Life is an endless series of rough drafts. We wake up in the morning, and from the very first moment we feel surprise or discomfort from the temperature of the air or a neck ache from a slumping pillow or restless night, we respond, and try, in most cases, to respond with equanimity and generosity to every input, every uncontrollable factor that comes our way, as we move on through our day. Every day, we are writing our lives anew, with no chance to go back and rewrite the odd clunky sentence, or leave an adjective or simile blank until we think of the very right, unique way to describe how we feel or what we see or how we are treated or what we are scared of. Sure, there are routines and habits, and those compulsions we have about eating the same breakfast cereal or going for a walk over our lunch break, but most of our days are filled with the unpredictable. Our kid lost one of his shoes and refuses to go to school without it. A coworker deleted an important files. A bus was late. Dinner was burned. Our spouse has a cold. And then sometimes we are asked to really improvise, to show our creativity, our maturity, our resilience. We receive a frightening diagnosis. Someone we love receives a frightening diagnosis. We take a job. We quit a job. We call an ambulance. There is a deer in the road. And in those particular cases, it’s unlikely we’ve had a trial run at handling what has appeared before us, what has fallen in our laps. But just like running out of milk, we, because we are spectacular humans, keep going, keep writing the words of our lives with each action, each effort, with no time machine to go back and do a rewrite.
No one ever told us we had to study our lives,
make of our lives a study, as if learning natural history
or music, that we should begin
with the simple exercises first
and slowly go on trying
the hard ones, practicing till strength
and accuracy became one with the daring
to leap into transcendence, take the chance
of breaking down the wild arpeggio
or faulting the full sentence of the fugue.
And in fact we can’t live like that: we take on
everything at once before we’ve even begun
to read or mark time, we’re forced to begin
in the midst of the hard movement,
the one already sounding as we are born.
Adrienne Rich’s “Transcendental Étude” from A Dream of a Common Language
I’m a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a boss, a writer. I love language, capturing the rhythm of words when put together just the way I hear them, and how the hybrid form speaks to multiple facets of emotion and experience. I write about my life, one rough draft at a time.