The Future Is Not Set

unbalanced cubes with sphere

I’ll go out on a limb here, and assert that nobody likes uncertainty.

I may be a bit of an outlier, even there: I don’t like surprises, even good ones. I shake my Christmas presents (which drives my family crazy). Years ago, when I learned, moments before it happened, that my job was giving me a surprise baby shower, I very nearly headed for the parking lot.

I have spent my life trying to anticipate every eventuality, which as it turns out is impossible. And yet my brain has been trained (or perhaps it started out that way). If I sit too long with uncertainty–sometimes more than a few minutes–I spin out, and I usually end up positing disaster.

There are elections coming up. I think they are critically important. Sometimes I’m hopeful. Sometimes I’m terrified. I am voting, regardless. I hope you all do, too. The “after” of these elections is a deep, dark, murky thing, and I am caught between needing to make Just In Case contingency plans, and not allowing myself to be paralyzed in the here and now.

Things are different. Only two of us in the house now, with The Kid off in college, and those of you who have been through that transition know how very strange it is. She’s still in the house–her things, her rhythms. The cats have become competitive since she’s left, since they’re now fighting over two of us instead of dividing themselves amongst three. My own days have changed: I sleep later, I work later, I go to bed earlier. I worry constantly, which is sometimes exhausting. I swear she was five years old yesterday, and I had to worry constantly. I’ve no idea how to turn it off.

My book is going to be late.

I’ve known for a while now it wasn’t going to make this fall, but I’d been hoping I could still somehow squeak it out in December. I had committed to 2022 a while back. And I could talk about life and stress and distractions and setbacks, but none of that changes the facts: my book is going to be late, and I’m mad at myself about that, and it’s a struggle not to let that negativity keep me from pushing forward.

This is a hard book for a lot of reasons, and I may someday write down what those are. For now? I need to focus and work, and some days…wow. Some days, neither of those things is on the table.

I can’t even say how close to done it is. Maybe 80%? Maybe 90%? But as anyone who’s revised a book knows, it’s that last 10-20% that kills you. That’s where the polish is–before that, you’re just throwing clay.

I’m writing something different for NaNo, and I don’t want to give that up. This means I’ll either suspend work on this book for a month–which I don’t want to do–or I’ll spend half my day drafting something new and half my day revising. I’ll probably try to do that, but in all honesty, I don’t know how successful I’ll be. Drafting and revising are two radically different mindsets for me. I know some people can do it. I’ll give it my best shot. Writing is all about experimenting, right?

Some years ago, before everything got tossed into the air and blown to pieces, a friend of mine interrupted my complaining about writing to remind me it was my “passion.” Since then, I’ve been wary of negativity about the writing process itself. I can bitch about publishing all I want, but writing? That’s supposed to be creative and lovely and endlessly fulfilling, and not drain me so badly I can barely see straight.

But sometimes it does.

Last week, I ran across this post by mystery writer Julia Spencer-Fleming, an author I quite enjoy. It’s got a brief excerpt from her next book, which was nice to see, because I’ve been wondering.

And I remembered, as I read the post, that my mother and I used to read her together, that we used to share all our books, that before she would have been the first person I contacted when I found the post, and we would have scoured the internet together looking for release data.

I’m not sure my mother knows who I am anymore. I think she remembers she knows me, but she can’t quite place me. We don’t really have conversations anymore; I tell her about the weather and our cats, and sometimes about my daughter, but I’m wary of that, too, in case it makes her feel lost. I ask how her cat is doing, which is about the only non-immediate question she can answer. She will, sometimes, retain an event if it made an impact (good experiences tend to stick more, which is a blessing), but for the most part her short-term memories drift away within a few minutes. She hasn’t been able to read in years.

I miss her. I miss the basic, primal comfort of being able to confide in my mother. I miss her telling me everything will be all right, even if she knows very well it won’t be.

I am also glad, for her sake, she doesn’t see or understand what is going on in this country right now. I am grateful she was still with it enough when Biden was elected; she’d been pretty despondent at the idea of dying with *rump in the White House.

It’s very possible that it isn’t uncertainty that’s bothering me most. Maybe it’s lack of control. It’s taken time, but I’ve finally accepted–mostly–that there is nothing I can do for my parents besides monitor their care and tend their finances. The Kid heading off to college…nope, can’t even really think about how helpless I am there. Writing should be a thing I can control, and yet here I am, writing a blog post instead of revising Chapter 2. Maybe that’s my problem: I need it to be binary. Either I can control everything (yes, I know, that’s not a thing, that’s never been a thing, it wasn’t even when The Kid was 5), or everything is chaos. But it really does feel like nothing underfoot is steady right now.

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