Thursday, October 01, 2009

The unvarnished author

aug 09 070

I thought I’d dealt with death when my father died, 7 years ago. But now I find that I didn’t, and I think that’s because when he died, my mother was still here as a backstop. Backstop in the sense of being between me and death, and backstop in that I could rely on her as a support and an unshifting rock.

It’s almost a year now since she died, and I hope I’m over the worst of my grieving for her – the tears and the instability – though when I’m tired I still have an unremitting ache to see her. But anyway, I’ve lately been faced with death itself, I mean the idea of death, the fact of death. Yes, I admit it’s rather late in the day to be thinking about death, and realising that I will die some day, but I’ve always been a late developer. I had an idyllic childhood, I didn’t grow up until I was 45, and I’ve been told I have a Pollyanna disposition, so maybe that’s why it’s taken this long for existential angst to overtake me.

I’ve often felt in the last few weeks as if I am floating alone and untethered in a vast black empty space, as if everything is pointless and life is pointless. I have never felt this way before, though there are people close to me who have felt like this all their life. Now I understand.

I’ve been wondering whether or not to write about this on my blog (see post Headless Corpses). I’m basically an upfront kind of person and it’s sometimes a huge strain, and feels dishonest, to put forward a public image of a happy, bouncy author when often, at the moment, I actually feel pretty desperate.

When the world is full of disaster and suffering – in Gaza, Zimbabwe, the earthquake zone in Indonesia, to name just three examples - one doesn’t want to be self-indulgent. But then again, I think it’s important to be honest about personal difficulties, because it can be helpful to other people. That’s one of the reasons I used my personal bereavement journal in Zuzu’s Petals. I wanted, amongst other things,to encourage people to make the most of their elderly parents while they still had the chance.

So there you are. I’ve come out and told you.

So bite me.

( I have loved that expression ever since I heard it on Friends, but it may be rather rude. How is a Pollyanna to know?)


Sabby said...

Hi Sue,

I love your books and I enjoy reading your blog too.
I'm sorry that you're feeling low but I hope that the feeling will pass, one guarantee in life is that nothing stays the same, and NO it is not self-indulgent to admit to feeling upset by life's hardships and loss.

I eagerly await your new novel and am sure I'll love it as much as the last wishes, Shafia

Sue Hepworth said...

Thank you so much for writing, Shafia. I'm very touched by your response.
very best wishes, Sue.

Marilyn said...

Hi Sue, my comment is woefully late - and you will be setting off for NY, NY soon - but I've not been reading your blog for a while. I just feel that you could have been writing about/for me. My Mum died 4 years ago but when my Dad died this April I really felt bereft and helpless and alone. It doesn't help to compare my suffering to that of others because it means nothing. My own feelings of blackness come and go and hopefully they will be going more than coming in the future. I felt better, in a way, when I realised that there are some things in life over which I have no control whatsoever. It was a shock - but it did help. I've also been thinking a lot about my own mortality - and I feel I still have so much to do, so little time. I feel sad that my parents didn't travel as much as I have, or as much as I still want to do but in actual fact they never really wanted that for themselves.
Sometimes I can't even put into words how I feel. Sometimes it is very helpful knowing that others have felt the same way but at other times, it's not. Perhaps that's just the contrary nature of humankind - I don't know but I do thank you for writing this, which has helped me understand that I am not alone.

Sue Hepworth said...

Hi Marilyn, It's nice to hear from you again, but I'm so sorry that you, too, have been feeling so lost and hopeless. This grieving thing seems to take forever, and as we've both found, the death of a parent is not just about grieving for the beloved person we have lost. I always thought - oh, how stupid I was - that when I got to this age, I would be serene and "grounded," but bad times now seem harder than they ever were in the past. Why do you suppose that is?

Anonymous said...

Hi Sue, as you know I am doing catch up with your blog many years too late but just right for where I am at the moment with the loss of my mum from stroke induced dementia and impairment last year age 83 and the sudden death of her sister this new years day age 90. For mum it was a gradual decline over three years followed by a blessed release and for which I felt much of my grieving had been done while she was still alive following the stroke which robbed her of her mobility and reason. My Aunt's death has shocked me to the core despite her advanced years she was witty and clued in - the remaining backstop as you say now removed - I have become the matriarch of the family and having ONLY JUST turned 60 I DON'T LIKE IT! However there are some aged cousins so I will take your advice and make the most of them. Hope the snow has now gone? Jen

Sue Hepworth said...

Hi Jen, I am sorry to hear about your Mum and your aunt.
I am fortunate, having two brothers and two sisters, with one of each older than me, so I am not the matriarch. We have all got closer since our parents died and that's a real blessing.

Sue Hepworth said...

By the way, within each year of the blog, do you start at January and go through the year, or do you move backwards from December?