The past year or so I have been thinking a lot of the Kieslowski film Bleu. It is a beautiful piece of work, the first of his trilogy based on the colors, bleu, blanc, rouge, and ideals, liberté, egalité, fraternité, of the French flag. Kieslowski’s Slavic sensibility and artistry are a combination of playful, romantic, philosophic, bittersweet, and insightful that act like a strobe light examining the human soul.
Juliette Binoche plays a woman who loses her composer husband and young daughter in a car crash that she barely survives. She has seemingly lost everything that matters and descends into the deepest well of grief; it can’t get worse. Then it does. And we watch her navigate some of the most difficult places the human heart can ever know. There is a kind of grace she accesses as a result.
I had another emotional shock of my own a few weeks ago and remain suspended in some alter-state. Now into month 40 of seemingly unrelenting emotional, spirtual, all domain upheaval, it was not entirely unexpected. Yet it was a hard blow nonetheless. Much of what I held to be true, or knowable, continues to shift and fall away. It is not like a rug being pulled out from under you, it is like a foundation crumbling from under a house. Then a tsunami washing the whole thing away. But you remain. Against the odds, against your own desire and belief in what is possible.
My mother died three years ago this fall, a few weeks before a landmark birthday of mine. It seemed the saddest birthday ever, late October with snow pouring down. This year was unbelievably, assuredly sadder. You think it can’t get worse. Then it does.
How to move through this with grace. How to walk through it, how to just, breathe in and out. More, how to leave the past behind, how to lay down the burden of so many balls and chains. Ironic–or maybe it was preparation–that I spent so many years working on memory in my academic career. All that we can’t leave behind; all that we should leave behind to save our souls and sanity. In my chapter on Gary’s L’Angoisse du roi Solomon, this dividing of the past from the hope of a future is what fascinated me.
When the compass is kaput, what do we look to?
I think of this character in Bleu and how she did it. How she freed herself of the stranglehold of the past in order to have a present and a future. So I get up every day and try to cast off the webs of the past that hold me down. I breathe in and out and find bits of joy in the likeliest and unlikeliest of places. Perhaps that is all I can do, for now. Perhaps, just surviving offers its own grace.