It’s that season when singleness becomes slightly more burdensome, you know, “beware the ides of February.”
And I'm single, again. Just in time for Valentine’s Day. Not that it’s that big a deal. There’s a part of me that’s just profoundly relieved not to have to produce some obligatory-yet-heartfelt gift and the requisite accompanying love note. I’m good at kissing, but I kind of suck at love notes.
On the other hand, it’s just in time for President’s Day too. Which means that this February, I get to spend some time chasing after what may truly be the love of my life: the process of trying to fix everything. President's Day is just perfect for a rally to fight climate change. Sure, you can get your oxytocin release from intimacy, or chocolate. I’m getting mine from the community feeling of protesting.
For me, it’s an enduring love. I can feel my heart aflutter as a few dedicated activists filter in to a planning meeting. The fresh Sharpie smell as we make our signs sets off my molecular attraction instinct more than any of the scents floating around the ground floor at Macy’s.
Like any true love, the honeymoon fades and disillusionment sets in. The once-shiny protest signs get faded and jaded. And yet, passion lingers, reignites with the kindling of a few new facts, a few new voices, a drumbeat of long-awaited action.
So here’s my passionate Valentine to the people I love--my kids, of course, and then, well, everyone (yes, even the people whom I sometimes kind of hate, amnesty granted): I’ll be taking the next step in trying to leverage my energy toward political action on climate change. Love becomes action, and a sometimes aching heart rejoices in hope. Happy Valentine’s Day, Happy President’s Day, and see you at the rally.
P.S. Here’s what I know about love, thanks to Wendell Berry:
It is not a terrible thing to love the world, knowing that the world is always passing and irrecoverable, to be known only in loss. To love anything good, at any cost, is a bargain. (Jayber Crow)
Thanks to the incomparably supportive Katherine Barrett (whose Next Big Thing is actually something I can’t wait to read, having read some of her earlier writing on the topic), I’m answering the Next Big Thing writers’ blog-hop list of questions. I’ve actually got two projects which keep vying for the front burner, so I’m including them both.
1. What is the working title of your current/next book?
Life is Messy: lessons from the school garden
What Love Looks Like: putting our bodies on the line
2. Where did you get the idea for that book?
Life is Messy (LIM): from how digging myself into our school garden program helped me recover from my divorce and get off my antidepressants
What Love Looks Like (WLLL): from my first act of civil disobedience and the inspiring activists fighting the pipeline in Texas right now (and the title comes from Tim de Christopher’s speech at his sentencing hearing—if you don’t know about him, you should)
3. What's the genre of the book?
LIM: straight-up memoir
WLLL: interviews and portraits (photos)
4. If you could pick actors to play the lead characters in your story, who would you pick?
This question presupposes that I have enough involvement with non-print media to have some idea of what actors are currently working. Hmmm. Laura Linney? Jodie Foster? Claire Danes? (Can you tell I’m a lesbian? I mean, have you ever seen a more obvious list of actresses a lesbian would want to play her, just so she could meet them?)
5. How would you describe your book in one sentence (10 words or less)?
I’m going with 10 words “or so,” only a minor editorial change, right?
LIM: depressed divorcee forced to revise bleak worldview by feral, dirty children
WWWL: inspiring stories of women taking personal risks to make a better world
6. How will your book be published, submitted through the traditional route to a traditional publisher or will you be handling it yourself through Indie Publishing methods?
I’m so very done with self-publishing. Have your agent call me.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of this book?
In progress, who knows (unless you are an agent or editor, in which case it’s almost finished).
8. What other books within your genre are similar to yours?
LIM: I’m going to say it’s Eat, Pray, Love without the travel budget, without the kid-free independence, and without the fairytale ending. (Then again, maybe that doesn’t leave much.) And snarkier, so you have to cross it with Heartburn (because there are recipes, too) and then dip it in the mud. Or perhaps a lower-budget Split, with less war-between-the-sexes (the lesbian thing again).
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Refer to #2 and click the links. I hate redundancy. Or else I’m lazy.
10. What about your book will pique the reader's interest?
LIM: the humor, mixed with a real portrayal of the hard parts of post-divorce life, tempered by almost-impossible-to-reproduce recipes (one starts with: “Double dig a small section of a field.”)
WLLL: the inspiration!
Okay, now on to the fun part: tagging the people whose Next Big Thing I want to know more about. Here goes. I give you all permission to alter the list of questions to meet your needs.
Holly Hester, I want to know where this is all going, what look you will take on next, and whether your rock-n-roll wardrobe will be for sale in the school auction.
Rian Kerfoot: your blog rocks, so when and what will be the next step?
And b.d. swain, are you willing to interrupt the chain of smut to fess up to your full writerly ambitions? (Warning to readers, don’t click that link unless you like lesbian erotica. I’m serious. Very well-written porn.)
Tonight I’ll go back to work, my usual 12-hour shift. Regular life. The shock of Newtown is subsiding, so soon. Each day I shed a few less tears for the families in Connecticut.
My children could do no wrong this week. Whining, bickering, new coats crumpled on the floor, all the things that usually drive me mad—this week, I was only grateful. Fall-to-my-knees grateful. But already this morning, I had to walk out of my daughter’s room to stop myself from raising my voice when she was dawdling, endlessly.
Next week, I suspect, I’ll start sending them to their rooms again. Next week, my daughter will be in trouble if she keeps sneaking M&Ms off the gingerbread house.
This week, I am full of righteous indignation at the insufficiency of mental health care infrastructure, at the blockheadedness of the NRA. Next week, I’ll be filling stockings, packing for a trip to the snow. I will probably cry while filling the stockings, thinking of the high closet shelves in Newtown, the hidden toys with no stockings to fill; but then I will become immersed in creating a tableaux of half-eaten cookies and carrots to verify the nighttime presence of the red guy.
This kind of tragedy does, as it should, create a pause, a pulling back from the details of our lives, a moment of perspective. But we can’t stay pulled back: life has a way of throwing us right back into the middle of our own small routines.
So, while the angle of vision remains wider than usual, I am taking stock. Deciding which of those routines are the ones I want to return to.
Everything but the grief seemed unimportant this week, but it’s not. When I reflect, I see that I do want to return to my regular work, caring for the dying as a hospice nurse, fighting climate change as an activist, hanging the laundry, mothering my three children (lucky, I’m so, so lucky). It does not strike me a meaningless to return my attention to these tasks.
Even as I hold the grieving parents in my heart, my mind and my hands are turning to the work I have chosen, knowing that even with a broader view, even if everything is incredibly fragile, my work is what I want to be doing.
My chosen work is not the buttressing of our mental health care infrastructure, nor the battle for better gun control laws. That work is important, essential, and I will support the people doing that work, and hope that this crisis has given them more energy for their struggle.
Join the people working to create better models for mental health care provision. Join the people working on stricter gun laws. Let’s get help to the people who need it. Let’s keep guns out of our schools. Join me. Let’s stop fracking, let’s overturn Citizens United, let’s divest from fossil fuels. And we’ll join you, in your work. Let’s make a better world.
Back to work.
"If I knew that tomorrow was the end of the world, I would plant an apple tree today." (attributed to Martin Luther)