I am dating a new guy. I am also writing a book about my life before/after my husband died in an IndyCar crash when I was 1 month pregnant.
Normally my writing life doesn’t interfere so much with my dating life. The book has been written by accumulating wee hours of the morning when my son (and the rest of this time zone) is still sleeping. But the day after the first date with this new guy, a story about the book came out in the Indianapolis Star that covered the first page of the Life & Style section. And a couple pages after that. There’s just no hiding something like that. And then the new guy says, “Hey, do you want to do something this weekend?” And I say, “Oh, I wish I could, but I’m disappearing to a remote cabin in the middle of nowhere with seven other writers to work on that book about my husband who died 10 years ago.”
But, see, even if there wasn’t a book, there will always be this thing about a late husband. My son’s dad.
During the retreat I woke up during the wee hours of the morning and worked on the book while the others were still sleeping. (Don’t get me wrong – they were all hard-working night-owls.) I went into the retreat with a full draft of the book with which I was completely unsatisfied. I knew I wanted to overhaul the structure but I didn’t know how.
The first early morning in that cabin I reread the first few chapters of the book. Immediately I was back in that time, feeling the full grief of the crash, tears running down my face, body tense with pain. That pain will always be a part of me. But not just the pain; my late husband helped shape who I am.
Ten years after the crash, I live with the grief differently. I can wipe away the tears and turn my focus to the structure of the book. That weekend I made a breakthrough in the bones of the book and now have a roadmap that I can follow when revising the book in the small chunks of time in my crazy working mom life. [I feel so good about this structure I’m ready to start looking for an agent!]
I often wondered, over the course of that retreat, what it would be like from the other side. Would I have the patience to deal with the new girl disappearing for the weekend? To write a book about her late husband? It’s one thing to have a past, but to be actively working in that past?
I emerged from the retreat, after disappearing into death and the depths of despair, feeling reenergized. I was ready to revise. And I was ready to check in with the new guy.