Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and, as happens about once every four years or so, it is also my birthday. This one is no milestone; turning 53 feels about as anticlimactic as turning 52 had felt and how it will likely feel next year as I migrate towards 54. For a change, aging is not what occupies my thoughts. And, though the next few weeks will mark the 12th anniversary of my very first Multiple Sclerosis exacerbation, MS is--also for a change--not the primary subject of my brooding. At least, not directly.
Indeed, advancing disability over a dozen years and the eventual end of my work life placed hurdles that had regularly distracted me from exploring an inner life I’ve held precious and elusive. My writing life happened only during interludes of not-working time: a period of unemployment, a weekend, an evening. The longing for more writing time-life became shrill and mournful, so much so that the longing itself provided something solid to push against as I cleared each distracting obstacle, salaciously beckoning to me at the finish line so I’d complete the race before some no-talent hack tackled me. That is what I am missing. That palpable, shrill thing to push against.
Now, my memoir remains stalled at page 52, awaiting the creation of just the right device that will ensure a slot on the National Book Award short list; my idea for a second novel remains an abandoned but once much-loved embryo waiting for in vitro fertilization (this will require a trip to Las Vegas--seriously, for research!).
That shrill thing was pride, the mournful sound was a clock ticking away my mortality. Pride and fear of death, have I none now? What has changed? Has anything changed? Or is this simply the new rhythm of my life? Writing was, fifteen years ago, a product of constant inspiration. Eventually the inspiration deserted me, and it became a thing of craft and hard work. But now, in the absence of self-imposed discipline and rigor, how will it happen? Will it be like sitting in an amusement park boat, bumping through the funhouse, when, all of a sudden, I scream gleefully, knowingly, at the cackling skeleton that just took a dive at my head?
Wouldn’t it be nice--for a change?