How writing a novel healed my heart

Steve’s been gone for almost three and a half years now.

The thought comes out of the blue, in the middle of revising a scene in my manuscript. I’ve had other losses since Steve; my aunt in February, my mother in March after years of watching her suffer.  It hurt to lose her but knowing her pain was gone made it easier, sort of.

Steve’s death, though, still has the power to sneak up on me, knock me flat, and leave me breathless. His was unexpected, sudden, violent, and chosen by him. Suicide of a loved one may end that person’s suffering but it just begins the pain for everyone else.

It’s been a busy month. My novel has to be ready for critique in the next week or so (clutches stomach) AND

I have two short stories to submit by the end of the month AND

I am participating in my first NaNoWriMo.  That starts 11/1 leaving me only ten days of prepping, outlining, reading more first-person POV books, because sure, why not try something I’ve never done under a nearly impossible deadline. 50,000 words in 30 days?!? Aaaaah!

I don’t have time for this! Does it come back because his birthday is, or would have been, next week? I lean forward and play the saved messages on my answering machine and realize I haven’t played them in months. The horror of that day slaps me again but his cigarette-rough voice saying “I love you” reminds of better times.

Suddenly I miss him so much.  He was angry, funny, kind, thoughtful, thoughtless, a bully, an asshole, a loyal friend and partner.  All those things, and more, all at once. He drank too much, smoked too much, used too many drugs. He hung a plaque in the office quoting a friend that said, “There will be mixed feelings.” They had been talking about when he dies. He did have a wickedly twisted sense of humor. You either loved him or hated him. I loved him. Lots of people loved him. It didn’t matter.

My eyes burn but I don’t cry. I can let the darkness swallow me up or not. It’s my choice.

Wait, what now? It’s my choice? When did that happen? It wasn’t always my choice but it is today and that’s AMAZING to me. EPIPHANY-LEVEL AMAZING. I say to him in my mind “Dude, I don’t have time for this today. I’m EFFING BUSY.” He throws up the W he was so fond of because it always annoyed the shit out of me. “Whatever.”

Put the phone down, people. I know it’s just my imagination.

Steve nagged and pushed me to pursue writing. If he’d stuck around he’d be so proud that I completed a novel set at the farm that he, and I, loved so much. And maybe annoyed that it took me so long. He’s not in the book (and he’d be pissed about that. Why that makes me smile and say HA-HA in the voice of Nelson, the bully from the Simpsons, I don’t know).

Today I realize I’m happy – the pride is mine. I accomplished this wonderful thing with the support of my family and friends. I accomplished this despite Steve’s absence. Writing this book, finishing it, and now revising it has healed me without me knowing it.

Yeah, I wrote a freaking book. Maybe it sucks balls, maybe it doesn’t. Time will tell, I guess, when I’m ready to unleash it on the world. I wanted the readers to smile and laugh with my characters, worry with them during their adventures, breathe a sigh of relief at the Happy Ever After.

And clamor for the sequel, of course. Duh.

I guess my point is this – bad stuff happens.  Awful, dark, soul-draining, heart-wrenching things. We, the survivors, plod on, head down, one foot in front of the other until one day we realize we are skipping again.  Those awful, dark, soul-draining, heart-wrenching things are still with us; we just find the strength to carry them instead of dragging it behind us.

So I am taking this hour to be sad on a drizzly gray October day. I’ll write that dark story inside me someday but not today. I have a scene to finish revising and a short story to block…