Is today hard? It feels hard. Maybe it’s just me.
Maybe it’s the weather. Or the stress of Hailey doing her finals and me being overwhelmed with everything. Today feels like everything is wrong and dusty and too much and not enough. Today feels like everyone hates everyone else because they feel like they were hated first, even though probably none of this is even real…it’s all just me and my fucked up brain chemistry feeling like everything is about to fall apart.
I know it’s not. Logically. Rationally. I know that things are going well.
My editor sends me a third round of edits and loves what I’d done with the book. It’s so close to being done and a year ago I thought I’d never finish it. The bookstore is overwhelming and terrifying and Elizabeth and Victor are on edge with the impossible amount of what still has to be done but realistically this is normal and expected and the incredible support of the book club membership has saved us during these extra months of paying rent and construction on a building that won’t be ready until February or March.
There is far more good than bad but still I feel underwater today…panicky.
I take Hailey to a local university so she can take her finals for her online high school courses. It’s pass or fail, these seven tests, and it means a half year of work could go up in smoke during a bout of test-taking anxiety and I try not to let my contagious anxiety rub off on her. While she sits in the room with the proctors I wander the grounds of the convent that started the university. I walk through the cemetery of women buried 100 years ago under the names they chose as nuns. Everyone for what seems like a mile is Sister Mary. Then a Joan of Arc. The graves from the last 30 years are smaller as the cemetery starts to run out of room. The bodies are buried three to a grave, one on top of the other. I wonder if that will be a problem during the resurrection but I suspect if there is a resurrection you’re probably safer with a bunch of tough-ass zombie nuns around to make sure everyone is out.
I say a little prayer asking forgiveness for laughing about zombie nuns in case there is a God, and then I say another one for wondering if there is and then I realize I’ll be there forever asking for forgiveness if I don’t stop and besides, I’ve known a few nuns and former nuns and most of them had a fairly strong sense of humor so it’s probably fine.
I sit on a bench and read about the women here who battled with bishops and cardinals over control of the places they made their own, and about this convent that focused on education and on helping those less fortunate. I read about how they insisted on integration in their schools long before desegregation began and about the women laying here who struggled in their own ways…who died far too young in many cases…whose stories I can’t research because they are buried under the names of women who came before them…and who were known for their struggles as well.
Something landed on my foot. A dead butterfly.
Only it wasn’t. It was hard and beautiful and fragile and in the exact shape of a butterfly or moth. Like something hand-crafted from the pages of an old book.
And then there was another one.
They were everywhere, suddenly. These tiny, rustling, not-quite- butterflies that were picked up in the wind. I followed them to a garden owned by one of the nuns. There were dozens of birdhouses hanging from trees and little fairy-like-houses and finally a climbing vine reaching toward the sun, thick with green clusters of flowery seed pods.
And underneath, dozens of butterflies. When the seed pods dry up they wither and fall and turn into butterflies, and fly away to begin again….or to land on someone’s foot when they need some sort of distraction….like some sort of sign that everything will be okay in the end.
For me and for you. Whether we are fighting a seemingly impossible battle with something real or with the terror in our own heads, it will be okay. We will fight and we will win and sometimes that victory will simply look like laughing in a graveyard. The battles last forever. Longer than we will. But victories can last just as long.
We are all climbing….looking for the sunshine…blooming wherever we can. We light up the world if it’s looking. We will not last. We will wither eventually. But it’s not the end. We fly on and leave behind strange and beautiful things that grow anew. You and me and Hailey and the women beneath my feet and everyone else you know and will ever know.
But right now you are green and beautiful in your own specific way that is unique to you and I’m so glad to know you, even if only through a screen.
And suddenly, somehow, the day feels just a little less hard.
I hope it does for you too.