“Desire extends further than anything that can be grasped by knowledge. It is wider than the whole of heavens, than all angels, even though everything that lives on earth is contained in the spark of a single angel. Desire is wide, immeasurably so. But nothing that knowledge can grasp or desire can want, is God. Where knowledge and desire end, there is darkness, and there God shines.” — Meister Eckhart
“He descended into hell.” – The Nicene Creed
“Those who do not pray to him in his passion pray to God but scarcely to Christ.” – Gerard Manley Hopkins
I have learned to rely heavily on others for healing from years of tick-borne disease: first, on doctors, nurses and other sick people to heal my body; then, on friends and mentors to heal my heart and mind. Once I was physically out of bed and more psychologically erect and present with others, I began to be able to step away from myself and see parts of myself reflected in others’ eyes. Then I began to see how much I had lost to illness. Friends and mentors comforted me as I complained of what I still missed, and, with their encouragement and practical support, I began to write my narrative of being healed.
When I asked more writers for help, I was told I needed to write the about the beginning, when I lost it all. When I wrote about the worst stages of my illness, I was kindly told by several writers in several different ways that I was not getting at the core of it. My metaphors were beautiful, they said, but they couldn’t grasp what actually happened to me or what I was trying to say about it.
You don’t want to go there; I am unwilling to send you there; you can’t handle it; I can’t handle it; was my private retort, as I kept trying to write and share with others what I was unwilling to let them know. I came up with devices to describe what it’s like to try to write about yourself when you have forgotten who you were. Some of them worked for some people, but, perhaps in part because they worked, they set others further adrift. I tried to drop an anchor into my forgotten self by dropping journal entries into my pages. These are tedious to read, I was told, they make readers anxious. Both in avoiding the place where I was lost and in finding it, my efforts to go back there in writing were not enough.
It was over two years ago that I began that effort. My writing has improved, but not enough. My words lose me and my readers less often than they used to. But I now realize that even if I manage to sufficiently form some of that place where I lost myself for others, for me, it will never be enough. The crater inside me lost to illness will never be filled and smoothed over, no matter much how I write about it. I have come to know that holes longing to be filled are bottomless as long as I am the one who holds title to them.
This has led me to remember something about who I was before I got sick. In a way, I was what I wasn’t: whether caused by loneliness, depression, or illness, the vacancies inside me made me alive. They kept me writing and drawing as a way of welcoming God and others into my void. As a result, I have had a life of full friends, mentors, and art-making – a life full of gifts.
The bartonella and Lyme bacteria that affected my brain not only stole memory, but ate away longing. I have been healing for several years, and I remembered only several months ago that I can feel passionately about music or color. On the day I began to write this, I took a swing dance lesson at The Arts Center in Troy. As a man named Jason led and my feet found where to go, I remembered I used to go to dances twenty years ago. When Jason nodded at me, I remembered I enjoyed dancing modest dances with men I didn’t know; I remembered I like being led gently by my eyes and arms.
Longing is the part I lost that left the hole I can not find the bottom of or fill. When I stopped feeling, pretending to care about life, much less art, took all the energy I had. When my passion died, it left behind a sealed tomb – a place only God could break into. Somehow, I will write about that place because, though it is my hell, God met me there. And he and his passion are still there. Because he and his passion are still there, I long to write about that place.