Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Settling from Unsettled

Unsettled #6, Parsons Harbour, Southwest Coast (1998) by Scott Walden

I had an unsettling telephone conversation today with someone whom I will not name, someone very close to me. I felt distressed after this conversation and stirred up in ways that didn't feel right, that didn't feel healthy or affirming. When someone gives me advice or tells me what they think I should do, I am aware of their intentions, aware that their motivation might be one of love but is also a deflection. I am aware of my own aversion to authority, a personality trait that is only strengthened as I get older. I am aware of my defensiveness, the limber bulwark I've constructed around myself that bends but never snaps. I am aware, too, of my fragility, the tiny pieces, the fragmentation. I am most painfully aware of messiness, of the push and pull of family, of obligation and the tensing of the self against both.

My eyes, hot tonight from the sting of tears earlier, found rest in a poem by Anne Carson that was posted on Allegra's blog. I read the poem and then remembered part of a radio interview that I had just heard on Bookworm between Michael Silverblatt and Anne Carson. Carson has published a new book, an unusual book that deals with her grief over the loss of her brother. It is called Nox, the Latin word for night, and she opens the book with a translation of a poem of Catullus, the Roman. I sat on my bed and re-listened to the interview while knitting a pink baby blanket. The needles clicked and the soft wool slid through my fingers as Carson spoke in a voice just over a whisper of her book, of her grief, of her brother, of her process in creating this book. She read her translation of the Catullus poem aloud while I knit, but when she read it in Latin, I stopped and looked up, as if the words were floating out of the speakers, into the air that I breathed.


  1. It matters little what others say who cannot truly know us and our trials and tribulations but for what they chose to see. It is in the heart that truth lives, and only that voice is the one worth listening to.
    Love is some times blind and deaf by choice, because they cannot find a way to face reality and what it entails. Open the windows, let the air take the words without meaning or truth, even when spoken in loving tones and keep the poetry that understands you so well.

  2. Thank you for this, Elizabeth.

  3. I love that you found heart's ease in such a peaceful, beautiful way. I am sorry you had such an unsettling experience but the way you wrote about it was art you created.

  4. What a powerful way to work your way through pain and what sounds like cruel insensitivity - through poetry, language and knitting. And then to write about it as though you were describing a dream.

    Such beautiful prose here, Elizabeth. Balm to your pain.

  5. this post is so visual with intensity. your hands full of pink, the cadence of your knitting needles,the strength of another finding you in the thickening air.

    you are deep in the hearts of so many willing to take you just the way you are. you conjure us up on the wings of unconditional love.

  6. don't we hurt each other too, too often?

    this post may be my very favorite, elizabeth. the words found and gathered and arranged just so.


    and yes, prose as it first comes to the smith, in the mother tongue; universal lyrics need no translation.


  7. I'm so sorry for the pain caused by that conversation, whoever and whatever it was.
    UGH. Unsettled is a good word for that bad feeling, as if someone has been able to knock you off of your own foundation, temporarily. But you cannot really come off of your own foundation; it's part of you. You are whole, you are colorful and varied. You were created that way; we all were, and not one of us is without FLAWS.
    Allegra is right, as usual.
    Sending love to you.

  8. I hear what you mean.

    And I relate to that building settling into the brush.

    And I love Anne Carson.

  9. It takes strength to recognize weakness, and logic to understand emotion. I believe in words and thoughts and the sweet physical repetition of creation--knitting, cooking, gardening, painting,etc. as agents of the body to relieve the mind.

    You're so aware. And you have the strength of wisdom. I hope today was an easier for you.

  10. I'm very sorry to hear about that conversation. It sounds like whatever was shared was done in a judgmental way by someone who doesn't truly understand. And while the intentions may have been good, the effect was very hurtful. I often feel that I just want to be accepted as I am.

    Your writing and the vivid images you create are beautiful.

    I am not familiar with Bookworm and I was very happy to be introduced to it. I've only listened to the first few minutes, but Nox sounds like a very important book. I will have to look it up on Amazon.

    I think the world of you, and how you choose to live your life, and your honesty in sharing it with all of us. And I know you have a very accepting soul and deserve acceptance. xo

  11. what everyone said and again and again
    as usual , I read your words, and then have to go
    to ponder, to learn or look into or link or order :),

    I am often too sensitive to the words said, or unsaid, of others.

    I'm more than okay with just who you are.

  12. I had an unsettling conversation on the phone today, too. Thank you for this.

  13. I hear you and I think of all those times when pieces of advice given by friends with the best of intentions became bittersweet pieces of fruit I just couldn't swallow. I truly understand you.

    Thanks for such an honest post.

    Greetings from London.

  14. Elizabeth,
    At times (more often than not) I feel as if we live paralle lives. Perhaps it's our shared birthday and all that it might mean.
    Just last week I too had an incident which left me injured in ways I can't describe. Of course all done in the name of love for me and my family. Before reading your post I thought and felt alone in ways that were new to me.
    I too felt uneasy at best, and deeply sad that this time somehow it was going to be very difficult for me to climb out, dust off, and pretend like it never really happend. A pattern well familiar to all participants.
    This time somehow feels more like a crossroad where I may (if I can find the courage to go against my up bringing) try a road less traveled. The hope this time is to find balance and peace for once and assert my autonomous self. Big words I know, but there is a plan in place for once in my life.
    Not be reactive and fall back to old patterns but establish my own new rules of engagment. Not reflective or reactive but more introverted and personal. I'm beginning to undertand what it means to be autonomous, something I obviously have not practiced in a very long time.
    All this said is really just to say that you are not alone in this ever balancing act of family "love" . We all have to deal with lashing love and even if we can't find a bandaide big enough to cover the lash we are somehow expected to bounce back and quickly before more judgments are laid.
    best of luck to you and know that i'm with you. Love,Tal



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