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Moments Unlived 20 August 2006

Posted by EDITOR in GUESTS, Poetry, Psychology.

Our guest contributor this week is U Bhatti, an attorney in Washington, DC.

I would meet you now
and I would wish this scar
to have been given with
all the love
that never occurred between us.

Michael Ondaatje wrote that.

When I was twenty, a friend wrote me a letter from the camp where he was staying for the summer, asking me if I was ever nostalgic for moments unlived. The letter was handwritten, with small writing, scribbled on the back of a flyer or something that he’d obviously torn down from some bulletin board someplace, I could see where the staples had ripped the page, and there was all kinds of stuff in it, stories about the campers and the other counselors and the woods and the lake and the trees and the leaves and everything, but all I remember was that he asked me if I was ever nostalgic for moments unlived.

God, am I ever. I wasn’t then, at least, not at the exact moment at which I read those words, and I don’t even really remember if I understood that line in all its complexity and beauty when I read it, but I am so nostalgic for moments like those now. I think of them when I see my friends, my family, my acquaintances. I imagine them as I walk down the street, when I bump into people I know well and people I barely know. I dream of them when I lie down to sleep. I am writing, writing, writing constantly in my head, wondering if I will ever be able to turn all of the moments unlived between myself and the many people in my life into words on a page worth reading, and ignoring the pesky voice in my head that says stop. Stop.

Someone, please, teach me to live in the present again. I’m really not sure when I stopped.



1. ABD - 22 August 2006

your post raises a very interesting question: what compels us to write (or, alternatively, keeps us from it). my guess is that all the ‘mental’ writing you describe will eventually find its own way onto the page. at least in my own case, something has to percolate for quite a while before it falls out–often unexpectedly and without cue.

i think there’s something indirect about the transition from mental to physical writing. you can’t think it through, and you certainly can’t force it. the best you can do is stimulate (and then wait).

2. U Bhatti - 23 August 2006

agreed. unexpectedly and without cue – meaning, it just… happens. what’s really interesting for me is what i consider worth editing and what i absolutely refuse to touch. i haven’t figured out what the criteria for those two categories are – some stuff, i just labor at, spending hours upon hours tweaking, and other stuff, i can’t change once it’s out. is this an issue for anyone else?

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