Twenty four hours of rain and a nighttime of snow. Winter in the Arizona high desert. All is still dark and very still outside. I awoke thinking.
“No, please. No writing in my sleep yet – this time. It’s not the time. I am not done cleaning my writing castle.”
In this 100-year old house the dirt accumulates like someone swept it all in here off of somebody else’s porch steps. Right into my space, every tiny corner of my space. When the wind blows during dry seasons – which includes all but a few weeks per year – there is little to stop the dirt from sweeping in. Under my bathroom sink I find it, under the kitchen sink, too. In all of my closets, in every groove of every lamp, falling within the pages of my books on my shelf. Burying into the rim of every unopened can in my larder. Dirt.
Now that the snow is holding the earth down, sitting as it is this dark 4 a.m. morning, I can get more than a handle on this creeping earth inside of my house. (Inside of my brain?) Nobody knows but the survivors of the dust bowl days what THAT dirt was like as it ate up your soul and left only a body that tried to survive in Texas eating tumbleweeds.
Nobody lives here but me (and a small dog, two cats that live outside and eight hens which obviously live out there, also). When I feel lonely, which I can often do if I let THAT dirt creep in and accumulate in the spaces surrounding my heart, I think about this situation being rather a luxury. Alone. A writer with her thoughts.
My friend Sandy has sent me a book by Alfred Lansing, Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage. It could have been titled, How to Survive on a Few Penguin Feet and Like It.”
I have been fasting for many, many years. I only read developmental neuroscience. I have reasons for this fast, and I won’t know until I know when I will be free again to read any old (or new) thing that I like. Right now, because I know I have a trauma-formed body-brain from severe abuse that began at my birth, I will not feed my brain other people’s words any more than I can help it.
My brain is extremely efficient. It has no ownership (as I have complained on this blog in recent times) of words. Any handy combination of words is good enough for me. My brain doesn’t give a “tinker’s damn” (or is that “dam?”) where any words come from, so if something is needed I will be as likely to snatch something stored in my verbal memory and use it that belongs to someone else (so they say) as reinvent the literary wheel.
But this book. Wise, Sandy is. What am I finding in these pages?
“Oh, yes Sandy. I remember. I know what that word means.”
Or at least I am beginning to remember.
An ultimate sort of tale. How to be continually miserable as you live through it.
Cleaning my thinking castle. I want to chase words like those 28 men during the years of WWI chased land. Or tried to as they floated around on rotting ice floes that tried to eat them alive, but not quite, ’cause the men were quicker.
I want to romp around with words like one of those sled dog puppies would rather have tossed around a half dead rabbit than be shot and eaten by the very men they worked so hard to help stay alive.
But life is life.
And too many words spoils the appetite for more.
I could tell you that in the dark of morning, using what shadowed light my own few lamps provide me, damp rag in hand, pulling every stocked up useless thing from the crannies of my computer desk – whose arrival in my life itself belongs to a story with too many words in it – I just removed my wonderful now-loved copy of Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition off of its shelf where it’s been sitting since the last good desert rain accumulating dust and dirt.
Taking the book I spank its pages together hard. The dust flies out. The words stick, because hard copy dictionaries are made that way.
Years ago when one of my beloved daughters won a spelling bee she was gifted with one of these dictionaries and she gave it to me. One of my regrets for my misbehavior in life. Years ago a bit later I was living with a woman whose esteem I evidently sold a part of my soul to obtain. She criticized me as so many had done before since I was 18 for using TOO BIG WORDS. Who did I think I was? A snob?
We were standing in front of her raging fireplace. I reached for the poor defenseless dictionary and in an act of “Love me!” I threw my precious book into the flames so it could turn into ashes, words and all.
I half-way later replaced that book with this one, but no inscription lives inside its cover to my dear daughter. Yes. A shame on me, a shame I was so removed from being perfectly OK with who I am: A thinker and a writer. (Among many other things).
Now? I use the online versions for word searches.
1: permanence, duration <the endurance of the play’s importance>
2: the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; especially : the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity <a marathon runner’s endurance>
3: the act or an instance of enduring or suffering <endurance of many hardships>
I have to go to ENDURE to find this word’s origins as it came into Modern English
1: to undergo (as a hardship) especially without giving in : suffer <endured great pain>
2: to regard with acceptance or tolerance <could not endure noisy children>
1: to continue in the same state : last <the style endured for centuries>
2: to remain firm under suffering or misfortune without yielding <though it is difficult, we must endure>
ORIGIN OF ENDURE
Middle English, from Anglo-French endurer, from Vulgar Latin *indurare, from Latin, to harden, from in- + durare to harden, endure — more at during
What about this word? How do these two states of being connect and relate, coexist with one another?
1: to remain alive or in existence : live on
2: to continue to function or prosper
1: to remain alive after the death of <he is survived by his wife>
2: to continue to exist or live after <survived the earthquake>
3: to continue to function or prosper despite : withstand <they survived many hardships>
ORIGIN OF SURVIVE
Middle English, to outlive, from Anglo-French survivre, from Latin supervivere, from super- + vivere to live — more at quick
Surviving 18 years of childhood from birth under the constant watch of Mother’s evil eye and the nearly continual interruptions of my experience of being myself in my life by her horrendous psychotic abuse. Yes, this counts as OUTLIVING what Mother did to me. It counts as SUPER-LIVING.
And endure? This word intimates a deeper state of inner permanence that allowed me to come out of “all that” intact.
But the truth is I don’t really understand the difference between these two words. Are they redundant? Does language clean up its own house over time to remove extraneous words that really aren’t necessary because some other word says exactly the same thing – and why keep two when one will do?
I don’t know. Only solution? Get back to cleaning the outside out of the inside of my house as I do the same for my thinking mind – because some part of me KNOWS the difference. The other parts of me don’t yet know what I know.
This is, I suspect, exactly why Sandy sent me this book to read.
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5 thoughts on “+CLEANING UP THE THINKER’S CASTLE”
I so enjoy getting to experience the fruits of your research, and being allowed a view of your process…
I can’t quite remember what made me suddenly think to ask you if you’d ever read “Endurance…” though I’m pretty sure it was something you wrote that made that word pop into my mind, quickly followed by an impulse to ask because something in me intuited how utterly appropriate the word ‘endurance’ is to describe how you’ve survived…
I certainly also apply it to my own continued survival. But something you’d written made me think of the parallels between the kind of miraculous survival of all the members of Shackleton’s expedition, and the fact that you have survived through unbelievable suffering. You endured! I endured! And we continue to endure. And while I greatly wish we each could have suffered less, suffer we did – and do – but I’m sure glad that we’ve endured.
At least Shackleton’s men had each other, all of them “in the same boat” literally and figuratively…in essence, being ‘Attached’ to each other as co-survivors…with Shackleton himself as a kind of father-figure to model for each of them behaviors that had to have given each of them the support they needed to then give each other support…a team that represented a kind of ‘family’ that ‘worked’ to bolster each others’ courage, and to help assuage each other’s despair…to regulate their emotional distress to some degree.
I don’t mean to romanticize the story of Shackleton’s crew, by any means. But it shows how powerful a team of equals can help support each other, not just physically but emotionally, under almost unbearable conditions.
I think of the contrast to my family, a household in which much suffering was endured by all, but while being disconnected from each other emotionally in any positive way. The best we could muster up were situational ‘alliances’ in which one day one of my sisters and I would team up against the others, temporarily cooperating rather than competing with each other in a shared cause – but the next day, a new alliance between competitors would form – again, temporarily.
Later in life when I heard accounts of the civil war in Lebanon, where each day it seemed like new alliances were formed so that two factions that were shooting at each other only yesterday would now form a new team to shoot at yesterday’s allies…and I thought, yep, that’s what my family felt like…
And I believe that those of us who began our lives without Secure Attachment need to find ways to cobble together our own sense of ‘family’ as best we can…so that perhaps we can begin to experience a deeper sense of connection that ‘endurance’ and ‘survival’ denote…
Hi Sandy – Yes, and I haven’t yet finished the book entirely – last night I was thinking of the whole thing as a kind of social experiment – Author makes clear Shackleton never had more than a 5 minute interview with those he selected for his team – but he had some instinct, obviously, for what he was doing.
All were white males, adult, evidently could read and write – even quite articulate in their diary accounts. In that era I suspect that women did the mothering thing better than they do now with well over half being single mothers, well over half working full time — just sheer stress if nothing else is interfering with mothering today in many ways that did not happen in many cases prior to 1900 when these gents on the expedition were born.
So overall my guess is that all of them were safe/securely attached people, which gave them a constitution most able to flex with the demands put upon them – in a reasonable social-emotionally appropriate way.
Still, they went through hell — but they also signed on for it.
Anyway, this does not minimize many important parallels to surviving horrific trauma – just that children are CHILDREN! Little people, who have very specific needs. So when trauma hits them early on they are missing out on the GOOD STUFF they need along with being overwhelmed with the tuff stuff.
Your comment – made me think about the fact that people like you and I have NO idea what normal sibling relationships are like in families! I imagine that in a safe/secure attachment family there are ‘norms’ that show up in those relationships. So it’s hard to know. I know there are competitions and alliance shifting in families — but do they happen in healthy families?
Just wondering – and wandering in my thoughts! Good to hear from you, Sandy!! xo
Confronted with my own mind – as I clean my computer desk. Found two words written on a piece of paper. When? Why?
Maybe its part of the mental clean up process.. Words escaped..
Interesting – time for a break? Do you sleep walk? I do – find myself
Chuckling to myself in the doorway..
Oh no I don’t sleepwalk, but my son sure did – up until around age 8. He was obviously in a different world when he did it. I’d try to get him to go back bed, “I am in bed” he’d say as he went to lay down and hit the floor. He’d try to walk through walls – in his world they were doorways. Was very spooky – I am so glad he outgrew that!