I’ve been away from reflection through writing for so long it is taking an act of physical effort to stay seated at my computer now. The discomfort reminds me of the way I so often feel walking into a funeral or memorial gathering of someone I loved or respected or inexplicably felt close to. I know I will do better in the world to connect with others in grief and celebration, but the music just hurts. Experience tells me there is always something important lurking beneath the washing of kid clothes and ironing of work pants, and so this effort to write is an effort to get to what might be there. Sitting not in grief or celebration but in hopes of a kind of stillness that brings about clarity that a liking of articles and memes on facebook won’t bring on (if it ever did).
A voice becomes present. Right now. It is the voice of my old friend Tracy. It carries a quote from Hemingway. Write the truest sentence that you know. And so I have. Several, in fact. And so as I type there is so much to track in this memory of a friend and the writer he appreciated. There is a decade of a restaurant we created, the masculine bravado I admired and despised. There is the realization of an era when my time was spent as much in solitary thought and inner dialogue as with people in my midst. This followed by an era of playing daily host to diners. And so now my world is an explosion of memories, like that bite into the madeleine Proust described in Swann’s Way. I once read that passage aloud to Tracy in disbelief. Such powerful memories evoked after this small bite into a sweet but ordinary thing. Right, he said—that’s why it is probably the most famous in all of French literature. So many moments in the life of a self-identified autodidact are humbling.
And so the two paragraphs above followed by whatever will come next are shaping up to be an entry back into this world of wondering what is there beneath all the activity of getting “work” done. It is a great, deep well for every human, I am sure. I am more sure now than ever as I engage with so many people suffering from damage to their brains from injury or neurological disease. And so I would like to view the contours of how I got from a sometimes lost but hopeful girl in Alabama to a young woman who found herself through books to a restaurant creator (and cyclone) to the woman in the chair across from the former man of great intellect who is weeping because he can’t find a word to say, simply, “I am frustrated.” And so that is my commitment. In the hours between hospital and clinic, lover and son, friends and meals and showers, I will hold the space for reflecting on how I came to this place.