Friday, 17 July 2015

Not writing anymore, and other possibilities

I don't know where to start here, most days. I have been trying hard each day to look at good things that happen, to list five things to myself each night before I go to bed. Today a coworker bought me coffee. Today I took a patient to the opposite side of the hospital because they didn't know how to get there and the smile that they gave me at the end of it was the sweetest thing I'd ever seen. Today, I packed a most delicious lunch. 

Today, I went for a run again.

Today, I lost myself in the piano that I rarely ever play anymore. 

Today, I am alive.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

The Long Hard Mend

"One day," a close friend said to me a week or so ago, "you'll look back on this time, and see how much you learned. How much growing you did, and how all of it helped you become the person that you needed to be."

Why can't I be that person now, I think. Why can't I be that person now.

It is beautiful out. It is beautiful and I went for a run this morning and last night at work I wrote the first few sentences of a new story. I haven't written fiction in--a year? Maybe not quite that long, though it feels a lot longer. I won't count the novel because that doesn't feel like writing fiction so much as it feels like a chore, or some kind of demon that keeps playing hide-and-seek.

How is it that you can be outside enjoying the day and the sunshine and having such a lovely time, only to wake up in the middle of the night and feel as though you've broken all over again? Why does it take such a long time, this business of putting oneself back together?

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Wherever and whenever you stop digging

"220. Imagine someone saying, "Our fundamental situation is joyful." Now imagine believing it. 

221. Or forget belief: imagine feeling, even if for a moment, that it were true.


235. ... Perhaps it would help to be told that there is no bottom, save, as they say, wherever and whenever you stop digging. You have to stand there, spade in hand, cold whiskey sweat beaded on your brow, eyes misshapen and wild, some sorry-ass gravedigger grown bone-tired of the trade. You have to stand there in the dirty rut you dug, alone in the darkness, in all its pulsing quiet, surrounded by the scandal of corpses."

-- Maggie Nelson, Bluets

I am trying so hard to be grateful for this jewel of a life and I am, I am, I am. In a few weeks I fly to New Jersey to see my dearest friend in all the world and we will go to NYC and stay in a hotel and drink cocktails named for books, and I will be grateful and happy and everything will be perfect, even if only for three days. But that is not the problem. The problem is that this used to be enough to make me happy, to make me grateful--this little yellow apartment with its rooftop deck and quirky ceilings and this job that (once upon a time) was enough to pay the bills and give me time for writing and now pays the bills and then some but doesn't give much time for writing anymore, and now it is easier to wake up and think why don't you just go back to bed, there's not much else to do and sometimes I do just that, sometimes I just close my eyes and sleep again and it is great, it is everything I want at that moment in time.

And then there are moments when it all comes off, like a skin shucked onto the ground, and I blink and I find myself saying, faintly, maybe there's a story in there, somewhere. And for a moment I feel like my old self, like that's a possibility, somehow. Something I could get back to, something I haven't forgotten.

I have never in all my life before minded time spent by myself, and for the past few months I have minded it so much I've felt myself becoming an entirely different person. This sadness that pulses so deep it feels alive.

A friend of mine is both convinced of and perplexed by what he sees as the "confessional" age of the times. People have this great need to purge everything, he says. Publicly. It's all about the reveal, how raw you are, how bare you can make yourself in front of others. 

I have been feeling, myself, as though it's not so much a revealing as a confession. Confessing myself to the world, or wanting to, and expecting--what? I don't know.  

This too shall pass, they all say. But when? How do I get there? How do you pull yourself back out of the hole when you stop digging, grind your muscles over the great walls of dirt and sprawl once more beneath the stars?

One handful at a time, I suppose. One breath, and then another. 

Saturday, 25 April 2015


A week ago I hosted a Steel City Stories evening. It was a great deal of fun. At one point, one of the storytellers mentioned how she'd once had a conversation with me where I said something along the lines of loneliness is part of the writing life, and hearing it from her--as in, my words spoken back to me from someone else's mouth--made me feel odd. Almost terrible. Like being flashed in terrible, if only for a moment. Sometimes I forget how glib one can be with true things.

Had a Skype conversation with my dearest friend in all the world a few nights ago. We have decided that I need something to look forward to. Is that so terrible, this plotting and scheming so that one might have things to work towards? For the past few years I've felt so guilty about how I squandered my twenties. It doesn't feel like squandering on the one hand--how much I learned about myself during those twenties, how much I hurt and loved and felt and read and was--but when you're up against the reality of trying to regain financial stability and paying down debt and staying in a job you do not love because it probably pays more than you will ever make doing the thing that you do love--well, it feels like squandering now.

And so I find myself feeling guilty about AWP, despite how much I loved it, guilty about wanting to book another trip now, and soon, guilty about wanting to pick up and start a new life somewhere else because who has money for all of this? Certainly not me.

You had more experience in your twenties than a lot of people have in their lifetimes, another friend said to me a while ago. Now you get to pay for that. Consider yourself lucky to have had that at all.

I am paying, I understand that. The cup cannot runneth over forever. But meanwhile I am not writing, I am not playing, I am not dreaming the way that I used to, the way that used to say this will be hard, but you can do it. Now I look at things and I think: it isn't worth it, anymore.

I am so terrified of a life that just shrinks away under the guise of responsibility. Paying debt and working hard and sleeping because you have no energy for anything else and your world keeps getting smaller, smaller, smaller until it just isn't there anymore.

So. I need something else to look forward to.

Universe, please pry me open, is what I am saying.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

The echoes of a person you once knew

So I went to AWP last week, and it was lovely. Magical. So much fun. Book fairs and cupcakes and dinners and readings and long talks with friends new and old. One of the nicest hotel rooms I've ever stayed in. Long bubble baths at night, reading the haul that I brought back from the book fair.

Did I mention that there were cupcakes?

 I felt like my old self again. My pre-2014 self, alive and excited. 

Monday, 6 April 2015

Flying away

I'm heading to Toronto tonight, ahead of our flight tomorrow morning to Minneapolis and the excitement that will be Little Fiction | Big Truths at AWP. I am excited, not-excited, nervous. This happens every single time I travel somewhere--choking anxiety followed by the push on through, the resolution, the one step in front of another and eventually you'll get there.

Matthew Kabik, who is a pretty smart dude and all kinds of wonderful besides, has written an open letter to the writing life that pretty much sums up my current frame of mind, irony of being on the edge of attending a writing conference notwithstanding. I am sad reading it, and also so relieved. Yes, yes, yes someone else feels the same way. Yes. 

Somewhere in the past ten years I started believing that writing could do something for me that it can't. What that something is, I still don't know. Or maybe it's just that I thought writing would solve a problem, and it is, it does, but the nature of this problem is that it never goes away, no matter how many times you solve it, or think you solve it, or come close to understanding. There is always another thing to uncover.

Last week I went to Toronto and had lunch with the spectacular woman behind KissCut Design and we talked art and work and life and hard times and I felt, walking through the Toronto sunshine later that day, a little like my old self. Excited like my old self. Hopeful like my old self. I am hoping that this feeling will come back to me at the conference. That I will search and see it and pin it to the ground and wrestle it and myself back to some kind of truth, together.

There has to be another way, I tell myself, even as I dream about flying away altogether and starting a new life somewhere else. Something more than feeling stuck where you are, grateful and also guilty because you don't love your job, because it drains you even as it's easy, because you feel buried under how grateful you are for the money and how tired you are from working all the time and then coming home and trying to work all the time when you're there. The words feel so much smaller than they used to, so paltry, so unimportant.

There has to be another way. There has to be another life.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Dealing only in truth

A couple of weeks ago, Penguin Random House (love them forever) sent me a copy of this book to review:
They also sent me a copy of THE BURIED GIANT, which is wildly (ha) different from the book above and which--embarrassed face--I'm still trying to get through. I don't know why I'm having such a hard time with it, except to say that I used to inhale books back in the day and now I find it all so much more difficult. Harder to devote my attention, harder to really get swept away by a narrative. I don't know what that means.

Am I still even a book lover? Has that changed too, along with so many other things?

Or maybe I'm just a slower reader, now, than I used to be. Maybe I'm making a big deal out of things that just have tiny, simple, almost-invisible answers. I don't know.