Documentation as Theory and Practice

July 7, 2006

I didn’t intend to write an entry today. It’s been nearly a month since the last one, and I haven’t let myself have enough time to do the kind of ruminating that usually leads to an entry. Some notable events have occurred – I was accepted into the grad program I applied for, and if all goes well I’ll be headed to Austria in four weeks to start work on a degree in new media. I’ll be focusing on documentary photojournalism. Documentation, period, and how it applies to art.

Also, I have a booth at tomorrow’s Tour des Artistes alongside my friend Jenn. I’ve been preparing like mad for the booth, and my aunt and grandmother and really my whole family have been amazing about helping me at home so that I have the time to work with Jenn on our setup. Those are the main events. Mom’s condition is relatively stable, though she is weaker every day, but she is not yet bedbound – a small victory.

This morning, Josh and I were chatting and he asked me very specifically to not write about him here, should he ever become ill. It wasn’t entirely out of the blue – I’ve been documenting in words and photos some of Mom’s illness, and he has recently seen other blogs that discuss cancer in depth. The request didn’t surprise me so much as my reaction did.

See, I’ve been trying to document my life here honestly. As honestly as anyone with an ego can – it is all to easy to bias any account to the positive or negative depending on my mood. If I’m pretty pleased with myself and the decisions I’m making (and if I’m tanked up on a lot of coffee) then I’ve been known to gush about art and momentum and blah blah blah. If I’m not feeling very pleased with myself, or if I am feeling uninspired, well – it’s been pretty quiet around here lately.

I don’t write about Josh. I try. I mention him casually, but if you were to try and guess the weight of our relationship based on my entries here, you’d likely imagine he was a good enough friend to get occasional mention in my blog, but not much more than that, other than one heartfelt entry in February. The truth of it is, every day the weight of the distance between he and I grows heavier. I miss him like sunlight. And in order to document that honestly, I have to acknowledge a lot of things I don’t want to face. That we can’t plan for a date when we will be together again. It’s just not possible. We don’t know when my mother’s illness will run its natural course, and I am not going anywhere until then (almost up to and including tomorrow’s show – the internal conflict I’ve faced being away from home one night this week and planning to be away tomorrow is worth a whole slough of entries on its own, if I felt so inclined to delve into it. Re-read the paragraph about school, above). And in not knowing that, it’s difficult to think ahead more than a day or so. Today, he will wait. Today, I am waiting. What if he doesn’t want to wait anymore? Is it alright to be making plans for my life, like school, and this art show, and anything that happens outside of being with Mom?

My brain says yes. My brain told me two months ago that I needed to have a focus, something to work towards that existed outside my mother’s illness that kept me occupied during the sometimes long days and nights here in this little cabin, where I don’t sleep anymore because when I do, I am so exhausted that I no longer hear my mother getting up at night, and I can’t live with that. What if she needs help getting into bed and I don’t hear her? I have been sleeping on the grey leather loveseat three feet from her hospital bed for a long time now. Tuesday night, my aunt came over and brought me sleeping pills and insisted on taking the couch shift so I could sleep in bed. I slept for nine hours. I didn’t take the pills.

The difficulty with this kind of enervated exhaustion, is that I no longer have those reserves of strength that I had six months ago. I don’t have the kind of perspective that allows me to make room for my own well-being. I leave the dishes too long in the sink and the house is not as tidy as it should be considering I am home all day. I am lonely and I am tired and I am frustrated and I am very simply scared, because I know one day or night soon, my vigil will take on a different kind of focus and I will have to stand by and watch my mother die. And I accept it, in the same way we accept events that fall into some abstract realm of understanding, wherein I know it will occur, and I know it will be soon, but I have no idea what to do other than to simply face it.

I write about these things here with all the honesty I can manage because it forces me to face up to things that I push aside in order to function. It makes the unknown a little less scary. And maybe there is someone out there facing something similar for whom it is nice to know that they aren’t alone in feeling as they do. I don’t know.

I do know that I don’t write about Josh here all that often. The fact that he isn’t here with me, or I with him, it’s something I don’t need to be reminded of. It’s not something I need to face here because there isn’t a second of any day when I’m not thinking of it. And when we are together, well, there are a lot of precious things I don’t document here either.

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