And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
This past Monday, Michael and I drove to our lawyer’s office to sign our wills.
That’s a hell of a way to start a Moment Of Happiness, isn’t it?
As we got to the top of the Barstow Street hill in Waukesha, one of the steepest hills to drive in this city, we were stopped…by a very long funeral procession. We sat there, watching the lead car, the hearse, and then car after car after car, each sporting a little flag and with their lights on in the daytime. And I began to laugh. I mean, really. Think about all the possible metaphors and symbols here. We’re signing our wills. We get stopped by a long funeral procession, like a long life itself, being laid to rest. We had to climb a long steep hill to get there, just like we’ve been climbing the long steep hill of life…ohmygod, I could go on forever.
Except, of course, that’s sort of the point, isn’t it. I’m not going to go on forever.
But you know, I think it’s also important that I laughed.
And then, when the last car finally went by, we moved ahead, got to the lawyer, asked for a few more clarifications, and then, signed our lives away. Literally.
But I have to tell you, it didn’t feel grim. It felt…tidy.
Ever since Olivia was born in 2000, Michael and I have looked at each other from time to time and said, “We really need to get our wills done.” We’d nod sagely and with a great sense of responsibility, and then we’d put it off. Again. And there wasn’t just Olivia. There were my three older kids from my first marriage, Christopher, Andy, and Katie. As time went on, there was a daughter-in-law and a son-in-law. There was a granddaughter, Grandbaby Maya Mae. There was property and pets. There was intellectual property, with the copyrights for my books and Michael’s. For heaven’s sake, there was a business, AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop. And we kept saying, “We really need to get our wills done,” nodding, and putting it off.
Until Monday, when we signed on the dotted lines.
And it felt tidy. Responsible. Like I was taking care of loved ones, from my family to my students to my readers. I was making sure everyone would be okay.
Walking out of that office, I really didn’t feel sad or morbid or anything like that. I felt like, if I was coming to the final chapter of my own book, I would be ready to close the covers and sigh with the joy and satisfaction that comes after reading something really, really wonderful.
Next Friday, I’m going to turn sixty-two years old. I will be in a hotel room in La Crosse, Wisconsin, a little city that I love, by the mighty river that I love, and I’ll be in the midst of doing what I love. I’m visiting a book club on Tuesday, where they’re discussing my novel, All Told. On Thursday, I’m reading from and discussing All Told at one of my favorite bookstores, Pearl Street Books. On Saturday, the day after my birthday, I’m teaching a class, The Labyrinth & The Creative Spirit, at the beautiful Kinstone in Fountain City, Wisconsin, and I’ll be surrounded by eager writers and visual artists. No, I won’t be home, but really, what better way to turn sixty-two?
And on that day, my birthday, I will be taking my final oral chemotherapy pill, which I’ve swallowed for the last five years for the treatment of breast cancer. While I am very grateful for the job that medication has done in squashing any possible attempts for the breast cancer to return, I will also be so glad to see that little pill go. Besides the side effects, which have been considerable, it’s been a daily yellow reminder that I’ve been sick with something that could have easily taken me out.
Taken me out before I had the chance to write my will, to take care of all my loved ones. To make sure they’re okay. And when I swallow that last pill, it will be with the knowledge that I’m okay. I’m still here. Doing what I love. Writing. Teaching.
Raising my children. Watching my grandchild grow.
Raising my students. Watching them grow. I had two more students receive book contracts this week. How amazing is that?
And, when I swallow that last pill, it’s also with the knowledge that when I close my own personal life book, it’s with the sense that everything is okay.
That little quiet moment at the top of the Barstow Street hill, on my way to sign my will, watching a funeral procession go by, and feeling myself fall into laughter, wasn’t such a little quiet moment at all, was it.
In my Wednesday Afternoon Women Writers’ Workshop this week, a student brought up this Julian of Norwich quote:
“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
I realize now, writing this Moment, that this is exactly what I’m feeling.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.