Recently, I attended the reading of a younger friend--his first book. A good crowd, good questions afterward, both readers engaged and funny. The podium, the desk at which they sat, the moderator in an easy chair, the rest of us in rows of folding chairs. My books signed, chat with the friend complete, I left and talked with the friend I'd gone with about my own writing on the car ride home.
How this friend had been right when he'd said the people who keep writing don't rely on inspiration, they just write. Not that I haven't heard other writers say it, not that I haven't said it myself.
I found myself enthusiastic about my own work. I am. Returning from a Philadelphia writing retreat, I am the most confident about approaching said work than I have been in several years.
At the same time, I experienced the displaced sadness one feels as a wedding guest after one has been married for some time--of being a witness to young people just starting out. I felt ridiculous. Then again, this friend is, I think, 33, almost the same age I'd been when Robert became ill (34). We each have/had lives ahead--I spent my thirties swallowed by fear and anxiety, my forties trying to recalibrate my life, and now, yes, now, the fifties, after a few runs at Making Something Happen have been derailed by illnesses and complications of my lovely boy. I know what the friend sacrificed over several years to make the book happen. Even though this sacrifice was condensed into a few years, sacrifice nonetheless.
That I can identify with. Yet how odd the roles we caregivers are compelled to play: one gets used to bolstering the lives of others and it becomes a habit one cannot quite stop. I'd rather be the person in seclusion, writing, writing endlessly and revising, all to make the work the best it can be. Shutting out all the other "supposed to" moments.
When I told him all of this (by text, naturally, in little bytes) to another friend, he wrote back, I don't think things have to close down at all - my cousin is a year older ... She's in the peak of her creativity. And so are you. Your writing us much richer for your years and experiences and losses.
That word, "losses," again. Perhaps experiences and years are my emphasis. So many narratives to impose upon life, rewrite, revise. It might be better to realize life has no narrative flow, only characters and voices, actions and reactions. Writing memoir has taught me I can choose a dozen different paths through events, make the story almost what I will.
Which makes life, of necessity, malleable and, therefore, if not beautiful, willful and wild.