This past weekend was my wedding anniversary (12 years–yes, I am that old) and, although my husband and I have been consumed by parenting matters in the last two years (and I mean consumed, as if our son is a black hole and we are the teeny, tiny celestial debris caught in the inexorable vacuum and I’m totally not exaggerating), I remembered that, without our marriage, my writing life would have looked very, very different.
We were married while I was working on the first draft of The End of East, a time when I had no idea if what I was writing was worth reading. I didn’t even know if it was going to be a novel or a long poem. I just kept writing in circles and backward and forward. It seemed as if the manuscript kept growing but wasn’t actually going anywhere. Despite this snail’s pace, my husband never once told me to stop and get a real, full-time job instead of the part-time ones I collected that were designed to bring in some money while I focused on writing that long poem/novel/exercise in frustration. He read my bits and bobs and believed they were good. He humoured me by pretending he was Eleanor Wachtel while I pretended I was a famous writer who had just published THE BEST BOOK EVER. And he told me, over and over again, that my books would have a life in the world some day, even as rejections came in and I considered going back to school to become a social worker (no kidding–can you imagine).
Now, as my writing has shifted again to another, less prioritized place, he’s back at his cheerleading. When you’ve spent a long day tending to a cranky, dirty toddler who has already peed on you twice by nine in the morning, you don’t really see yourself anymore when you look in the mirror. You’re a reaction, and not just a reaction, but a reaction to an unreasonable, verging-on-psychopathic two-year-old. Some evenings, when I fall on the sofa with a tall glass of bourbon, my husband takes my hand and tells me I’m still a writer, and a good one. First, I cry. Then, I sleep. And for that, I’m so, so thankful.
Without him, I would be toiling away at a job in an office I hate. I would be working on manuscripts that could never be finished. I would still be dreaming about being a writer and loathing myself because I wasn’t one yet.
With him, I am exactly as I am. A real writer, with a home, a tyrant of a son and a whiskey glass that is always lovingly refilled by the man who gives me everything he has.