We held a birthday party for my mother last night. Looking over the photos of the night, I see that everyone is smiling.
It’s nice to see smiling; it’s been a long time since conditions, griefy, COVIDy, and otherwise, have allowed space for that, but we got here, together.
Gathering the people I love around a table to share a meal has seldom felt so wonderful.
I have been thinking a lot about happiness, and about family and relationships, and about writing.
Regular readers will recognize that I haven’t been writing as much here of late, and that’s been due a number of things, primarily time and license.
The time thing is easy to explain: since the beginning of December I’ve been inside a new relationship, something that’s captivated me deeply, and filled my hours with togetherness, coupled and familial.
The license thing is a different but related beast: this blog isn’t a confessional, but it’s also not not a place where I write about my life, my feelings, my challenges, my projects. I made my way through Catherine’s illness, and death, and the grief that followed, in no small way, by writing here. I’ve written here about autism, and mental health, and the challenges of parenting.
But what of the new people in my life?
This is trickier.
Privacy for all concerned.
The challenging forces of public vulnerability shining bright on a fragile, newly-hatched thing.
Fear of writing, in full view of people who loved Catherine deeply, about my feelings for someone else.
Fear of writing about forces mysterious; I’m much more comfortable writing of the concrete.
These, and other things more deeply-seated, have me skittish about writing in public about my life these days.
And yet writing is so important to me: this practice has been integral to the way I process things. And as much as I’m skittish about writing about everything new and delightful, I’m also aware that not doing so leaves a dark ages in that process; I need to have a way to helpfully kerfuffle things through my brain, and I’m learning what happens when I don’t have that.
Here’s a goofball selfie I took this morning. My tousled hair! The smile on my face! I’m wearing a T-shirt! I don’t recognize this fellow, and I’d like to learn more about him. The way to do that has to run through a jungle of words; it’s just how I work.
I’ve confronted this notion before, most recently when considering how to write about Olivia’s transition to identifying as a trans-woman. The challenges and joys this has brought with it, the things I’ve learned, the new friends and allies I’ve made, are all things I could have written about here but didn’t: this wasn’t, isn’t, my story, it’s hers. And yet, as with autism, it’s also something I’m involved with, affected by, supportive of. Surely that’s something I could be writing about, if only because there’s almost no writing about life supporting an autistic trans daughter, which can make one feel really, really alone.
And there is a similar additional reason for me to write about my romantic exploits, and that’s that there’s so little that’s helpful when one Googles “widower dating mid-50s.” And yet so much that one wants to know as a widower in ones mid-50s thinking they might date (most of what is written is of the “10 reasons you don’t want to date a widower” variety, which is unhelpful).
I know from experience writing about the travails of cancer caregiving, about grief, about parenting, that writing is purgative for me and, by times, helpful to others; I’m a man in my mid-50s who, through a lot of work, patience, creativity, determination, and luck, finds himself in the arms of a delightful woman. To know that such a tale is possible would have been a great salve to the mired-in-grief version of me, and, I presume to others. “There is hope, younger Pete,” I want to write back into time.
So, I will keep writing. I will need to figure out a new way of doing so, one that allows me to be honest, to tell my story, while at the same time figuring out a way for the other voices around the table to be present, but not appropriated.
Tricky. But worth it.