Blood of a Lazarus Heart

Alright, I’ve started writing this post three times, so this one MUST be the charm.

I haven’t felt like this in a long time and I guess I wasn’t expecting the depression to hit quite so hard.  Sarah, my eight-year-old daughter, has gotten on a plane and flown back to her mother.  She was here for her spring break, and I was lucky that it coincided with my birthday on the 14th.

We took her to the airport Friday and she completely and utterly didn’t want to go back.  I understand, we have chickens and goats and horses and 20 acres of woods to explore and a giant house to ramble about in; but, never the less, we took her up to PDX and I sat in the gate as she walked to the plane and then waved once more through her tears before climbing the stairway and disappearing for another long span of months.

Now, I find myself in that dangerous place, the place where I have trouble balancing the world “as it is” with the world “as I wish it could be.”  Right now, it would be very easy for the dragon to grab me by the throat again and squeeze me for all I’m worth once more.

Which brings me full circle back to writing and blogging and whatever.  There was a time when I wrote things that I was proud of having written.  I have not felt that way about something I’ve blogged in a long time.  At one point I felt that anonymity was the key; that by being behind a veil of self-defense, I had the freedom to say things in a way that wasn’t filtered and ultimately made for better writing.  Now, I think that’s just crap.  I think that for the last year or so I’ve just been too damn cautious in my writing, and that it has suffered for it (when and if I even bothered to post it).  It wasn’t the anonymity that made it better, it was the confidence to just write and let the chips fall where they may.  I used to be the kind of person who “did” first and “worried” later (if ever).  Now, I calculate everything.  I analyze, and measure, and contingency – until I don’t act at all.

The downside is that I recognize that depression is affecting my reasoning, and now I don’t trust my inner voice to have a monologue that isn’t overshadowed by my negative emotions.  I’m in a bad place, doing my best to not be in a bad place, and that’s a bad place to write from.  What troubles me, is that when I was writing things I’m proud of, I was enmeshed in a deep and consuming depression.  On the surface I was doing “OK,” but underneath I was seething with frustration and drowning in my own dark waters.  Is that my muse?  Is that where I draw inspiration?

What’s odd, is that at the same time my personal/blog writing has dried up, my professional/fiction writing has improved in both inspiration and output; which is a tradeoff I’ll gladly accept.  I’ll start posting more of that on Serial Storyteller in the next few weeks, so at least there will be something to show for all the effort.

After a lot of thought, I realized that the difference is how I perceive “critique” of the things I write.  I cringe when someone who “knows” me critiques my personal writing, or my personal writing process, or the meaning behind the things I have to say that are personal to me.  It strikes a nerve that was safely hidden behind my anonymity.  I realize that if I’m going to write things that ARE personal, then I have to give them up the same way I give up my fiction.

I grew up with a fiction writer in the house.  From the age of six until long after I was out of college, my mom wrote genre novels for Pocket Books and St. Martins.  Some won awards, some were “not her best effort,” but every last one of them left the house, went to an editor and reviewers and readers, and had to be given up.

Writing is both an art and a business.  If you do it for a living, there’s money involved; and where money is involved, emotions had better be checked at the door.  Editors and agents and reviewers and readers ALL wield sharp swords and they take no prisoners.

You start with an idea; you give it form and purpose, breath and wings.  You raise it up; you feed it and make it grow.  Then, you take it out into the world, and you give it up.  Either it flies, or it fails.  The chips fall where they may.  The most horrible moment is watching the people you trust take a sharp sword and attack your precious thing.  It hurts you; in your heart, in your soul, in your confidence and faith in yourself.

When I was eleven years old, my dad got an album for his birthday that I probably listened to more than a hundred times before I turned twelve.  The lead track was something so powerful it was probably the most significant single song that defined my pre-teen and teen years.  I wore out two cassette copies of that album before I was fourteen, and I’ve had a copy on CD ever since.

The album “…Nothing Like the Sun” by Sting isn’t really something you would expect to be defining for a teenager in the 90’s, but if you want to have a little insight into who I am, that album is key.  Every single second of it is specifically meaningful to who I am, and how I perceive the world.  As much as I love the whole thing, the first track is absolutely integral to who I am and how I perceive the role of parents, the acts of creation and protection, and the process of sacrifice and forgiveness.

I think the lyrics are some of the most beautiful poetry ever set to music, and I’m quoting them from his book “Lyrics by Sting” to have the line breaks and spacing “as intended” for the printed page.

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The Lazarus Heart
-by Sting

He looked beneath his shirt today
There was a wound in his flesh so deep and wide
From the wound a lovely flower grew
From somewhere deep inside
He turned around to face his mother
To show her the wound in his breast
That burned like a brand
But the sword that cut him open
Was the sword in his mother’s hand

Every day another miracle
Only death would tear us apart
To sacrifice a life for yours
I’d be the blood of the Lazarus heart
The blood of the Lazarus heart

Though the sword was his protection
The wound itself would give him power
The power to remake himself
At the time of his darkest hour
She said the wound would give him courage and pain
The kind of pain that you can’t hide
From the wound a lovely flower grew
From somewhere deep inside

Every day another miracle
Only death would keep us apart
To sacrifice a life for yours
I’d be the blood of the Lazarus heart
The blood of the Lazarus heart

Birds on the roof of my mother’s house
I’ve no stones to chase them away
Birds on the roof of my mother’s house
They’ll sit on my own roof someday
They fly at the window, they fly at the door
Where does she get the strength to fight them anymore?
She counts all her children as a shield against the pain
Lifts her eyes to the sky like a flower to the rain

Every day another miracle
Only death could keep us apart
To sacrifice a life for yours
I’d be the blood of the Lazarus heart
The blood of the Lazarus heart

Every time I create something this song is ringing in my head.  When I taught my daughter to ride her bike, this song was ringing in my head.  When I talk to my dad on the phone, or IM with my mom, this song is ringing in my head.

We give life to something, and then we hope we’ve given it everything it needs to survive and flourish and fly away.  I know that I’ve done this with my daughter, even when it hurts so much to realize what I’m doing.  And I don’t regret it.  She’s a beautiful girl with a strong heart and a brilliant imagination, and she will overcome the failings of her parents.  I know that someday she will have the strength to fight the birds that no longer sit on my own roof, I know that my blood has given her the heart she will need.

I have to start giving myself and my writing that same level of confidence, that same freedom to fly.  I need to trust more in the blood that I’ve given and the heart that it creates.

8 thoughts on “Blood of a Lazarus Heart

  1. There’s no doubt in my mind that you’ve thrown aside your anonymity for this post. It was real. Passionate. Raw. And simply splendid.

  2. I write a great deal more when I’m depressed. In general I find that people who are in a depression are feeling self-involved (and I say that with no judgment about good or bad; it just is), and when I get like that, everything spills over into blogging and fiction and not-at-all-concealed nonfiction.

    Just let it out, the bad feelings, the struggle against the bad feelings, the struggle against the struggle. Stop worrying about it. What people think of your writing really has very little to do with your writing, especially in a form like this, where it hasn’t been selected by a committee and sterilized by editors.

    Also, and here I’m not trying to be offensive about your work, it’s just a blog, baby. It’s not going to be read at the UN. I think you’re letting this worry you way too much, and I think that’s why you’ve posted so little here at your new home.

    So why are you muzzling yourself? Ask yourself that. Write about that.

  3. I find myself without a fraction of the time it would take to properly address this post, so I hope to embed it in my addled brain to come back and do so later.

    In the meantime, I will say “ditto” to Crisitunity. And add that generally I’ve found that the more open I am about the things I would instinctively hide, the more surprised I’ve been by the understanding from those who receive it.

  4. I finished reading the book I was working on today. You know, the dog one. Anyways, while the book was about dogs, the author also talked about finding himself mired in his own depression and how writing and his creativity increased during that time and yet helped him climb back out of it. I’ll find you the direct quote later tonight.

    It’s a good quote, I might use it in an upcoming blog post. For me, one of my interesting challenges is defining what makes my writing “good” and the intense need I have to produce “good” writing as opposed to the stuff I think is mediocre…and how depression or the lack of depression affects that. I don’t think depression makes my writing good, but there does seem to be a corollary between times when I self-identify as depressed and the times when I produce more “good” stuff overall. BUT, “correlation does not imply causation,” so there’s a basic flaw in that thought process.

    I think you resist writing and blogging because of me and the past. However, this isn’t the past and we aren’t the same people as then. All is well. All will be well. The sun will continue to rise and Joe will continue to crow just to annoy you for a while longer yet. :)

    Certainly, our dynamic prevented me from writing in the past; but after a LOT of thought about this subject, I’ve come to some (different) conclusions that I’m going to talk about in my next post. I don’t think the past controls my internal voice like it did a year ago…now it’s an entirely different issue, which really has nothing to do with anyone other than ME. Which is good, because at lest I can address the ME issues directly.

  5. So, you’ve just acknowledged and put the real focus where the real issue has been all along? Good. Because, I know it was never ME. But hearing you acknowledge that your issues are YOUR issues is good.

    AS for the flaws in the author’s correlation causation, I probably didn’t explain his thoughts well. After all, I only read you 3 paragraphs, not the whole book. AND I was tired. Both of those make a difference.

  6. Your best writing is your unfiltered writing.

    I agree, and I’m trying to get into that place mentally again.

    I’m specifically referring to you(r writing)…not the general ‘you’ that could apply to anyone.

    Thank you. I appreciate that compliment on both the personal and general level. Coming from someone who’s writing I greatly admire, that means a lot.

  7. My writing started when I was depressed. I was always good at it and I always enjoyed it, but I didn’t start DOING it until I was battling depression in high and had to let it out somehow before I started hurting myself. I wrote about a girl who ended up fighting a dragon in another world while trying to redefine herself and I recognized that it represented all of the issues that I was fighting and dealing with at the time and I wrote it that way on purpose. Writing that story helped me find and create the answers I needed and that story became a part of me and will always remain part of me. Everything I have written since then has gotten better and better whether I was depressed or not. I think that good writing is writing that makes the reader feel something. You’re not describing an emotion to the reader, you’re creating an emotion in the reader. I think that writing when you’re depressed can help with that, because that emotion can be so potent and overpowering that it leaks into your writing in such a way that whoever reads it will feel it.

    Now let me add that this post made me tear up. These words create the emotions of love, loss, hope, and something stronger than hope: a firm knowledge that the future will be better than the present. In talking about a parent’s heart toward a child and child’s heart toward a parent, you reached into the reader and touched an ache we all share that comes from that relationship with our parents and our children. I hope I can write my characters so that they’re as real as this post is.

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