Listen to me read the below here:
While I was shuffling Tarot cards this morning for my daily read, a “jumper” escaped from the pack and sailed across my bed; when I retrieved the card, a grinning skull stared up at me: Death. I know better than to take such cards literally—the Death card is symbolic of endings, and life is full of them—but I was unsettled enough to draw another with more intention. I jot “Death” in my journal. I forgo an interpretation for now.
No one asks why I use the Tarot, but I imagine it’s obvious: when life pulls back its curtain and reveals itself to be a fragile, mottled mess, any kind of structure will do. I like it because spreads and pulls allow for a framework from which to hang disparate events and a jumble of feelings. Death comes, and suddenly all of the endings in my life are highlighted in neon yellow. In order to welcome the new, I need to say good-bye to the old. Spoiler alert: I’m no good at letting go.
I came back from New York in June. I’d fretted over that particular leg of my book tour for months prior to the actual trip, and then it was fine. Better than fine. I left the Frick after thirty minutes because I became too weak to stand. I was late to my event at BookCourt and trembled through the reading, hoping no one would notice (Jen did). The injection my clinic mailed to Brooklyn never arrived. I’m trying to pick out the most salient memories, but once something happens, it tends to slip away. There’s something about a tremendous event that becomes too precious to pin down with my poor words.
I may not do any more events for The Border of Paradise, and that might be a reason for the Death card. It might be time to focus on The Collected Schizophrenias, now that I’m on contract with Graywolf for my next book. Bask in it, someone told me about everything. 2016 has turned out to be a banner year for my literary career, but all that means is that I just keep working.
On Twitter someone recently asked me how to get through a period of intense work with little rest. This is, I’m realizing now, what my book tour has been. Rest when you can, I said. Stay hydrated. Eat snacks. (Boring things like that.) With chronic illness, I can only push my body so far before it collapses, so I hesitate. In New York I said yes to a lot of things; I said no to more things than that. If people wanted to see me, they met me at my hotel. I brought the equipment for my rituals and routines, and I arranged for my clinic to mail an injection that never arrived. In the end, though, there is only so much I can prepare for with an unpredictable body, so I spent most of my time teetering on the edge of illness, and wondering whether the next moment would bring on a wash of symptoms, or the moment after that.
P.S. Interested in more about succeeding despite limitations? I’m teaching a workshop about this very topic at the Bullish Conference in Palm Springs. Jen Dziura interviewed me about it here. A new offer about the topic will also be available for those unable to make it to the conference—if you’re not already subscribed to my newsletter, With Love & Squalor, sign up here for the latest news (and more).