The Darkest Day of the Year
For most people, the darkest day of the year is the winter solstice; when the daylight hours are shortest. But for me, that day is today. 19 years ago, I lost my mother to colon cancer.
This year is particularly difficult because I was only 19 years old when she passed. As of about 1:15 this morning, I had officially lived longer without my mother than I had lived with her. Today has been plaguing me for the last few months, and now that it's here, I'm not sure what I feel beyond crushing grief.
My mother was my biggest fan and writing proponent. I'm sure, by now, if you've been a follower of this blog or site for some time, you've already read the story of the promise my mother procured from me at a young age to write her a "kissing" book. It is a comfort today to know that I am going to fulfill that promise next year, even if she didn't live to see her request come to fruition.
But it's also a reminder of how many things my mother has missed in the last 19 years. Some things I'm glad she wasn't a direct witness to (my first marriage comes to mind), while others are painful reminders of what I've lost. She never met her granddaughter. She didn't see me (finally) graduate college. She never met my husband and she missed the beautiful wedding we had. Beyond my life, she didn't see my sister finish her master's degree or marry, or celebrate my brother finishing his PhD.
Worst of all, for me, is when she left my life. I was on that cusp of adulthood, leaving behind my teenage years and taking those first tentative steps into being my own person. Cheryl Strayed said it best in Wild:
"I didn't get to grow up and pull away from her and bitch about her with my friends and confront her about the things I'd wished she'd done differently and then get older and understand that she had done the best she could and realize that what she had done was pretty damn good and take her fully back into my arms again. Her death had obliterated that. It had obliterated me. It had cut me short at the very height of my youthful arrogance. It had forced me to instantly grow up and forgive her every motherly fault at the same time that it kept me forever a child, my life both ended and begun in that premature place where we'd left off. She was my mother, but I was motherless. I was trapped by her, but utterly alone. She would always be the empty bowl that no one could fill. I'd have to fill it myself again and again and again."
My mother left my life right as it was really beginning, and at a time when we weren't on the best of terms. As Cheryl says in that quote, I had to forgive her in a moment, but I never quite forgave myself for not making the most of the time we had left together before she was gone. And so, I spent my early 20's running at life with arms wide open, or perhaps, running away from the pain I couldn't bear to face. I had countless jobs, moved states, got pregnant then married, then divorced. I came home at 24, bruised, broken, and with a baby to raise. It was that baby, my daughter, who finally forced me to stop running to or from something and to instead stand in place and face my grief. She needed me, and I finally started to understand my own mother by mothering her. I finally grew up, though it certainly wasn't instantaneous.
I think part of why I ran at life like I did was because I just wanted to make her proud. To borrow a quote from another celebrity, Eddie Izzard said in an interview about his book Believe: A Memoir of Love, Death and Jazz Chickens "Well, I'm trying to do all these things because if I do enough, maybe she'll come back." He said something similar in the documentary he made, though it's been so long since I watched it, I can't recall the exact quote. But the idea is the same. If we do enough, maybe it will bring them back, or at the very least, make them proud of us. I completely understand where he's coming from, and every accomplishment, I find myself looking to the skies and quietly asking "was this enough?"
Nineteen years later, I'm still not convinced I've done enough. But maybe, when my book comes out next year and I have completely fulfilled my promise, I will be. I guess only time will tell.
I had planned to complete my #NaNoWriMo novel by the end of the year, but it's not looking likely. After I finished the 50k words for November, I didn't touch my manuscript again until yesterday, and even then, I wrote just under a thousand words.
Some of this has to do with my day job, which is changing...again. I actually just started a new job about five months ago, but I was recently offered a promotion that was just too good to pass up. So, I'm going back-ish to my last job, but in a different division. That's caused a lot of upheaval in my work life, which has limited the bandwidth I have for writing. But I'm hoping, now that the dust has settled, I can at least write a little each day for the remainder of the month.
Admittedly, it was a pretty lofty goal. I already finished one book this year, and I have edits to do on my first manuscript while I wait to be assigned an editor with my publisher. But I still hope to finish this latest manuscript soon as I really want to spend next year just editing. The only new work I hope to produce is short stories. I need a break from novel writing.
I'm also focusing more on ramping up my marketing strategies for whenever my book releases. I sent my first email out to my list this week and I'm planning to send a survey out soon to get some feedback on cover ideas. If you'd like to follow my journey or vote on the cover I'll propose, please click on the "contact" link and fill in the form!
I won National Novel Writing Month by the skin of my teeth. Just 20 words over the required 50k! It's my second year participating and winning, but I have to say, this year was a lot harder than last. For one thing, my current day job (which I'm actually leaving soon) is a lot more grueling than the one last year. Normally November is a busy month in my old position because we have a deadline of the end of February to finish up some substantial work, but last year, we didn't have as much to do as many of the projects were cancelled due to Covid. But in my current position, it's nonstop craziness.
But I did it, and I'm proud to have gotten such a great start on my next novel. I'm hoping to keep the momentum going through December and finish the first draft by the end of the year. If I do, I will have completed two novels this year, all while editing my first (and the one that's going to be published!).
I'm not sure if I'll participate in #NaNoWriMo next year. My plan so far for the year is to edit, extensively. I have the two novels I wrote this year to polish up before I can query them, and I'll be editing A Home for Christmas for publication (hopefully by next Christmas). I also wanted to focus more on short stories instead of another novel next year so I can submit to literary magazines and build up my writing career there as well.
As if all of that won't keep me busy enough, I'm also graduating from my MFA in July. So, Home will be edited for my thesis (probably a very different version than what will be published. MFA's really don't seem to get genre fiction at all). But as I work on that thesis, I'm also finishing up the last of my workshop submissions in the spring. I think I have six more submissions to go, so I'm going to be very busy at least through the first half of the year.
We'll see how I feel when November rolls around again. Maybe I'll have a novel idea that I'm itching to get down on paper. Maybe I'll take a break and just enjoy the beginning of the holiday season. Or maybe it will be time to finally start the fantasy trilogy that has been in my head for years. I'm still not sure I'm ready for all that world building, but it might be time to face those fears!
Congrats to everyone who participated in #NaNoWriMo, whether you "won" or not, you're a winner for even attempting the feat!
Book reviews, random thoughts, and writing samples from an aspiring author.