Sunday, 11 June 2017

Fail with faith

Reading: The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Listening to: "Heartbroken" by T2 (Ft. Jodie)
Outside: Rain on the horizon; wind tears at my laundry on the line

This past week I have failed at so many things.

I nursed and cursed my sty, which flared up in my right eye and tried its hardest to turn me into the Elephant Man. In this, fortunately, it failed. But it turned me into a miserable, complaining, lumpen mess, driven only by the constant and desperate need to sleep.

In my Igor paralysis, hiding away from the sun and sky and neighbors, I huddled under couch cushions and willed the buffering to stop while my child tried to enjoy Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, and then, when that failed, Monsters University. The movies each were like my current week: a series of stopping and starting, slowing until stunned, then back in movement again in confusion. Like our tiny Mike Wazowski, I was just trying to get a grip on life, to find my place in the pain which rose up around the right side of my head every time I blinked.

Fuerte Ventura, June 2013. I'm pretty sure a shark 
biting my head would have felt the same as a sty.

I didn't even go running.

I never not go running.

With aches and fatigue that settled under my skin like a snakebite, I did my best to be the Enthusiastic Mom, flying a backyard kite in playful wind. I saw stars. I made breakfasts, lunches, dinners. I lit scented candles in the vain hope I could raise my spirits, dwelling in my disasters.

And on top of this, my mom's ghost stood over me as I attempted to write a new novel.

Lena helps edit my novel LEMONADE, July 2015.

And I failed.

Now, here's a little backstory: Since I was twenty-one, I have written novels with Stephen King-like efficiency. I followed, with pure, singular devotion, his writing routine (gleaned from his memoir On Writing, perhaps the best book on the craft) with some few changes to suit my lifestyle, once I swallowed my fear and got my ass in the chair and started writing seriously, if secretly. I may not have cranked out as many novels as the King of Horror, but my passion for writing is there, just the same. During pregnancy and raising a baby, my word count stumbled, coughed and died. As I got a handle on diapers and the needs of a child, I got back into the saddle of writing, traversing the varied windswept plains, the throat-cracked deserts, the leaf-veined jungles and alpine permafrost of Writing Again, and since my daughter was born I have flax-spun three new books. If I have two working hands and a slightly functioning brain, I write. So there's that. And exactly eight weeks ago, my mom died, and here's my blog post about it.

I tore through the first five thousand words of my nascent novel, only to trash it a few days later. Its subject, based on the recent events of my life, cut too close to the bone. Each word a slice going deeper. I couldn't hack it.

And then: I scroll down my Facebook feed, the singular best way to make me respond almost physically to the things going on around me. The latest things - the Manchester bombing, the London bombing, the confusing UK General Election - make me feel like I am powerless in a world teetering out of control.

And I scroll past my friends and family members on vacations, their sun-kissed thighs propped up above white sand, their unhurried toes, their palm-tree dreams against the flawless open sky, enjoying their beer and mojitos and their late nights in Cuba and Spain and Florida under thumping neon lights while I am here, whipping the hair out of my face while I pin another threadbare winter sock up on the washing line.

My feet on the long-ago shores of Crete. July 2010

And all around my back yard, all my hopes still missing: the outdoor bar I would love (pouring a chilled bottle of White Zinfandel for this friend or that, glasses clinking in the sun); the new fence with each board strong and fresh and level, no longer the slanting, graying gap-ridden planks; the paddling pool we have yet to get, to bring splashes and smiles to our daughter and her friends and cousins; the chance to maybe (maybe! finally!) relax on a beach blanket under the sun, hedges dancing in the breeze; the confidence and reassurance I need for a future I must to see to believe.

The wind tickles the wind chime from Mom's house, and it sings its bittersweet song, a song so full of memories I can't think, and I will my throat to unclench. I answer the call of my responsibilities, the dishwater cooling in the kitchen sink and the next load ready to go in the washing machine. I pick up, hang up, fold up, put away and sneeze. I wear my wants like the half-orphan I am, asking for more.

And I am all of these things: want, regret, hurt. I am the product of those emotions that are my lifeblood. I am also, in the descent of this exhaustion, this burnt-outness, this I'd-love-a-holiday-ness - yes, and I know you'd love to get away, too - a renewal, an escape within myself: the summer dawns upon me.

Here it is: We must choose present over perfect.

We would be nothing without the present and all its imperfections. We would have nothing to strive for if things were exactly just so. We would have no story, no us.

Living in love. Messy hair, twisted bra-strap, fussy baby and all. Summer 2014.

My favorite picture of the two of us: tongues out and resplendent. Autumn 2016.

So, I've failed.

But I've failed with faith: I believe in myself enough to know that things will work out right, one way or another. My sty will disappear, and my summer flu with it. Heartbreak mends in degrees, when one has built oneself up strong enough to handle it. In the meantime, I pull at the weeds - the meaty hunks that have tried to encroach upon my happiness - and I rip them out cleanly, one at a time.

May your (gardening) days be as good as mine.

Happy Sunday, everybody!


  1. Keep going Sweetie. You are a beautiful talented strong young woman who handles the trials life throws at her with grace and dignity. time is a great healer. The hurt will soften but never fully go as it is a reminder of a love we were lucky to have had and that love has made us the people we are today. We love you and will always be here for you. xxx

    1. You have such a way with words, Mumsie, thank you for this and for your awesomeness. Love you, too! Xxx