Friday, January 31, 2020

The last decade, and a word

It's the thing, apparently, to have a decade flashback. Where were you a decade ago, and where are you now?

A decade ago was honestly a low point for me. I was pregnant with Marko, living in Philadelphia. More specifically, a cruddy little duplex in Hatboro. Tiny living room, tiny kitchen, bedroom barely big enough for a mattress on the floor, and every night we could hear our neighbors screaming at each other and throwing things.

We worked opposite shifts from each other, me at school and him at the bank, so we only got a whole day to spend together on federal holidays. Our first year of marriage was mostly eating dinner on the couch, too tired to talk much. Between our two paychecks we were doing all right, except for the fact that I knew I'd have to quit and then there would be only one paycheck. We had no real friends. I liked my coworkers but work was an hour from home so we couldn't hang out socially. And I hadn't really hit it off with the rest of the people in choir yet.

I wrote a whole blog post post about how this must be part of some better plan. And you know what? It wasn't. Moving to Philly was probably a mistake and that entire year ended up being just a holding pattern till we managed to leave.

But that's kind of okay, in retrospect. Because I never have to do that year again. It's 2020 and I have a big house, a schedule I can handle, and enough money to order a pizza now and then. It's pretty nice!

Now, my life is still overwhelming and hard in a lot of ways. Different ways. At least there's less time in the car. And I'm not pregnant! Not being pregnant is the BEST. Last night I slept on my hip funny and woke up with it hurting at five am so I went back to sleep. When I woke up it was fine. Amazing. That doesn't happen when I'm pregnant!

Still, I struggled to come up with a word or resolution for the year. I still believe in my goals for past years and am still trying to achieve them. But all the things I most want to happen this year, none is entirely under my control:

-wean Jackie
-potty train Jackie
-get Jackie to sleep through the night
-be able to accomplish more in a day
-get a literary agent
-finish 1-2 novels
-Donald Trump gets voted out

These are all things I want, things I'm motivated to get, and things I have plans to achieve. But all of them are subject to the cooperation of others. I'm doing pretty well about writing in the available time, but the available time has shrunk to an hour or less in the evenings because Jackie literally demands my attention all the rest of the time. I'm putting my work out there, but publishing, as the agents who reject me keep reassuring me, is a subjective industry.

It's been years that I've tried to pull myself up to a basic level of functioning. Years that I've hoped and tried and planned and schemed to get full nights of sleep, sort the laundry before anybody was out of pants, make appointments when I first think of it rather than after months of forgetting, get more exercise than carrying Jackie up and down the stairs. And it hasn't happened, or not for more than a week or two before we all get the stomach flu and my head's shoved back under water.

It would be really tempting to just give up and let it happen. Just put my laptop inside a drawer, as I've had to before, and say this is not my year or my decade. To move from frustration to despair and stop believing that things will eventually get better.

And that's when my word came to me, as it always does: HOPE. I'm not going to do a blessed thing any differently. I'm just going to choose not to give up hope. I hope Jackie sleeps through the night. I hope I get an agent. I hope I'm able to finish this beautiful novel I'm writing, which I'm so in love with.

There's the old experiment with animals, where you put them in cages they couldn't possibly get out of, and eventually they stop trying to get out of even flimsy cages. Learned helplessness is what it's called. And that's what I reject. I reject the idea that because I haven't had much success with things in the past, I never will. I reject defeat and hopelessness. I choose to keep trying because sooner or later, things will get easier, and I don't want it to find me sitting on my butt with no ideas and no craft supplies. I'm pushing a rock up a mountain and it's basically going nowhere, but if I've got my shoulder to it, sooner or later I'll notice that it's starting to pick up a little speed.

That's what I hope, for 2020.
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