My Third Novel's Conclusion, My Heartbreak

My heart begins to break when I think about completing this particular book -- because this narrative has sustained me like no other story I've known. It's both more personal and more universal than my other works. But beyond memory and archetype, it's a cri-de-coeur about needing to become the person one is destined to be. And in the writing, I have met my own life's work, my own fated journey -- having the sense all the while that the pages are suffused with a resonance, an energy, an electrified field that defies explanation. Writers hope and pray to be overtaken by a work in this way -- to be conscripted into passionate service of a profound story. To experience it even once in a lifetime seems a great privilege. I still have perhaps six months before this novel is complete, and this constitutes my reprieve. Because I'm not ready for the beauty to end.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Spoken Secret

"He had two lives:  one, open, seen and known by all who cared to know, full of relative truth and of relative falsehood, exactly like the lives of his friends and acquaintances; and another life running its course in secret.  And through some strange, perhaps accidental, conjunction of circumstances, everything that was essential, of interest and of value to him, everything in which he was sincere and did not deceive himself, everything that made the kernel of his life, was hidden from other people." -- Anton Chekhov

Some of you have asked me recently about my own secrets, since I've been writing about secrets in general.  My first impulse is to tell you that I don't like to keep things hidden -- but the truth is much more complex.  We all keep one or two things hidden -- at times, even from ourselves.

I needed anesthesia recently and was surprised to learn that, while regaining consciousness, I told the nurse I had a secret I had kept well guarded.  Apparently, I had wept through the confession of the secret's very existence.  In some ways, I had kept the secret from myself -- but in confessing its presence to the nurse, I immediately realized my secret's substance,  its import, its rarity.  And, while I haven't spoken of it to anyone since then, I'm aware of it every day.  It waits, undisturbed, like a hidden diamond in the territory of my heart and mind, as the most valuable secrets do.  (See The Unspoken Secrets, March 28)

Unexpectedly, as I was walking out the door, the nurse told me she didn't want me to leave her life -- she felt I was too important to her somehow.  I've seen her three times since that day six weeks ago, and I have no doubt she will remain a lifelong friend.  She carries the knowledge that I possess a secret -- and I carry the knowledge of her confidences in all their detail.  Our confessions aren't equal, but they're enough to forge a remarkable bond.

I have written that I don't know why people trust me so completely, confiding in me their deepest longings, fears, ambitions, regrets, passions, griefs.  But this isn't entirely true.  I do know why they seek me out, actually.  I just keep the story to myself because, well -- it's a life-and-death story and not one to be told in casual company.  It's because I was given a gift from a man who seemingly had nothing -- and I came away from the encounter with the most valuable knowledge there is -- the meaning of life -- its substance and shape and resonance and weight.  I know it in my physical body, in every gesture, every breath -- and I will never "unknow" it again.  The experience has rendered me rather passionately alive.  It has lit my internal fire with a flame that can never exhaust itself.

Will I tell the story to you?  Yes, since some of you have asked me -- I will.  Give me a four or five days to commit the words to paper, and I will post them here.

In the meantime, here's the song that reminds me of the man with the gift.  Suffice it to say that I loved him beyond the edges of the spinning world.

Into the West -- Annie Lennox

12 comments:

  1. You had to go under anesthesia? Is everything ok?

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    1. Yes, ML, my health is perfect! Thank you for your kind concern.

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  2. Are you going to tell us the secret you became aware of when you were coming out of anesthesia? I'm always interested to know the secrets we might keep from ourselves.

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    1. Sorry, Anon, I won't be disclosing my hidden secret -- at least not at this moment.

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  3. Do you know anyone like the man in the Chekhov quote, someone who is leading two lives, one of them completely hidden?

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    1. I do know a man who is exactly like this. He's fascinating -- very complex psychologically.

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  4. It sounds like you make new friends, similar to the situation with this nurse, everywhere you go!

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    1. Yes, everywhere. It's quite the phenomenon.

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  5. I love Annie Lennox singing Into the West!

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    1. Remember her Oscar performance of this song? Fantastic.

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  6. Ok, Lane, I have been waiting for this life-and-death story. I suspected you were holding out on me.

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    1. My apologies, David! It was quite an intensive experience for me. I don't often speak of it -- to anyone.

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