This Week in Everyday Magic

Let’s do a week in review. There are bummers here but there’s also beauty.

This Week’s Shame

I was in high school. I was in the writer’s club. We read stories occasionally. I read one, which I rarely do. It was very long, but I read the whole thing. Afterward, the teacher said “thanks for the bed time story.” 

I was devastated. I thought it was worth the time, but I was alone. My fellow students made no reaction that I can remember but subtleties were lost on me even then (less so now, but I’m still slow on the uptake).

I also remember somebody in high school throwing a very long softball pass to another student who had turned away at the last minute. The ball hit him squarely on the top of the head and bounced so high.

My memories from high school are like that ball, and I never see them coming. They hit me and I fall down. I am concussed.

These colliding memories are never nice memories. I have buried the nice memories deeply, instinctively, like a cat burying its turds. The bad ones all float at the top like watermelons. They take turns on the slingshot.

I don’t know how to rid myself of these. I don’t think I ever will. Maybe they serve a purpose. Maybe some day I’ll put them to use.

This Week’s Worry

I have been obsessed lately with my age, with everybody’s age, with age and getting older. I have to turn the self view off on Zoom calls because I can’t stand seeing the bags under my eyes, or the silver in my hair. My beard gets whiter and whiter. My trademark, the half white mustache, just looks like an old guy’s mustache now.

This is just the top of the worry mountain. There are so many lurking under it–it’s too late to publish any more writing, it’s too late to have a fulfilling romance, it’s too late too late too late. 

This Week’s Magic

For a while after my father died, in the quiet moments before bed, I was aware of a presence. It stood just over my right shoulder. You know how you can be in a room with another person and even without looking at them or speaking, you can still feel them there? It was like that except bright and warm and directed straight at me. In my mind’s eye it was a sparkling sun, spilling all over with love.

Unlike dreams and hallucinations, it does not flee when I try to recall it — I remember it fully and completely. It was not either of those things but altogether different. I feel it return even now, as if to answer the shame and worries, or maybe because I’m writing about it. It brings calm and quiet.

Is it something in me that my grief has let loose? Is it the fading of the day’s anxieties and the encroaching night, my favorite time? I don’t know.

Something that I can’t explain is that it feels like attention, and like any other kind of attention, it waxes and wanes. I can feel it leave and then occasionally return. I’ve never felt this before, and I think I’ve felt most things. 

I don’t know what the heck is going on there but I’m not going to dismiss it or try to think about it too much. It’s there and it’s beautiful and, to me, it’s a kind of magic.

This Week’s Joy

I wrote the first draft of the first short story I’ve written in many years. It still needs work, but by god I did it and there it is. I even printed it out and got out my red pens for the revision, like the old days.

Also, Emmitt is my steadfast friend.

This Week’s Wisdom

Let’s talk about baby steps. Let me hand it over to Julia Cameron:

“Doing any large creative work is like driving coast to coast, New York to Los Angeles. First you must get into the car. You must begin the trip, or you will never get there. Even a night in New Jersey is a night across the Hudson and on your way. A small beginning is exactly that: a beginning. Rather than focus on large jumps—which may strike us as terrifying and unjumpable—we do better to focus on the first small step, and then the next small step after that. “Oh, dear,” you might be sniffing, “where’s the drama in such baby steps?” Think about that for a minute. When a baby takes its first step, it is very dramatic.” Julia Cameron, Walking in This World

I already knew all that but I needed to remember it again.

This Week’s Reading

I have discovered George Saunders recently. I don’t know how I wasn’t aware of him before. Someone whose writing I enjoy called him a master of short stories, so I bought his most famous book and read it really fast. His writing appeals to me. It’s literate without being stuffy or grandiose. You never get the sense that he’s showing off. I really love Victory Lap, which you can read behind a New Yorker paywall.

I also worry that his popularity is like a Thomas Kinkade kind of popularity, and I’m just a rube with bad taste. That’s okay, too. I’m a sucker for a good story, and Saunders provides them.

I hesitate to hit publish on this and bless (curse?) your inboxes with this. But I have multiple irons in multiple fires and I need to finish something and put it into the world where other eyes can see it and remind the universe that I’m here and I’m still writing and I haven’t given up yet. I’m still here.

My saving grace, my heroic flaw, is that I can’t give up, even when I probably should.