Children mentioned in this post about writing...
The night I finished the book, the Wolvog threw a tantrum during tuck-in and we had to follow through with the consequences which meant that I didn't sing his goodnight song. This has only happened maybe once or twice before and it was terrible timing to have it happen on a night where my heart felt so raw.
I finished the final chapter edit and wrote the epilogue. I've never liked the last page of a book. I'm really not a fan of having a book end. So I wrote the last page to be an open moment, where the reader and the writer (who is who? Truly--since so many readers contributed to the book and were the writer and I felt like I learned just as much as someone reading the book) can sit together indefinitely on a final thought that needs to be considered in every moment of every day.
I went downstairs to get Josh to read the epilogue and then slipped into the twins' room, intending just to give the Wolvog a kiss. But he was still awake, silently watching me while I stroked his head.
We climbed into the glider and he rested his head against my shoulder and we both closed our eyes. And my heart broke into 1000 thousand tiny shards. It literally exploded inside my chest. Because the glider felt like a boat and I had just written all of these pages about this fictive island--the Land of If--and it felt like by writing that epilogue, I was somehow rowing away even if not really. At least I was sailing around the island, sea monsters be damned, even if my plan is to remain on this island for longer.
Whether we get to add to our family or not, this is my home.
I had a long cry in the glider and then returned him to his bed and had a longer cry with Josh. I have been living in these two hard lands--the Land of If and the Land of Not Write (oh, you know this place--where you're not writing because everyone is saying "not right, not right" about your work)--for so long. And they both suck. The Land of If sucks a little harder, but suckage is suckage.
Josh and I are both writers so we often get the question whether we think the twins will grow up to be writers. And, on one hand, how can I tell them not to aim for this when I know the highs are so high? Signing the agency agreement, selling the book, turning in the final page--it feels so good. It feels good in a way that I could never get from teaching. But the lows? The rejection letters and the unreturned emails and the "not rights"? Those lows are so low. They are so incredibly painful because they are not just a rejection of your work, but they are a little rejection of you.
Both lands not only share a play-on-words (not write/not right or infertility (IF)/what if) but also a lot of failure and rejection and hope and ecstasy and despair and frustration and anger and love. We all spend time wondering why we live where we figuratively live.
Am I glad that I kept at it with treatments to get the twins? Of course, from a place of success, I can say the journey was worth it. I could not imagine my life without them specifically. I could not imagine my life without parenthood. But what if we weren't here because truly, you and I both know that it's "there but for the grace of G-d go I." It is too easy in the Land of If to not see your hard work pay off. And I certainly don't think emotionally I could have written the book before they arrived. The advice I give in the book is all the advice I wish I had followed and didn't. It's what I wish I had known then so I didn't lose myself so deeply. I really lost myself in the process.
Am I glad that I kept at it with writing and submitting to publish the book? Of course, from a place of success, I can say the journey was worth it. I could not imagine my life without writing. I didn't have writing for years while we did treatments the first time and it's hard to deny this huge part of myself. But what if the book hadn't been published because you and I both know that it's "there but for the grace of G-d go I." It is too easy with publishing and the Land of Not Write to not see your hard work pay off. I have tossed around this thought of what if I had given up. And just not kept at it. And not plugged away. And not taken the rejections on the cheek. Would things have been better overall? How would I feel to live my life in the middle--without the low lows, but also, without the high highs?
For me, writing and infertility are so intertwined. I stopped writing when we started trying to have a child. I started writing after we were successful. And I wrote the book for them. So they can one day understand what the Land of If feels like--what we went through to have them or how we felt or what we thought.
For me, I can say that it is worth living in both places simply because of the people I meet. In the Land of Not Write, there are all these bizarre nooks and crannies where different people wave out--some who helped me along the way and stepped back and some who are these huge presences who have influenced my life or certain projects greatly.
It was worth plugging away at this because I got to meet these incredible women at Seal and forge this friendship (I hope?) with Wendy, my editor (I hope we stay in touch because she has this fantastic ability to put into words exactly what she needs or wants and that translates out not only to being a great editor able to structure a book, but also a great communicator for debating the upcoming election or simply discussing the fine qualities of the Wonder Pets), and connect with my agent who is brilliant and comforting (and knows how to handle my anxious ass). It was worth plugging away simply to meet them and have our lives bump into one another. Once I write it, you will see this crazy path of choices that brought me here. And the roads not taken, they could have been equally cool. But I doubt that. Meeting the women I just mentioned were well worth the choices (and this does not even touch upon the incredible writers that this project has connected me with through the last two years).
And, of course, some of those choices brought me to Josh. Would he have fallen in love with me if we hadn't shared an intense love of the Long Room at Trinity College? And would we have shared that intense love if we weren't both writers? I cannot imagine my life without him so I guess the answer is that dealing with the low lows is worth it. He gave me this writing space--he created this writing space for me so I could feel the high highs that he had already felt from writing--and maintained this writing space. I don't know if I can properly thank him with words and I hope that he can see from the expression on my face when I look at him the intense gratitude I feel to be married to him.
Of course, if not for writing, I would not have Josh and if not for infertility, I would not have the twins. I would have had other children...older children...but not these children. And those roads not taken (as well as the ones taken from me), would they have filled my heart the same way? I'll never know. I think what is amazing about life is the way our hearts come to peace and fit around the choices we make (if not instantly, then with time). We can find the good in our individual choices. I am thankful that each of us will find the right path out of the Land of If. This one worked for me, and I'm well aware that it would not have worked for everyone.
Trying to walk someone else's path is just about the most dangerous thing you can do; only behind not walking your own path.
Simultaneously, not taking time to try to understand someone else's path is just about the most dangerous thing you can do; only behind not honouring and accepting your own path.
By all this I mean that I could have had a fantastic life very different from this one if I had not kept going on the paths that brought me here. But I only know the one I have and I am grateful not only for the choices I made but for the people who helped me get to those choices. And, at the same time, I have only the deepest respect for the other paths people have chosen that I have seen--both in honouring themselves in the Land of Not Write and in honouring themselves in the Land of If. I can see the peace that exists for others in the other choices.
It is strange to feel gratitude towards the hard paths. Towards paths that have such deep rejection and disappointment embedded in each stone. But I am grateful for writing and I am also grateful (in a strange way by which I mean grateful may not be the right term) for infertility.
If not for infertility, I would have never met all of you in the Land of If.
I thanked all of you in the acknowledgments page, but since the book won't be out for a bit, I want to thank you here and now. This book was literary stone soup. I brought this rock--this idea--and dropped it in the pot. And everyone added this and that to the pot until we had this really amazing soup that is emotionally nourishing and strengthening. I didn't want to write a book any other way. Stone soup is who I am--for me, it is always about community. Taking care of community and drawing strength from community.
Therefore, thank you. For being my community and for letting me be yours. I took care of your stories--I was so grateful to be entrusted with them that I carried them through the book as if they were porcelain. My only sadness is that a lot of quotations were cut due to space. But what can you do?
I am trying to get my life back on track (I am so sorry about sucking so hardcore with email. And seriously, I am debating whether or not to take pictures of my front hall) and then jumping into the next book. Again, about infertility/adoption/loss. So nothing is really going to change around here. I built the website I wanted back when we were trying the first time, and I wrote the book I wanted to read when I was trying the first time, and now, I will attempt to write the other book I wished existed. I hope you'll throw in your carrots and cabbage again.
And now, with so much time on my hands again, I plan on driving you insane with all sorts of projects.
Please stick around.
Still coming up: thoughts on the twins starting school for the first time, how I came to wear the turkey cutlet to my friend's wedding, and the bizarre path that brought me from a box of tampons to the book that contains all of your stories. But for now, breathe.