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2am w/Alan Alda July 2, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in Living Life, Writing Life.

I have been living in a brain fog for the last ten days or so, fighting tooth and nail to escape. 

You see, surrender (however sweet) is so rarely an option for me.  

Yesterday, I took Anna to the library where she volunteers, and I spotted Alan Alda (well, one of his books) sitting on the Book Sale table.  Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself.   The title was so apropos to my aimless grey mental state — rolling along, my own creative voice echoing, fading in and out — that I bought the book.  Maybe, I too could make something out of my own disjointed murmurings just by listening.

At 2am this morning, rudely awakened by throbbing legs that just wouldn’t quit, I cracked open Alda’s book.  And, was amazed.   All my life, Alan Alda has been the funny yet serious, Hollywood-overdone yet undeniably authentic Hawkeye Pierce of M.A.S.H., and a few other characters in movies I can’t remember at the moment. 

But, in reality, Alan Alda is a man of all-encompassing, oceanic-like depths.

His book cradled in my hands picked up where he ended his bestselling memoir Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, having been saved by emergency surgery after nearly dying on a Chilean mountaintop.   From that mountain top experience, which according to Alda marks his new birthday, he plummets deep into the black abyss of suicide.  The stories told were not his own, but of others, people, mostly young, who wrote to him just as M.A.S.H was on the upswing, begging him for advice on how to keep living. 

As a member of this human race, I’ve walked those black endless nights that grow only blacker, trudging slippery mental roads that seem to plunge ever deeper while climbing impossibly upward, sapping every ounce reasoning and faith while proving fatalistic in the process.  As a writer, I commend Alda for bravely juxtaposing his mountaintop experience with the truth of life. 

But, I was not altogether thankful for what his brave choice brought to the fore of my mind.  A story I’ve never found courage to write. Why?  Because, quite simply, I fear mining those suffocating depths to flesh out an authentic main character, never mind what the writing community would think of me if penned such a thing.

See, we, in all our selfish optimism, which we defensively wear, ignore suicide for the same reason we’ve relegated vampires to the world of fantasy.  We prefer that such things don’t exist.

So, I kept reading, flowing along with Alan Alda’s chatty, easygoing humor and listening  

“Be brave enough to live life creatively,” Alda said.  “The creative is the place where no one else has ever been.  It is not the previously known.  You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition.  You can’t get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you’re doing, but what you’ll discover will be wonderful.  What you’ll discover will be yourself.”

And then, I overheard myself talking.



1. Jaimie Hall Bruzenak - July 4, 2010

I did not know that about Alan Alda. Interesting.

Sounds like there is something you have to write – even if it never sees print or even other eyes.


2. ninapaules - July 5, 2010

So true, Jaimie. So true. The brain is coming alive.

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