Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Failures of Love

My mother (a unique combination of intelligence and ignorance, love and hatred) had two daughters: one is dead and one lives; and the first I grew up with and the second, much younger than me, I did not. I was living in New York when my sister died and things were such in my life that I did not travel south for the funeral, but as part of my commemoration of that death I did write poetry and fiction. (If you want to know what is important to a writer, look at what he writes and how.) I have not ever felt entirely comfortable or safe in Louisiana: not in the past, not now—and I felt many things upon my return last year and being in social situations was not one of my goals, for various reasons. Thinking, writing, cultivating some sense of a career in a difficult time have been primary. (One writes to stay sane, not only for money in the present or future.) Not long after my return to the south, there was a memorial church service for people who had died, including for my deceased sister and, as I am an atheist and I felt too raw about my own life circumstances, I chose not to attend: that choice was hard for some to understand, though not much was said about it. That decision has been characteristic of my decisions here: individualistic, regardless of the responses of others. After a few brief attempts, I have not established a relationship with the surviving sister, though for years in the north I would send her notes and things I had written and sometimes books by others that I thought would be helpful (my mother did say a few months ago that this sister felt that I hadn’t been there for her: I wonder who she imagines has been there for me?). Here, I have not been inclined to cultivate relationships old or new—which makes me an impossible person. I have not been enthusiastic about presenting myself in situations in which I might feel vulnerable. How do you give an account of yourself when your most important investments have not proved sustaining in a way that anyone recognizes? How do you justify yourself? The awful thing is that I recall several adults who behaved when I was growing up as I do now (independent and self-protective or distant, selfish, hostile) and I was either not fond of them or I was critical of them—and it is a terrible irony to do things that you feel compelled to do (or more precisely: fail to do things) that constitute choices that you yourself would not have liked or understood in times past. I am in the place in which I was born: but I am not home.