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Needle Instants

Needle Instants

A year ago I wrote here to summarize what had happened that year. I realize now I wrote it for myself, and realize all my writing is like that: for me, and for you as me. I hope I don’t presume to know you too well.

In graduate school, I have the vaguest memory of a discussion on historiography. Arnold Toynbee’s colossal Study of History was a professor’s favorite, as was Arthur Schlesinger’s Cycles of American History. I never read beyond bits and pieces, but latched on to the idea that there are different types of history. History is a cultural idea as much as music or dress, my professor believed. What clicked for me was the connection with the idea of time and experience in the quantum age: nothing exists until we observe it. Applied to history, nothing exists in the stream of shared memory until we apply a preformed idea of the story of what it’s supposed to mean.

A year on, I see evidence of cycles and a new sort of meaning. 2012 began well, had a terrific middle, and collapsed at the end. 2013 began with a wrack of anxiety and questioning, frustration that things weren’t going fast enough, and a long descending period where I tested where rock bottom was, or at least felt that place’s yawning hole. At the middle it turned around, and now here I am, already five days into 2014–a year used in Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke stories–and the sun is out, and I am okay.

It is easy to think I have failed. I meant to have a novel first draft by October. At the moment I am midway through the fifth chapter. So, objectively: fail. But over the year’s rise and fall I can see my driving, wretched attempt to make something happen in a way and at a rate I wasn’t prepared for undermined my mental health and made my right shoulder really hurt. Now I feel better about writing, and at moments have the sense that it really is possible, that I am writing to the best of my ability, that it will come together. Other days I don’t. This must be that package old folks keep talking about.

It took a long time to get over a woman I’d fallen in love with. There, I said it. New York made me realize I had never felt that way before, and it was something I wanted. I kept holding on to it through 2012, still grieving about my cat’s passing away, and I don’t care how sentimental you may think that is. I understood my teenage self in a new way, grasped another reason why I had steered clear of such involvements then. Fall of 2012 was all this, plus being jobless in a way I hadn’t planned: heartbroken, alone in the way of heartbreak and grief, and with a stack of vet bills. Unemployment had me out looking when I’d planned to get writing in earnest, landing interviews but no jobs: failure and rejection on three fronts (love, job, writing). 2013 opened with a new job, but with it the anticipated terror of failure. What am I getting into? Am I wasting my life in a different way?

From here, safe with the bright winter sunshine and citalopram, I can see the year’s weight came from holding on. This is the baggage that is so talked about! Voices as old as middle school I could at last see, high school’s crusty and overwrought ideas of success. I would have rather taken the appropriate meds from the start and avoided the darkest nights. The darkest nights are what I needed to have.

The first minute

The first minute

This past nervewracked summer, a friend asked why it was so bad to not have my life’s aspirations completed already. Are you in a hurry to be all done, to live a few more decades bumping into furniture, lost and rudderless? By the end of 2013, my inner animal understood what she meant.

2013 did not close with a first draft done, but I am friends with writing again: I can see back to the verve I had in college, and at last have the patience to make a good story instead of just good sentences. I feel like I know where I am in the book. I’ve held a job a year and saved most of the money. I was able to loan some to friends in need. I have a new car for another twenty years. I have a warm and safe place to sleep. I am healthier than I have ever been. I have met someone new.

It’s taken a little longer than I thought, but it always takes longer than you think. Today I will take down the Christmas lights and put them away, free of sadness, free of Monday school dread. It will be fine, for all of us, on the bus together.

Lost in fog, we are happy anyway

Lost in fog, we are happy anyway


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