Anyone older than a New York minute knows that bad stuff happens seems to happen in waves. There’s a year or three where everything goes ass-over-teakettle: skin cancer, fractured ankle, job loss, death of a beloved pet, divorce, heat wave/drought/flash flood, new wrinkles that you think are from sleeping hard on a creased pillowcase but no, they stay all day and then you look exactly like your grandmother but your knees are too achey to sit and meditate long enough to come to peace with that reality so: back to the blank page, where we are only as old as we feel/write.
Feeling younger inside than we are outside is kinda funny, for a while, but it’s also kinda stagnant, to stay the same despite having wheeled through multiple decades. It perhaps has to do with our culture’s ageism, and the ways we’ve all internalized prejudice against aging/elders (see Priscilla Long’s latest book, Dancing with the Muse in Old Age for some terrific wake-up calls about the results of that bias). When I heard that a story I wrote when I was younger will be in Little Patuxnet Review‘s forthcoming Winter 2023, I was of course tickled: Publication is how writers share our work, but it is not, for me, why I write. I write because I can’t not write; I write because characters keep showing up and yammering at me. And getting that particular story published didn’t fix the thorny patch my current story is stuck in. It didn’t mean the perfect word for my current character’s ennui magically appeared without me hunching over the thesaurus for half an hour (still looking, BTW).
Ten days after that good news I learned a flash essay that was published back in 2014 will be republished this coming weekend, through Creative NonFiction’s “Sunday Short Reads.” (You can sign up here.) I had a half-day of feeling that all my best writing happened when I was younger (see internalized prejudice reference above), and then realized that I didn’t submit my work regularly when I was younger, because: life. Duh.
The empty nest has given me the gift of enough time for the administrative aspect of my writing life, and the good stuff happens in waves, too. I’m going to enjoy riding these until I’m tumbled ass-over-teakettle back onto the shore, and then I’ll pick the sand out of my undies and dry off and find the thesaurus and spend half an hour looking for the best way to say: still going.
May it be so for you, too.