If you’re one of the…one persons who read this blog, you know that I have a problem with messy pages. A side effect of my perfectionism is that I tend to live by extremes. The moment I make a mistake when I handwrite, I want to tear out the page and start over. Messy pages make me neurotic. I’m forever throwing them away and this leaves me stuck in a cycle of perfection and destruction, without ever creating anything of value.
This dysfunction has now extended to my health. I’ve become pretty fatalistic about myself. I have Diabetes in addition to a wealth of other ailments, some of which leave me in physical pain for prolonged periods of time. I didn’t realize how bad my attitude had become until I was talking to a masseuse about my chronic inflammation.
Masseuse: “What are your sugars like?”
Me: “I don’t fucking know. I don’t check them. It doesn’t even matter.”
Masseuse: “What? It does matter.”
Me: “Not really. I’m about to turn thirty-nine. It’s not likely I’m gonna make it to fifty anyhow.”
Masseuse: “Well, you just can’t give up!”
Me: “I’m not giving up, I’m being realistic.”
Masseuse: “You’re giving up. It’s the same as killing yourself.”
It took me a few weeks to chew on this. She was right. My health is a messy page. It’s all adverbs and purple prose. And rather than keep writing, rather than scratch out the old stuff, I am throwing out the whole pad of paper. I’m still stuck in the cycle of perfection and destruction, except now, I’m destroying myself.
Though there were some good bits, 2018 has mostly been a cruddy year. Between my poor health, realizing my manuscript still has a host of issues, all the drama with house hunting, and letting go of our beloved jerk of a cat (that one really hurt), I’m melancholy and devoid of energy. Add to this a pervasive “messy page” feeling that comes from seeing a lot of my wonderful writer friends in varying levels of success right now. Whether it’s a book deal, a great offer on Radish, or making it to bunches of best-of lists before the book is even in the stores, I’m seeing my friends doing it. And I’m so happy for them. But I’m also mad at myself for not being where they are. For not being anywhere with this writing thing. And I know that comparison is the thief of joy and all that. I know that every every career is different. But my issue is the goddamn messy page. My first novel isn’t perfect. It never will be. I can send it to more agents. I can self-pub it. I can move on and work on something new, in earnest. But I’m not doing anything right now. I started a book during NaNo. It has potential. But I have now overthought it to death. I read a few craft books hoping to get the knowledge that will let me write a perfect first draft, so I don’t spend years on one book, the way I did on my first work-in-progress, but I’ve somehow ended up in the same place. Frozen. Unable to create. Throwing out messy pages for blank ones and accomplishing nothing.
This past week, my husband and I binge-watched, The Good Place. It’s brilliant. And at first, I laughed at Chidi’s indecision. His terror of making choices and how the simple act of picking out a cute puppy could lock him into an existential crisis for hours. But I quickly saw just how much I live like him and it stopped being so funny. Oy. I am frozen in the terror of making the wrong choices and thus ultimately making no choices at all, just so I won’t end up with a mistake. With a messy page.
I don’t know what 2019 will bring. But I’m decreeing it the Year of Living Messy. I’m not going to spend my days waiting around to die. I’m going to exercise a couple times a week, because it’s good for me, whether I lose weight or not. I’m going to take my meds like an adult and maybe even check my sugars sometimes. I’m going to get back in to see my specialist and I’m going to try to minimize the pain and discomfort I’m living with. I can’t make it go away but I can do more for myself than I’m doing right now. I need to take care of me, not just physically but emotionally. I will do things that nurture my creative spirit. I will work on this current novel because it’s fun and not out of some misplaced need to play catch-up to my friends. I will make this a year of imperfect, messy, LIVING.