Sunday, 7 August 2016

Salute

Reading: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Listening to: "Salute" by Little Mix
Outside: a glorious, glorious summer day


"If you're with me, women, let me hear you say -"  - Little Mix

Like the sky's reflecting my mood, I'm here to tell all of you, my lovely and devoted readers, about one particular hot, shining example of fine literature in the hands of a laaaaady.

Two words. Sharp Objects.

The lady responsible for it is, of course, Gillian Flynn, most recently known for Gone Girl.

My poor, battered, pre-loved copy.

Only one other book in my history of reading - and we're talking thousands of books - has made me almost throw up, and that is Chuck Palahniuk's Haunted. But lemme tell ya, Flynn really packs a punch - I actually had to leave my desk on my lunch break and take a breather in the bathroom, the queasiness wasn't just a feeling, it was a state of being.

What I find most amazing about Sharp Objects is that it is her debut. A remarkable, awe-inspiring debut. This book - and here, I thump my poor, pre-loved, battered copy resolutely but with a kind of proud (almost parental) love - shows you what a person can do with words. The magic, the power, the raw ache of words. She wrangles them together deliciously. Wields them like knives.

It's pretty much the only thing I can think about.

So if you like your Chuck Palahniuks, your Stephen Kings, your Bret Easton Ellises and Peter Straubs and your James Dickeys and Jim Harrisons, let's not forget this woman who can make some deep dark marks on a page just as much as these big boys. If you want some scary, messed up stuff, pick up Sharp Objects. You won't be disappointed.

Do it. Do it now.

So today I salute you, Gillian Flynn, for your masterful vision and your unapologetic prose. I hope someday to meet you and shake your hand.


Salute Inspiration!

I look up at my Wall of Inspiration: at my faded magazine articles (Kathryn Stockett's looking at me right now, photographed in what looks like her bedroom, as she tells More magazine back in May 2011 about her 60 literary agent rejections - my, oh, my, I beat that by a country mile - before becoming who she is today, the woman who wrote The Help, one of the finest books and films it has been my pleasure to experience) and the women that keep an eye on me from photographs, poems and letters, each of them Blu-Tacked to my wall, each a constant reminder, each of them devoting (I say it like that, devoting, even if these women are no longer walking and talking, because such a thing is always present tense: these stories and feelings linger long after death, after all; words are immortal) their kind care and attention to art and love, love and art. Mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and daughters.

Ladies, never, never lose your weird. What makes you weird makes you wonderful, and be sure to show your wonderful to the world someday. Just 'cause you're a gal doesn't mean you can't do it.

And a big shout-out to all the guys out there who applaud the rise of ladies on their paths to strength.


Happy Sunday, everybody!



Wednesday, 29 June 2016

How I got my agent

Reading: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Listening to: Lil John "Snap Your Fingers"
Outside: Rain

It wasn't long ago I'd read stories like this. Blog posts, magazine articles, QueryTracker Success Story interviews. Weeks ago. I'd read each one breathlessly, leaning in close because here, here this kind of thing existed. This powerful, impossible, magical thing: writers getting literary agents. 

I'd read them with a mix of emotions. Always a lungful of hope and a gutful of - I'm going to admit it - hot, sick jealousy. Why was it happening to others and never to me? How many rejections would I have to endure?


That's how it felt. Getting to the center of the Tootsie Roll Pop would perhaps be easier. Image from here.

But I'm sitting here right now telling you that this has happened to me. An amazing agent fell in love with my novel and offered representation. Simple as that.




The short version: 

I sent a query on a Sunday evening, via one of those online forms where you're pretty sure your query chopped and spliced out of its normal layout on your painstakingly careful and polished query letter, so it feels like that's another strike against you gets swallowed up by some kind of monstrous hungry computer, only to discover that, while I slept (I'm in the UK, and the agency is five hours behind me in New York), the agent not only received the query but responded.

I woke up to a full manuscript request.

Oh, my!

So I did my Full Manuscript Request dance, which of course is different for everybody but I highly recommend you discover yours, and emailed the full to the agent. Then, with a cautious spring in my step, I left for work. 

After that, it all happened very fast.

By the afternoon I had an email from her saying she was halfway through and really enjoying it, and was anyone else reading it? (There was.)

By the next afternoon, on a Tuesday while I sat at work, I saw another email: She read it and thought it was fabulous, and I had such a great voice. Would I be free to chat over the phone?

Little did I know that that would end up being The Call.

The Call.

Imagine, me. Getting The Call. Like for real.

A mere 48 hours after sending the query.

This kind of thing doesn't happen to someone like me.


Ohhhh yes. All the feels.



And the long version: 

I have written 12 books since I was 21 years old. Most of these books are horrible and embarrassing. Perhaps four or five of them are actually decent. I queried several different books - oh yes, even a couple of the bad ones, but hey, ya gotta learn somehow - across the years since March 2010, when I believed getting an agent would be easy, that I'd send out a handsome scattering of queries and in a week or two I'd have a good handful of agents knocking on my door, contracts in hand. But no. No. That is not how it goes. Yes, I got a handful of partial requests, and I will never forget the time I got my first full manuscript request (what? A literary agent actually wants to read my stuff?), but they always came back as rejections. There's a whole lot of rejection out there. And that's okay. Because rejection teaches you things. 

Like how to to write a good book first. You have to learn how to edit. You have to fall down several times and then get back up again. You have to believe in yourself. Yes. This last thing is the most important.  


And here I've broken it down for those of you who really just want the numbers.

Number of queries sent: 85
Number of partial requests: 5
Number of full requests: 7
Offers of representation: 1


For all of you burgeoning writers out there, remember this: DON'T GIVE UP. Only about two months ago I was ready to throw in the towel. Two months ago I felt hopeless, after getting yet another rejection from what I thought might have been a sure thing (and almost half a year's worth of edits). I was devastated. For six years I had saved a bottle of champagne with a special note wrapped around its neck: OFF LIMITS - FOR IF WHEN VEE GETS AN AGENT. (Notice how I'd crossed out the IF.) Two months ago I was ready to open it up and pour it down the drain and throw the bottle in the recycling bin. There were tears. Lots of tears.

I'm sure glad I saved it, because I got to open it Monday, June 20th after signing the contract. And it was delicious.

No more waiting! Wooooot!

Here we go!

The sweet taste of success.

A sign my mom sent me for Christmas. It speaks the truth.

Now I am thrilled to be represented by the amazing, the one, the only Jen Marshall at Kuhn Projects / Zachary Shuster Harmsworth in New York City! With Jen by my side, the sky's the limit. I am over the moon to have found the literary agent of my dreams.

Now I've begun a fresh round of edits to make my novel the absolute best it can be.

So there you have it. Live, love, and be inspired.

If you'd like to read more, here's my QueryTracker Success Story Interview.

Look for me on the bookshelves someday! 

Happy Wednesday, everybody!

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Letter to Lena

Reading: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Listening to: Evening birdsong
Outside: Soaked rain clouds, deep blue

Dear Lena,

You’re two years and five months old now, and wailing snotty nose into your baby monitor, brandishing your angst at the world and my left ear. I type this with a lump in my throat, because I know you’re tired and you have a cold, and you’re wanting and waiting to close your eyes for the night. You’re fighting. 
            Last night, I held you through the night and into morning until almost four o’clock because I found you out of bed and howling your head off. “Sleep on couch with Mommy,” you insisted, over and over, bawling over the pile of sheets and blankets you’d ripped off your bed, exhaustion-wracked and defiant. Into a fresh, soft blanket I bundled you, curling up on the couch and covering your bare feet, patting your rump like I did when you were brand new, marvelling at the way you mold yourself around me: folding your legs neatly in the bare curve of mine, going quiet, your black eyes blinking up at me in the dark.
            I held you like I’d done so many nights before, back when I thought night feeds would never end; but end they did, and those drowsy wondrous hours faded away until the occasional illness, when what you need most is Mommy’s hug. I was given this rare opportunity. I held you for a long time.

***

You’ve settled now. Now I’ll say it. Darling, today, nothing went right for me.
            Rain hampered my yardwork and I didn’t get it all done. My one free day in the week, and it rains.
            Watching the sky for rain and gauging how long I had to do my outdoor stuff kept me from finishing my indoor stuff, except for three loads of laundry (precious clothes, precious time).
            To top it all off, our boiler broke. It’s been twenty-four hours without heat or hot water.
           
But then these other things happened.
            You spent time with Daddy making Play-Doh creatures and figuring out mazes on your Tablet.
            I managed to get a shower at our neighbour’s house – a little kindness goes a long, long way.
            You helped Daddy make dinner tonight, and we all ate together at the kitchen table, serving up steaming spaghetti Bolognese from the pan in the middle. A rare occasion for our three faces to all look at the same place at once. Delicious.
            You listened when I told you about the magic of the Natural History Museum in London, and how we’ll go visit there someday.   
            You gave me a hug tonight, without me asking.

***

           You are sleeping now, and in a moment I’ll be at your bedside, straightening the covers around you. It’s this little bit I can do now – now that you’re getting so grown up, making your own opinions and surprising me with your burgeoning sense of humor. It’s the tiny ways you need me now, but only when you’re asleep. Only when you don’t know.
            Darling, remember this: all we have is precious, precious time. Sometimes things don’t go right, so we have to remember the things that do. A warm blanket under your chin, a hand on your brow. A silent kiss. These things are right. 
            Sleep tight.


Picture from here.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Inspiration



Reading: Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
Listening to: "Can't You Trip Like I Do" by Filter & The Crystal Method
Outside: Ah! Springtime! Laundry dries on the line!


She's at it again: my toddler daughter continues to teach me more about life every day. Yesterday's lesson came at me like an out-of-control steam engine. One word. Tantrum.




Now, my little lamb, she is usually that - I mean, scarily so - a little lamb. But sometimes she can't get the train tracks clicked. Or sometimes the Mega Blox just don't stack right. Or sometimes, I don't know, I want to put her left shoe on her left foot, as opposed to her right foot, and well, things just slide out of control and careen right off the rails.

The same thing happens to us adults, although we've usually, in the fullness of time (hopefully, hopefully), learned to deal with it with a little more, shall I say, finesse

I'm talking about more than just waiting a long time to get the check at the end of your meal. More than just being stopped on your way to the bagel shop at lunchtime by a guy braying about a charity you already donate to, and if you don't, you would be more inclined to donate to it if you weren't being brayed at about it. More than just being cut off in the fast lane, or the rain dashing your hopes of sunning yourself in the back yard because you have Seasonal Affective Disorder and you are f*cking desperate for some Vitamin D.

Yes. More than that. I'm talking about when you don't get that job you were really, really hoping for. When you don't lose that five pounds you were expecting to lose. When you ask that girl (or that guy) out for a second date and he/she doesn't answer your text. When you're trying to learn a foreign language and the words are senseless, maddening scribbles across the page. When you're pretty sure your physical therapist is trying to kill you when she asks you to actually stand up and walk down the length of the shallow pool. When you spend so much of your time and your energy and your thoughts and, no, more than that - your dreams - on something and things just fall apart. It hurts.

To that, I have the answer, and it's the same thing I said to my daughter as I knelt in front of her on the living room floor, catching her eye for a few brief but important seconds (because a few seconds is all it takes): Just because something is hard doesn't mean you can't do it. If it's hard to do, that means it's important. 

Like I said, we're all past building blocks and little toy train sets, but we're not past the grinding hurt and anger and the blinding urge to lash out and scream and throw it across the room when things just don't work out. You've felt it. I've felt it. God, have I felt it.

They say to count to ten. They say take deep belly breaths. Those things are supposed to help. In the short term, yes, they do help. Here's something even better, and long-term: Inspiration.

You need it. 

What is it that keeps you going when you feel like giving up? Is it the praise you might get from your friends and family? The look on their faces when you actually make it? When you get the job of your dreams, or you slim down to the size 12 (or 18, or 8) you always knew was in you, or you speak Italian fluently to the waiters on your trip to Rome? Is it the promise of fulfillment of something once missing, another half of you that you finally find: someone who actually does answer your texts? Is it the visualization of your heart-pounding walk across a park, a walk that took weeks or months or years to relearn, after your motorcycle accident almost wiped you out?

Sometimes I get rejections from literary agents and in my lowest moments even I'm tempted to just throw it all away. And in my darkest times, I've thought, really, what's the point?  

Here's the point: because I'm a writer. I need (need) to fill people up with the stories that compel me to write. I want to give back to the world those same emotions that rushed through me when I read Magic Terror by Peter Straub, and 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King and Toni Morrison's Beloved (this is a maddeningly short list; it goes on). I keep going because when the writing - when the Doldrums of mere living - seems impossible to navigate, I have little pieces of myself, my friends and my family around me all the time. I have my Wall of Inspiration.

My Wall of Inspiration

This is only a small part of it - it actually takes up three walls - but you get the idea. We have photographs, poems, newspaper clippings and drawings, art projects from high school, little pithy quotes and cards and even a mini American flag from my mom. I sit and work on my craft amidst all these, reminded all the time that there are people out there who believe in me (especially in those moments when I forget to believe in myself). Words written in ink, typed and on display for me to read and remember. The annals of rejection may be vast, but my inspiration is wide and deep and impossible to measure. 

Sometimes it feels like there's no end in sight. Before you check your phone for another hopeful job offer, before you step on those bathroom scales again, walking past that someday bikini you got hanging on your closet door, or before you sink down into the chlorine of that physical therapist's torture pool again - take another long, hard look at yourself and remember who you are. Why you're living and breathing on this earth. Decide what's important. Keep your eyes on the prize. Then get to work. 

How about you?

What's your inspiration?



(Happy Sunday!)



Sunday, 24 January 2016

How I could afford to become a writer

Reading: Darkness Visible by William Styron
Listening to: "Centuries" by Fall Out Boy
Outside: Street lamp lights float in this gentle evening

Well hey, guys! Happy 2016!

Now that January is in full swing and the Yuletide's food comas have abated, I thought it would be nice to hop back in the saddle and bring to your attention: this.

I write this in response to Andrew Scott's recent post in Brainspotting, a vibrant and vital newsletter for all you writers out there. In his post, How I could afford to become a writer, Scott - author, editor, university professor and dad, gives us his own history on how he became a writer - a path that is certainly different for each and every one of us.

For so many of us, money is a dirty thing. It is a distasteful subject (always an awkward but necessary talking-point during a job interview, which: ugh), but nonetheless something that we need to survive. We will do what we can to make it, and then it takes almost nothing to spend it. We have to pay bills, after all. We need to eat. We need that glass of wine, or that slice of cheesecake, or the latest Fall Out Boy album - those scrumptious little creature comforts in life.



For some of us, we can write because we have money. We have it because we are given it through a parent's gift, or through a tragedy - either way, it lays level in our hands and we can put it to good use, making a writer's way we may not have had without it. Maybe it makes writing somehow easier (though it's never easy) or perhaps it makes it somehow, I don't know...guilt-free. Like closing the door on bill collectors and the Dementors of the world, the bosses and the bursar's office. You shove the check to cover that electricity bill under the door and they go quiet and leave you alone. Jaws snap and draw away. Then you can write. Whew, thank whatever gods may be.

For me, well, it was a completely different story.

For me, it was almost-poverty.

I was, on the outside, a skinny, straight-toothed university student. Tanned and trim, I lived for the library, for fiction and creative writing classes. I studied hard and read a lot.



The truth: By the time I graduated from Ball State University, I had taken to eating out of the trash in order to save money, because I was paying for two-thirds of my education in cash. In all of my undergraduate career I took out no loans. This was my choice. I worked three jobs at one time, one of them at night. I wrote awful short stories during the Night Audit hours at the Econolodge (it's gone now, turned into a used car lot, but back then it wasn't even three-star accommodation) in Anderson, Indiana.  I wrote spine-tingling (horrible) thrillers at three A.M. when everyone else was asleep. I also worked at H. H. Gregg's in Muncie and at Bracken Library on the Ball State campus. Other jobs included: lab assistant in Ball State computer labs, clerk at Frederick's of Hollywood lingerie store at the Castleton Square Mall, hotel housekeeper, assistant at a dental practice, lingerie retail assistant at J C Penney's at both Castleton and Muncie malls, hotel front desk supervisor, and student employee at T. I. S. Bookstore not far from the Ball State campus. All of this in the space of four years. Overlay them together, cut one or two out at a time, the way you create a delicate braid in a bride's hair, and that was my working history - an ornate, painstaking, beautiful design.

I learned how long I could stand on my feet (eighteen hours), and how few hours I could sleep during the day (four) and still be able to function the next day - or at the very least, still be able to string together the lace of words, making dark marks on paper that somehow freed me from the slavery I felt caged inside as I tried to earn a dollar here, a dollar there.

It wasn't until I was 21, one year before I would get my Bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing, that I wrote my first novel - an embarrassing but exploratory and of course very important discovery of what it takes to write three hundred pages of fiction.  By that time, a day working only eight hours (after a day of class) was an easy day. I graduated with sore feet and a resplendent smile and hundreds of pages of prose stacked under my computer desk (second-hand - I'd picked it up off the side of the road when I saw it winking at me, sign taped to it FREE TO GOOD HOME, because then I couldn't even afford furniture. Up until then I had written at my ancient desktop computer sitting on the floor.)

Ah, the Spartan sparseness. A bit Abraham Lincoln? A bit Stephen King? Yes. And also yes. Lucky? Also, absolutely yes.

Without those back-breaking hours, those impossible days and even worse nights, I wouldn't have learned what I needed to learn, and that was this: I can write through pretty much anything. Anything. I wrote, and I did it because I had to. I just had to. I needed to create story and define character. I needed sharper dialogue. I needed something at stake.

For me, it was hunger. Hunger was writing, and writing was hunger.

I think sometimes, when I was focused on the computer screen, and I imagine how I must have looked in the lobby of the Econolodge in Anderson, Indiana, cordless hotel phone just waiting to ring and jolt me out of my 3 A.M. prose reverie. All of those people sleeping. Hotel guests, responsible moms and dads, and students all. And here I was, typing away, keeping awake. Story kept me tied there, even when every cell in my body cried for sleep. Story - believing it, creating it - got me through.

How do you afford to become a writer? For me, it was creating something from nothing. The alchemy of ideas. You just do it.

Now, almost eleven years after graduating, I have a Master's degree in English Literature from the University of Leeds in England. I live in sunny South Yorkshire, a couple hours' train ride from London. I have a husband, a daughter and a very sturdy footrest composed of manuscripts of books I have written, books that get a little bit sharper every time.

One thing is true, money or not - in your journey to writerhood, you certainly learn to live.

How about you? What is your story?

(And Happy Sunday!)

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Giving your life value

Reading: Haunted by James Herbert
Listening to: "Hello" by Adele
Outside: Gusty gales!

Hi, kids!

So I'm doing my best to keep from biting my nails down to the quick. Also there's a lot of hand-wringing. As I wait for a literary agent's response to my newest-newest novel revision, I'm taking a tiny break. This may or may not be wise. In short, I'm a writer and I'm in between projects.

I don't even like to call them projects, any more than you can call rearing a child a "project." A child, or any painstaking creation of the heart, is not a project at all. It is blood, sweat and tears. It's worry and sleepless nights and a keen, sharpened sense of meaning. So, I'm in between heart-twisting loves. Yes.

So I need lots and lots of distractions. Lots of them. ALL OF THEM.

I've discovered wine can only take you so far. And you can only clean the house so much.

So I've gone ahead and rummaged through my shelves and plunged into another book, a memoir this time - reading is, after all, as important as writing.

I've finished reading my friend and fellow writer's book, At the Coalface by Joan Hart with Veronica Clark. I write this not only as a reader, but as a writer. I read it from two different vantage points and, needless to say, I was swept away.



When I first met Joan Hart, it was in a very small community center in the middle of Doncaster town center on a September evening several years ago. She was already seated at the table of Tim Lee's newly-formed Doncaster Writers' Group. It was the very first meeting of the group, one that has changed over the years but still remains strong as ever, even if some members can't attend meetings as often as she used to (cough, cough, ahem). I remembered being taken aback - around this square table was such a vast age range. Our youngest member was still an adolescent, around twelve, and our oldest was nearly eighty. This latter was Joan. I couldn't believe it. But there they were, all the same: writers, poets, novelists. They were my kindred spirits, and I knew I had found my home.

Over the span of years, I've gotten to know Joan. Bossy Boots. Joan who always has something to say. Joan who likes her whiskey just as much as I like my wine. A woman of the people, and someone who loves listening as much as she loves talking. Joan who always has a cracker of a story to tell, and who writes with the honest hand of someone who has been there. Never afraid to explore her imagination. A woman who raises a glass to a special man each year on December 18th. A woman who knows who she is, who squares her shoulders with a certain confidence that I'm still working on.

Years ago, she handed me the first pages of her memoir, single-spaced and fragile, her painstaking work of the heart. She wanted my help with it - any comments would be appreciated. I read it and gave her my notes.

And then I got pregnant - Joan was the first to guess, even before I knew - and as I waddled my way through those last weeks before Jellybean entered the world, a woman named Veronica got in touch with me. Could she visit our writers' group? Veronica Clark, accomplished and published writer, joined Doncaster Writers' Group and became a truly organic connection. Veronica got to know Joan, and was as charmed by her as I was - as all of us were.

Two weeks ago, I opened those very same pages, published as a beautiful book by HarperCollins. On Waterstones bestseller list for an unbelievable amount of time, At the Coalface is and will always be an important book, not only because of its story of deeply personal impact during such a turbulent time in England's past, but also because of its heart. And that is Joan herself.

I loved and respected Joan to begin with. But after At the Coalface I know the vastness of her character: Joan as a friend, a daughter, a wife, a sister, a nurse and midwife and a woman ahead of her time; Joan who is 100% fearless. A hero. She's seen tragedy up close countless times and keeps going, rolling up her sleeves to help. It's that simple. Joan, if you're reading this, know this - I will never look at you the same way again.

Thank you for your memoir, Joanie. And thank you, Veronica, for bringing it all together and into the world.

So, Loyal Reader, I'm asking you today - read At the Coalface. It might do to you what it did to me: make you laugh, cry and very nearly miss your train stop several times. I'm so glad this book is in the world. And Joan. She makes the world a better place.

And, whatever you do, Loyal Reader, please do this: give your life value. You never know how long or short our time on this earth will be, and we absolutely must make it worth it. So find that thing that is so hard to do. Your heart-twisting love. Your song, your poem, your touch or your listening could make all the difference to someone. Be fearless and confident, even when your guts are saying otherwise - you never know whose life you will save.


Happy Saturday, everyone.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Enjoy every minute

Reading: Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace (again)
Listening to: "Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums" by A Perfect Circle
Outside: A damp November morning




You know when you've got a big day coming up? Your college graduation, your wedding, your first high school prom. You know somebody will say it, you just know it. They will say it because it's just the thing to say, because it's such a big day. Your graduation, your wedding, your first high school prom. Or maybe it's move-in day at your brand new house. Someone will smile at you and say to you, "Enjoy every minute."

There will be variations. Like "Treasure every moment." I know this, because I was told this. I, myself, have said this to lots of people during the run-up of their Big Days, and I'll be the first to admit it. You say this because you want them to. Enjoy it. Treasure it. But, even as the words came out of my mouth, I realized what a thing I was doing. I was weighing them down with absolute responsibility to enjoy themselves at all times. Does anyone else feel what a huge, heavy burden this is?

Say you have a baby. Enjoy every minute, they say. Treasure it.

Well, guess what? It's not perfect. The baby wakes you from your thin sleep to be fed every three hours. Your house becomes a revolving door of well-wishing visitors, each laden with advice and stories and bundles of wrapped pink or blue or the neutral beige booties and you can barely focus on them because you're too busy worrying about the little life you've created and counting down the minutes until the next diaper or next feed. You are exhausted and hungry and, if you're a breast-feeding mommy, your nipples are singing grand opera. Can you really enjoy every minute? Can you do what they say? Can you?

Say you're getting ready for your first high school prom. Enjoy every minute, they say. Treasure it.

Well now, here we go: your svelte, tanned body which you completely do not appreciate quite yet - you'll look back on it in your thirties with a kind of hungry, sentimental lust - shines in a slinky powder-blue prom dress that won't hang exactly right, not like how it looked on the busty mannequin at Macy's. Your hair, done up in an up-do that you did not foresee or even request, defies gravity at the hands of a hairstylist you're sure had some kind of secret vendetta against you, even though you never met her before in your life. Perhaps, you wonder with the beating of your anxious, trapped heart, in some previous life her family hated your family and now karma was biting back. Your dad opens the front door to your date, a boy-turned-man in his dad's tux, holding a plastic box - inside it, your corsage, a rose frosted with baby's breath, shivers. You fight back tears because you can never hold up your end of this Big Day, this Night. The rose shivers just like you. Can you enjoy every minute? Every single one?

Picture from here.

Or, and here's the big one: your birthday party. Pick one, any one. You expect ticker-tape swirling like sycamore seeds, confetti decorating the sky. You want fireworks, strippers popping out of giant cakes. Do any of those things happen? Even if only in your head? No. No, because you probably have a horrible cold and you either eat or drink too much (or both) and maybe you just want to go to bed because you just can't take it. The fact that you're another year older. The squashing certainty that you have one year less to be on this planet, and even more than that, the throat-clenching reality that you are in fact not enjoying every minute even though you are supposed to be.

So, listen up.

Forgive yourself.

You do not have to enjoy yourself every minute. In fact, I give you permission to not enjoy yourself every minute. Go ahead. It's okay. Your lover, your relatives, your son and your friends won't mind, because they won't necessarily have to know. It's perfectly fine to feel sad in the dark, sticky-eyed morning of your wedding day, and it's okay to wonder if the sheer exhaustion of greeting guests and shaking hands at your university graduation party - you finally got that Ph. D. you've been promising yourself since you were fifteen - will ever leave you.

Here's why it's okay:

Because you're human.

These Big Days are full of change. These days are filled with hope and expectation and love (always, always love) and you will change somehow. Fear goes with change. Sometimes, even a kind of melancholy. That's okay. Feel it. Because for the first time, you'll wear the clothes of adulthood, or the robes of academia, or you'll walk in the steps of parenthood. Or maybe you'll call yourself "husband" or "wife" and it seems strange to pair your name in a sentence together with either of those words. Scary or uncomfortable or just, I don't know, skittish. That's okay. You've climbed a summit and you've reached the top. It's okay to feel all those roiling feelings, because it shows you feel the full import of what's happening. Go ahead and feel.

Maybe you go grocery shopping and buy your favorite things for dinner and then just go on a really nice walk. Maybe you see an old friend and have a catch-up. Maybe you just sit down to a warm cup of coffee with your favorite person (your mom, your dad, your neighbour, your closest and deepest-listening cat), on a frizzy-haired, makeup-less morning. Those are moments you don't have to treasure, but I find those are the easiest. They're perfect because they don't have to be.


Unintentional Perfection: Autumn Leaf-Kicking with Jellybean




By all means, enjoy your Big Days (your out-of-this-world perfect moments will come; fireworks when you least expect it), but try to treasure your Little Days, too. Big and Little, they make up all of you. And you - well, that's certainly something to treasure.


Happy Thursday, everybody!