So, things have been nuts. My mom came to visit, two days after the movers hauled everything into our new house. We picked her up at the airport and – you might already know this – when she got inside our front door and started climbing the stairs, she pretty much collapsed.
Cue 911, and my first ever front-seat ride in an ambulance, sirens blazing, and my sister arriving on a flight past midnight. The doctor had given Mom a 50/50 chance, so by the next evening, when she seemed to be taking a turn, there we were, saying our goodbyes.
‘Lipstick stage’ (you know: that beautiful moment when the tube comes out, the colour goes on) arrived about eight days in, and when it did, C. and I snuck a happy glance at each other, might even have quietly high-fived, knowing for now she was going to be all right.
Other things happened: the three of us traveling back home to Ontario, Mom’s short detour in her local hospital, me taking on her household for a couple weeks while trying to grab time to get my novel done so I could ship it off to my agent not too far past our original deadline.
And that I did. Yesterday.
The manuscript’s gone, out of my hands, hopefully with not many (dare I hope: no more…?) tweaks needed before submission stage, and I’m back at home and my mom is making steady progress towards both recovery and fully figuring out what happened.
So, there it is: the context of the past several weeks, a little bit of filling in so that, if you’re a reader, you’ll understand my absence. My blog’s taken a back seat because I’ve been both crazy-busy and, to be honest, struggling with what to say.
The past few years, personally speaking, have been so trying, starting with my step-father’s sudden death, three year’s gone, and then my brother’s, nearly a year ago, and then this most recent chilling brush with loss. Grief seems to be my roommate, not all the time, not every minute, but there – like it’s there for Mel, the character I can feel myself starting to let go of as she begins her journey out into the world in my new book.
I know we make meaning out of stuff. That’s what we do, as humans, and I think that’s why I turn to fiction when the days become too hard. It’s easier to set the stage, drag out the props, let the characters dress up and play their parts, teaching me, than to stare straight on at reality. Luckily for me, this is my primary vocation, and I’ve figured out how to do it (and by ‘figured out’ I mean how to sit myself down with the pen on a more or less regular basis and let it happen, even when I’m lost).
But of course things haven’t just been crazy for me. Look at the world, look at this seemingly constant stream of horribleness. The other day, the day after the terrible shooting, someone on Twitter posted a bit of advice from her therapist, that we aren’t meant, as humans, to take in so much awful news. I think what she meant (or how I interpret it anyway), is that our meaning-making capacity and our ability to make sense of suffering as simply being part of life, cannot keep up. We’re swamped. We drown; too many of us, anyway.
The first night my mom was in the hospital back in Ontario, I bought some sushi for dinner and sat in front of Netflix, streaming comedian Ryan Hamilton’s stand-up show, Happy Face. I laughed so hard I wasn’t making any sound and I was conscience of my face, twisted into a sort-of grimace. People always say that tears and laughter are close, flip sides of a coin, and maybe I did that because I couldn’t stand to cry anymore, because I needed to emote, but not like usual, not with the story stuck on repeat.
It helped, anyway, to laugh: at loneliness, rejection, fear (seriously, go watch it).
This doesn’t seem to have much to do with beginnings, this post.
At least not so obviously.
Today feels like a beginning, though, for me. Book gone, writing this, and working in my new office (I might even unpack a few boxes).
In two weeks, it’s also my birthday (and a somewhat significant one), and while I don’t really expect life to get easier (because, you know, this is life, this balance of very hard things and working to see the good, more easily done with long breaks from the Internet), I hope the bad stuff slows down for a little while. I’d like to be free to focus for a little while solely on the bright yellow leaves against the blue sky or the joy in my dog’s face when he visits the dog park and meets all the strangers he already loves.