The happy-weird-blubbering-in-semi-public kind
The finalists were announced yesterday for the Vermont Book Award and BUT YOU SEEMED SO HAPPY is one of them. The fact that this book was recognized in this group of finalists, in this state that I have had a more intimate and fraught relationship with than I have had with most people, is such an incredible honor. I will not win and that’s good because if I had to get up and say anything the odds that I would throw up directly into my hands are extraordinarily high. Maybe that’s not even how it works. Do I think everything is the Oscars?
Although I knew this news in advance, the announcement yesterday somehow threw me for a loop. I had a very complicated and, frankly, not good experience launching and promoting this book. It continues to be something I am processing and trying to understand. I am still attempting to define success and failure. I am still wrestling with what it means to desperately want recognition for my work but to also crave being invisible. I am still trying to articulate (or maybe simply justify) why it’s ok for me to write something so intimate and then get mad when people try to engage me on it or, more precisely, why I value hearing from complete strangers (who have been so trusting, vulnerable, and intimate with their stories) and why I loathe hearing from fringe acquaintances who feel they have the right to give me their hot take on my marriage because they spent $16.99. After all, wasn’t I the one who started it?
I enjoy and find incredible meaning in writing about my dumb little life but this book made me question if it’s ever really worth it. Needless to say, this has left me mostly feeling pretty down about the overall experience even though I’m quite proud of the book. I thought I would be “over it” by now (if I could even define what “it” is anymore) or to at least know what all of this means. But almost 6 months later I really do not and am not.
After the announcement I celebrated the way most mothers who are leading largely boring lives do, probably. I went to Staples to copy my tax shit, I dropped off dry-cleaning, I picked up cookies for the cast and crew meal for the one-act plays, I got my hair cut and when my stylist asked “what’s new?” I had a real answer. I decided to go on a long drive after that, to hold space to reflect on the book and what this news meant before I had to jump into work. Without necessarily intending to, I ended up taking a different driving route than my usual one, and that’s how I found myself back on the dirt road I wrote about in “Life is Better on Weed”.
The weather yesterday was oppressively gloomy. Gray, cold, flat, and soggy, like being wrapped in a rough wet towel. I pulled over and immediately felt the entirety and the weight of the 19 years I’ve lived here. I somehow felt every single day of it, since we first arrived in Vermont in a rental camper in the middle of a blizzard. I could see me in summer, walking our dogs (long dead now) down that dirt road. I looked to the field to my left, the field we walked through to scatter their ashes in the river. I could picture the times I walked and whispered to myself and to the pregnancy I would end up losing early, only weeks in. I could see and feel every season, the summer we swam in the river with the dogs, the fall walks with my 3-month-old baby in his little flannel shirt and blaze orange cap. He had emergency surgery this week, that’s the kind of week it’s been. Thankfully he is fine, but the entirety of those 19 years came rushing back to me then too. What is a life, any of it, but routine punctuated by disaster.
I saw again, in my mind, the hot air balloons and the bats, the cigarettes and rollerskates. I saw the runaway horses and just thinking about them again made me want to press my forehead to the steering wheel. I don’t know why exactly, I just did. I felt the joy, the sorrow, the relief, the well running dry. All that time, felt and gone.
You will not be surprised to learn, I started to cry. I have tried so hard to feel nothing for a while now, or more accurately, to not know what or how or why to feel at all. I have forced myself to be ok with the numbness and to feel ok about not knowing what to do next. I keep writing without knowing what the point of any of it is.
So what this news meant to me, after all this — the boo hoo-ing and the driving, taking new photos and finding these old ones — is this:
Maybe I did ok after all.
A FEW RELATED THINGS
• Oddly enough, I recently started listening to the playlist I had made when I was editing the book. I wasn’t able to listen to it for a long time but about two weeks ago it became my bath music. Then yesterday it became my crying-on-a-dirt-road music. I’m sorry but if you start with “This Woman’s Work” then chase it with “Do You Realize?” you get what you deserve, you big fucking crybaby. Anyway, here it is:
• A few people sent me this yesterday and believe me when I say, I’m pretty sure I saw it within 5 minutes of it going up on the site. I loved it. “Separated but Under the Same Roof” in The New York Times.
• I’m re-upping the link for a signed copy of BUT YOU SEEMED SO HAPPY through my local bookstore, Phoenix Books. Please know if you put in the request to “write whatever you want” for the inscription, it will probably be something along the lines of To the biggest whore I’ve ever met.
• If you’re asking yourself, could I be a writer??? you should also ask yourself “Could I write a response this articulate when being told good news about my book?” I mean you can try but it’s pretty pretty pretty hard!!
You can find my books here. You can find my writing here. You can find my copywriting and creative direction work here. You can find me on Twitter. You can find me on Instagram. Please do not find me in real life, I’m very busy being a goddamn weirdo on dirt roads.