"When I began writing 'This Day', I was losing the ability to type" - Tiah Marie Beautement
Published in the Sunday Times (04/10/2020)
When I began writing This Day, I was losing the ability to type. My body ached. What would eventually be diagnosed as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and fibromyalgia were running amuck. I was struggling to carry on as a writer and to be the mother I had been. The person I knew as me was vanishing. In this dark place, I clung to the memory of my grandmother, the strongest woman I have ever known.
Mary E Carleton survived the death of two of her five children, two World Wars, the Great Depression, the loss of a chicken farm, and witnessed her beloved husband be devoured by dementia. Yet no matter what life hit her with, she continued to put one foot in front of the other for nearly 102 years.
I took my grandmother's tenacity and my pain and poured it all into the character of Ella Spinner. She began as a vision of a woman writing letters to her deceased son in the sand, allowing the changing of the tide to sweep her words away. Her life was heavy. Her husband's depression was being mismanaged and Ella was struggling to confront the depths of her grief.
"Every day we begin," Ella would say.
Each day, Ella woke up feeling like their lives were stuck. "Nevertheless, she persisted," as the saying goes. Each day was another chance to move forward. Her tenacity mirrored mine. I'd give her 100 words one day, 500 the next, only 200 the day after that.
Each word hurt. The medications and treatments I now rely on to make my conditions manageable were not tools I had when writing This Day. But Ella was in pain too, and together we continued to put one proverbial foot after another, word by word. We didn't need pithy positivity mantras. Our grief was real and needed to be processed. In our own stubborn refusal to quit, we were searching for a way to peacefully exist with our new realities.
How fitting to have this book relaunched in 2020 - a year that hit the world like a tsunami, taking much from many, and leaving us collectively battered and bruised. Over lockdown, I've often thought of Ella, in all her dysfunctional glory, and how she refused to give up.
This Day is a story about carrying on despite all, which is its own form of hope.
Tiah Beautement's This Day is published by Modjaji Books, R210