Letters to Virginia Woolf #2

Dear Virginia Woolf,

It’s me again. I’m sitting between all my books about you not knowing where to start. Maybe in the order of time? Or from popularity? Where should I start? Your years of finally making it in the writing scene, years before your suicide or the teenage years when writing was just a dream of yours?

Like I told you, I already read your diary entries from 1915-1918. It has taught me a lot but also left many unanswered questions.

Can I really trust you Virginia?

Monday 18th of March in 1918 you speak about Hilton Young. The diary entry mentions that you haven’t spoken since 1908. That day you have a nice conversation with him and leave it at that. It takes some googling before I discover that Hilton Young proposed in 1908. He wanted to get married with you. Virginia, you said no and then didn’t speak with him for 10 years. Or was there a different reason for your fight?

Whatever the reason is, you don’t mention any of this. It makes me wonder. Can I truly trust you? What else are you not telling me?

What happened in 1916? That’s the other thing bugging me. There’s no diary entries, no stories of your first novel getting published. You never mention it. Sometimes you write, sometimes get a good idea but mostly you don’t write about writing. Were you as stuck as me? Did writing feel impossible at times?

This letter has more questions than it should. And you can’t even answer me. Virginia, I don’t know why I’m writing to you or why I’m so interested in you. Tomorrow I will start reading your first diary and letters from that era.

Life is Changing

It was sunny this morning but now the stormy clouds try to take over. I’m lying in the world’s most uncomfortable bean bags on the floor of my dorm’s common room. My roommate has taken over the pile of bean bags a few meters away and we keep both writing in mutual silence. After 5 days feeling like a forever, we have found common ground. Talking now and then, mostly just writing or reading in a friendly silence.

At least, I hope we share this feeling of belonging.

A week ago my life changed for a good. Too many years have gone past from the last time I attended school and now that’s changing. For a week, I have been a student. But not just any student – creative writing student. Isn’t that crazy?

To make this change permanent and even bigger I have decided to make a total u-turn in everything. This blog I started only a month ago (and took a break for health reasons) won’t stay as diary-like before. No worries, it will still be about my life. Just more in an essay way than in I list you everything I did today way.

Have you ever read books by Julia Cameron or Natalia Goldberg? Something like that. Small snippets to my life, what I have learned or read. Describing moments so ordinary but still full of happiness.

Tracking my illness

Sunday 4.8.2019

I’m not scared of dying.

That’s the first thing I write on my list of the things to tell my nurse. It’s also one of the reasons they should have sent me to the therapist a long time ago.

I haven’t feared death for a long time. Three years ago when no one knew what was wrong with me. When a doctor after doctor told me that they couldn’t help me. You learn to accept the worst-case scenario. I may not live to be over 25. I may never write the books I have dreamed of. Never have my first kiss. Never see all the wonders of the world.

Maybe that’s the reason why last autumn it was so easy for me to accept it for the second time.

I may die at any moment but there’s nothing I can do to help it. I’m not scared. If I die then I die and that’s it. If someone crashes to my car, I cut my arm with a knife or there’s some kind of catastrophe, it’s deadly. My life hasn’t been like others’ for a long time. When something happens my body dies alone. Calling help or going to hospital won’t be possible and I will just die.

Because I don’t fear dying but I fear dying in hospital.

The memories of that sunny day in August haunt me in my dreams. I wake up in the blue hospital bed covered by a baby blue blanket. Dark blue curtains cover the bed from the emergency room. My bed is the last in its row.

I sit up only to see the doctor standing at the end of my bed. Her mouth curves to something seeming like a smile when our eyes meet. She says something but I can never exactly recall what. My answer never comes.

My lungs stop working. I can’t breathe. First my legs don’t work, then hands, then fingers, in the end my whole body is locked down. I scream but no sound comes out of my mouth. My eyes won’t stay open and all I can see is hues of blue through tears.

The doctor talks but all my energy is used to trying to get her to help me. It feels like I’m going to die. My body has stopped working and in second there won’t be enough oxygen for my brain.

“I have other patient and don’t have time for this.”

The words I can recall from word to word. She walks away. And I’m left alone dying to the last bed of the emergency room. In my dreams, no one comes. It takes forever before I wake up in my own bed gasping for air me in the past needed so badly.

But these nightmares are the easiest. It’s a story from the past and I already know the ending. Someone returns to me – the doctor or maybe a nurse. They help me to call my mom. It feels like a forever but then my mom is there and I know I won’t die alone. And now a year later it’s easy to say that my body wasn’t even dying. No, it was just a panic attack.

Those nights I survive but then there’s the other dreams. The ones about future I can’t just hide under my bed after waking up.

Letters to Virginia Woolf

Dear Virginia Woolf,

You don’t know who I am. And two months ago I didn’t know you either. We are just two writers almost a century apart. 54 years, 2 months, 13 days – that’s how long there was between us. You killed yourself after forever of struggling in March 1941, I was born not knowing all the hardships I would face in June 1995.

Mrs. Woolf or can I call you Virginia? Both of us share many similar traits. Writers, issues with mental health, seeing the world from a different perspective. But you will never know this because you’re dead. And even I don’t yet know how deep our bond truly goes.

1915-1918 those are the years from your diaries I have read so far. But it feels like I should have started from somewhere far before.

It was a sunny day in June when I first saw your diaries in a bookstore. All 5 of them were in the discount aisle. The back cover told me you were a writer but that’s all. I had never heard of you and dead people have never been an interest of mine. Still, something in these books screamed for me. I took the first one and continued my stroll around the store. It’s just a few euros, that’s what I thought.

When I finally got to the counter something didn’t feel right. Those 4 remaining diaries kept bugging me. Call it intuition, destiny or my addiction to books but my mind kept telling me to take all five of your diaries home. And so I did.

Next thing I knew, I couldn’t stop reading your first entries in 1915. Maybe I saw myself in you or you in myself or the text just felt so real. Virginia Woolf, you interest me.

It took only a week from me to know that this was now a thing. You and me had become a thing so I had to find as much information about you as possible. Not my proudest moment when one night I ordered your early diary, essay collections and letter collections to go together with the diaries already in my bookshelf. 16 books of you all together. 16 books full of text written by you.

Reading someone’s writing is the closest way to be with them. 54 years, 2 months, 13 days between us but I can feel you in my bones.

24.7.2019

Wednesday

I try to write a message to B but my fingers shake too much for the characters go into the correct order. It’s almost 30 Celsius outside and still, my body sweats for a totally different reason. Pure luck that I drove my car safely to the hospital. No feeling in my legs. It’s impossible to breathe.

But I don’t cry uncontrollably. Every symptom is a little easier than last time I was here – sitting in my car telling my own mind how I’m not going to die from seeing my nurse.

You’re okay. You won’t die. Everything is okay. It’s just your mind playing tricks.

It takes me several tries to open my car door. Dad of three kids in a close-by car looks me oddly but doesn’t ask. I have learned that most people don’t. When I walk to the door of the hospital it opens automatically. No time for turning back. No time for making myself believe in the crazy irrational fears.

When I sit to the seat in front of the registration office it’s not only my fingers shaking. Fingers, arms, upper body, legs, feet, teeth. The nurse checking me in doesn’t mention it. Maybe my file already warns them to not approach. I can’t show my ID to the scanner because it keeps shaking and my voice doesn’t carry to the other side of the class booth.

But I don’t cry. Not this time.

Two older ladies sit on the other side of the waiting room. But I only hear their voices. My eyes are closed for my own protection. Is he okay? They wonder. I would laugh and maybe even tell them the truth if my mind wasn’t guarded by my insecurities. Even opening my mouth feels like a sentence to death.

The nurse calls my name. This is our second meeting but I still can’t look her in the eyes. She takes me to her room and my eyes keep wandering in the corners of the corridor. Counting the tiles calms me down a little. She even mentions that I’m a lot calmer than last time but oh if she just could see inside my mind.

We talk for a while about my anemia. How have you been? Tired or full of energy? Are there fewer bad days? How are you feeling? I count the bottles on her counter, keep trying to remember the lyrics to that one song I used to love. Anything but remembering where I am.

Then we go to the subject that really took me back here.

But I don’t cry.

I can tell her about the last autumn when I laid for hours in the ER just crying, crying, crying. She tells me they had the wrong idea of why I was there. Just a mess up that ended up me alone carrying the mess. She says that happens. I can’t tell her yet what really happened but it doesn’t mean I can get myself out of the memories.

There may be a few tears in my eyes but who counts?

No, I don’t have panic anywhere else. Just here. In the hospital.

Yes, I may seem fine now. It was easier to meet you. I was even able to meet the doctor a month ago. But ER. If something ever happens to me, I will die. Car crash, poisoning, deep wound, broken leg. I will die. I will die rather than ever return there.

The next part I can’t even write. She asked me if I have had bad experiences with doctors before.

I cry. Ugly weeping not being able to breath kind of crying.

She waits for me quietly when I close my eyes trying to disappear. It may take a minute or ten. I’m not really there so it’s hard to say. She doesn’t ask again but I take myself out of my body to tell the story through sniffles. After the story, she once again mentions how it’s sometimes like that even if it sucks.

I don’t ask her the question lingering in my mind – How would you continue after feeling like you’re going to die but no one is helping you? What would you do if every doctor you met told you that “sorry we can’t help you here”? Would you cope after losing the trust to those people who are the ones supposed to help you?

A week ago she called telling me that the therapist didn’t think she would have anything to give for me. But now my nurse has a paper with a panic questionnaire. What symptoms do you have?

  • dizziness
  • numbness in hands and fingers
  • sweating
  • chest pain
  • difficulties to breath
  • feeling like I’m going to go crazy
  • shaking uncontrollably
  • irrational fear of dying
  • crying for hours without being able to stop

We will work on these one by one. So she says. But am I brave enough to believe anymore?

16.7.2019

Tuesday

This weekend was busy. I spent some time in Helsinki. Saw the new Spider-Man movie with my cousin S. We fought over does Spider-Man have web naturally or has he made web-shooters himself. Both of us were correct. I grew up reading the comics, she grew up watching the first movies. Kind of silly, because I’m the younger one of us.

Sunday went by doing nothing.

On Monday we had planned a summer day trip. My sister was sick and couldn’t come – she kept coughing through the night. So, we left 9 am with my mum and cousin R. Too early to be alive. Drove a few hours having conversations about everything and nothing at the same time. I live and also die for these moments. It’s like walking on a thin rope between hurting and having fun.

My family is kind of dysfunctional.

We talked about how my uncle had left a plastic container for my grandpa to store used needles. My grandpa is a retired veterinarian who still seems to have too many returning customers for anyone’s sake. My mum has done this thing several times – told my grandpa to put the needles to somewhere save right after giving a dog or cat their vaccine. Does he do it? Never…

So, before we left for our summer trip we had a good laugh (and inner cry) with my mum. The plastic container and message written using BIG lettering my uncle left for grandpa were still on the table of his clinic. The issue? There were used needles around the container but none in it.

Maybe now you understand how I grew up being the most passive-aggressive person ever…

But now back to my travel story!

We met my other cousin S and my aunt in idyllic Finnish small town. Visited like a million idyllic shops they had there and I ate terrible ice-cream. My nurse called just when we were visiting the most interesting shop so I had to skip it. Maybe just a good thing because I may have ended up buying too much stuff. Apparently, my nurse talked with a therapist – they don’t have anything they could help me with. So, I have just normal meeting with my nurse next week where we try to figure out what to do with

1. my fear of hospitals

2. still active mysterious disease – probably just anemia.

Our summer trip continued to this outdoor museum that I only remembered visiting before after seeing their small red granaries (is this even the correct English word for small houses where they used to store grain and other things?). The museum part had three small rooms and cost a fortune to get in. However, no regrets – my mum paid for me.

The last stop after buying strawberries from farm and ice-cream was my relatives’ summer home. I could spend my summer in an old country house… Just writing, writing, writing. By to way, I have been writing a lot lately. Not for 2 hours like I promised for Camp Nanowrimo – hadn’t been in good enough health for that – but several pages of my new notebook from Muji per day.

11.7.2019

Thursday

My sister painting in the sunlight, I’m writing something bigger than life and for a moment there’s peace in our home. I live for these moments when everything seems so simple. My cousin R visits us. She tells stories from a school where she doesn’t fit in with the younger ones. Mum brings our dog to spend the day with me but that makes writing impossible – we just lay down doing nothing for hours.

I live for these days between the bad ones. Or maybe now the bad ones are between these days almost perfect?

M-L is visiting my grandpa. We have conversations about my school starting in a month. We drink Pommac from crystal glasses. I can still remember the days when it made me almost puke, now I drink my glass without complaining. Have I been part of too many awkward gatherings in this living room trying to act like a perfect child? When did I learn to drink drinks I hate and eat foods I despise?

Grandpa seems to be proud of me starting creative writing studies. Don’t know should I be happy or not. Everyone is being so supportive but it just feels wrong. They know I want to write, but in reality, they don’t know anything. They can’t see me dreaming of books I will write someday or smiling by myself after coming up with an excellent poem. My grandpa sees me as a good creative writing teacher, mum wants me to be a journalist and my friends never put me above the freelancer status.

I want to write books, tell stories, make people feel things they otherwise wouldn’t.

My sister comes back from work. We drink wine and eat cheese. M-L asks about my sister’s life who tells stories from art school. Grandpa seems tired. Do I like these moments? I’m not sure. Having small talk comes naturally for me these days. Telling stories from my travels, talking about books I have read, asking just the right questions from others.

It’s time to go to sleep. Tomorrow my sister will drive me to the bus station. I’m going to Helsinki again. We will see the new Spider-Man with my other cousin S.