Tuesday, March 16, 2010

On Daffodils and Detritus

All winter, there’s been an impressive mountain of dirty, dog-pissed-on snow heaved up against the curb. Now that it’s finally melted away, the pathetic strip of equally dirty and pissed-on grass is back as if to assert its right to herald Spring. The main difference? Sunny and warm(er) which means the dormant daffodils are back at it, dozens of green stalks bumping their heads up through the ground. What was it that William Wordsworth wrote about these silly flowers?

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon the inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

I’m not exactly sure which idiot decided to plant our daffodils along the curb which lies along our busy road. They bloom and then within an hour, droop under the weight of all that dirt kicked up by cars. Petals tear, the long green leaves get stripped. Kids pick them on their walk home from school, and then pick them apart, leaving a mangled trail of green and yellow detritus down the block. So instead of dancing daffodils, we’re left with a ragtag, often denuded, filthy bunch of survivors.

I’m no Spring sentimentalist brimming with hope over the season of rebirth and its bulbs and bunnies. Of course, it is a seductive symbol. Couldn’t I make this the season of the Anti-IT? If not rebirth then a taking back of my life? To get out from under the decimation, to bud and bloom in spite of the detritus of this disease? To wave my frilly yellow head in the sunshine in defiance: I am still here.

The daffodil’s other name is Narcissus. To recount: In various stories, Narcissus is deemed exceptionally cruel in that he scorns those who love him. As divine punishment, he falls in love with a reflection in a pool, not realizing it was his own, and perishes there, not being able to leave the beauty of his own reflection. Now this daffodil, tortured and alone, is the kind that can flash on my inward eye. Because isn’t this exactly what IT demands? That I turn away from family and friends, disdain their love, reject their (more accurate) angle of vision on IT (and on my floundering efforts to take on IT by myself)? Isn’t my gaze locked with ITs? Aren’t I wooed by ITs terrible, hypnotic beauty?

Look into my eyes: if you weigh less and still less, you will be happier. If you purge, the panic will recede. If you cut your arm, the anger will subside.

Listen to me because I speak Truth: You need too much. You’re fat, huge, self-indulgent. You’re stupid, not worthy of your PhD. You can’t write—it is all an act and now it is over. You don’t know how to love your family. All you bring to this world is pain and damage. You really should just get it over with and die.

The antidote? Yesterday, when I asked Dr. B. what anyone could do to help me counter ITs deadly persistence, he took hold of my hands and said, “What I would do is look you in the eyes and remind you that you have people who love you—let us help.” So instead of looking back at ITs damaging reflection, I was looking into the eyes of someone who cares about me. It matters to Dr. B. that I live, as it matters to my family and friends. And I need to hold the lessons of Spring (sentimental as they are), close to my heart: life returns, the buds break open, and the Daffodils have their day.