When I was a kid, I couldn't wait to get to the end of a story. Often I flipped to the last page to check the final words so I would know where the heck we were going. It didn't bother me to know, and often knowing the ending reassured me.
Problem is, we can't do that with life.
This morning my stepdaughter called me. She's a college senior, uncertain of future plans, and panicky that she hasn't found her exact path forward. Her questions ring a familiar tone to me: Will I fail? What if I choose work I don't like? What happens if I never find the work that ignites my passion?
I tell her what I know. Yes, life can be scary, and no, the path doesn't always present itself. Or, if it does, it may appear muddy and steep, causing our shoes to slide, leaving us with doubts we will arrive safely to the top of the next clearing--only to see the next part of the same trail.
I've wrestled with these same questions. I write because I have to, because to not write would mean to live less than a full life. Will I sell books? Don't know. Will this small, independent publisher get recognition from the more traditional publishing community? Maybe. The reviews of Patchwork & Ornament encourage me to keep going. Still, I have moments of doubt, where something quite other from the "still, small voice" tells me that maybe I should find something else to do.
In those moments, though, I remember what I learned in the process of editing Patchwork, which contains my late mother-in-law Jenny Feldman's journals and other writings. She wrote from the perspective of having lived a full life and, in looking back, saw the beauty in all of it, even the pain and disappointments. So, I know that my job is to keep going, keep writing, keep doing my best, and to not fuss so much about where I'm actually accomplishing anything.
I also learned one more thing, and it is perhaps the most valuable for me personally. That is, though Jenny left us in December 2008, her story is still being written. While I know the end of Patchwork, her life story continues to play out as her writings are received and embraced by others. I don't know the last page of her story, or mine, or my stepdaughter's. The difference now is that I no longer need to feel reassured by knowing the ending. I am content to the turn the pages, one at a time, and absorb every word.