I would like to say that the pandemic, in all its extended glory, has thrown my life off kilter, but it really hasn’t. Maybe it is because I’m a nurse and it has been business as usual. Well, maybe more business than usual with a lot of extra PPE. In fact, work is the only thing that has consistently driven a thorn in my side. I have been a nurse for 17 years and these last two have been by far the hardest of them all. I would have thought nothing could top all the years I worked the night shift in the ER, but Covid has created a pressure cooker of unhappiness in the land of healthcare. Everyone is burnt out in every department. At least weekly, I consider finding a different career. But then while last minute Christmas shopping, a young man recognized my name and told me that I saved his life once. Me. Sometimes you need to know that your efforts are remembered beyond the point of the immediate action. He told me his parents never let him forget my name.
The front half of the year found my long distance relationship at its end. I learned a lot about relationships and myself and where I was in recovering from the traumas of my life. I’m in no way a victim type and have always been one to write it out as a poem and a story and move on, but what I discovered was that this is not really dealing with the problem. I’ve stated it, this much is true, but I never really inspected it and how it affects my daily life. I learned that I should have ended the relationship when I felt it was over and walked away, but I felt bad or like I was doing something wrong. Can you see what the years of manipulation had done? Made me feel bad for making the right choice for myself.
The ending of the relationship was a little painful as he lashed out verbally against my character and more importantly, my writing. I entrusted him with the first twenty chapters of my novel and he said to burn the first seven chapters. Ha. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but he did say that when my two main female characters’ friendship is broken, the reader has no reason to care. This was true. I had neglected to frame how much they meant to each other. This prompted me to realize that I needed to write the whole thing over switching from third person past to first person past. Always find the silver lining.
After this relationship, at 48 years old, I decided to call it quits. I had been along for long swathes of time before and I could do it again. Playing in the sandbox of love seemed too messy and even harder with the pandemic. And then, I met the man who would change me by letting me be myself. I felt connected to him from the first time I talked to him. Of course, I forbid myself from getting entangled in another long distance relationship, but the more we talked, the more my heart opened up. It is pretty magical to find a person that loves you exactly as you are, even the parts that aren’t so agreeable. It is magical when you can feel this way about someone else. I was listening to a Brene Brown podcast and there was a guest on that said the reason why relationships and marriages fail is often, one person or both tries to change the other into something they want, thus changing them from the person they fell in love with. This really hit me. I had been guilty of that. If I feel like I need to change someone, then they aren’t the person for me. I wish I would have learned that a long time ago.
But in this very free and open space that my boyfriend has given me, I am learning to trust. Not just another person, but my own instincts about my writing. He has been a muse of sorts and gave me the support I needed to get my first book in 10 years published. This started an avalanche of creativity for me and I am currently writing some of the best poems I have ever created in my life. This is a gift that has no price. Love is a powerful feeling. It is motivating. I had a poetry reading at our local bookstore, Card Carrying, and this was the first time I had done something like that in my own hometown. It really gave me that feeling of community connection.
This summer I found myself on the board of directors for Corning Public Theater. We put in some sweat equity on a building that had been empty for 20 years, a landmark in our community that we hope to make a gleaming jewel again. I can’t wait to see where this project takes me and all the lives we can make better through the arts.
This fall I had a series of events that led me to start creating Durable Goods again after a long hiatus. It is a micro-zine that used to feature poets in the small press, but in this incarnation it features abused children in a small Missouri town. I couldn’t feel any better about a project than I do this one. I love the idea of giving these kids a platform to share their work, to see that they matter in the world of writing even if they feel like they don’t matter at home. This is a limited print run series because it involves a lot of labor. If you are interested in one of the 75 spots available for next year’s Durable Goods: The Missouri Collective then you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Barring any postage hikes, it is generally $6.50 for US and $13.00 for international. These prices are also dependent on the size of the class. It could be more or less. But, if you are interested in supporting these kids on their journey through writing you can contact me. Thank you Scot D. Young for jumpstarting this project with me.
This year I went on a three day, 22 mile hike in the Finger Lakes region and nearly died. It was great. This has been a year of breaking down conceptions of myself and seeing the truth. It was a lesson in pride and ego, a lesson of survival, a lesson of trust. Thank you Lisa for sharing that journey with me. It was life changing in so many ways. I can’t wait to do it again, but without the almost dying part.
Now it is time for a little roll call. I want to thank all of the presses and magazines (online and print) who took a chance on my work this year:
South Shore Review, Ambrosial Literary Garland, Red Penguin Collective, Heroin Love Songs, Anti-Heroin Chic, Impspired Magazine, Open Skies Quarterly, M 58 Poetry, Piker Press, Spillwords, Cajun Mutt Press, Pub Poetry, Fixator Press, Rusty Truck, Rasputin, Roadside Raven Review, Mollyhouse, and Red Fez.
I still have a few outstanding submissions I am waiting to hear from but this is the main group.
This year I read 34 books. I didn’t quite make the 50 I was hoping for but over the last five years reading long works has been harder for me. I do believe I have developed a little adult onset ADD. So I will take the 34 books because it was more than last year and the year before. I won’t list all of them, but here are a few of the ones that still roam around in my head from time to time:
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
The Beekeeper of Aleepo by Christy Lefteri
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD
Educated by Tara Westover
I read a lot of poetry this year and the two stand out collections that made me cry and feel angry and think so much I had to put the books down were:
Lord of Butterflies by Andrea Gibson
Bone Moon Palace by Paul Corman-Roberts
This is long so I will wrap it up. It has been a year of contemplation, self-discovery, and trust. It has been a year of friendship building…I love you Mattea, Lisa, and Stephanie. These are the most powerful women I know, each in their own way, and they lay the foundation for me to become a better person. It has been a year of preparing to let go, to at some point in the next year, be an empty nest. Sending your baby out into the world is the hardest thing a mother can do, but it is also the best thing. I wish you all happy holidays and a bounty of success in the next year.
Read. Write. Support small press.