I spent last Saturday shoving myself up a gradual incline on cross country skiis and then falling on my ass, wrists, and chest on the way back down. Now my knee and my ego hurt, and the impingement problem I’ve been having in my shoulder (which sounds whiny, since a person is only allowed one physical thing to complain about lest they be labeled a faker) has worsened.
A correction following a misconception: I did not quit my gig with The Denver Post. I resigned from the food magazine where I wrote boring articles in a basement. I spent today writing other articles, rubbing my deltoid, and talking to principals in front of a huge coffeeshop window until I got home and realized I didn’t have a key to my own house.
I wonder, as I enter a freelance “career”, peppered by part-time possibilities, what happened to the rags-to-riches myth we read about in high school English? If I were getting paid in rejections, I’d be making a good living. I have a hard time accepting that the Horatio Alger stories may have become one burnt-out version of American dream.
I consoled myself when I was working on my first essay for grad school that effort was everything, but I recently read this quote from Antonio Porchia, the Italian shortist and sweetist, and felt that it better qualifies the work of anyone trying today: “No one understands that you have given everything. You must give more.”
It seems harder now to strike upon good luck (and by luck, I mean good fortune invited by concentrated effort) than it was for my parents’ generation. I’m working at a steady pace, but I feel like the guy on the treadmill tonight at the Wash Park gym whose ipod ripped off his arm, and whose legs got ripped right off the conveyor, too, when he turned around to look for his tunes.
Despite the fact that we’re trying to save money, Luke took me out to dinner for a pep talk. A woman with long gray hair pulled halfway back served us dinner in an underground pub where bottles of wine line the walls and caved candles flicker from every table. She called the hazelnut beer “lovely” and every one of her descriptions thereafter convinced me. I squeezed a lemon wedge over our raw oysters and then poured scotch over a basket of homemade chips.
I’m pitching articles left and right, and ideas come to me faster than I can query, but I’m only getting tiny bites, I lament to Luke over my creamy orange soup. Luke says that I have to have confidence in my product and that in this case, my product is everything I’ve ever experienced.
This is the other lesson I’ve learned so far in the last three days: do not underestimate what you’ll feel like after bad decisions. My shoulder hurts because I should have sat at a low chair, not the nice big table where I had a wobbly, white, and frothy chai tea this afternoon. The entrées (butternut squash bisque, toasted bread, and a burger covered in Stilton blue cheese) following the chai following the appetizers following the huge beers made me feel sick. I regret that I missed an important meeting last week because my keys were in Luke’s coat pocket. I regret the other things I think about when the Quincy and Luke’s heavy breaths fill the room.
When we got home tonight, I nurtured myself with a hot bath while Luke talked to our friend Jordan about the fishing moratorium they’ve scheduled for summer 2011 in Sitka. People who were boat owners in 2004 or 2005 in addition to 2008 will have their current permits transferred to next year based on how many days of fishing they’ve logged. But a lot of people will be cut out of the fishery, like Jordan, like Luke, who bought boats in ’08 and hadn’t logged any days in 2005. Unless we can pay for a permit someone else wants to sell.
In the tub, I put down Madeleine L’Engle’s journal on marriage that I’m reading (yes, THE Madeleine L’Engle of A Wrinkle in Time and A Swiftly Tilting Planet, who changed my childhood life and, as it turns out, is having some influence in my adulthood) to ponder this weird concept:
all the fish in the ocean are owned.
I can hear Jordan’s anxiety rising up and down in intonation through the phone in the other room and then I hear Luke joking to cheer him up. I’m a little worried about it, but I don’t understand fish talk so much, so I defer the anxiety and keep reading with my chin just barely dipping into the liquid. When I get out, I have a hot pink farmer’s tan around my upper arms and down near my ankles from the heat, but warm water always keeps its promises to me. My ski knee and tight shoulder are easy going for the time being.
“How much will it cost?” I ask Luke later about the permit I know he’s thinking about but not mentioning.
“Pfoof” is the sound he makes. “15 to 40.”
Luke is lying next to me in bed and pretending he’s dead. I wonder where we’ll be next year with these new developments in the fish world and the lack of work world. “Look,” Luke says, freezing his face with his eyes wide open and his mouth in a deranged grin. Then, without blinking or moving his mouth the slightest bit, he moves his eyes over to mine.
“I like being married to you,” he says.
We have a lot on our minds right now, but it’s true. I like it, too.