Lately I have been trying not to think too much about Virginia Woolf. I read Mrs. Dalloway and afterwards watched a movie about her writing it. That was two weeks ago and I am still thinking.
I am afraid of Virginia Woolf, of the crazed artist driven to madness by thoughts roaming in the brain. I am afraid of her—the dead woman— because I can sense that in myself.
Yesterday I taped a blank sheet of paper to the wall of my room and with my forehead pressed against the top of the page, I scribbled out a poem. The ink smelled like paint and the looping of the pen sounded like scratches on the inside of my skull. When I reached the bottom of the page with my lines, I stepped back and saw that the words were cramped and chaotic because I had written them with my eyes nearly crossed.
Then I thought: This must be the kind of thing that crazy people do. I don’t want to go crazy. So I tore the paper from the wall and hid it in my desk drawer for safekeeping.
I wonder if Virginia Woolf ever tried to hide her writing from herself. The movie about her began with her away from her writing. The actress on the marshy grass bank of a river picked up a few rocks and placed them in the pockets of her dress. She tentatively took one step forward. And another. And another until everything but her head was beneath the water. The camera flashed her vacant face, and then her leather shod feet lifted, and she let the water carry her.
After the movie was over, I wanted to ask if it was wrong of me to think that she only did what she needed to do. I wanted to ask if it was wrong of me to think that we should have a choice to our own end.
But I didn’t want to risk misunderstanding when so much of my life is just beginning. Still, sometimes I feel somehow very like Virginia Woolf when I think about the other things on my mind, the things that are always on my mind.
Can we trust what we see, what we feel, how we reason? Is there something beyond us, called God, called truth? Will I ever know anything for sure? Has anyone ever known anything for sure?
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation and all we want is to see the beauty, to see the fun. We can’t stop thinking. The desperation will cease when we do. Mrs. Dalloway felt somehow very like him, the man who killed himself in Virginia Woolf’s book. But Mrs. Dalloway kept on, because maybe just feeling that she was like him was enough to keep on.
Mrs. Dalloway is on my mind. Virginia Woolf is on my mind. The universe is on my mind. If we are lucky enough to get out of our heads for long enough to realize it, that is what will save us. And maybe then, we can even have a little fun.