Eight years ago, I wrote on this blog, “I have a little idea for a novel budding in my head,” and that novel is still in manuscript-form on this very computer, resting, rarely opened lately, and otherwise simmering away so that when I face it again I can put it into shape with fresh eyes.
I write things wrong before I get them right, apparently it’s just a thing I do.
Erin Morgenstern wrote this on her blog in October, and I cling to it. Erin Morgenstern wrote the very beautiful The Night Circus. If she writes things wrong, there is hope for the novels in my head.
To say it very plainly, I thought I would be farther along by now. Really thought it, not just hoped. I’ve heard this theme from others lately, too, this feeling not that you wish some part of life looked differently but you really thought it was supposed to. Sometimes the goals we’re reaching toward became our goals because we could see the end result so clearly it feels inevitable. And then, we get a ways down the road, we haven’t reached it yet, and we feel lost.
I wrote about a moment like this in The Thank You Room. My niece Claire, now a teenager, had a twin sister named Ellery. I had pictured years and years of their lives on earth together. We knew she was in a fight, but we prayed, for goodness sake. We prayed hard. When Ellery died after only a few hours here, I said to my uncle, “I didn’t think she was supposed to die.”
Sometime later, when my cousin’s husband had a seizure, and his heart stopped, she gave him CPR until the ambulance came; and she could imagine the story she would tell about it later and how she helped to save his life and he was fine now. But he wasn’t. The thing she felt sure was supposed to happen, didn’t.
This is a hard one, living on the other side of something you thought was supposed to be, and it isn’t. I hope and trust my sister, and my cousin, will understand how I dare compare their disappointments to anything less than the very real loss of a loved one. I compare it because the comfort I found through their stories still carries me today. Here’s what my uncle said to me when I said I did not think Ellery was supposed to die.
She wasn’t. She was supposed to live, and she did.
I still can’t remember that without everything righting on its axis. She wasn’t supposed to die. She was supposed to live, and she did.
Maybe your thing could have happened differently, too. Maybe mine could have. If I had started writing novels sooner, if I had found a daily routine when I was younger, subjected myself to tougher criticism, read more. I’m pretty Armenian for a Calvinist, so I think our choices absolutely have consequences, and there are any number of ways our life could go. Free will for the win. But there are some supposed-to’s.
I am supposed to write. That could not be any more clear to me. I love words. I love the way you can get lucky with them sometimes and wrap them just right around a concept so it makes more sense or lasts longer. I am supposed to write, and I do. Finis.
I am supposed to be Michael’s wife, lucky girl.
These are my boys, amazingly enough, and my house – which was a dream for quite some time.
It’s not like I’m all that good at this. When the thing I thought was supposed to, doesn’t, I freely tailspin. It is my right to do this. It brings my mama with flowers and my husband with this, gently, “You knew it wouldn’t be easy. Try to enjoy every step along the way – it’s all a part of the story.” The tailspins don’t even bother me anymore. Even in the midst of one, I’m aware all through it that the supposed to’s are firmly in place. They are with me all the time, and I’ll return to them on the other side of the spin.
In case you’re looking for your own supposed to’s right now. I just want to say, I’ve been there, I get it. We are supposed to, and we will.