Joy Brings Me Back

It has been no secret inside my head that part of the hope behind my year of chasing joy was that it would start to lead me back to writing. For a long time after my son was born, writing was a pursuit on the margins of my life. He simply needed me too much, and I wrote at most 1-2 hours a week, often with him pounding on the closed office doors demanding to be let in. But eventually he started school, and time began to open up. Not as much time as you’d think, since I volunteered at school, there were therapy and doctor appointments, etc. But there was more time. And as he got older my school volunteering tapered off at his request, so there was even more time. But there wasn’t any joy. More and more I dreaded approaching the page. I dreaded working on my bipolar parenting memoir. When I did work on it, it felt terrible. The joy was simply not there, ever, it seemed.  

So I started using my time for other things. Embroidery at first. Then cross stitch. Then sewing, knitting, spinning, wool processing, sewing little quilts by hand, … As I’ve said, I gave myself permission to chase whatever joy I wanted to chase. And a little voice in my head said, maybe if you do this, you will find that sometimes writing brings you joy.  

I started returning to writing a couple months ago. I reread some old essays and found one that seemed done but had never been submitted anywhere. I submitted it to one place and promised myself I’d submit to many more this fall, when many magazines open for submissions. I took another essay that I’d been submitting for three years with no luck, and I submitted it to Mutha Magazine, which I’ve published in before. I sent it with a note, explaining that I knew the essay was wildly beyond their length limits, but that I thought it had value, and maybe she’d accept a part of it, or all of it installments? And I took yet another essay, a hard essay, one that deals with things I’ve been trying not to deal with for years (namely the childhood abuse I grew up with), and I started to work on it too.  

I’m still working on that essay. I think I’m getting close to being able to submit it to a bunch of places in September. It’s painful, working on it, but beneath the pain there is a sort of deep joy? I don’t exactly understand but it is there. In the meantime, that essay I submitted to one single magazine? That magazine accepted it and will publish it in August. And Meg, the head editor of Mutha, got back to me and said she’d like to take at least part of my essay, and then she got back to me a month later, and said she’d like to publish the whole thing in two installments, with her edits.  

I looked at the edits yesterday and was nearly moved to tears. She made the essay much shorter and fast moving but kept the parts that were important. She clearly spent a lot of time giving her loving editorial care to my words, more time than any editor has spent on my writing before, and I’m grateful. And joyful to know that the first of two installments will appear in Mutha in August or September.  

That’s my joy report. The chasing of joy is bringing me back to words. I’m not abandoning the rest of the stuff. I’ve got sewing plans, big ones. I’ve got three knitting projects going — a sweater, a colorwork and cabled sock, and a simple sock. I’m still spinning. I washed a damn fleece, found it was infested with wool moth grubs, and then by God found and washed a different fleece, which I’m learning to comb and spin. I’m ridiculous, and so very happy, even as parts of my life have been hard. That abuse essay, I think working on it inspired me to take a stand I didn’t have the bravery to take before. And that’s not easy. But behind it, the pain and the awfulness of it all, there is joy.

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