I wrote another thing this week. It got published on TheMighty.com.
Now for a confession:
There for a few weeks I began to wonder if I would ever be able to write about anything other than grief. It wasn’t necessarily all I thought about–that damn election left me pretty irritable, for sure–but it was all I could think to write about here.
Grief and loss and the delicate, heartbreaking process of giving care to elders is a topic that I first wrote about in junior high. A neighbor’s mother died of breast cancer–after months of at-home care, and my own mother was so moved by my fiction piece inspired by it that she shared the story with the family. That was, with the exception of a play I wrote about Henry XII, my earliest memory of someone “sharing” my work. It left me feeling warm and satisfied. It is at root why I decided, in my thirties, to declare myself “a writer.”
Right now my writing and my life are at a crossroads. Our son is older and more easygoing. He needs me less, it seems, each day. In a matter of years I’ll be free to work full-time again, if I choose. Could I maybe ever earn enough to give my steadfast, hard-working husband a chance in 10 or 15 years from now to let me pay most of the bills? My sweet ol’ daddy has my fantastic stepmother as his partner–and he’s relatively healthy, so he doesn’t “need” me in the multiple ways my disabled mother did. Still, I worry. My mother? She is, of course, dead.
My mother is dead. DEAD. Because of that my most recent job–that of primary emotional, fiscal, and legal caregiver to a woman who could, frankly, be a real handful–is gone. I lost my mother, my job, my child’s need for me to mother nonstop, and my identity (not to mention my geriatric cat) last year, in a span of weeks.
It’s a lot to take, if you think about it.
But right now, in this moment, I no longer have that feeling that I’m always going to feel like, well, my mother and cat just died and I just lost my job and my son is going to grow up and no longer need me and dear God how will I ever go back to a “regular job”? Those things are still true, sure, but they no longer feel binding, restrictive. They no longer suck the air out of my lungs.
This week I went out with friends to dinner–twice. This week I saw former students and colleagues at a professional conference (I crashed it!) who reminded me that I was a whole person before this Decade that Pushed Me to My Limits. This week I read a book that I wouldn’t normally read but am now almost finished with it and kinda stoked about the lessons it held. This week I did a lot of Zumba at home in my kitchen where no mirror would force me to acknowledge that I’m, well, getting saggy. This week I pitched articles again, this time to new places that I’d refrained from reaching out to because I feared another hospital stay by my mother would keep me from completing any projects. This week I started to kick around an idea for another article so I could help other people wrap their head around eldercare in ways other than financials and how to persuade an old person to move into a retirement village.
This week I updated my LinkedIn profile to reflect the fact that, job titles aside, I’ve been a writer in every job I’ve ever held in adulthood.
This week with fresh pots of orchids on my buffet, a vase of daffodils and a bunch of roses on my kitchen bar, I feel like I’m not hanging around that liminal space between life and death but in a new liminal space between past and future. It’s fresh and clean here, kinda fun, even.
Maybe I’m fun again, too? Maybe I’m also battle-scarred and rambling and back to the size I was in grad school but maybe just maybe this phase I’m in is no longer an ending but actually, truly, and finally a new beginning.
Crank up that Zumba beat, man.
I’m ready to dance again.