The Rescue Beagles dragged Amy Biancolli kicking and screaming into the Batcave in order to help us celebrate the release of her wonderful book FIGURING SH!T OUT: Love, Laughter, Suicide, and Survival.
Now, one would have to have their bellybuttons inverted to believe that Love and Laughter belong with Suicide and Survival – and that’s what makes Amy’s book so amazing. In fact, when Amy’s lovely agent, Jane Dystel, sent me the proposal, I tried to politely decline because I was thinking, “Oh no, not another death book.” Jane, in all her wisdom told me (politely) to shut up and read it – it’s not like anything in the marketplace.
She was right.
I did laugh. In fact, my sides ached…which isn’t easy. I may love to laugh, but I’m not a patsy. However, Amy’s humor is sinfully delicious, and she writes with an extremely deft hand. She knows the absolute meaning of balance and never spends too much time wading through any one emotion so that you’re emotionally spent. I came out feeling good…and I felt good about Amy and the path she’s currently walking. Because none of us are immune to SH!T. We all are magnets to some extent, and it’s how we deal with it when it dumps in our lap.
I decided I want to be like Amy; healthy, unafraid to not have all the answers and willing to stumble through the unknown with a modicum of indignity and humor. Which is why I had to have her manuscript. It’s a soothing balm for, well, FIGURING SH!T OUT.
So, Amy, you took a huge step in baring your soul to readers. Did aliens posses you to write this book, or was there something more earthbound that had you taking cyber pen to cyber paper? Therapy? Insanity? A message to share?
Funny that you mentioned aliens, because my son and I have been binging on The X-Files lately, and I’m starting to think I was abducted. Initially I had no plans on writing anything, because living through the grief was hard enough. But then, gabbing one day with an old friend with a huge laugh, I cracked some joke about writing a book – and he needled me until I did. This was right in the thick of that first year, maybe nine or ten months after my husband’s suicide. I was still living through the worst of it, so writing a book was an insane thing to do. But so much about that first year was insane, and my life had already veered so wildly off script that I was open to anything.
I loved the ending of your book. I stood up and cheered. And that’s what we do when we wade through any kind of darkness and punch through on the other side. Doesn’t matter what the “it” is – the important thing is that “it” affects our life – be it death, illness, losing a job, teenagers (oh, don’t even get me started), or financial strain. It’s all SH!T, and it must be dealt with. Did you see progress throughout your first year, going from Point A (hideous grief) to Point B (meeting a Mr. Manly Pants)?
Yes. I did. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, but it does have a blessed insistence about it, moving us along despite the wounds we carry. But it was more than just time. If indeed I did make it from Point A to Point B, writing the book helped me get there. Once I set to work on it, it felt necessary and healing. There’s something intensely therapeutic in telling our own stories and making sense of our own lives. If we can see trauma as a starting point – as an opening chapter in the narrative – then we can open ourselves to growth and then progress, however fitfully, toward some kind of happy ending. Maybe that happy ending is just a tiny, silent epiphany as we sense the arrival of hope. But if you see Point B in the arc of the story, and compare it with Point A, it’s huge. Quite a lot of life happened to get there.
Being able to find the humor in really tough situations is a godsend, but is that something that can be learned, or are you just hardwired that way?
I don’t know if I’m hardwired that way, but my mother saw the funny in everything. She was a wise soul and an absolute, blunt-talking pisser who faithfully loved and cared for my father in the long years following his suicide attempt and slide toward dementia. Her life, career and marriage changed forever, but she bore those changes every day with humor — and she’s been my guiding spirit and inspiration in the wake of Chris’s suicide.
Also, grief isn’t monochromatic. It’s not just black-on-black. Punctuating the hard tears of that first year were bizarre, darkly comic experiences that really were godsends. I had to laugh at them because I had no choice, and I’m profoundly grateful for the friends and family who laughed along with me. I’m not unique: anyone, facing any kind of loss or traumatic disruption of the normal, has to let loose now and then. Some of the sh!t that hits is too surreal to believe, and if you can’t laugh at it, you can’t live.
You wrote about New Amy vs Old Amy, and I wondered how New Amy is different from Old Amy.
Well, it would be nice to say that New Amy is less of a reflexive apologizer than Old Amy, who routinely drove her friends batty with cascading “sorries.” I described my efforts to overcome this in the book, but lately I’ve been backsliding. Sorry about that. But rest assured I’m still swearing a heck of a lot more than I used to. It just snaps out in colorful bursts, like Pop Rocks. Otherwise, I was never a good housekeeper; now I’m terrible. I was never much of a disciplinarian; now I’m the laid-back slacker-mom who gives her kids a pass for everything shy of criminal activity, because they’ve already been punished enough. And they are such beautiful, inspiring, awesome creatures, full of life and guts. Old Amy thought so too, but New Amy is more determined than ever to count her blessings and treat each day as a gift, because God only knows about tomorrow.
And for the record, Amy has TOTALLY backslid on the “sorries.” I think I managed to collect 4 in one day.
So there you have it, folks. Amy’s book reads like you’re sitting across the kitchen table from her, sipping coffee laced with brandy, laughing, crying, commiserating in sisterly Kumbuya fashion. So rush out and pick up a copy so we can all Kumbuya together. And if you’re in Albany, don’t miss Amy’s blowout of a book event.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM (EDT)
And here is a terrific article on Amy by All Over Albany