To distract myself from the curtailment of our constitutional rights by a packed Supreme Court, I spent a couple of hours going through the last line-item edits of my forthcoming essay collection. Presented in two-and-a-half pages, the list drilled through my manuscript in terse, tight jabs. P. 20, first paragraph, semi-colons? Why not commas? P. 22, italics? And so forth. Once or twice, a little query; occasionally, a gentle quibble. I kept slogging.
A curious phenomenon unfolded as I compared the proposed edits with the manuscript.
In bites, in paragraphs, in pages, and in passages, a decade of my life unfolded. Incomplete but intriguing, the frolic through the period of blog-writing from which the collection has been culled took me from my first summer as a separated woman (marriage two) to my last summer as a Missouri resident after divorcing (marriage three). An alarming dizziness crept over me.
At one point, I found myself typing words that could only be considered shrill. This one exemplifies everything about me! I screamed. Do not change a word of it! Then I calmed and conceded the semi-colon question. It won’t read like me, I sighed. But if you think it will sufficiently improve the passage, go ahead and change them.
From early January of one year, I bounced across the decade to land on New Year’s Eve of another. My son started college; I read a line or two about attending his invocation. I tried cases and relived, in fragmented form, their outcome. Loneliness. . . hope. . . newness. . . fatigue. I dipped my toes back into the rivers which carried me to the banks of the one near which I now live. I tarried at first; then accelerated my ramble; and in the end, hastily agreed with the proposed edits. I entered the last response into an email, typed a closing comment, and hit send. Then I sat back in the old wooden chair which I brought with me from the very bedroom in Kansas City where most of the blog entries originally had found voice.
Having one’s life flash before one’s eyes causes little rivulets of sweat to roll down one’s back between the shoulder blades. My face quivered a bit as I breathed — in, out — to ease my heartbeat. I could not tell from the long list sent by my editor (friend Will Leathem) whether the work badly suffers from poor style and grammar; or merely needed a helping hand. But what’s done is done. I closed the lid of my laptop and looked about my tiny house. Seeing nothing, and no one, to further distract me from worrying about the state of the nation, I decided to make another cup of coffee and find a good British mystery to read.
There’s a lot to be said for escaping in the melodic, elaborate writing of the war years, when the affairs of humanity could be sorted out with a raised eyebrow, a pint of stout, and a cold glass of Pernod served by the landlady in the public bar.
It’s the twenty-fourth day of the one-hundred and second month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.