When we are writing our hearts and minds out (Level One) we just think of the page and perhaps a fantasy or two about publishing (Level Two). Today’s post is abbreviated by all the work that needs to be done once that fantasy is realized. Getting it out there is a lot of work. Level Three is a full time job. OK, back to work.
Today I just want to write about my dogs. I should be blogging and twittering according to the people who talk about author platforms. My book’s official publication date is today. I just want to think about how things are strung together. Not how I am supposed to be paying attention to my social media presence.
Today is also town meeting day and as new writer Matt Sumell has said in his NPR interview of last week, “Bad choices make for good writing.” We made bad choices and now we live in a place that has a town meeting on the first Tuesday in March, which is my publishing date and the day we will put our dog down. I wrote the book because it was a way to make sense of the outcome of our bad choices. In my book’s acknowledgements I thank my dog for getting me through, “my loyal assistant,” I called him. “No one can feel dumped for very long with a Golden Retriever by her side.” My dog has cancer. The chemo got him through to my publishing date.
The friend who gave me the book that I have chosen to read at this time has cancer. The book is Abigail Thomas’s Three Dog Life, a memoir of her husband’s traumatic brain injury, ensuing dementia and death. Last summer a writing instructor told me to read Thomas’s Safekeeping, so I read that instead. Now my friend’s blood work isn’t so hot and my dog is dying and another friend has cancer. I may get to meet Thomas in Atlanta this April through another friend who contributed an essay to my book. The book that officially comes out today. So it makes sense that I am now reading Three Dog Life, waiting for my life to soon be a one dog life. I know I will not lose my moorings but the more rope I can tie around things the better. This is grief.
The friend in Atlanta writes about how to write about grief. Mostly instead of writing I am watching television, opening and closing both my book and Thomas’s book, and wandering about the house eating snacks which I share with both the healthy dog and the dog who is dying of cancer. I cooked him hard boiled eggs. I share my Milanos. I bought him a new toy. We are up much of the night as he stares at me and I pet him and tell him thanks. I am angry at my own fatigue even though I know that’s ridiculous. My breathless cough has been around as long as his cancer, now. Both of us breathing in unsteady rasps. We are loud and annoying. My husband can sleep through anything, which is good, as I cannot stand to see him cry. At 3:35 AM Amazon sends me a list of the 100 memoirs to read in my lifetime. If Three Dog Life had been on the list, as it should, I might have collapsed from the weight of so much synchronicity. I’m glad my husband sleeps through this quiet agitation. The rest of us, healthy dog, sick dog, and me, are in and out of the house in the below zero temperatures, because the sick dog can’t remember that he has just been out, and the healthy dog is just excited that there is so much activity. The healthy dog has stopped roughhousing. The vet would be glad of that, she has been worried about the sick dog’s platelet count. Not that it really matters, now. But the healthy dog instead places a paw over the sick dog’s paw and lies down quietly next to him. He is no longer fighting for the sick dog’s toy. He sleeps on the sick dog’s bed, probably for the scent, as the sick dog only lies on the hard surface of the floor, although most of the time he just stands and stares at me, his front legs too far apart, like an old man who is trying to keep his balance.
A suggested reading list:
Safekeeping Abigail Thomas
Three Dog Life Abigail Thomas
Dumped: Stories of Women Unfriending Women Nina Gaby, editor
Braving the Fire: A Guide to Writing About Grief and Loss Jessica Handler
Making Nice Matt Sumell
Wednesday 8pm EST
Dr. Peter Sacco on Matters of the Mind…
Nina chats with Peter about
“Dumped:Stories of Women Unfriending Women” among other stuff (like, is it a coincidence that this is Women in Horror Month and we are talking about women’s friendships???????)
Tune in tonight!
Are we OK if I’m not funny today? Can I just be reflectively 64 years old? Overwhelmed and possibly inarticulate? Valentine’s full of alternative meanings?
Did anyone notice these articles:
“Sponsored by my husband: Why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from” Salon.com 1-25-15
“This Writer is Sponsored by Herself” Brevity Non-Fiction blog 1-29-15
They are kinda revolutionary. Should be causing mayhem. Because we don’t talk about this stuff. Even I don’t, with my big mouth about everything else.
They sure caught my eye as I pulled off my hoody and pulled on my Spanx getting ready for work the other morning. Said work is my day job and requires grooming, a long commute, lots of regulated paperwork. Mascara.
I snorted as I read the articles, with one eye on the screen and the other on my makeup mirror, snorting both out of the breathless discomfort that pulling on restrictive undergarments causes, as well as in an attempt to rid my mind of what life with “sponsorship” might be like. Another snort masqueraded as a sharp cleansing breath to rebalance my cognitive dissonance. Nothing helped.
(And NPR was on in the background reminding us of how many millions were anticipated this weekend for Shades of Grey or some other ridiculous corporate sponsored all-American event.)
I have always been a career-oriented feminist, equal life-burden-sharing with my husband who would secretly love to be able to “take care of his creative wife” but we do not discuss that. How can I ever be honest about how, just maybe, I have been jealous of all those “sponsored” women I have known in my life as a “hard-working artist and writer and mother who also has always had a responsible day job?” Just watching myself write this makes it seem like I’m spitting out the words. What would it feel like if I were to actually question where I might be today if I had more time? Less pressure? Am I the only one who worries I might lose my mind if I reviewed my life with any real scrutiny?
This is my self-talk: “You are so lucky to have your job. You help people. You are so much happier aka sanctimonious than if you were languishing in your studio just making stuff or writing stuff. You just do it all. Girl. Awesome.” Still not helping.
Later that morning I closed my office door and collapsed into a teary heap on my desk. Simultaneously trying to see patients, get to meetings, answer e-mails, promote my book, monitor Facebook, call the bank, call the vet, the guy to rake the two feet of ice off the roof, forgetting my lunch, haven’t exercised, feeling guilty for not paying closer attention to it all, beating back anxiety. A midday pity party interrupted by a million things that I didn’t want to deal with. Like those articles describing lives of privilege. Feeling really angry that some people in this world can just focus on their writing, their art, their exercise routines, their own mental health.
This is dangerous terrain. And luckily it lasted less than a minute.
Fast forward to this morning. A Valentine from my “sponsor.” Three crisp bills in a very cool card from my husband to “help” me promote my book, or at least find something fabulous to wear while I’m doing it. Now that’s privilege.