My mother-in-law died this week. It wasn’t unexpected. She was under the care of hospice, and had been declining in health since her husband’s death in 2011. My mom died in 2012. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, for close to two years I’ve been embroiled in a family fight over money that has created stress, and with it, debilitating anxiety. We finally reached a settlement agreement a couple of weeks ago, but 2014 has been the hardest year of my life. In 2013, I’d buried my grief and escaped into my work. But by 2014, as family tensions escalated, my grief erupted and I had to stop working. My clients fell away like dominoes, I reduced my teaching schedule to one class, and I hit the pause button on my memoir, The Raw Years: A Midlife Quest for Health & Happiness.
Not long ago, a student who has been taking my classes consecutively for the past three years stopped by to pick up a letter of recommendation for a PEN Emerging Voices Fellowship. This same student, during her second year in my class, wrote a novel, for which she secured literary representation last fall. Our class is on summer break and I hadn’t seen her since June. After we took care of our PEN business she shared her growing frustrations with me about her writing career. “I felt like I gave my baby away,” she told me, and then lamented that she rarely hears from her agent and has no idea what’s going on with her book. Unfortunately, for writers lucky enough to sign with an agent, this is not an uncommon story.