Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Year of Magical Thinking

Death has been on my mind this week. Not my own, although my work regularly causes me to ponder my own mortality. Last Sunday's All Saints recognition of those who had died during the previous year, a commital service earlier this week, some folk who are in a life-and-death struggle with health, even this Sunday's Remembrance acknowledgement remind me that life can be fleeting.

I heard yesterday that a play based on a remarkable book called The Year of Magical Thinking is coming to Toronto. The play is acclaimed, and the book is one of the best descriptions of grief that I have ever read. The author, Joan Didion, wrote it in the year after the sudden death of her husband. The "magical thinking" was her suspension of reality in the face of her loss. Despite knowing that he had died and all the practicalities of adjusting to his absence she waited for his return. The book is honestly and beautifully and achingly written.

Have you ever experienced that "magical thinking" in the face of death? Do you ever pause and ponder your own mortality? Have you read Joan Didion's account of her loss? Do you live with a resurrection promise and hope for eternity?


IanD said...

I believe Matt Galloway was discussing this book and the stageplay on Metro Morning this week.

I remember when one of my grandmothers died in May of 2002. Though I'd seen her days before she did, and knew that she was gone the next day, it took me calling her phone number and not hearing anyone pick up on the other end for the reality of it to hit me.

Not sure if it was some kind of psycho-physiological response, but from the sounds of things, Joan Didion encountered something similar, albeit on a larger, deeper scale. Perhaps in each case it's the body's unconscious effort to brace itself for a difficult, emotional trauma and all it entails. Who knows?

Thanks for an interesting posting, David.

dmy said...

The reality of a loved one's sudden death is so hard to deal with and escaping to the "magical thinking" is almost a given and just a matter of time as to how long we are in that state of mind. We live in a fantasy world for however long it takes and we dream of them coming back to us in real life. We play "what if" and day dream and escape to sleep at night and there we see them again and in our minds our loved ones are real. Whether it is a disease that lingers and we pray for a miracle or the finality of suicide, we let ourselves be suspended between reality and fantasy in order to get through each day. We are numb and we go through the motions and because we are perceived as a "together type of person" we don't let others know how we are dealing because we know deep down it isn't real but we live in that "magical world of pretend". I have not read Joan Didion's book but plan on doing so.

David Mundy said...

Thanks so much for these. Many people have those moments of starting into a routine activity and realizing that the loved one is gone. Sobering and jolting.

Your description is moving dmy. We seldom appreciate the ongoing sense of less for those who are grieving and assume that they are healing by some arbitrary schedule that is ours, not theirs.