My family dynamic is…unique. Without going into all the details, let me just say that, as a child, I often felt like I was being parented by committee. And even though I wasn’t a bad kid, there were many family meetings held to figure out what to do with me. These meetings were no joke. Our family meetings come complete with agendas and adherence to Robert’s Rules of Order. In hindsight, I know that I was fortunate to have aunts and uncles who cared for me, but the situation wasn’t without its challenges.
The most recent of these family meetings, which I didn’t attend, included discussion of the fact that my mother had requested and received a copy of my latest book. Since she lives in an assisted living facility and doesn’t possess much of a filter, there was some concern that she’d create an awkward situation by over-sharing. Since I had been more than a little hesitant to share it with her in the first place (a common sentiment among romance writers, I’ve learned), I swallowed my irritation that this warranted inclusion on the agenda. It was fine until I was copied on the self-congratulatory email my uncle sent about encouraging my mother to finish reading, then promptly throw my book in the garbage.
My first instinct was to quietly acquiesce. The intent, surely, was not malicious. And the last thing I want is for my mom to find herself in a difficult or awkward situation because she was trying to be proud of me. That gave way to anger and a desire to hurl pithy insults. Tempting, but not really my style. I settled on a terse request to have the book sent back to me, complete with an offer to pay the postage.
All of this unfolded over the course of a weekend during which two members of our local community died suddenly. I wasn’t close to either of them personally, but both their lives were cut tragically short and the impact of the loss will be felt for a very long time. As a result, I was left feeling selfish and petty for letting such a trivial thing get to me in the first place.
This morning, I had a conversation with a colleague about the death of one of the individuals and he noted that seeing the outpouring of memories and love made him think about his own work and his legacy–how important it was for him to do something that made a difference.
That conversation gave me a much needed moment of clarity. It helped me to see that, while my own indignation may be irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, the issue itself isn’t. There are people–people in my own family–who believe that stories of love between two women are unseemly, if not downright dangerous.
And for every one of them, there is someone else who still lives in secret, or in shame, because those other people exist and are vocal about their disdain. This morning, I was reminded of why I write. Those are some of the people I’m writing for.
I write to celebrate love. I write to give myself and others happy and uplifting stories that mirror our lives (or maybe slightly idealized versions of our lives). I also write so that those who are still living in secret or fear might read my books and feel a little less alone.
I refuse to let good intentions or rationalizations diminish the meaningfulness or legitimacy of my work. I also refuse to let them bring me down. This weekend also reminded me that life is short and never certain, and that living with joy is the best thing we can do for ourselves and each other.
I decided that, when I get my mom’s copy back, I’m going to donate it and a copy of all of my books to the public library in my hometown. Boom. Instant joy.