“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I’ve written.” (Flannery)
I read something today, some nice quote about liking people who have been through darkness and have found joy. I won’t go digging about for the quote — it wasn’t so brilliant. I thought upon reading it of a priest here, an old sweet priest who says the quick, lunchtime Mass at the hospital, who is kind and funny and speaks like Louisiana. He is joyful in the way that you know you could make him laugh with hardly any effort and truly, and that you’d be laughing along with him. I feel like I am pointed that way - that one day, I’ll be a funny old lady who will laugh hard and take everything with a lightness I don’t have mastery of just yet.
But I am thinking too that it took me many years to become at all joyful, to point this way even a little. It takes a long time to spin sadness and heaviness in to joy. It isn’t fast. Years do this, but they’ve got to be mixed with something like cream to coffee. I don’t know what must be added to the years. Friendship, maybe, with God and with neighbors. Maybe this should give me hope with my oldest child, who seems joyless much of the time. Maybe she needs time to spin out her sadness.
I’m been very timid with my writing this year. A great artistic effort that I made fell a little flat, and I haven’t recovered. Like a bird that smacked into a screen door and lay gobsmacked on the doormat. That failure is spinning somewhat now in to a freeing - I was not awesome, and I am ok. Disappointed certainly, but not (anymore) devastated. The last thing I really wrote was last November on the loss of my grandmother, and I haven’t felt at all interested in writing since then. I’ve heard others say it and laugh about it, but I wonder if I’ll ever write anything again, if all the words in me are just gone, are just plain, now, and normal and nothing at all to write down.
I sat on the couch the other morning w a friend who was passing though, a musician and writer. He explained to me that in the summer and fall, he tours and performs, creates in the spring, and rests in the winter. I don’t know if I season the same way, but I love the idea of this rhythm. I had never heard this before. I like the lifting of the pressure to be always creating new music or art or writing - sometimes, it isn’t that season.
I am no longer super new to making art and music, and not being super new makes me feel like there is an expectation that I have some sort of mastery. I don’t have it - I do not have the 10,000 hours or whatever they say is needed to achieve it, and I have, instead, gradually acquired the misfortune of knowing enough to be heavily critical of myself.
This past Sunday after singing the Mass, an older gentleman approached and told me he felt strongly that he needed to tell me something, and that he was sorry if I thought he was a nut. This is not the kind of church where people feel strongly about a whole lot - certainly this is not a common occurrence at Saint Rita. He told me a story from the back of his wine bottle (I know) - a story of a group of families from London who set out on a ship with great hopes for a better tomorrow and arrived in Port Misery, Australia, to find it perfectly miserable. The disappointed adventurers thought that if hope had led them here, then it must be the end of hoping. Hope’s end. And after they stopped hoping, they began living for the day.
Santa Rosa Beach has been a little bit of a Port Misery. I never have yet recovered the easy friendships I had in our old town. My children are still lonely. The school is bleh. But I think I’ve come up to the end of hope - and just like I had hoped, there is joy there. But the joy isn’t in the hoping - it’s just in the being. As a mom of a big family, I am always hoping I’ll find the right mix of magic to help each child be happy. I am always hoping this for myself, too - I think that joy comes from getting something right. I think now, that I never will get the mix just right. End of hope. Beginning of joy.