Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? ― Mary Oliver
I like having a February birthday. February needs something—it’s a rough month at this latitude—and Valentine’s Day just does not cut the mustard. Mardi Gras often falls in February which helps mitigate winter malaise. (In 2021 it falls on my birthday, which might be solid justification for a New Orleans trip in six years. Laissez les bon temps rouler, ya’ll.) But, anyway, I’m a fan of birthdays, in general, as opportunities for both merrymaking and taking stock.
As it happens, February is this blog’s birthday month as well. I didn’t plan it that way. It must just feel natural to me to start things in February. I came in just under the wire with my first post on February 28, 2012. It featured one Mr. Rocky Balboa, and it was basically a pep talk to myself. I was a year into writing The Saltwater Twin and Other Mythical Creatures and decided to document the process. There have been more pep talks, plus musings on the process of writing along with a handful of posts about my “day” jobs teaching and waiting tables, yoga, road trips and dogs.
The past three years have seen two of the chapters in The Saltwater Twin published—“Law of the Jungle” in The Chattahoochee Review and “The Saltwater Twin” in Creative Nonfiction and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. A third chapter, “And Now, the Octopus,” appears this spring in Hayden’s Ferry Review. Here are some things I learned: Writing takes a long time. Writing in the truest way you can about real things that happened to you changes you in ways that are good and unforeseeable at the start. Community is crucial. Pep talks are necessary.
In October of last year I finally toasted the manuscript’s completion and began the search for an agent. At first I felt frenzied about it. It felt like I was going to die, imminently, if someone didn’t scoop the book up and publish it last week and write me a fat check so I could retire my black apron and wine key forever. But gradually I realized this next step, like writing the book itself, was more marathon than sprint. And that I would survive no matter what. My very wise and lovely friend Ruiyan had some very helpful advice: Just do the work. You can’t worry about the things that are outside your control. Agents, publishers. Just keep doing the work.
Also, this is weird because I don’t go in for this kind of woo woo stuff, but I decided to look up my horoscope to see if there was some good blog fodder, and found this on astrology.com:
The pressure is finally easing up in 2015, Aquarius. Saturn has been working you hard since 2012… You can bid farewell to the constant testing and hardships that you’ve braved and conquered. This year is finally bringing the fruits for all of the arduous labor you’ve so devotedly mastered.
Okay, then. Giddyap.
Every day should have a little of that birthday feeling—the celebration of what we’ve accomplished, a fresh start, and cake. Birthdays are also, of course, for wishes, which you’re not supposed to tell or they won’t come true so even though you probably know what mine is, I won’t say it here. Wish it with me now. And here’s to all of your dearest wishes, too.
Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. ― Mary Oliver
George Harrison wrote, “All the world is birthday cake…” Sink your teeth in, friends. Sink ‘em in.