Today is February 28, the last day of the month. My monthly goal for working on my novel is thirty (30) pages. As of 9:43 pm, I have written exactly three (3). In other news, my son is turning one year old this week. The six-month anniversary of my father’s death was Saturday, and the ten-year anniversary of my mother’s death was February 7. I hate February. Oh, yeah, and I turned 39 on the 11th. For those of you playing the home game, that’s the last birthday before 40.
On the bright side, Brian is sick with some mysterious malady that could be just the flu or could be his entire endocrine system shutting down and calling it a life. We are confused and scared, and hey, look! It’s spring.
I spent almost an hour up here this afternoon playing a computer game. Am I trying to miss my life? Actually, no. I think it’s the opposite. I think part of me thinks (and hopes) that if I waste time, procrastinate, and play stupid games, that I can somehow stop time, live in a suspended animation where no one else will die, nothing will change, and Jack will never grow up and just stay little and adorable and clingy forever. I’ve had that fear about my work, my writing. If I actually write it, people will die. But you know what? They’re going to die, anyway. And I can’t stop it. Dammit.
Maybe that’s what some people call “writer’s block.” Maybe it really is the existential dread of death. I feel like Olympia Dukakis in Moonstruck. She knows her husband is cheating on her, and she keeps asking people, “Why do men chase women?” Danny Aiello is the only one who has the right answer: “Because they fear death.” Join the club. (Just for the record, I don’t think Brian’s cheating on me. I just wish his thyroid or hypothalamus or pituitary gland or whatever’s wreaking havoc in his body would cut it the hell out.)
But life keeps coming. I took Jack for a walk today. The tulip poplars are blooming. New birds are setting up housekeeping in the sweet gum trees out front. Bulbs are sprouting up through last fall’s dead leaves – including the daffodils and crocus bulbs I planted in my dad’s memory. We can’t stop it, no matter how many games of Word Bubble we play online.
On Thanksgiving day of 2003, Brian and I drove to Danville so I could meet his family. We’d been engaged less than two months. On the way, a deer bounded across our side of the highway, its coat gleaming in the morning light, a fleet and golden beauty. I gasped. I thought, “Oh, how beautiful!” Then it leaped across the median and got smashed by a Mack truck coming the other way. The shock threw me: for life to be so radiant, flying, and the next moment gone.
But that, I believe, is the way of things. We can’t stop life – or death. We can only see it, gasp, say, “How beautiful!” Zip. There really isn’t time for anything else.