Lately I’ve been proofing and putting the final touches on my book, and it’s madness. I’m cracking up: fixating on punctuation, agonizing over details, doubting every choice.
Then again, writing a book is madness. If you’re not crazy when you set out to write it (Hey! I know what I’ll do with all my free time! I’ll sit on my fat ass and try to squirt cogent thoughts out my ears!), you’re crazy by the end. Because, as I’ve said before and will probably say a shitillion times more, you never really finish a book. You just stop writing it. It’s the hardest thing one could ever possibly do with one’s time, and that includes: running a marathon; running a business; running a political campaign; running a carnival midway; and running a country. Please note I have never done any of these things, so you might well accuse me of talking out my ass (were I not actually sitting on it at the moment).
What’s made all of this harder than usual is the fact that my book revisits a not-so-carefree period in my life: the first year or so following my husband’s suicide in the fall of 2011. In many ways I’m still grieving and always will be (closure is twelve kinds of bullshit, you know that?), but working, re-working and re-re-working the manuscript has forced me to go back there, down there, WAY, WAY down there, far inside the stinking, brackish sinkhole of snot-infested early mourning. Am I mixing metaphors yet? Not quite? OK, well howzabout I throw in a nice lobotomical reference: Whenever I do something with the book, even if that something is as small as adding a comma, I unscrew the access plates on my skull and spoon out my deepest wounds.
But it’s good. Yes! It’s all good. I’m grateful to be doing this. And yes, that’s batty. Just as you have to be crazy to decide to write a book, you have to be more than a little crazy to embark down that career path at the start (“Mommy! Mommy! When I grow up I want to specialize in a recondite, intensely isolating and time-consuming field with almost no hope for financial recompense!”). But once you’re there, once you’re hunched over a keyboard in some attic or basement, you know what? Writing is not a bad way to figure shit out. It equips you well for the process of long-term crap evaluation that takes up an awful lot of life. Sticking around in this perplexing mortal realm means having to sort through everything that happens while we’re here, and that’s true no matter what you do for a living.
As I writer, I just have a habit of putting it down in writing. And it helps. It helped after I lost my parents and sister during a short, awful run in the early ’90s. Writing “House of Holy Fools” allowed me to frame what happened to them, turn their stories into narrative with paradigms and some poetic sense. I saw them as beautiful and brilliant eccentrics; I saw myself as richer for having known them, more alive for having told their tales.
I’m richer for having known Chris. I’m more alive for having told this tale — his, mine, our children’s.
And so, in these last gasps of proofing and editing my small, strange memoir of grief and pushing forward, I grieve and push forward again. Again I comprehend all that I lost when my husband jumped to his death; again I mourn his passing; again I look up, into the light of this moment, this day, this belated but radiant spring, and thank God for the gift of being here. Grief won’t die, but hope won’t, either.