“The best laid plans of Mice and Men often go awry,” so says the poet Robert Burns,[i] with whom I heartily agree.
The plan I laid at April’s ending had me making a beginning to my memoir come the first of May. That start didn’t happen. A month later, some ideas of layout and some pages dribbled out, but nothing coalesced, and I often gave up soon after I had begun. My writing has come in spits and spurts, a drizzle here and there, but no sustained outpouring, and by this time I had hoped for a downpouring of inspiration and enthusiasm, decades of my life summed up and translated into well-flowing sentences on my computer screen.
But no. That hasn’t happened.
I do have about a month left to meet my first draft deadline. To have any chance of making it, I will have to do nothing else but write the story of my life. Knowing myself, I don’t think that I will.
Yes, the subject is thorny. But the timing I planned was also lousy. Summertime? Autumn? When the weather is lovely and I want to be outside, was I really going to stay at my desk and work? No one has imposed this deadline on me except myself, and I’m not doing this to earn money — from my scant experience, writing a book doesn’t pay well at all. So my only incentive is desire and a sense of purpose. During the last months, however, my only desire was to enjoy the beauty of a day, and I found many ways to make myself useful without contributing to my next book at all.
I will not give up, however. It would be interesting to see how much I can get done in the next six weeks, so I will do my best. That’s all I can really do anyway. Honestly, I haven’t done my best to this point, but every day is new. As Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote through the mouth of Anne of Green Gables, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”
Montgomery’s literary character also rightly said, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” So … in the coming month, I may become enthralled more with the life of squirrels and the turning of leaves on trees than with the story of my life and the writing of my book.
The concluding stanzas of Burns’ poem seem most appropriate to me today. He poetically addresses a mouse who he turned up with his plow one November, nest and all. Allow me to roughly translate/paraphrase:
The best laid plans of Mice and Men often go awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain for promised joy!
Still, thou art blessed, compared with me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But oh! I backward cast my eye, on prospects drear!
And forward though I cannot see, I guess and fear!
In other words, better to be a mouse who may lose her shelter and security easily, but who also neither looks back with regret and disappointment nor looks ahead with anxiety and imagined troubles.
It’s impossible to write a memoir without looking back, but I pray and hope that I may do so without grief or regret. Although I often worry about the future, I likewise pray and hope that I will trust in the divine plan and not my own, and that, while writing, only the present may touch me … the goodness of being here.
© 2021 Christina Chase
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.