Wednesday, 13 November 2019
Pretty Good Year
Today marks one year since everything shifted - both for my life and for this book. That evening, my husband packed his bags and got into a taxi and then the house was quiet and I was a single mum.
I was a few months into the crowdfunding campaign for All My Worldly Joy and realised I suddenly had much less time and money that I had been counting on to get this done. I wrote this blog post to you all and was completely floored by the outpouring of love and support. It convinced me that I mustn't ditch the book. People were counting on it. There isn't a book like it - that I know of anyway - which deals honestly and unflinchingly with motherhood and trauma, that combines the personal and intimate with reflecting more universally on these issues within their wider context. And is funny.
I hope it's funny. I keep sending bits to friends: "Is this funny?" I'm having a grand time making myself laugh, anyway. I think it was Patricia Lockwood who taught me that it's possible to write about very dark things in a very funny way. I've always used humour as a way of facing down stuff that's properly awful, and I've noticed that's true for most of my friends who have been through a major bout of the mentals - gallows humour and all that. Permission to write in that way is incredibly liberating.
I'm having semi-regular hand-wringing sessions about how long this is all taking, now that other priorities are competing so much more urgently for my time and attention. We're at 56% funding and probably a similar amount through the actual writing - and, while I can absolutely see the writing coming together, I'm less confident about where the other 44% funding is coming from. I mean, it's coming, in dribs and drabs, but we do need some chunkier pledges to nudge us over the finish line. My spreadsheet of ideas is dwindling a bit, but I'm bloody well not going to pack it in. If I write each idea on a post-it note and chuck them at the wall, one or two have to stick, right?
It's your encouragement that's keeping me going. Yesterday one of you tweeted to me: "Slow & steady wins the race - can't wait to read it - no pressure!" I had a long email from another supporter last week which read: "I think your book project is extremely important and promising, and I am very much looking forward to reading the end-product at some stage. But I am also full of admiration for how you keep tackling so many challenges simultaneously - I can absolutely understand that the book would make faster progress if life’s road was a little less bumpy. So please don’t feel guilty or do more than you can manage to fit into a day while keeping sane and healthy!" I read that and had a small cry. I mean, thank you. Just thank you. Thanks for being here for the long haul.
It's been a year of gritting teeth and ploughing on, really. Just as I wrote to you a year ago - snowdrops and witch hazel; everything hurts but I'm still here. Amidst all the uncertainty, all the wreckage and the aching, I'm still here - and, even better, so are you. It's also been a wonderful year of connecting and reconnecting with the people around me, learning to lean on the kindness of others, learning to ask for help. Being unpartnered for the first time since my teens is the most extraordinary experience of coming home to myself. I have concluded that we definitely don't celebrate singledom enough. There has been the odd lonely moment, sure. Some evenings I get Arthur to bed, do various chores that need doing, sit down and notice that everything is rather horribly silent and still. When I really can't hack it, I reach for the phone, but that's happening less and less. I've discovered that I enjoy my own company immensely. I've been unpicking the lessons from my marriage and reminding myself who I am, whilst watching whatever the hell I like on TV, learning vegetarian cooking, enjoying my unfettered eccentricity (have you met my collection of creepy dolls?), and cultivating deeper intimacy in my friendships. I still have very little idea where I'm going, but I feel that I've grown as a human being. I'm thankful this has happened, all of it. I'm thankful for Arthur, who is only five and already the best person I've ever met. And I'm thankful for the people who support me to carry on, including all of you,