All Things Bright and Dark

Soon I will clink a glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve and bid goodbye to a strange year.

Taking the Big Leap

When it was decided that the full-time position I job shared with someone else would be eliminated and reconstituted as one part-time position earlier this year, I had many long nights of the soul. Try for the new position, or leave? I would be giving up the sure and steady thing for the chance to write full-time. Leaving was the crazy thing, but that is what I ultimately chose.

March 2nd, a Saturday, was my first official day of unemployment. For the next five months, I was a dervish. I finished two full-length screenplays and pitched them at the Willamette Writers conference. For four pitches, I got four requests to see my work, the best result that could be hoped for.

I started submitting my short stories and travel essays. The rejections started coming in, about two or three a week, after a few weeks. It didn’t get me down. I taped up all my rejection letters on my wall.

These months were fantastic. For ten to twelve hours a day, every day of the week, I was working. My long stretches of writing were punctuated with going to the gym, taking on all of the household work and hanging out with friends in the evenings. I met with my writing groups, took prompt classes to keep generating fresh material, and it seemed everything was finally coming together. I was on the right path.

The Dark Idyll of Summer

I will always remember August 13th. It was a Tuesday. Chris came home early and said he’d finally been able to speak with his mother in Germany. Results of the scan and operation? His father had terminal pancreatic cancer. Likely dead within a year. We drank, tears falling into whiskey.

We were supposed to go to Germany for two weeks at the end of the month, but we scrambled and moved the trip up a week. We spent three weeks going on long walks in the fields, talking with the family about this new finality. Dinners on the porch amidst bumble bees. Drinking up the contents of the wine cellar. Picking up the nephews from school.

Coming Down from the High

Back in Portland mid-September and we moved, slightly stunned, through the most beautiful fall we can remember. The long, warm days and the leaves so bright it almost hurt the eyes. All that color, but I saw it as the color of death, a final flourish before dropping.

The wall of rejection letters no longer amused me. I tore them all down and stuffed them away in a drawer. I kept submitting, but not as frequently. As sure as January rains over Portland, the rejections steadily marched their way to me.

Chris’ mother went to the mental hospital for two weeks. The old demons had finally resurfaced.

Chris and I spent Halloween and the Day of the Dead in the hospital. He had appendicitis. Everything was a best case scenario and he’s almost completely back to normal. We later find out Chris and his dad were getting CT scans on the same day. They had readmitted Werner for a nausea and pain scare. He was sent home, apparently a false alarm.

What now? What next?

Do I still enjoy writing? Like anyone who is trying to elevate a passion from hobby to livelihood will tell you, this question is no longer simple. Yes, I do still love writing. I’m halfway through my third screenplay and this one is pure fun. But I also don’t want my work gathering dusk in a desk. However, there is so much in my life right now that I can’t control it feels like I’m strapped to a roller coaster. The quest to get published is another thing out of my control. I need to let go of that obsession for my own sanity.

I turned 34 on Saturday. I had a low-key gathering at a local brew pub with family and friends. Just beers and catching up, reminding me that I am not alone and that there are so many wonderful people I am privileged to call friend.

Some of my friends at the Lucky Lab on Hawthorne for my 34th birthday celebration.

Some of my friends at the Lucky Lab on Hawthorne for my 34th birthday celebration.

I am trying to tame fleeting moments of acceptance that they may stay with me longer and longer. The pain of losing someone comes from having loved them. The difficulty of striving for a dream job stems from my ambition, and as long as this striving is balanced it is a good driving force. This is all part of getting older, of barreling through life open to all its glory and agony, of trying to be true to myself.

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