And didn’t it always go like that – body parts not quite lining up the way you wanted them to, all of it a little bit off, as if the world itself were an animated sequence of longing and envy and self-hatred and grandiosity and failure and success, a strange and endless cartoon loop that you couldn’t stop watching, because, despite all you knew by now, it was still so interesting.
— Meg Wolitzer, The Interestings
I have had a difficult fall, wherein I did feel, most of the time, that I was falling, or off balance, or already fallen. I spent some time in the hospital, learning the great value of psychiatric nurses. Post-partum depression, anxiety, OCD, you name it – and it is important to name it isn’t it, considering the stigma that still exists around mental illness… The world cracked me open. I was too broken to find my way back to all the good and bad and in-between people in it. Until I wasn’t – a blessed combination of medication, insight and love (wise words of Andrew Solomon from his wonderful book The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression) and oh, humour, humour is BIG (I love, love, love Maria Bamford!) – until I was remarkably, thankfully, returned to a ragged kind of wholeness. And what seems so miraculous now, so noteworthy, is my interest in life, in all its stupid, shining, circuitous goings-on. I am grateful (and still somewhat amazed) that it is ‘so interesting’ once again.
One of the things that is interesting to me these days is how many people were so incredibly compassionate towards me while I was sick – and that sometimes this compassion came from the most unlikely quarters. I’m thinking of you, grouchy pharmacist lady I had written off as hostile, who looked me square in the eye and said, ‘It’s such a struggle, isn’t it?’ beaming goodwill and true fellow-feeling.
And so much of that compassion involved people willing to hear my story and to share their own. Which is why I am so excited that The M Word, edited by Kerry Clare, is closer and closer to becoming a book. This collection of conversations about motherhood tackles some hard truths, from many different angles. When I was in the thick of my crisis, I felt embarrassed by my contribution to the anthology – although it outlines some of my struggles with new motherhood, it was written from a place of strength. It has a happy ending. I was ashamed that my relationship to motherhood had once again become so challenging, so darkly complex. I felt like a fake. But that of course is the point, I think, of my essay, and of the collection as a whole. When it comes to mothering the answers are myriad, and the right answer today is seldom the right answer tomorrow. You can pre-order a copy of The M Word now.
Also interesting, and incredibly sad to me, is the recent death of Nelson Mandela. I was lucky enough to be in the same room with him in 1990, at a Toronto high school, with 1500 other students. It was four months after he had been released from prison and he had asked to speak to the young people of the city. People rose to their feet, chanting and singing, when he entered. The atmosphere in the room was electrifying. It is one of the most pivotal and galvanizing memories of my life. The idea of revolution fascinates me – and I am always so inspired to encounter individuals who manage to combine love and understanding of their fellow humans with a strong conviction that change MUST occur. I am still working on how to integrate these ideals into my own life, and I am wrestling with the concept of revolution and the effect of large social movements on individuals and families in the novel I am working on. Yet another arena of my life and thinking where I have very few answers – but I keep working on it… Goodbye Nelson Mandela. I feel so fortunate to be part of your legacy.
Finally, I am so pleased that my dear friend Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer’s newest novel is set to make its way into the world soon. The book is called All the Broken Things, and it is absolutely lovely, full of yearning and intimate history – and bear wrestling! It tells the story of Bo, one of the Vietnamese boat people, and his complicated relationship to his family and his new home. Kathryn’s mechanic’s daughter, a 15-year-old hugely talented artist/filmmaker named Carol Nguyen, made a book trailer that captures the mood of the story perfectly. You can watch the trailer here. Please do! And seek out the book!
Okay, that’s me blogged out likely for the next few months. All best for the holidays, friends. And here’s to a brighter and shinier 2014 (although I will try to enjoy the dull bits too…)!
I am so pleased to announce that Mad Hope is now available as an audiobook through audiobooks.com and other online booksellers. Just in time for long summer road trips or dockside lounging!
More exciting news! ‘No One Else Really Wants To Listen’, from Mad Hope, will be reprinted in the anthology Friend. Follow. Text. #storiesFromLivingOnline, edited by Shawn Syms, and featuring short fiction that explores the ways in which we use technology to connect (or not). Very much looking forward to reading this — work by established and new writers alike, and an intriguing premise. Available this fall — more later!
I am really bad at blogging. Kerry Clare, blogging guru, and general lovely, says you should blog like no one’s reading. And she’s right. But blogging does not come easily to me. I am not and have never been a blurter (not a word synonymous with blogger, and with a more negative connotation than I intend; I mean someone who is willing and able to share their thoughts easily, spontaneously — in conversation with one or many…) and it is boring to repeat, but I am very tired of late. And when I am tired, I hang back and listen. And sometimes I daydream or look pensive (this is a defense and a front and a refuge and seldom means my thoughts have anything approaching depth or breadth). So maybe my poor blogging output is simply a function of exhaustion. Or maybe this is not the ideal platform/medium/springboard for me. Or maybe it’s just February and springtime really will put a new spring in my blogging step…
However. If anything could and should get me in sharing mode, it is the intersection of some of my most time-consuming preoccupations — motherhood, sense-making through sentence-making, and community with other lady writers… Here’s the scoop: Truth Dare Doubledare: Stories of Motherhood will be published in April 2014 by Goose Lane Editions. The book, an anthology of essays conceived and curated by the aforementioned Kerry Clare, examines the choices we make as women around ‘to mother or not to mother’ and the many options that fall somewhere in between. I am thrilled to be a part of it. You can read more about its conception here.
Also: a really kind and astute encounter with Mad Hope, over at Marita Dachsel’s All Things Said and Done. And rob mclennan asks me about my process, routine, and writerly concerns as part of his 12 or 20 Questions Interview series. ( I find I can’t do any kind of kind of interview, or have any kind of conversation these days without mentioning coffee. I really love coffee.)
I am writing this from Montreal, where I am visiting an old friend, the poet Sarah Venart, a writing pal from my Concordia days. Our kids are making believe and mischief and wreaking havoc (Princess Grizzly Bear!) and saying and singing ridiculous things. And we’re doing a lot of sofa sitting. It’s kind of fabulous.