A year ago, when I realised that Dylan would have to move to a care setting, I started seeing a Gestalt therapist. I knew that after so many years of caring for Dylan, adjusting to life without him would be difficult. The therapist was great and I found it very useful. Last month, however, I decided I needed to reduce my outgoings and that she was a luxury. Besides, we agreed at our final meeting, I was doing OK – and I had a plan to write my way through the first 100 days.
Before I began the 100 days I had some idea about how it might feel to write each day. Years ago, when I was separated from someone I cared for, I wrote a sequence of poems called ’16 days Without You’. I borrowed the framework for these poems from a sequence by Anne Sexton, one of my favourite poets. In 1969 she had published ’18 days Without You’, a series of poems which explored her response to a temporary separation from a therapist on whom she depended heavily (and with who, against professional codes of ethical practice, she had become emotionally involved). I had long admired these poems which seemed to me to move through all colours of absence: tenderness and passion; anger and impatience; doubt and anxiety; impotence and empowerment. When I attempted to write within a similar framework, I found the physical and emotional effort involved in producing a poem a day for 16 days utterly exhausting but exhilarating.
I never published my 16 pieces as a sequence; not because of Sexton’s (far superior) poems, nor because of anxieties about subject matter (my love affair was not with my therapist) but because, when I reviewed the sequence with a cool eye, the constituent parts did not seem to me to stand up. Some of the pieces did – and I have published these as individual poems – but many of the days, I decided, were about process rather than product. I’d say the same is true of daily blog posts; some stand by themselves whereas others need the company of surrounding days.
For me, writing is a process through which I make sense of the world as well as a vehicle for discovery. As I wound up my Living With Autism blog I reflected in this post that writing had led me to new understandings and realisations as well as to ideas for alternative ways of supporting Dylan. I wasn’t sure whether I would experience such learning through shorter daily pieces for a re-focused blog – but if I didn’t, I promised myself, I would stop.
Writing short daily prose pieces for a blog can be challenging to fit into the day sometimes but it is not demanding in the way of writing poems. So while I’m not sure if I’ll get as far as the solstice date I set myself, I am going to go on with this for the moment. I am, of course, conscious that the absences which Anne Sexton and I explored in our poem cycles were temporary; our lovers returned and brought a halt to our frantic poems. The difference with Dylan’s departure is that his flight is forever; I will have to be the one who, one day, calls ‘enough!’
A quarter of the way through the time frame I set myself, however, I can say without hesitation that I am finding the process useful. I have certainly had flashes of insight and found new ways of thinking about Dylan’s transition as a result of my daily posts. I may have got to such positions without writing of course, but I like the way the blog encourages me to attend. In a previous post I reflected that my dialogue with others through Living with Autism had brought fresh perspectives and shifts of understanding. I wasn’t sure whether my shorter daily posts on Living With/Out Autism would generate the same dialogue but if anything I’d say the comments I’ve received in the last 25 days have been even more valuable. Thank you for reading and for your support :-)