Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Three years strong

Perhaps it’s fitting that on the eve of the third anniversary of my marriage to Rebecca Rosenblum I finished reading Joan Didion’s memoir The Year of Magical Thinking. Didion’s book is, on the surface, about loss and grief and mourning, but I also saw it as a very touching portrait of what it means for two writers to be married to each other. Marriage in general has become a lifestyle choice I’ve heartily endorsed over the last three years, but being married to another writer has not only exceeded my expectations but has become pivotal to my day to day existence. This is something I think Didion understands really well.

The truth is, before I met Rebecca I couldn’t fathom being hitched to another scribbler. The idea seemed a bit terrifying. Would we be competitive? Would our obsessions and eccentricities trip over each other? Would it constantly feel like someone else was playing with my toys? Now, I can’t imagine being with a non-writer. I can’t imagine putting someone through such a thing! Rebecca has become more than just my first reader, a tolerant roommate tolerating my early- (very early, too early) hour writing sessions, the first person to show up at my readings and the last one to leave. She is the sound the pebble makes at the bottom of the well to tell me how deep it goes. She is the soil in which all good things grow. It is no coincidence that my writing life – and my life-life – has soared since 2012. I know where all this light originates from.

There is a passage in Didion’s memoir that is especially devastating, but one that resonates so much with the atmosphere of the Sampenblum household. It is involves the last birthday Didion had before her husband John died abruptly from heart failure. He's in the living room rereading one of Didion's novels, a section very technically complicated, and he begins reading it aloud to her. When he finishes, he says,

"Goddamn ... don't ever tell me again you can't write. That's my birthday present to you."
I remember tears coming to my eyes.
I feel them now.
In retrospect this had been my omen, my message ... the birthday present no one else could give me.
He had twenty-five nights to live.

How many times have I expressed this exact sentiment to my wife? Pretty much every time she shares a new piece of writing with me. This is what it means to be married to another writer. It means having someone there who knows how complicated what you do can sometimes be, and what you have to put yourself through in order to pull it off. Someone who can say, This is what we both do. This is what we both are. So let’s go do this, and be this, together.