Saturday, March 28, 2015

My Mom and Virginia Woolf

It was a March 28 that Virginia Woolf drowned herself.
What a shame. What a shame it was, and what a shame it is, no matter who does it.
Not if they're suffering physically and there's no end in sight; no, when it comes to that, I'm all for suicide, assisted or no.

But when it comes to emotional suffering, mental suffering ... well, I don't know much about those things, I mean when they are severe and long-lasting and leave you unable to cope ... but I do know that emotions are, as my friend Julie pointed out (at a time when I thought powerful emotions meant the thing pondered was of the highest importance), "like the weather; they come and go," and so I believe that emotional experience changes and can improve, so there is always hope.

Mental illness ... another thing I don't know much about. Surely it's closely related to the physical and emotional, but ... the next-to-nothing I've seen of mental illness has only left me well aware it's a condition I can neither influence nor comprehend.

In this fine little suicide-prevention video, the maker imagines what Virginia Woolf might have gone on to do if she hadn't ended her life:

Today is my mom's birthday. She was born the same day, the same year Virginia Woolf died, 1941.

Sometimes I wonder what Mom would have done if she had lived another 10 years, instead of dying at a youthful 64.
Would she have gotten wrinkles?
Would she have begun to forget things?
Would she have developed aches and pains?
Would she have gotten grey hair?
Would she have said to hell with perms?
I wonder what advice and insights she might have offered me these past 10 years and whether I'd have had the sense to see their wisdom and heed it, rather than figuring out much later that I should've and wishing I had.


  1. Thanks for mentioning me. Lately I have been suffering quite a bit of emotional distress due to the real-life real-time struggles of people that I love. I have been listening to Buddhist nun Pema Chodron's CD lecture called "Don't Bite the Hook." She is so humble and amazing as she shows us how not to get sucked into the terrible destructive vortex of our own negative emotions. It's about forgiving ourselves and each other too, which is always a good thing.

    After listening to her for a few days, I found myself having this attitude towards my frustrated, angry family members: There is enough room in my heart to contain your anger. Not being braggy,except about this wonderful teacher, Pema shows me how to have a vast open heart that deals with the potentially life-destroying emotions. And yes, they can change very quickly.

  2. I'm very much with you in this imagining what would be going in if.....

  3. I join the choir on this. the what-ifs can be consuming at times. But revelatory to ourselves who take up the gauntlet for these departed loved ones.

  4. I often wonder about what life would be like if Mom was still here - how much she would have loved Ben if she had met him and how much he would have loved her singing to him.... and I can't imagine Jordan ever being that teenager who doesn't want to spend time with her Grandma when I think about the two of them. And man, I would have loved to have her around to help me deal with all of the things that have come along since her passing - mostly I just shut up about it, but if I had Mom around to whine to.... well, that would just be nice:)

  5. I often think about Mom and Ben, too. Do you remember the dream she had before she died, about a little grandson? She knew (unconsciously) that there would be one. Pretty cool.

    You must miss her terribly, Joan. I know you do.

  6. I suspect that at least the first 5 in your list would have occurred to your mother as they do to all of us.


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