Thursday, November 3, 2011

Why Joan and I write

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.  What I want and what I fear.”
                                                        -Joan Didion

                      The New York Times Book Review 
                                5 December 1976

Several years ago I read “The Year of Magical Thinking. “ It was on the New York Times Bestseller List and it sounded interesting.  I had never read Joan Didion before.

I hated it.  I thought to myself “what is this woman talking about?" So her husband drops dead and she can’t function, great.   To me, the entire book was one long spinning sentence.  Move on honey, I thought.  I can be quite callous at times. A cold bitch from hell as someone aptly put it once.

It’s strange how middle age and its vagaries change a person. After my summer of my own personal hell, I know exactly what Ms. Didion is talking about now.  Throw together age, reasonable intelligence, imagination, a death and a whole lot of stress and you will start your own salad spinner of magical thinking too.

Simple tasks turn into monuments.  You function although at a much slower and more primitive level.  You over-interpret the slightest of things.  It’s not clearly clinical depression (although my psychiatric colleagues might argue that).  It’s a downright uncertainty of how things will be and a certain wish fulfillment of how you and others should be. You go down one road only to be blocked by another.  It’s a circular labyrinth with a clear beginning by no clear end.

I thank Joan Didion for one solution to my magical thinking.  I took her quote above and started this blog.  I don’t care who reads it.  It’s often very personal but without any names or distinct places being said.  It’s anonymous.  It contains exactly “what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”  I need no followers nor comments.  It is what it is.

The spinning has partially stopped. Exercise, poetry and benzodiazepines  help as I said before. I am adding writing to that tossed salad too. I will be reading Ms. Didion’s earlier works and can’t wait to get her new book “Blue Nights.”  Ms. Didion, you are one of the many Joans I have to thank in my life.

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