I wear my isolation like a cloak. Loose fitting, but wrapped around my shoulders so I don’t lose it to a sudden breeze. I have not been able to write for months, and it is how I move through the world, so I am fearful. There are stories I want to tell, but the words freeze on my lips like a snowflake formed with nature’s unerring precision, but suddenly absorbing into the cold air, without a trace it ever existed. It is ironic since I write for a living --- blogs, websites and social media --- these are my professional trades and the words and sentences and paragraphs come easily and transfer onto the page with precision. But my creative inner life has stalled. And, lately I have started to envy the steely resolve of The Flying Wallendas, fiercely walking across a thin high wire without a safety net to break an unexpected fall. They always seem so confident at so fragile a life pursuit.
Last fall I joined the ranks of substitute teachers to cover monthly expenses while waiting for freelance checks to fill my mailbox. By chance, I was assigned to assist a brilliant and dedicated high school English teacher who was guiding students through Elie Wiesel’s book Night. I read along. Wiesel’s spare and unsentimental prose about living through the unthinkable absorbed me, and often I was startled when the bell rang. I read it over and over, and by Christmas break I could quote whole passages from memory. I then read his additional autobiographies And the Sea is Never Full and All Rivers Run to the Sea. I felt even more drawn into Wiesel’s world of unimaginable loss. He makes clear that his writing has been the instrument of his renewal. He uses words to underpin his courage in pursuing a fulfilling life that was denied his father, mother and young sister. I stayed for hours with him in the labyrinth of historical events and human occurrences that wound over multiple continents. His grace. His courage. His dignity. They lingered. While Wiesel’s story and circumstances don’t parallel my own exactly, the unimaginable loss at a young age felt familiar, almost safe. His life, this life, an unintentional roadmap for human survival.
I am here, and I can do this. Again.