Sunday, July 15, 2012

Trying to listen to the heart

It all began last Sunday night.

Out of nowhere I'd begun to write the first scene of my new play. The dialogue turned up in my head, somehow, and I had no choice but to write it down.

I'd not been too well that day. I'd been cleaning the house, having to stop and rest with improbable frequency, and after typing it out on the Monday I'd woken in the early hours of the following morning with my heart pounding, and my whole being in the grip of fear.

I knew this place. It has a Latin name, timor mortis, the fear of death, and can be a symptom of heat failure.

I'd been there before, when my heart valve was first failing ("incompetence" is the rather cruel medical term); and I had been there again when my heart had gone into atrial flutter.

Later that morning, after it had subsided, a rather important stage direction popped into my head, and I had to write it.

The moment I did my heart started pounding again. All the breath seemed to leave my body. And again I was seized by terror. I felt like an alcoholic who had been given an anti-alcohol drug but had gone on and drunk anyway.

There was an unmistakeable message to stop, and stop immediately.

I haven't written since.

I write this after six days of silence a little uneasily and a little furtively also, as if I could somehow cheat my heart into thinking I could be doing something else.

I've lost count of the years I've spent writing, writing, writing each day and forcing myself to do so, even when I hadn't wanted to or it felt I had nothing to say.

Being forced to stop has left me no choice but to try to reflect on it all.

It's not an altogether noble impulse. It's partly to do with the crazy economics of the theatre industry. With learning early on that if I wanted to earn a living I'd need to write fast.

It's partly to do with the even crazier insecurities this culture fosters in the transgendered, and our attendant deeply damaging lack of self worth.

Whatever it is, it hasn't stopped, except when illness has forced me to.

Even now I'm creeping back into it again. I imagine because I must.

But I doubt, now, this fear will ever leave me.

It leaves me naked. There's no escaping it, it seems, except through the door which leads to the place I am most afraid of.

Years ago I wrote a play called "Playing With Fire". It had the devil coming out of a stove. It had a man dying and being brought back to life again. It had a king who thought he was made of glass and a beggar for whom death was a friend. I remember asking for a special door.

Death's door.

It was an abstraction then. But now...

Of course, I reassure myself. I go to the doctor, I get myself checked over. I take the pills.

This is just a rehearsal, I tell myself. The very beginning of rehearsals. And they will go on for years.

In the meantime I am so open. Open to the piercing joy of love. Open to the overwhelming beauty of the world.

Sending you so much love Jo.
S xxxx
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