50

Today is my 50th birthday.

Last night I tried staying up past midnight to watch my 40’s disappear, as if being awake for the event would make it more believable.  But I fell asleep and when I awoke a whole new decade of my life had begun. 50. Half way, or maybe more than half. Do I really want to live to see 100?

My daughter has been sick with pneumonia and had to be hospitalized. Rather than getting  a massage and a manicure as I’d planned this past week, I spent several days by her hospital bed. Nothing mattered to me outside that room. On Tuesday I forced myself to go to work because I had a deadline, but I left early and rushed back to sit with her in that little room. When she was well enough to go home, I began round the clock home care, which included waking up at 3 AM to administer a dose of antibiotics. I didn’t care about sleep; I just wanted my daughter well again.

And then came my birthday.

I hadn’t wanted a party; going to the March on Washington was my party. But sleep was necessary. So on this first night of my 50’s, I am in a hotel room just a mile from my house (just in case…) so I can sleep and write and sleep some more. I used to be able to manage on 4 hours of sleep a night for months. Now, I can’t get through a day on less than 6. I must be 50.

My 40’s kicked my butt! I feel beat up and worn out and then left in the sun too long. I feel year after year of stress in my bones. Will my 50’s be more of the same?

The odd thing is I feel excited about a new decade. It feels like a new book in a series. The old book is done and now I start a new adventure. I’ve never been this age before. And I feel such freedom and relief, because I don’t care so much what other’s think. I’m not worried about making people happy or wondering if I’m doing something wrong. Other people’s opinions matter less than ever, which makes me feel strong. I know what is right for me. I still struggle and have a lot to learn to be myself, but at least I finally know who that person is.

Plus, it’s raining on my birthday. It hasn’t rained on my birthday in many years. When I was a child it rained every year and then sometime in my 20’s I realized my birthday wasn’t in Winter anymore. But today, it is cold and gray and damp, just the way I like it.

Rain is a good sign, and my daughter is getting stronger. Now to sleep and dream and regain some strength. It’s a whole new decade to explore.

Good night.

 

In my own world, writing

Blogging? What’s that. Right now I am immersed in my own, silent writing. I’m hidden away in a world I’ve created through language and ink. It takes focus and dedication to create this world, so I don’t want to wander away for even a brief moment. If I do, I might lose my way. After months of false starts and ideas, I’ve found the path through my own little forest of creativity. Writing it down is like following a candle’s flame in the distance; keep the light in sight and you won’t get lost.

Occasionally I need to trust I’ll find my way again and leave my own world. The real world with all its problems and joys grabs my attention. It’s a tricky balance: imagination and practicality. I need to stay grounded and aware of life, while at the same time protect solitude so I can write. I don’t want to tune out reality so much that I lose touch with time. But I also don’t want to get bogged down in bills and politics so much my imagination suffers. My awareness is juggling intuition. I write, therefore I am.

Because time to write is such a struggle, I tend to hang on to that state of mind with all my might. Nooooooo… I don’t want to pick up my daughter from school or return a phone call or wash another towel. I want to lock myself in my room and write. I’m a mother and a wife and a dog owner and I have a garden. I love my family, but just like all moms, I tend to give them all too much. So I cling to writing as if it’s the only thing that’s really mine.

When I’m engrossed in writing my book, I don’t blog. I know we’re “supposed” to; gotta keep building that audience and platform, the experts say. But when writing time is fleeting, it’s hard to care. I just want to write; let my readers find me on their own.

My own writing world is calling. Time to chase that candle flame again.

A third into my book I have to ask: what am I writing about?

Writing, writing, writing… wait. What am I writing? What is the point? Who am I writing this for? Why am I writing this book?

Ak!

I was doing really well for several weeks, writing every moment I had in bursts of focused energy. The first section of my book finished, six lovely chapters focused on the first few years of my daughter’s life. And then…

The focus vanished. The doubts set in.

One complaint about “special needs memoirs” is how parents take over their children’s stories and make it all about them. The child is lost under the parent’s struggle. I don’t want to fall into that trap. My daughter is the one who struggles daily with her disabilities. This is her life and I am telling her story in the hope it will help others. But am I actually including her in the storytelling, or just rehashing my own fears and triumphs?

I don’t know.

So now here I am, staring at my screen and the 100 pages I’ve already written, unsure whether or not to continue. Do I stop? Start over? Keep going? Chuck the whole book and go back to writing plays? Am I able to write the book I envision? Perhaps I don’t have the skill. But I have to try.

I’ll follow my own advice and go back to that basic question: who am I writing this for?

Answer: Parents of children with disabilities.

Why am I writing it?

Answer: Because I want to help them find joy raising their children and not be overwhelmed with grief and fear.

How will I do that?

Answer: I don’t know.

Any ideas?

 

 

This writer is tired of epic years.

As a writer, I should enjoy adventure, drama and changes. Good stories come from epic years, those years in your life when everything falls apart and is rebuilt, transformed, and reborn. Pick up any novel and there will be chapter after chapter of drama and cliffhangers.

Living an epic isn’t as much fun as writing one.

2015 was one of those years when I wondered if I actually was a character in a book. Was I up a tree having rocks thrown at me by an invisible writer? I had adventures, like going to New Orleans during Mardi Gras (talk about adventures!). I had bitter-sweet moments, such as when my daughter graduated high school in June. And there was great drama as my husband and I faced death with his cancer diagnosis. We laughed, we drank, we cried and fought and dreamed and hoped. I learned more about my self and how resilient I can be in one year than I had learned in 5.

This writer is overflowing with stories. I’d like 2016 to be a quieter year so I can write them.

From talking to friends and family, I am certainly not alone. 2015 tested everyone I know, some in just as epic ways as I. Illness, accidents, divorces and deaths happened with such frequency we’re all jittery from shock. Four people in my immediate circle of friends and family passed this year, including my own grandfather and my daughter’s grandfather. Cancer popped up in two acquaintances, and I had my own cancer scare when a tumor was removed from my forehead; Thankfully it wasn’t aggressive, but it was malignant.

I am sick of cancer and illness. I want my loved ones to be healthy this year. I want relationships to stabilize and love to grow. I want people to calm down and stop reacting in fear and anger. I want calm so we can heal from a too epic year.

Happy New Year everyone. May 2016 allow you the time to breath.

Solstice Bonfire

Bright red sparks shine like stars in the black night, rising up on waves of smoke and heat. A half smile moon looks down on the people dancing and singing around a bonfire. This is a clan of artists, bohemians, hippies, healers, millennials, elders, rich and poor, all stretching eager hands toward the brilliant heat of the bonfire. Let the warmth fill you. The darkness is diminishing.

This is my clan. After a year of sadness, fear and exhaustion, I join this gathering. In the past, I would have known everyone, but today I’m surrounded by strangers I feel I know. We all know the hosts, the dear people I call my Aunt and Uncle, although we’re not related. They are my family simply because they love me and I love them. My uncle in the plaid outfit takes my hand and commands, “Have some fun for a change!” Yes Sir.

My father dances around the bonfire in a flame red coat and crown, dressed as the Sun King. My sister takes my hand and we remember how much we love each other. The night goes on as the fire burns down, but we stay awake, waiting for the first glimpse of sunlight. The longest night will soon be over.

Happy Solstice.

The Rough Draft, or Why my first draft is supposed to be awful

Fingers flying along my keyboard, I furiously write the first draft of my new book. I’ve given myself an unrealistic deadline: New Year’s Eve.   Hiding in my room late at night when I should be sleeping, I write. As soon as I drop my daughter off at school but before my first client, I write. I forgo the gym, forget to check my email and never return phone calls. I write in a frenzy with an unrealistic deadline calling the charge. Who cares if it’s unrealistic? This is the first, rough, god-awful draft. Getting words on paper, or screen, is all that matters.

You heard me, I said god-awful rough draft. My sentences are incomplete and my thoughts scattered. Most of my scenes don’t make sense and will be cut. My characters are boring and my dialogue worse. None of it is any good. I know that, but I keep writing. It’s not supposed to be any good yet.

My first drafts are always terrible. I’m really writing a fancy outline, piecing ideas together like a puzzle, waiting until later to fill in the middle.  Mostly exposition, I write down thousands of words each day as I try to create a cohesive structure for my thoughts. If I stop and worry about making the scenes strong or the prose pretty, I’ll lose the flow of the story, the heart that keeps the story together.

I love this part of writing a book.

Once the final page is written, I’ll let it breath for a few days. Then I’ll write again, cutting and filling and shaping the chaos I’ve written. With hard work the book will turn into something other people can read. That process can take years. I hope my rough draft isn’t so awful that I have to scrap the entire thing and start again. It happens. But I won’t worry about that right now. I’ll just keep writing, writing, writing, writing…