There is a song on the radio right now that drives my husband insane. In it two singers talk about how the times they were trying to break in were really “the good old days” and they didn’t notice.
This infuriates him, because, yeah, the heartbreak of being young and rich beyond the dreams of avarice must be terrible.
In my defense, I was always aware of “these are the good old days” while living through them.
When I was in the hospital, to all medical opinion dying of pneumonia at 33, what weighed on my mind was the novels left unpublished, but what I missed were our weekends with the kids, driving around, going to garage sales, parks and diners, or the “vacation” weekends, going to amusement parks and museums.
Do I miss those days? Well, heck yeah. But I enjoyed them to the hilt when they were happening.
And when we were young and had a writers’ group that met at our house every weekend, I enjoyed the heck out of the camaraderie and the silliness, and the parties. It was fun. It helped with that whole “raising two boys when far from both families.
I miss those days. If I could go back and relive just one day in my life, it would be the day we discovered Lakeside amusement park (really cheap. If they dropped a virus that only killed English speakers, my family would be the only casualties.) The kids were two and five, it was a beautiful day (Memorial Day, as it turns out. We were playing hookie on worldcon, the first of many times.) and the kids went on all the rides and Dan on most, and I walked around and read a mystery, and watched them have fun. When we dragged the kids away it was ten thirty pm, and Marshall fell asleep against me in the car, his little head hot and heavy like kids’ heads are. Then we found a late-open Chinese restaurant and had a late dinner.
But at the same time I’m neither stupid nor senile. Those days are encircled with a gold nimbus, because memory has elided their struggles and problems. I know that they were there and were real. And just because I know how the biggest struggle I was involved in in those days turned out — I did end up selling my writing. Who knew? — it doesn’t mean I knew then.
Yes, if I had a time machine, I’d send two notes to past self. “It will work” and also “Write one for submission and one for the drawer. Trust me. Around 2007 it will all pay out.”
But then again, if I did that, would I have pushed as hard, worked as hard at the craft? Would I be the writer I’m now?
No, sufficient onto the day the trouble of the day. Those pains and fears paved the way to how I write now (not amazingly, but decently, I think.)
And maybe today’s struggles, disappointments and work are paving the way to something much better.
Are these the good old days? Well, I’m caught in kind of a weird bubble in time, where I still worry for the kids’ future (and they’re still on the pay check, as they finish their professional training) but I’m moving my emotional …. focus away from them, because, well, I’ll always care for them, but at this point I don’t have much influence, nor should I. It’s time for them to adult. And it’s time for me to be more than “mommy of Robert and Marshall.”
I was always both, mind you, mommy and writer, and I’ll always be both, but the emphasis must now be on writer.
Believe it or not, this is harder to do than it seems. “Psychological work” I think. And hard.
But there are things I enjoy, from the days Dan and I go up for the park or museum, and to Pete’s, to the days when Robert or Marshall have time to hang out and talk.
Yeah, there are struggles too, and in the future those will be softer in memory and these will be the good old days.
But then the new days will bring both joy and sorrow aplenty. And if I succeed in expanding my career, that will bring new work and new responsibilities, and less free time. It always does.
Wherever you are, no matter how bad the struggles you’re going through, seek out the good things in your life right now, and enjoy the heck out of them. It might be a moment building railways with the three year old on the floor. Take it. When he’s 23, you’ll cherish that memory, and so will he.
These are the good old days: cherish them. They’re all the bad old days: work through them.
May your next set of good old days have more good and less bad. It’s all we can hope for.