Tuesday, August 23, 2016

#SOL16: Seizing the Perimeter

At OBX (Reilly, 2016)

"...to the blue distance seizing its perimeter..." - Eavan Boland


In geomorphic studies of landscape, scientists understand that landforms may be characterized as equilibrium, disequilibrium, or nonequilibrium (Renwick, 1992). Equilibrium is a constant relation between input and output or form, while disequilibrium is a tendency towards equilibrium without the necessary time to reach that condition. Nonequilibrium however, does not court an equilibrium state, regardless of time, but rather experiences frequent and large changes. All three are found in landforms and I am thinking about these definitions after reading, Candide by Simon Ensor. It's a raw post reminding me of the mass of energy necessary to steer towards order and the privilege it is to simply bear witness.

Voyeur (M.A. Reilly, 2009)
Experiencing feelings--mine and others--sometimes finds me feeling unsettled, voyeuristic--especially before Rob died. Even prior to his death,  I didn't necessarily trust the repeated story of the neat and tidy emotional life, but I mostly tended to ignore those stories or listen for what was not said. Before Rob's diagnosis, his death and this aftermath, I reacted strongly when others were more on the emotional roller coaster than off. Then I wanted to rush in and fix as if such a job were mine and the words I offered might be some type of balm. I simply did not know better.

But now I would ask, what do those words proffered actually assuage? Whose right is it to assume fixing is even needed? What happens when we transmit the repeated message, You are broken, here let me fix you? or worse, Shh, let's ignore all it and be happy?


In the last year, I've become quite practiced at emotional surges and drops, the terror and beauty of free falls mostly. And I recognize this as being more necessary than not, more privilege than given. I have learned a type of silence that keeps me in good stead and to appreciate those who witness and don't try to fix.

I am broken. To lose what has been lost and remain whole is to practice deception. I am broken in ways I first gleaned from Yeats who told us, "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold". And though he situates that falling apart as social disaster, I borrow that line to hold the place of what is necessary and intimate.

We tend towards disorder.


What I am learning in this last year is that if you gather people who are living with permanent losses, you would witness frank conversation.

We want to talk about our dead. We need this like we need to breathe. We cannot pretend these losses have not happened.

We want to mention their names, keep them present through our stories, honor and testify.

We want to laugh and soothe, try to compose meaning, burn the necessary energy to right our heart and gather those bits of ourselves that have been flung beyond the limits of our first reach.

We have been lost.

I do not rush in when I hear another's grief, pain, or laughter. I merely honor it with a smile, by saying, Tell me more, by sometimes, keeping silent and just listening, by sometimes exchanging stories. And so when I read Simon's post, so brave with all its raw energy, I realized the circle of story makers is not limited to the bereaved alone, to those among us who have chosen to walk on after unimaginable loss of love. No, that circle, like the universe is always expanding and loss is more common than not.

We know that centers by their very location must break. They must. And this breakage, this center that cannot hold is an odd, yet important expression of love that deserves respect, requires not advice, but merely our witnessing--allowing others to seize their own perimeter. 


  1. I couldn't get beyond "fix you" Mary Anne.

    Thank you for being witness.

    I can't help but feel that the perimeter to which you refer is Not a line, more a bubbling constellation.



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