Updating my blog has been a thing nagging at me in the back of my mind all year. I’ve never been one to journal but have changed the way I document events, free writing memories in storyscapes, scenes, diagrams. Instead of making notes like “never forget…” here and there or asking Peter, “Hey what happened when….,” I’ve been writing to recall the emotions tied to memories. I’ve stalled though lately. My preoccupation isn’t with the past long gone but the near past. My mother died recently, and I find that I grasp at every moment in the days before her sudden death, afraid she will slip away in my mind as easily as she did on Labor Day.
This has been an extraordinary year, and in September I marked the third year I began to finally, finally stop reading and thinking about writing fiction and do it. I published more of my glacially slow writing, attended workshops, worked closely with Nancy Stohlman and Kathy Fish and in the process met and learned from other gifted writers and found a way into an ocean of creativity. Two literary magazines I admire nominated me for prizes, including The Pushcart—a mind-blowing, adrenaline-flooding experience— and in January/February I’ll be at Rivendell in Sewanee to complete a working draft on a novella that will cut through my body and into my heart because of my mother’s death. We had attempted to repair our relationship over the past few years, but so much was hit or miss. I mourn what we missed as mother and daughter. I mourn her life, and I mourn for her, for my sister, our family. Addiction is a soul-stealer. What I despise most about it, over and above how it alienates a person from their own humanity, is that it erodes a person’s belief in their self-worth to receive compassion and love.
I’ve been working on this book in my head for several years now, reconfiguring the relationships among the women in Aeschylus’ Oresteia. I talked about it with my mother, when I was in Tennessee in late August, sitting outside on the steps with her when we needed a break from the grief going on inside the house where her father, my grandfather, has been trying to die a good death. We talked about the family dynamics of the story, and it brought up more apologies about our own pasts, things she desperately wanted to change. She wanted to be a different mother, and I think she expected something more exciting in a relationship with me like luncheons, manicures, shopping, things I don’t do. I told her instead it doesn’t matter anymore, let it go, it’s normal to be annoyed with one another sometimes, we do have a relationship, we are having one now. This is a relationship. We all want to be different mothers.