Two Years On: New Things Growing

It’s been two years since my book, A Singing Army, was published and pushed out into the world. It’s been an interesting experience. I wrote that book because nobody else had, hoping that someone(s) who wanted to know that story might then be able to find it and maybe it would give them ideas or insight that hadn’t occurred to them before.

The folks who have contacted me about the book have always shared life-giving gratitude and kindness. I’ve heard from strangers and I’ve heard from people whose own work I have admired most of my life, from afar. It has been a wonderful experience to throw my heart on a page and put it out for public consumption.

And now here I am doing it again, writing a thing. Something long. This time it’s far more personal. This time I am the protagonist.

Since September, I have been in a yearlong memoir workshop where the goal is a full draft by August. I’ve now got something the length of a book and am in the stage where I’m filling in holes and striking what’s unimportant and refining what matters. It’s daunting and terrifying and also something beyond cathartic. It centers around another almost-decade of my life when I was so deeply in the dark for so long that my eyes adjusted: The eight years my wife and I spent trying to make babies.

In the end, we got our two wonderful children, but most of the time we were legitimately not sure it would ever work. It was expensive in all the meanings of that word. Most of those years, it was very much not working. I didn’t know I was living full-time in grief until I started to climb out after so many years.

“Grief has a momentum all its own,” is a sentence I wrote the other day. I hope my grief, in which I lived for a decade as we tried to build our family, might match someone else’s so that it’s not so heavy for them. Or maybe it’ll always be heavy and they’ll just know that they aren’t the only person carrying a heavy thing.

Everyone has been carrying heavy things these last few years. Maybe everyone has always been carrying heavy things, we just did better at camouflaging them into our clothes for so long.

I remember during COVID lockdown how everyone was talking about not going back to normal. We were all talking about “new normal,” as if “normal” was ever a real thing. There was this almost world-changing energy, this belief that once we all got to leave our homes, we would magically emerge into a better world. But it was such a lonesome time and magic is about as real as normalcy.

I couldn’t help but wonder if what we were emerging into wasn’t some big better thing but just a new season. A spring of sorts. That under the surface of everyone, there was something new growing. Something unseeable until it decided to emerge on its own time. Maybe if we dropped the camouflage and hoisted our heavy things, the equal and opposite reaction would be more like a flowering. What if we all just … grew, right in public?

Remember during lockdown (which began almost exactly three years ago, as I write this)? There were these photos and videos circulating of cities all over the world, where wildlife were wandering around, past shops, places they never would have ventured with all the humans and traffic of an average Wednesday or Sunday. But there they were, in packs, roaming through what seemed an incongruous landscape. Except that under all the concrete and buildings and metal poles and human construction, it was their native land. Sometimes they wandered slowly at first and then picked up pace. Sometimes they just barged right in, as if there was something in their center telling them that now was their moment to return. Their paws or hooves would land on uncomfortable surfaces but this place, something about it, was theirs.

I’ve been thinking about those animals lately. About their spirit of exploration and the internal compass of the wild animal. About the once-in-their-lifetime opportunity they had once the humans got out of their way. About what might emerge if we humans got out of our own way.

Anyhow, welcome spring. I hope you feel as though something is growing, or at least being renewed.

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