I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.
On the first of each month,
a guest writer
how he or she spends the day.
August 1, 2018: Lisa Romeo
Getting to know readers is one of the fun things about this space, and even more fun is when a reader succeeds not only in writing but also in publishing a book. Some of you may know Lisa Romeo from the comments she’s left here or from her own blog, Lisa Romeo Writes. The photo above is from her launch party for Starting With Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss, published on May 1, 2018 by the University of Nevada Press. Magin LaSov Gregg wrote a fabulous review over at Brevity. Read it and you will not be able to resist another book purchase!
In the first chapter of Starting With Goodbye, Lisa writes that in the days after her father died, she was “struck by a yearning so powerful, to know him, to understand his story, to figure out our story.”
I read other obituaries too, strangers’ stories, drawn to the symmetry: born / died, here / gone. Perhaps I find that in an account of a life already lived (well, or not), I can learn something about how to live.
In writing about her father, Lisa discusses how troubling it is to feel such strong sadness that he is dead but an equally strong happiness that her writing is alive. In writing about herself, she doesn’t hold back. She, after all, is still alive–with struggles about weight, about money, about siblings, and all the things that life demands.
Airplanes lull me, and I dream. I bask in the mental freedom almost any flight promises. In airplane seats, I can be all of my selves, all of my ages, at once. I read, and I make plans. I remember.
Lists are my way of warding off emotional disintegration–noting what must be done, and then doing what must be done.
I don’t believe in positive thinking; I believe in preparing for the worst and then being enormously relieved when something better happens.
And then the first sentence of “Chapter 9–Conversations We Can and Cannot Have.”
But first, I am a bitch to my husband.
While her father was in the hospital, sometimes he thought he was on an airplane, sometimes in a hotel. My father died in March from Alzheimers, and so many of the things Lisa writes about are familiar. The relief, for example, that his suffering was over. The fact that death meant I could have him back the way he’d been before he got sick. The fact that our parents were each married for over fifty years. The fact that the loss felt by our mothers often appeared as a lack of compassion.
Her husband, who has always taken care of everything, whose slow mental slipping away the past year she’s been able to frequently hide, has gone and let this terrible thing happen, and she already understands that she’s truly on her own now for the first time in almost sixty years.
In the epilogue, from the distance of a writing residency, she writes about her writing process.
My writing studio’s one large window faces a small frozen river, and I gaze out at the daily swirling snow for hours. I’m stuck, blocked, unable to write a word about anything other than my father and am still convinced I should be writing about something else…
There, in my private studio, I feel too isolated, and I learn something about myself as a writer: I don’t want or need to get away from the hubbub of my everyday life, the sloppy imperfection of my family, the noise and routine. It’s not so bad that when I close my office door two boys and a man who loves me open it anyway.
Lisa’s work is listed in Best American Essays 2016. Her essays, articles, and nonfiction narratives appear regularly in literary venues, including Brevity, Front Porch Journal, Word Riot, River Teeth’s Beautiful Things, The Nervous Breakdown. She’s also published in the New York Times, O The Oprah Magazine, and Brain Child. Lisa is currently Thesis Director for the Bay Path University MFA program, and in previous careers, she worked as an equestrian journalist, a public relations specialist and agency owner, and a real estate sales troubleshooter.
If you don’t know Lisa’s blog, check it out. It’s full of all kinds of writing advice, helpful links, posts by other writers, and a special series of six posts about her path to publication (memoir book reports). Then,
Read how LISA ROMEO spends her days.