The grace of imperfection — reflections on the 24th anniversary of my sobriety, Part Two
This is the story of my twenty-fourth year of sobriety, told together and in three parts. (You’ll see. There would have been columns, which is infinitely more satisfying to me, but Blogger isn’t set up for binary sophistication. So – the parts go together, even though they look to the naked eye, separate.)
Part Two – told together and at the
exact same time as Part One
I’m getting a little annoyed with my editor. She keeps telling me the eBook version of my book will be available soon. She’s been saying “soon” since late June.
She is German, though. Maybe “soon” means something different to her.
Maybe I’m just impatient.
This is a real conversation that I’ve been having in my head. For weeks, I have been getting peevish that the book isn’t yet an eBook, that it’s still not available on every online platform. That I haven’t been written up in the New York Times Review of Books or been handed a Pulitzer.
The fact that I can have this imaginary conversation – imaginary in that it’s unsaid and in my head, but not that the events and situations aren’t true on the face of it – is absolutely and completely mind-boggling.
I wrote a book! I mean, an actual ink-on-paper book. Six months or so ago, I woke up to an email from some woman, the Acquisitions Editor at a small Jewish press in Germany, telling me that, while they normally publish scholarly works and textbooks, they were looking to expand their markets. She had come across my blog online and thought my writing would be perfect to help them do that. Would I be interested in doing a book with them?
Really? Someone has to ask that?
When I was newly sober, still trying on random pieces of my life, those pieces I had left along the wayside as I pursued anything that would bring on an oblivion stronger than my pain – even if only for a minute or three – and desperately trying to shed the wreckage that was threatening to bury me in a field of hidden mines and sharp, rusty edges, I would sigh every so often, saying, “I want to be a writer.”
Finally, one of my friends could take it no longer. “Stacey,” he rasped in a voice laced with too much booze, too many cigarettes, too much loneliness, “a writer writes.” Oh. That. Hmmm.
I filed that tidbit away with all the other verbs that I yearned for but couldn’t quite manage, like sing, or love, or parent, or God. So many verbs escaped me in those early days that stretched into weeks and months and years. Eventually, they came to me, not in a whoosh of perfection, but in fits and starts, all jangly dissonance and wonder. Jack of all verbs, master of none. I practice at them, do them far less than perfectly – which sets my teeth on edge and makes my skin fairly crawl often enough – but I do them anyway, and sometimes even manage to do them well. It never lasts, that, but I learned to live with that, learned to live in a world that is much more silver and gray and messiness than my black-and-white sensitivities would require.
And this year, this twenty-fourth year of my sobriety, I wrote a book! I can say, almost without giggling like a small child who is trying, but cannot quite contain the very large secret she is guarding, “I am a writer,” in answer to the question “What do you do?” I wrote a book, and someone published it and oh my God – seriously?
What a glorious gift this year has been! A few months ago, I was asked to participate in a Storytelling event. What an incredible honor, and so very humbling to be in the company of such masterful wordsmiths. I felt awkward: the story I chose was so different from the others! They were crisp and funny and bright, the perfect blend of wit and wonder. My story moved along in slow waves.
It wouldn’t have mattered if my story was exactly like theirs. I would have felt awkward regardless. No matter. I showed up – because I was asked. Because I was honored beyond belief. Because this was my community, and I am connected to them by more than words or microphones.
I did a horrible job of promoting the event. I had great intentions. Some things change with meteoric speed, others with all the pondering grace of glacial movement. Some things even slower. This was one of them. I had posters to hang, networks to harangue. I managed to put a notice or two on my Facebook page – Hey! There’s this thing! Come, if you have nothing better to do!
I was not hopeful. I had tried this before, this ask-people-to-show-up thing. It mostly hadn’t worked. I was pretty confident that it would mostly not work again. I mean, really: who wants to schlep out on a Thursday night to hear a bunch of people telling stories? Ok – they’d schlep to hear them, just not you. Me, They would not come to see me.
(Always remember: the words I say out loud are but the tip of the iceberg. I have a fascinating and very vocal internal life to fuel all the voices in my head. Trust me — the 10% rule fully applies.)
I did not do the publicity thing well, but I did something. And I showed up. And they came. Lots of people came. It was amazing. But oh my! In a breathless moment of wonder and joy, there were a few people who came just for me. They came because I asked.
This still takes my breath away and leaves me teary. I had a reading. I have an editor. I wrote a book. People came because I asked.