Today’s been a day to survive and endure so that it can become tomorrow. I have to keep shrugging off the guilt-cloak that accompanies getting what you indiscriminately, casually wish for. I didn’t cause this – it’s just an awful coincidence. Why do I assume responsibility for things I can’t control?
Three years ago when we decided to get a second puggle, the breeder sent us eight photos and told us to choose the future-Bruschi-Schmidt.
St. Matt and I agonized over the pictures. I wanted them ALL; he wanted #512 or #514. I wanted a boy to balance Biscotti’s pink-collar’edness. He pointed to #’s 512 & 514.
In the end we chose 514 to become our Bru-pup, but what if 512 had become Bruschi Schmidt instead? We wouldn’t have ended up with a dog whose tail wags in his sleep, who Hoovers his dinner without chewing, and whose extreme underbite causes ‘Elvis lip;’ those characteristics are unique to 514.
And #514, what would’ve happened to him? I like to think he has the best possible life as a Schmidt puggle: full of tormenting Biscotti, Doggie Day Care, a garden to snitch green beans from, and two humans to snuggle each night.
But maybe that’s not true. Maybe 514 would’ve been better off named Otis Magee, living with a retired librarian in Wyoming or equally happy as Zeus Foster with a California family of four.
I shouldn’t fool myself into thinking 514’s happiness depended on me choosing him over 512, or assume that 512 is miserable because we didn’t pick him.
My hubris continues into teaching; I manage to convince myself that I’m the best one to teach ‘my’ kiddos – and I’ll come to school sick because I hate turning my kiddos over to a substitute.
I lose the perspective: I only get to borrow these little ones for nine months – same as the teachers before me, same as the ones they’ll have next year. They’re aren’t mine at all. If any of the ‘Schmidties’ had been placed in room 201 or 203 instead of my room, they would’ve been just fine. The fact that this group of kiddos is on my roster means I’ll love them and I’ll teach them to the best of my ability – but it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have succeeded without me.
And as a writer, the things I scrawl on paper can’t cause things to happen – so amid all the other emotions I’m processing today, I shouldn’t add guilt.
But I have, because the irony’s too bitter not to leave me guilty.
In TBALMCSAP the protagonist deals with something awful, something I’ve luckily never had to experience, and that has required much research. Yet, even in my gratitude, I’ve often thought: God, it’s hard to put myself in that position and I have so many questions, if only…
Today I was handed a cursed opportunity to find answers because someone I love was dealt the same situation as my MC.
It’d be hubris to think I caused this, but the guilt lingers. I wish I’d never wanted a clearer ability to empathize and I half-wish I’d never written the MS. My first instinct on hearing the news was to barter: I’d scrap the writing project indefinitely if everything would work out fine in real life.
But life doesn’t work like that – my writing neither caused this, nor can it affect the outcome. I can tell myself this, I can write it, I can call it hubris, but there’s guilt nonetheless.
There’s also wisdom; in this case not mine. It came from a wise friend, who reminded me that my research for the book prepares me for what’s to come and equips me to be a support system. Rather than abandon TBALMCSAP, she pointed out that it’ll be richer for this experience and may someday be a resource for someone learning what I learned today and going through this terrible experience.
I know she’s right, and I’m tugging at the strings, but right now my guilt-cloak is terror-tightened and laden with research notes.