This Blackfield cover of an old Alanis song says every single thing I’m about to say, and about a hundred times more poetically, so, although my hope is you’ll click on it and let it be the soundtrack to my post, you could just close your eyes and listen and we’d be good. This is the closest to a theatrical performance I’ll ever get, so I hope you’ll indulge me. Go on, click it. (Sorry about the commercial.)
This is my last post for this blog. It feels…well, see, that’s the problem. It feels complicated, like there’s not one thing—or even a mile-long string of things—I could tell you about my experience that would tell the whole truth. I’m supposed to talk about my final review, which, with less than a week’s distance from it, is still hard for me to parse. Of course, I’m viewing it through the cracked lens of my fragile ego and my tendency to shine a hundred watt spotlight on criticism while letting accolades sit in shadow. I know that’s not real, but in this moment it totally is. Do you know what I mean? I know better, but I just don’t…know better. But that’s not the important thing I want to tell you.
Someone quoted Nabokov to me the other day, that quote about “reality” only having meaning when it’s placed in quotation marks. Apparently it’s in the afterword of Lolita, which I would probably know if I’d ever read it all the way through. It floored me. I thought yes, that, exactly. My “reality” should definitely always be in quotes.
This whole blog post should be in quotes.
The second segment of Oprah’s Book Club went up on her website the other day. Did you watch it? It’s here, but I can’t get rid of the commercial and the way Oprah pronounces “Cheryl” as “Shirl” sets my teeth on edge, so if you want to skip it the takeaway is you have to rewrite your personal narrative when you’re stuck in your story.
The problem is I’m so stuck in my own story. I’m not talking about my book, I’m talking about my story, the things I tell myself about the world and my place in it. I’ve opined about that here over the past many weeks, without ever being able to articulate it clearly: my fear of failure, my also-ran mentality, my inability to drag anything important across the finish line, the way I waddle around after strong, neurotic women, begging them to mother me.
For fuck’s sake, my mother’s ashes have been in the trunk of my car for twelve years. My story isn’t working. The most important thing my time in the Mark Program taught me is that I need to rewrite my story. Not my book. My story. You can’t solve a problem with the same consciousness that created it. I can’t fix my book until I rewrite my story. What a precious gift that is. I thought I was going to come away with a revised draft of my book. Instead, I’ve gotten something more important: a willingness to make hard changes to the story of my life that is no longer working.
I’m scattering my mother’s ashes on Tuesday.
Thank you to the Mark staff for their hard work and kind dispositions. Thank you to Al Watt and Sam Dunn for the encouragement and the advice—the gentle and also the not-so-gentle, which inevitably turns out to be the most valuable of all.
Monica and Carl, my compatriots, thank you for paying close attention to my work and for giving me Kleenex and cocktails when I needed them, which was entirely too often.
And most of all, thank you to PEN Center USA, for championing my work time and time again and for giving me opportunities I would have been too old, too poor, or too undereducated to ever have accessed through traditional channels.