In a play presented by Davis-based Barnyard Theater two years ago, Psyche, the Greek goddess of the soul, continually asks the troubled protagonist, “Are you not dead yet?”
I’m at a stage in life where I’m supposed to be settled. My marriage is stable, I’m successful professionally, my kids are mostly launched, and I helped both parents at the end of their lives. The time ahead of me is likely shorter than the time behind me. Time to sit back and relax, right?
If Dad’s longevity is any indication, I could have forty or more years left. And I am not willing to spend it as excess population.
Yesterday I accepted an offer into admission at Bennington’s Master’s in Fine Arts program, where I will spend the next two years working hard to become a better writer. I hope to do justice to the story I have to tell about my relationship with my father, from the tense days of my childhood and adolescence through the reflective last years of our life together.
Once upon a time, I waited to pursue and complete a Master’s Degree in Business Administration until I knew how it would help me in achieving my professional goals. Going back to school this time is different. As a degree, an MFA is probably useless for somebody like me. I don’t need it to do anything.
But I’m impatient. I’m looking for jumper cables, a cattle prod, a kick in the butt. (I’m sure the inept use of metaphor will be kicked right out of me.) I recently read a comment by a woman who said of her MFA that it was a useless degree but it taught her how to really read.
I could come out of this a better writer. I could come out of it a better reader. Maybe I’ll meet people who will make a difference in my life, or I will make a difference in theirs. Perhaps the program will serve as an incubator for ideas about how to use writing to help people who walk the caregiver’s road.
The words to describe the journey I will begin on June 19 are conditional: could, maybe, perhaps. I don’t really know what will happen. But I’m doing this anyway.
Yesterday, the day that I made a decision about which graduate program to enroll in, I came across “Learning to Walk,” by David Whyte. Here’s part of it:
So learning to walk
in morning light
like this again,
we’ll take that first step
giving our selves away
today by walking
out of the garden,
through the woods,
along the river,
toward the mountain,
that’s what we’ll do,
practicing as we go,
we’ll be glimpsed,
no longer familiar,
a following wave,
greeted, as we were at our birth,
and slightly dangerous strangers,
some wild risk
about to break again
on the world.
Once upon a time, my father gave me away. Just before I removed my hand from his steady arm, he gazed at me and patted my hand. Then he let go. Now I am giving myself away, moving forward without a clear destination. Here I go.