Where do I begin.

That’s a bigger question than I would have guessed. My life is one of fits and starts, periods of frenzy followed by episodes of interminable withdrawal, where my thoughts seem not to matter even to myself. As writers I think we form identities around our work, and these can be tricky to manage; the outlines aren’t always clear. It becomes a matter of what we should say versus what we want to say, who we ought to be as opposed to who we are.

I’ve been trying to be a better person. Really I have. However, the bar for entry is awfully low these days and no one’s got any class, so maybe it’s a place to get comfortable. I’ve writing again—by which I mean, writing and finishing my work and trying to get it published as opposed to filling journals and Google docs with words that serve no purpose beyond the ephemeral. So there’s that. There’s also the gigantic fucking mess we find ourselves in, where the president is urging research into the therapeutic benefits of 409, and the bodies of our elders are piling up in semi trucks or in the far reaches of nursing homes while half the country has convinced itself that the entire world is in on the hoax.

Photo by meo on Pexels.com

Life is precarious now, my friends, no joke. I feel like one of the deer that wander through our suburban neighborhood, all my senses on alert yet only vaguely aware that the incongruous object in the setting is me. It’s hard to know how to exist on a flat earth. There are edges beyond which you might actually disappear.

I’m not ready to do that. That’s what it comes down to. I want to remember these years if I survive them, so when my grandkids one day ask me what I did while our country was dying, I’ll be able to say it wasn’t nothing. I’ll be able to say that at the very least, I noticed.

How do you keep on keeping on?

21 responses

  1. I do what I always did. You just made me realize something though — I was always the deer, I just didn’t know it. (Or how pretty that made me.)

    So to keep on keeping on, the most important thing I do, is when I get to the end — the end of the book I’m writing, or the end of the flat earth I venture to — these days, what I do that’s different, is I stop. Then I start a new, different journey, because that one is done.

    I don’t know if it’s the beginning, the middle or the end that helps me the most, but I do know I get to feel alive, again and again and again. These days, for me, the abyss is just something to stare at, contemplate some, then turn my back on, so I can continue the journey.

    And I love it too, that the bar is now set so damn low — even a wonky-legged deer like me can jump that high!

    Welcome back. It’s a joy to read anything you write, even when it isn’t.

    • I’ve been so grateful over these last months for the escape of writing. I literally don’t know what I’d be doing if I weren’t a writer. Probably my house would be cleaner, so there’s that. But how many times can you dust a shelf? How many loaves of banana bread can one mama bake?

  2. It’s so good to see you here. I’m happy to hear you’re still writing.I’ve lost my mother not to this mess, but because of it. This is the second year in a row our family has stood around open-mouthed and numbed by grief. Last year, it was my brother.

    We’re moving into the anger stage. That’s when I start writing again.

    But lately? Dirt.Lots of hands in soil time. Making things grow and live and thrive.

    It’s my antidote to the devastation surrounding us.

    • Oh no! Lisa, I’m so sorry. What horrible losses for your family. I wish I could give you a hug.

      I hope the springtime brings you some healing. Getting your hands in the soil is a really good start.

      Lots of love to you and your family. XO

    • Lisa, I’m so sorry. So much grief … on top of more grief. Digging in the dirt to find your way out and make new things come makes all the sense in the world to me.

  3. Hearing from you always brightens my day so you’ve given me a good start today at 6 am. No deer here but small lizards scooting over the fence. Lovely and cool before the sun spoils the pleasant early bird feeling. I’ve reached a point of equilibrium in this mess I think. I see so many people trying to do good things and then so many that are makingway things worse. In my old age I’m just trying to find the good stuff in people. Of course that’s on days when I pull away from the news of our batshit leader and his zombie followers. As I say I’m striving for personal equilibrium

    • I wish I could find some equilibrium. I want to believe in people but goddamn if they won’t break your heart. I saw one of those protests on the news, and a nurse explained how people would come up and cough in her face and scream at her, and others were laughing and saying they know she’s an actress. I always thought the left had cornered the market on cynicism but those Trumplings are next level.

  4. The other day, my husband and I spent ten minutes arguing about how long a tub of margarine had been in our refrigerator. I’m still logging useless words in Google docs that I don’t even bother to title. I’ve given up on trying to manage my kids screen time.

    BUT… this morning I woke up to see a [New Post] from Averil Dean in my inbox and fuck if that didn’t feel like a ray of sunshine from a far away star I’ve missed for years and years. You’ve always been the coolest chick I know.

    • It’s sunny in my world, too, seeing all my favorite peeps still willing to come and visit.

      Have I mentioned HOW MUCH I LOVE YOUR HAIR? Sorry, I didn’t mean to scream, but every time I see this picture with the silver hair and big glasses…

  5. So VERY glad to hear your voice! Well I’ve got a puppy smashed up against my leg, a new job that has distracted me from the world outside of a very particular editing niche, a manuscript I have yet to abandon, and truly it’s my newish rural neck of the woods that’s keeping me going. I look outside and there is a mountain (OK, hill, whatever) and a ridge and spring.

  6. So nice to see you turn up here on the screen. I’m not writing at all, but am reading like mad.

    The rest of the time in self-isolation, I pick up the phone again and again and again. I have a friend of more than 25 years who was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s. When she calls, I pick up the phone and we talk. Then she calls three more times in the same day and we have similar conversations each time and she doesn’t remember them. It’s clear, though, that we both get a lot out of our conversations in the moments they are actually happening. During this pandemic, we’re all forced in some ways to let go of the past and feel foggy about the future and we’re living in the bizarre “now.” -Which means my friend and I have plenty in common, existing in the scary, upsetting, confusing “now.“ This is a precious, lucky chance for me to get to be there every time she calls. Nothing can get in the way. I can be her friend properly. I’m thankful she and I are both still here while we can be.

    And Averil! I’m glad you’re here, too.

    • Pamela! It’s so great to see you!

      It’s strange the way time works when daily life becomes uncoupled from routine. Checking the date has become this alarming event, because it’s always at least a couple of weeks beyond where I thought we were. I’m glad you’re finding a way to make the strangeness part of your connection with your friend. We all need each other more than we knew.

  7. It’s so good to see you here again. I’ve missed you so much. These days, I’m having some intermittent trouble getting coherent words down on ‘paper,’ but whenever that mood lifts, they go on Medium now, not here.

    I need to try harder to check my email daily for alerts to your posts. I want to hear what you have to say, for as long as you want to say it. (Wish it could be over tea, but this may be the next best thing. ❤️)

    • Sparks! How wonderful to hear from you! I’ve missed you, too.

      I’ve never heard of Medium, what is it?

  8. It’s like a huge magazine. This is Medium’s home page url — https://medium.com/

    Here’s my profile page with previews of my poems and stories — https://medium.com/@ReHarris

    They used to pay me enough to keep Kitty in cat food and litter, but they changed the process so that now it’s based on the amount of time subscribers spend reading, not on the number of ‘claps.’ Not good for poets and the literary side of the site (the corner I live in), but there’s still a chance something will click with readers.

    Writers like Roxanne Gay are on Medium. (I’m sure she’s not making pennies…)