Today I’ve reached a major milestone. About five minutes ago I checked my word count and I am proud to announce that it now stands at 40,100 words. The 40k word barrier has finally been broken and I have my sights firmly set on 50k, aiming to have this done by the end of next week. It is mentally liberating to have a numeric goal. Rather than sitting down and just writing, it is so much easier to have something solid to aim for. The creative realm is grey, awash with blurred lines and misty sentiments. It is not solid but fluid. Like a mist, it floats in and out of your reach. My word count is my anchor, the chain that I can tie my imagination to and give it purpose and direction.
But something is different in me today. While I am happy to have reached this target, I have a different perspective. A few days ago I would have been patting myself on the back and basking in my wonderful achievement. Today, however, I am still reeling from the heartbreaking news from the US that has been continuously beamed into our homes since the tragedy happened. I sat in disbelief yesterday watching the news reports from Berkeley, and my heart was filled with such sadness.
My son went on a J1 last year and I remember so clearly the day he headed off from Shannon airport, full of hope and promise, looking forward to the exciting journey ahead. I was very emotional saying goodbye to him, the mammy in me still connected so tightly to her baby, yet knowing that he was no longer mine, but belonged to himself now. This trip was the first step on his path away from me and while I was so very happy and excited for him, there was a sorrow inside, an acknowledgement that things would never be as they once were. A little part of me was jealous too. Jealous of the amazing times that lay ahead of him on this adventure. And when he came home, he was still my son, but he had changed. Now the shadow of the man he was becoming was more visible. And I was glad. Glad that he had the opportunity to experience what he had, glad that he was changing. I became more comfortable with letting go. The connection will never be lost, but there will come a time when I fade into the background, as I should, and he takes his place in the world.
What I do, writing a novel, is not rocket science. It is not life or death. It will not make or break me or my family. And when I have an off day and don’t reach my word count target, the world does not slip off it’s axis. Neither do the stars realign when I break a word barrier or achieve a great days writing. But when young people are cut down in the prime of their lives, the world of their loved ones is changed forever. The sun will never shine as bright as it did when they were alive. The birds will never sing as sweetly and the colours of the rainbow will no longer hold the promise they once did. When bright stars are quenched before they ever had time to truly shine, the world is given perspective. So, you don’t have enough money, your house isn’t clean enough, you are stressed by work, you didn’t get enough sleep lastnight, you haven’t any time to yourself, you haven’t been out without the kids in an age, you are lonely, you are lost. So what. You are alive, and that is half the battle. You have a choice. You have a future. You have time to change how you feel, change how your life is. These young people have no such luxury, and neither does anyone close to them.
Today I have perspective. Today I am truly blessed to be alive and not have been directly touched by this tragedy. Today I can breathe, I can hug my children, I can laugh with my friends, I can walk the dog, I can worry about the washing that needs to be done or the dinner that needs to be cooked. I can do the normal things I do everyday. I am alive, I love and I am loved. Today is a good day.