I have no intention of writing a novel. I don’t have one in me. I don’t know that I ever will.
I’m just not that type of writer, or at least blogging for 14 – FOURTEEN – years turned me into the sort of writer that seems to only produce if the end result is made immediately public, the response instantaneous. This makes me a junky, I know.
This way of writing also makes me inarguably lazy. It is what it is.
Something happened along the way this year. If I’m honest – and being an honest writer is something I’ve been woefully bad at as of late – my lack of writing can be attributed to having much to say but all of it too personal, too honest, that it left me feeling as though I might never be able to make things tidy if I revealed such things. There I’d be, all miscreant elements of my personality, on display for the world with no hope of ever pretending again that I’ve got my shit together.
I said to my husband the other day that while people comment often that Abigail will not be able to escape being a writer, her parents being who they are, I typically retort that I hope that’s not the case. I’ve yet to meet a well-adjusted writer, and though I hope my daughter is creative, it’s hard to wish on the human you love most a fate that includes this sort of self-induced, pain-filled ridiculous navel-gazing.
My prayers at night often sound like this: “God, let me shepherd this child through the world well enough that she takes up cross-stitching. Or landscape architecture. Don’t let me fuck this up so badly that she needs to write.”
Almost exactly a year ago our friend died from ovarian cancer. I mentioned it here before, but it bears mentioning in this context because it left me profoundly changed in the most selfish and awful of ways. You should know our friend was anything but these things – she was a dedicated reader of this blog and, because she was not selfish or awful, would generously allow in conversations a connection with the cancer she was mightily battling with the trivial bullshit I was working out here. She was a beacon of kindness, and I mean that sincerely. I’m not demeaning her obvious complexity; our friend was genuinely someone who affirmed others, which is really all we’re here for.
I don’t think we thought she would die. I mean, we’re all going to die, and we’re pretty confident it’s going to happen to us, but it’s certainly not going to happen to anyone we know and love. This is the hubris of humanity. And so it was for those of us who loved and cared for our friend, for her husband, for her stepdaughter, her family.
At some point immediately following our friend’s death – because, again, I am awful and filled with hubris – I looked at Scott and regurgitated a cliche passed on through the ages, or at least since the Industrial Revolution paved the way for the sort of entitled thinking that we’re all destined for greatness: I need to think about what I’m doing with my life.
Suffice it to say, I’m still thinking about it.
This October, mind-numbingly and exhaustively and angrily so, visited us with more sickness and cancer. At one point a couple of weeks ago, I was walking home from the train – after having learned that day that a friend had been diagnosed with cancer and that a friend’s father had passed away the night before from complications due to cancer – and couldn’t help but notice how seductively vile Fall has the potential to be. This is the thinking of someone who is sad, I grant you, but I also believe it’s somewhat the truth. The evening’s wind was piercing and cold, and the warmth and autumnal glow earlier in the morning had fooled me into believing that the thin trench coat I was wearing would suffice, forgetting that 6 p.m. in mid-October can bring with it darkness and chill.
As I made my way up the hill to my house, I noticed two teenagers walking alongside each other, opposite my side of the street. They were clad only in sweats, but it seemed to be enough. Neither were familiar to me, though I suppose they’re my neighbors, which means all of the self-important talk tracks I had in my head growing up, about what the people on my block thought of me, are rendered null and void since it’s more than likely they didn’t even know to think of me at all.
Moments before I turned into my driveway, I watched as the boy momentarily walked out of step with the girl, happily pivot on his foot for a 360, and continue on his way, with her, lock step.
“Only kids can find the joy to spontaneously spin like that on a night like this,” I thought. “Only teenagers can be that blissfully unaware of how much life can drain that impulse away from you in 20 years.”
I didn’t mean to be creepy, and my eyes didn’t linger long on them, but in the midst of the selfish sadness I was feeling, watching these two kids operate with such oblivion to the darkness, to the cold, to being a grown up, it felt hopeful. Hopeful that such feeling exists in the world and hopeful that observing it meant that I could probably stand to start writing again.
A colleague mentioned something about NaNoWriMo the other day, and so it seemed a fine time as any to make myself get back into the habit. So while I’m not writing a novel, I am going to write, and write here, every day.