Wednesday, June 30, 2010

by Doris Lessing

I recently read The Memoirs of a Survivor by Doris Lessing and felt the need to share this excerpt with you. I couldn't find it anywhere on line so i typed it out. I feel as though i have done something of actual value in doing this..found something worth screaming off of the cliff face and into the ever increasing void:

And then, she began to cry.
 At first the violent, shocked tears, the working  face and blank, staring eyes of a child,which express only; What, is this happening to me! It’s impossible. It isn’t fair!-Floods of tears, noisy sob, exclamations of anger and disgust, but all the time the, as it were, painted eyes, untouched: Me, it is me sitting here, to whom this frightful injustice has occurred...a great fuss and a noise and a crying out, this kind of tears, but hardly intolerable, not painful, not a woman’s tears...
Which came next.
Emily, eyes shut, her hands on her thighs, rocked herself back and forth and from side to side, and she was weeping as a woman weeps, which is to say as if the earth were bleeding. I nearly said as if the earth had decided to have a good cry- but it would be dishonest to take the edge off it. Listening, I certainly would not have been able to pay homage to the rock-bottom quality of the act of crying as a grown woman cries.
Who else can cry like that? Not an old woman. The tears of old age an be miserable, can be abject, as bad as anything you like. But they are tears that know better than to demand justice, they do not have that abysmal quality as of blood ebbing away. A small child can cry as if all the lonely misery of the universe is his alone-it is the pain not of the woman crying that is the point, no, it is the finality of the acceptance of the wrong. So it was, is now and must ever be say the closed, oozing eyes, the rocking body, the grief. Grief-yes, an act of mourning, that’s it. Some enemy has been faced, has been tackled, but a battle has been lost, all the chips are down, everything is spent, nothing is left, nothing can be expected...yes, in spite of myself, every word I put down is on the edge of farce, somewhere there is  a yell of laughter- just as there is when a woman cries in precisely that way. For, in life, there is often a yell of laughter, which is every bit as intolerable as the tears. I sat there, i went on sitting, watching Emily the eternal woman at her task of weeping. I wished I could go away, knowing it would make no difference to her whether I was there or not. I would have liked to give her something, comfort, friendly arms- a nice cup of tea? (Which in due time i would offer.) No, I had to listen. To grief, to the expression of the intolerable. What on earth, the observer has to ask-husband, lover, mother, friend, even someone has some point wept those tears herself, but particularly , of course, husband or lover-’What in the name of God can you possibly have expected of me, of life, that you can now cry like that? Can’t you see that it is impossible, you are impossible, no one could ever have been promised enough to make such tears even feasible...can’t you see that? But it is no use. The blinded eyes stare through you, they are seeing some ancient enemy which is, thank heavens, not yourself. No , it is Life or Fate or Destiny, some such force which has struck that woman to the heart, and for ever will she sit, rocking in her archaic and dreadful grief, and those sobs which are being torn out of her are one of the pillars on which everything has to rest. Nothing else could justify them.
    (from The Memoirs of a Survivor by Doris Lessing pp.150-152)

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