My daughters have gone back to their adult lives. A period of reconnecting with them and friends over the winter holidays has closed. Most memorable were walking by the ocean and in the desert; eating and drinking – salad with fennel, chile con carne con butternut squash, lamb stew, chocolate-cherry-cayenne gelato, ramen, molcajete stew, candied ginger, yucky trail mix with chocolate chips, esoteric cocktails, superior Korean plum wine, water, and so much else; conversing with friends, from our neighborhood and far away, who came to our home, or invited us to theirs, or met us over some interesting food or drink, or chatted with us on the phone; holding on to family who called and skyped and said, once more, “we’re here, you’re part of us”; realizing and proclaiming that taking photographs just adds to the fullness of loving life and wonderfully – meaning full of wonder – having three new lenses with which to experiment (thank you, Milu!); and hearing new music, and dancing – gosh, listening to Yasmine Hamdan (La ba’den), Moses Sumney (Plastic), Rapsody (Knock on my door), Thundercat (Walk on by), Ibeyi (Deathless), and Kamasi Washington (Truth), in that order, and so much more, and then reggaeton ringing in my ears, moving inside me (thank you, Pia! … and Frank, for playing the reggaeton all the time…).
This period of reconnecting came at the end of an odd year, one that was marked by mind-numbingly dispiriting politics, deep existential challenges for me and several people close to me, and some fantastic new adventures (including, in starring roles, sea hares, osprey, bison, whale sharks, sea lions, and me as a skater) in stunning environments (including the highlands of Montana and Wyoming, the ocean around Baja California Sur, the desert east of San Diego, and the long paved promenade by the ocean that extends from the Pacific Beach pier to well beyond Belmont Park in San Diego) and restorative trips (visiting dear family in India, and dear friends and family on the East Coast).
2017 – odd, dispiriting, challenging, adventurous, restorative – is over! Renewed by the gifts of the holidays, my priorities for 2018 are all action — publish, write, make some money, engage in political action, and be fully myself while figuring out my life as an empty-nester.
In a couple of days I will go to Under the Volcano (UTV), a writing workshop in Tepoztlan, Mexico, that focuses on global literary fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. I plan to use that time to ground an intention that is already alive – to be happily aggressive and ambitious in my writing life!
This year I will publish my first novel, Night Heron, or move it substantially into a publishing pipeline. In theory, five editors (three in the U.S. and two in India) are reading my work. I will send more submissions this month and early next month. If I do not have a major breakthrough in mainstream publishing by the end of May this year, I will self-publish Night Heron, and draw on friends and colleagues all over the world to promote it. That means some of you! This year I am giving up bashfulness with regard to my writing.
I am ready to move on to my second novel. I have already written about half of the first draft. I have ideas for a third and possibly a fourth novel. I know, confidently, that writing is not about writing one perfect novel. It is about writing the best first novel one can, and then moving to the best second novel, and so on. The first cannot be allowed to cannibalize the second, the third, the whisper of a fourth. When you will know me as a fully-fledged writer, if I live long enough and write fast enough, you will know me as a writer of several splendid novels, each the best for that period of my writing.
After returning from Tepoztlan, I will work again, briefly, on new submissions of my first novel. Then I will turn to other things until May, only responding when asked for more, and editing when invited by someone with serious interest. I will keep writing my second novel, Pretty Lights. Stay posted.
Amidst writing and pushing to publish, I will also return to political activity. The 2018 elections are coming. I will be contacting stalwarts who, throughout 2017, continued to work on building enthusiasm and commitment, which effectively has meant sharing knowledge and sustaining hope that change is possible. I will be active. I am writing this here so you can hold me accountable. Perhaps, even, you might join me and others in working to flip Congress or in some other way to build a social, political, and economic system that is deeply and genuinely more fair.
The last thread of action is about being, which is active. Our children have grown. Our home has two older adults who “have their lives back.” Our time, our nights are our own again. Our meals are complex again (actually now they become even more complex when our children visit!). Our respective work no longer needs to be contained, nor is it a guilty escape. We’re two across the dinner table. The last time we were consistently two at the dinner table was about twenty-four years ago. We’re young old people now, or old young people. I’m a Fresh, Old Voice, after all. A lot of this is new to us. We’re adventurous, so new is good. We’re also yoked. We pulled together well when we carried the children; we still pull together well when we carry the children. But most of the time now we don’t need to carry the children. So our separate, respective unruliness is back, which makes the condition of being yoked really hard work. Being active this year, then, includes being fully myself while also paying attention to my partner and the mechanics and affect of that pesky yoke.
Publish, write, make some money, engage in political action, and be fully myself, though yoked.