And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

I suppose it’s a natural thing to take stock at the start of a new year. We’re seventeen days in now, and I’ve been taking stock since New Year’s Eve. 2017 and 2018 were years that taught me that nothing is in my control, and in fact, I watched those two years unravel with events that were totally out of my control. I could only roll with them and wait to find my way back to the surface.

When I visited my medical oncologist in December and I told him that the cancer was actually harder to deal with after it was over, he said, “That makes sense. You’ve had two major events (the cancer, and then the infection) over a short period of time that could have killed you.” I said, “I don’t think of it that way.” When he asked me to explain, I said, “I’ve had two major events where I lived.”

But still, as 2019 came in, I found myself searching for something that I could do that would give me some sense of being in control again. And that’s why last Sunday night, at 11:00, I found myself in the AllWriters’ classroom, the lights on and blazing out onto the dark street.

One whole wall of the classroom contains tall bookshelves, and in front of the floor to ceiling windows, there are four more short shelves. The shelves are stuffed with books. There was an article released this week, and it’s echoing many others, saying that book sales are up and that the sale of physical books, not e–books, is thriving. You have only to look in my classroom to see the proof of that. Once or twice a year, I typically straighten the books, because as new titles are added, space grows slim, and so new books are stacked sideways on top of the others. I haven’t done the straightening for almost two years, because of the weakness in my right arm, one of the remaining insults of the breast cancer.

For the last several months, I have glared at my messy bookshelves every time I walked into my classroom. I was going to straighten them during my week off between Christmas and New Year’s, but things kept interrupting. Finally, I made a promise to myself that the books would be done last weekend. I had a class on Saturday until one, Michael had a client at two, and then I would rework the bookshelves.

Except, of course, life interrupts and I ended up chauffeuring family members around so they could get their own to-do lists done.

By Sunday night, I was rabid. So at 11:00, I went downstairs. It was late, I was tired, but I didn’t care. I was taking control of something, even if it was my own schedule and getting something done that needed to be done on MY list.

Until just after two in the morning, I sorted books, shifted books, placed them in piles and revered their memories. I dusted the shelves, front to back, left to right, and I dusted the books. Somewhere after one o’clock, I had to start doing things with mostly my left hand and arm – my right was rendered useless.

But when I stood back at 2:00 in the morning, the lights bright as classtime inside, all of my books were standing tall, their spines straight. They were in order, alphabetically. Outside, our Little Free Library was full once again, with books waiting to be opened by someone new, and there are more ready to go, tucked away in a cupboard for now. On the classroom table, there was a line of books about writing, which would be offered to students as they came in during the week.

As I stood there, my spine straightened too. Control. My classroom looked like my classroom again. And my love for words, for writing, for reading, for writers, was once again bright and ready for anyone and everyone to see. My life looked like my life again.

Sometimes, all it takes is row after row of books standing in order to snap an entire life back in place again.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.     


Not a sideways book to be seen. Perfect.

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