Memento Mori

I’ve been having trouble with inspiration. I know that my job, as a writer, is to show up to the page whether I want to or not. I also recognize that slogging along like that is the main ingredient for burn-out. I pushed myself to finish the first draft of “Department of Wrong Turns” and wrote 500 words of dialogue for “Bet You a Kiss.” But no amount of staring at a blinking cursor has brought forth more words.

In an effort to locate the block, I sat outside with my journal, hoping the fresh air and change of scenery would knock something loose. All I could come back to is “I don’t want to write that.” The “that” in this case being fiction, at all. I don’t want to use my imagination right now; I want to use my memory.

I toyed with the idea of writing a memoir many times over the years, but I kept coming back to the idea that nothing has happened to me worth reading about, let alone writing about. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen some shit. But memoirs have to have a point, like a life lesson that will help the reader learn something from your life. I don’t know that I have that. My last concept for a memoir had the working title “Fractals” and was going to speak to the ways we repeat the steps of the generations before us. The more things change, the more they stay the same. In the end, I decided I wasn’t willing to kick the hornet nest that is our family’s dysfunction, so it was over before it began.

I can’t deny, though, that I feel a shift coming. I’ve been writing about it here for weeks now and, while it’s not quite the shift I was expecting, I have to respect it now that it’s here. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few weeks getting myself in the right head-space to be ready for whatever new direction the muse was going to point me in. All I knew was that I was ready to focus on life, tuning in to the frequency around me, tapping along with the heartbeat of The Universe. I’ve been meditating and revisiting some of my favorite spiritual writers, looking for the spark that will get me moving closer towards “the light,” whatever that was supposed to mean. I just knew I was being pulled to live, and write about living.

And then inspiration came at me with a spiked club. Heh.

First, I learned that Van Gogh painted “Skull of a Skeleton With Burning Cigarette.” As someone who greatly appreciates Van Gogh’s work, I was surprised to see something so different from what we usually recognize as his style. I, of course, fell in love with it immediately.

Second, this past Sunday we visited the Cleveland Museum of Art. I’ve been to the museum at least five times (likely closer to ten, but who’s counting?) and the highlight of each visit is, for me, the memento mori art. Understand, please, that I am a very macabre person, in many respects. This seems to take people by surprise but I love dark things, in general. On the outside, I’m a golden sun goddess. On the inside, I’m Morticia Addams. It makes sense, then, that I would be drawn to the more warped pieces of art in the museum (including the section of Egyptian art, which has canopic jars and sarcophagi.) On this trip, I was specifically intrigued by “The Race Track (Death on a Pale Horse)” by Albert Pinkham Ryder and the famous vanitas,To His Favor” by William Michael Harnett. I couldn’t pin down why they grabbed my attention, as I’ve seen them both before, but over the last week, I have come to realize that my muse is a bit warped, too.

Memento mori, Latin for “remember death”, are meant to be reminders that we’re all going to die. Perhaps that’s a morbid thought for others, but I recognize this as a sort of call to arms. Yeah, we’re all going to die, but the important part is that we’re not dead yet. So what are we going to do with the time we have? I knew the change in the wind would point me towards life, but to do so via death? I did not see that one coming.

It’s all still percolating, but I feel the anticipated shift away from general fiction and towards memento mori with, at least for a while, an autobiographical nature. I have absolutely no idea where this is going, but The Universe is dropping hints and I would be stupid not to take heed. I’ve never taken the step towards writing a memoir because I didn’t have a “point.” But it’s becoming clear to me that perhaps living at all is point enough. I’m alive and I should tell my story while I still can.

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