• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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When You Ain’t Got Nothing You Got Nothing To Lose

Thank you for all the beautiful notes about losing my mom. Until now, I truly believed that there was no excuse for not writing. I believed that a writer should write under any conditions. That a “real writer” wasn’t derailed by things like love, war, life or death. I hated hearing writers make excuses for not getting their work done. Of course, I’d always act deeply sympathetic, but internally I was full of judgement and disdain. Since no one is asking you to write, since no one cares if you write, why would anyone want to hear your excuses for not writing. You’re literally not doing something that no one wants. I prided myself for writing all my books while holding a full time job. I prided myself for writing two books on the Metronorth train from New Haven to Grand Central. I prided myself for getting up at five and blah blah blah. Ever since my mother died, I’ve been in a fog. To avoid facing my own inability to concentrate, I have given myself seven pap smears, make a bumper crop of baked apples, reorganized my button tin, flossed, and brought a pair of slacks I bought in 2013 to the tailor.  I’m not humbled. I’m pissed. No one ever called Camus an asshole.

What stops you in your tracks?

13 Responses

  1. What stops me in my tracks?

    Concerns about my two twentysomething sons (this never, ever goes away), fear that my next book won’t be good enough, fear that my last book wasn’t good enough, stressing that I’ll never be able to retire from the day job, stressing that I won’t make it through even the next day at the day job, worrying that I won’t survive the next two years under this administration, worrying that we might endure another entire term under this administration.

    And I generally tell people I’m not much of a worrier. So what the hell?

    But at least now I understand why I’m at a standstill in my writing life. Thank you for helping me justify my own excuses.

    Your reason, my friend, is much more understandable. Give yourself some time. Big hugs and much love to you.

  2. Grief and heartbreak are my cruelest experiences. The embrace of morning sunshine and a gentle breeze, my favorite balm.

    PS: good to know you are coming back. You have been missed!

  3. Losing a mum is a big one When I lost mine I went numb & rage-y for six months, then spring came and the fog started to lift. I wrote different things then, just shit stuff, but pen in hand always feels good. You’ll write again, Betsy. It just sucks now…

  4. What stops you in your tracks?

    Managing my mother’s care as she battles esophageal cancer. Totally unexpected, diagnosed mid-February. Not a word written since.

    It’s weird how THE BRIDGE LADIES made me feel like I knew your mom, and how when you told “us” she was gone, it saddened me. That book was written at the right time, a tribute to her and her generation. I hope as you continue to process your grief, you begin to find pockets of peace, moments in the silence where you don’t hurt as much. Big hug to you.

  5. “What stops you in your tracks?”

    Three months ago a heart attack ground me to a halt. Did I really want to spend what time I have left, on a keyboard in front of a screen that normally spits rejection like a kid spits watermelon seeds in August? Yes and no.
    Within a couple of weeks I wrote about my 5 minutes on the edge.


    And then I stopped projects. I edited what was left. I attempted. I’m still trying to find a way to plant my feet, to find my resolve, to somehow tell the world what it is like to almost lose your life and in the process to absolutely lose what once gave you breath.

    Each day I try. Trying is the only strength I have right now because if I look next door, someone else is worse off and they continue to grow and flourish.

    • Dear Carolynn,
      Glad you’re doing well now and that you didn’t wait five minutes more. I especially liked the part of your article when you finally calmed down on the ride to the hospital while accepting fate and the realization you were at peace with your life.
      I know I don’t have to tell you this, but

  6. Very little stops me in my tracks because I have become inured to the absurdity that transpires among human beings. One must imagine Sisyphus happy. Yet, I am propelled forward each day by the sheer possibility of hope, art, love, and beauty.

  7. “What stops you in your tracks?”

    9/11 stopped me for a month. Writing anything in the wake of that seemed pointless to me.

    The fighter jets at the Air Force base in the city where I lived then were practicing every day, roaring straight up into the sky. One day I wrote a poem about that and I was okay, I could write again.

  8. Praise. I don’t know how to handle it. Tell me something is good and I retreat. Come on, what didn’t you like about it? Maybe it’s a defense born of the familiarity of rejection.

    You knew your mother since before you were born. That’s a kind of love that will always be there.

  9. When my dad died, i had no words. No one ever explains to us what this thing might really be. I needed to write — about that — and couldn’t, at all.

    About eleven weeks after that, the year ended. I knew my dad would expect more from me, and I knew, too, that just TRYING would be enough. For him.

    So I tried. I decided I would write every day of January. Just something, every day. And because there was too much meaning in death and life and grief and love and hearts and broken and nothing, I would only be capable of writing something meaningless. So I did that.

    I wrote every day of January, and by the time 35 days of the year were gone, I’d written a first draft of an almost meaningless book. I called it Midlife, and it’s the first thing I published, and I dedicated it to my dad. He’d have laughed til he pissed himself, had he read it.

    It’s getting toward seven years now, and seems a lot shorter, and longer. Every so often I read some Midlife out loud, say, “You like that, Father? … Yeah, me too.” We are a lot together sometimes, and a lot apart, others. But it was always like that, I suppose.

    And I actually love that book — turns out writing meaningless can bring meaning. I wrote what would have made him laugh. It made me laugh. There’s more meaning in that, than in anything I can write..

  10. Dead In My Tracks? Persecution Of Christians In Red China. Sharia Law & Militant Islam. Rap, Trip Hop, Whatever. Cruelty To Animals & Children. I Have Lost My 3 Eldest Siblings; One Never Saw 20. Two Never Saw 40. Having To Watch The Hurt It Put On My Parents, Both Of Whom Lived To A Ripe Old Ages & Died Of “Natural” Causes. Continuing w/Blood On The Tracks: Ballet, Shakespeare, Our Lady & “My” Dylan.”I’ve Got No Secrets To Conceal.” Sean X. Heaney

  11. I’m so glad you were able to write your book about your mother while she was still with you.
    One of the things that stops me in my track is another person’s grief over losing their mother. I know that sounds gratuitous on a post like this, but it’s true.
    It’s been 15 years for me and I can still be blindsided by my loss when I hear of your loss..
    I hope to publish the book I wrote. I decide I’ll query you. I work on my query letter. I am ready, so I check your presence in the online world once again, and I see you’ve lost your mother.
    Oh shit.
    I am stopped dead in my tracks, thinking of the moment I lost my mother, the rest of that evening. The desolation. Your desolation. How nothing compares. How no words are worthy enough. The world is a jungle of emotion. “I’m so sorry,” and “Condolences,” and how lucky you were to have a mother like her. Phrases that drip from everything like humid stagnant air. I am immobilized by the heaviness of the air I’m trying to breathe. Air that feels like it will never move again.
    And when you are there, I am right there with you.
    And though I am 15 years out of that jungle, I’m still there when I hear of your loss.
    And the way it can still hit me that hard, EVERY time, means it’s a book I’ll have to write someday.
    But for now – I came here today – and I’m stopped in my tracks. Again.
    I wish you words and a breeze.

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