Wow, so I drafted the following in May of 2014 and never posted it. Well, here it is January of 2015 and I finished the book I was angsting about and am now in this exact same place with the next book. In a way, I find this comforting. In another way, I find it horrifying. Will this crippling self-doubt ever stop? It really sucks.
From the unposted draft archives:
Despite the fact that I’ve got four or five books out now, whenever I’m working on a new one, I always reach a point where the following thoughts go through my head:
“What the eff are you doing? Who do you think you are? You can’t write a book. You’re not even capable of writing a book. You don’t know what you’re doing and you will never know what you’re doing.”
That’s the worst part of writing. It’s the part that really gets me down sometimes.
For some reason, though, I keep on writing. I’m pretty sure it’s because I have to write to survive. So write I do. Hopefully I’ll be wrong and a book will come out of what I do. Still, that nasty little voice is there. Despite evidence to the contrary, there’s always part of me that thinks I can’t.
But I can.
And I will.
I DID. Here’s Smoky Mountain Dreams, the book I was certain I couldn’t write.
Please be forewarned that this is a very annoying and whiny post and you definitely have better ways to spend your time than reading it.
1. About a year ago, I received a Facebook invite to my 20 Year High School Reunion. I merrily clicked accept and confirmed that I would be there, but didn’t put it on my calendar. Cue a Friday in mid-September when posts started popping up on my Facebook feed from folks in my graduating class. “K-town! I am in you! 20th Reunion, here I come!” That sort of thing.
Oh, I realized, that’s this weekend. As in tomorrow? As in I-did-that-thing-I-do-and-totally-fucked-up-and-didn’t-get-something-important-on-my-calendar? Great.
So, we can call that reason number one.
2. Reason number two was that my husband had to work and that would mean I’d have to fly solo.
3. Which brings us to reason number three…what happened at my last reunion. It is actually a kind of awesome story and part of me regrets not going to my 20th only because I might have lost an opportunity to gather another such story into my stable of weird experiences.
At my ten year reunion, I had been there less than ten minutes, when suddenly I felt a hand grab and grope my entire ass. I turned around to see what guy was about to get my fist in his face (or my husband’s fist, if he’d noticed) only to see no one. Then I looked down. My tiny friend Miko, someone I hadn’t seen in forever, was standing there, already drunk out of her mind, and it had been her who’d grabbed and groped my ass. Uh, okay, fine. Maybe Miko liked me in a different way than I’d ever thought? Or something? Which is okay, but…unexpected since she’d been with many, many, many guys in the time that I had known her.
“Oh, I’m so glad you’re here!” she declared, grabbing me in a hug. “You are the only reason I came. You’re the only reason I’m here tonight. I came just to see you.”
Okay then. All right. This is…unexpected but okay.
“Aw, that’s so sweet to hear,” I replied. “I’m so glad to see you. What have you been up to?”
She didn’t answer. She said, “I’ll be right back. I’m going to go see Roberta a second and I’ll be right back. Okay?” She looked at me intently. “Okay???”
I didn’t see her again for about two hours. Then she plopped down next to me at a table, grabbed my arm, drunk or high as hell, and declared, again, “You are the only reason I’m here. I’ve been wanting to see you for so long. I’m so happy to be here with you. You’re the only reason I came.”
“I’m happy to see you, too. How have you been?”
“I need to go see Eddie a second, okay? I’ll be right back. I’ll be right back.”
Another hour and a half passed and I didn’t see her. My husband and I started to talk with Karsten and got into a lot of interesting memories. Like, for example, the time right after college when Hub and I went to visit Karsten and her then boyfriend, only to be told that she’d forgotten we were coming, she was fresh out of court-ordered rehab after bursting a lung doing poppers (I didn’t even know that could happen?), and, excuse her, but she was going to a party and she’d see us the next morning, leaving us with her boyfriend.
The next day, around 1pm, we had to go pick her high/drunk ass up at some shack–a literal shack–where she was sleeping on a dirty mattress with another girl and there was a massive, filthy, muddy pig rambling around through the rooms. Like, I get that pigs are pets, but this was a very unkempt pig in a den of druggies.
She then spent the rest of the day passed out in the backseat while her boyfriend showed us around their little town. Later that night, while her boyfriend and my hub went to pick up take-out for dinner, she confessed to me that she was having an affair with a married man, and also having an affair with the girl she’d been in bed with.
Needless to say, shortly thereafter she and her boyfriend broke up. He’s happily married these days and I’m actually better friends with him than I am with her at this point. BUT I DIGRESS. Like I said, I have a collection of weird stories. I seem to just walk innocently into them somehow.
Anyway, Karsten was past this point in her life by the 10 year reunion. She was now a confirmed lesbian, living in a big city with her girlfriend, and apologized to us profusely for that past weirdness.
Just as Hub and I were taking leave of Karsten and preparing to go home, Miko showed up, even drunker than before, and she desperately grabbed my arm and said, “You’re leaving? But I want to go with you.”
I said, “Do you need a place to stay?”
She said, “No, no, I’m staying with Ashley, but I want to GO. WITH. YOU.”
“Well,if you’d rather stay at our place, we have a guest room and you’re welcome. Just tell Ashley.”
“NO,” she said. “I want to GO WITH YOU. I just want to GO with you. Okay?”
“Okay, sure, honey. You can come home with us. We’ve got an extra bed.”
“No. I’m staying with Allison.” Tears filled her eyes. “It’s just that you’re the only reason I’m here and I want to go with you.”
I was flabbergasted. She kept telling me I was the only reason she was there, but she’d spent less than five minutes with me the whole night…oh, and she’d groped my ass. Anyway, so I offered again that she was welcome to leave with us if that was what she wanted. She declined again.
I suggested, “Why don’t we exchange numbers and addresses and we can talk later?”
She eagerly agreed. I gave her my number and address and then she sat down to write hers. It was completely illegible. It was scribbles, as if she wasn’t even sure what her number or address even was. She handed it to me and I said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t read this.” She took it back, tried again, and it was even worse than the first time. Completely illegible. Karsten took the paper from my hand, laughed, and said, “I don’t think this is a legitimate attempt to pass information.”
Miko burst into tears, saying, “It is. It is. I just can’t write.”
Dudes, she used to be able to write. This is what drugs do, babies. They make you unable to write your own damn phone number because you can’t remember how.
So, I said goodbye to her. She clung to me and cried. I left. The end.
And, honestly, that’s reason number three I didn’t go to the reunion. Because, well, if there was an incident like that without Hub there to back up the fact that this surreal event was actually happening, I might think I’d gone crazy. And, also, because if there was no surreal incident like that, then I’d feel kind of let down. I mean, that 10 year reunion really set the bar high, you know?
4. Vanity. I hadn’t had my roots done and I didn’t have a dress I wanted to wear. Yes, this actually played a role in my decision making. It’s true. Also, I just felt displeased with everything about my face, which I fully admit is probably a little body dysmorphic, but it was there all the same.
5. Childcare. I had a friend offer to let Bird spend the night with her kids, so that would’ve worked out just fine, but that meant I’d have to pack up Bird’s things and drive her to my friend’s house and I was feeling like that was probably too hard to accomplish. Hmm, that is definitely a warning signal in terms of my history with depression. Alert, alert, alert. Call the depression fire department and have them come put out the flames before it becomes a blaze!
6. Writing. I had writing plans for the weekend and going to a reunion was sure to cause so much emotional whatever-ness that I would spend way too much time analyzing it, thinking it over, talking about it, and not getting my writing done. There’s a rule I try to follow these days–keep the drama on the page. That means I try not to let things in my actual life overwhelm my mind to the point that there is no room for writing. And maybe it says something about the need for alerting the depression fire department that I felt sure going to my reunion would be drama not on the page. But, then again, see three!
7. I didn’t feel like I’d be missed or that anyone would greet me with any degree of, “So happy to see you!” I know this is weird given the thing with Miko, but I’m really sure she didn’t attend this time and that also wasn’t the flattering kind of happy to see me. I mean it was…but it wasn’t, you know? It was way too drunk, high, and confusing to feel truly good. And clearly this reunion was all about making me feel good? Oh, the issues. I have them. I’ll go be selfish and self-absorbed over in this corner.
(Ah, here is the part where I am ridiculous and emo and possibly hormonal.)
I was never not popular in high school, but I wasn’t popular either. As I discussed in my post, Hiding in Plain Sight, I’d perfected the art of being unseen, unnoticed, and that applied to my position in the school as well. People didn’t dislike me, but I wasn’t anyone’s favorite human. I didn’t walk into a room and find anyone truly happy to see me there.
(Though maybe something was up with Miko back then that I didn’t know about, but who knows? She was so high. Maybe she was telling everyone at the reunion that they were also the only reason she was there.)
Wah, wah, wah, I am a wanker and who the fuck cares about this part of the reasons? It was just when it came to making the decision, I didn’t feel like I’d be letting anyone down if I didn’t show. (And no one mentioned missing me, so I think this was true. Um, alert the depression fire department? I am seeing a pattern here.)
8. Books. Or the lack thereof. I need to have written more books to justify my existence in the world to my fellow former high school peers. That’s pretty pathetic, huh?
9. Turning 39. This plays into seven above. I’m really shocked at how much turning 39 is bugging me. I don’t remember 29 being this hard? Maybe it was, though, since it was part of the three very bad years when I was suicidally depressed. Ha! So, yes, it was probably a shitty year, too. But I don’t recall feeling the same time-crunch I do now. I don’t recall thinking, “Wow, I thought you’d have accomplished so much more, Leta! Look at your life! Look at your choices!” I still had my thirties to go and they were full of possibility and imagined success. Now I’m 39 and…not so much. Yeah, not so much. I’ve got my 40s and my 50s and it’s not like life is over at 60, either, so I don’t know what I’m whining about. I’ve got time yet. I hope.
Also, okay, I must cop to this: I felt some kind of weird horror at the idea of all of us being 39 or 40 years old. I can’t even explain that. Maybe I just want to remember everyone the way they used to be? This could have to do with looking up a recent photo of a guy I was in love with in high school and finding that, wow, he’d really changed and all that sexual chemistry I’d felt for him would definitely be gone now. It was oddly disappointing. Anyway, I felt like if I just didn’t go, I could continue to pretend we were all 32 years old, tops.
10. Why does high school still matter so much? It was four years that took place twenty years ago now. Why do they still seem so important? I don’t want them to be.
So, yes, that’s why I didn’t go to my 20 Year High School Reunion. I think a lot of them are lame reasons, really. Reasons I’m not especially proud of. But they are the reasons all the same.
Oh! And I forgot one more! No alcohol! I can’t drink since it gives me migraines and the idea of being in a room of my former high school peers without a drink my hand? Hard. I need to write a post about my new found respect for the struggles of addicts since giving up alcohol. I never drank that often, maybe one or two drinks every week or two, but the social lubricant aspect of alcohol cannot be underestimated. Especially for an introvert like me. I’m so tempted when attending events or parties to just have one drink anyway, damn the consequences. So very tempted! I can’t imagine the temptation an addict must feel in the same situations. Anyway, new found empathy and respect from me on that front, man!
Okay, I should get ready for work. I’ve been a wanker enough today.