really feel that way, and I thank the heavens that you are out there-being brave, just and kisses

Bella said...

Hey there sweetie. Sometimes we find ourselves still feeling just as hurt or sad so long after the fact. The world still moves on and so do we, but that feeling still stays strong and comes to visit at the least likely of times.
I think that your heart is deep and you love so strongly. How do we get past things, or do we ever get past things.. I don't know.
But I love how you expressed everything here - so beautifully and honestly. I'm wishing you goodd luck and positive vibes for the end of the week! Much love always, B. xo

Tori said...

Your words here resonated deep within a raw space that I keep carefully hidden. It is amazing how you express something that at times seems so unexpressable.
I am sending EVERY OUNCE of positivity I have your way as you get ready to defend your thesis.
Abe is sending all his love too through Louie. I am sure of that.

Deirdre said...

I could read this post every day and find a loss being quietly healed with each word. This is beautiful, beautiful.

Anu said...

I was looking for some inspiration today and so was reading through my blogroll. After re-reading this post of yours what struck me is how fearless you are in expressing what you are feeling on your blog. I find myself self-conscious about it and sometimes write an entry only to take it down because it may be too self-revealing and wondering what some people I know will think/how they will judge me when they read it. So thanks for your courage/wisdom to step up to who you are. Good luck with your thesis defense tomorrow.

Colorsonmymind said...

my love....I have been absent fromn blogging for a while. Your notes and check ins were little love tugs..gave me insight to how much I miss it, miss you and my other blog sisters.

I decided to go to the first post I missed and this one was it.

Just what I needed to read. I am going to post about it....about writing and journaling.....and you.....hee hee. Off to read more posts I missed of yours. Hope ytou feel all the love I have for you this am as it swells in my heart while reading your magnificent reflections and awarenesses.