Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Once again I’m suffering from a self-imposed crisis of faith. No, not Saturday’s Rapture that wasn’t. Rather, a lack of faith in the wisdom of existing in the moment, going with the flow, taking things as they come without trying to control outcomes far beyond my ken…and any other clich├ęs that fit the topic.

The Yellow Spring lifestyle I’ve dreamt of for so long: working at home, writing full-time, living our much sought-after voluntary simplicity (except, of course, for the whole mortgage thing), seemed to have finally taken hold. On those days when I was able to pull myself out of the financial-worry vortex and live in the moment, life was good. I was writing regularly, publishing a few little things here and there, maintaining a decent enough blog presence. I was settling in and making connections in the writing world both locally and farther afield.

While the elusive publication breakthrough has yet to materialize, I was learning to be happy in the now, to stop chasing after a monetary pay-off that seemed always just out of reach either through a 9-to-5 office job or a much-coveted book contract. I learned to “let go of the banana.”

And as soon as I reached that plateau of course, I got the call. Oh, not The Call from an enthusiastic agent eager to shepherd my novel to best-seller-dom – I’m still waiting for that one. No, I got a call from a recruiter about a job. Nothing earth-shattering, but at least something that sort of almost uses my writing talents. Temp-to-hire; okay, maybe three to four months; well, could I start today for a week or so? Nothing definite.


My oh-so-comfortable schedule of writing, chasing the dogs, baking bread, gardening, weekly coffee klatches with writer friends…poof! Be careful what you wish for.

It’s an opportunity I can’t ignore; I’ve been searching for an income for far too long. Hubby’s stress at work is piling up so I feel even greater self-imposed pressure to relieve it in any way I can. His weeks are a roller coaster of got-a-handle-on-things-no-problem highs to a heart-wrenching (for me) can’t-do-this-anymore-something’s-got-to-give abyss. But this temp job is a tenuous position. While I work for a few days, maybe a week, to fill an urgent project need, the company continues to interview for a permanent replacement. Huh?! Hello!

As much immediate financial stress relief as this position offers, I have to admit it’s not my dream job – not even close. I have my dream job as a writer, but it isn’t paying much these days. I’m simply looking to supplement my writing efforts with something at least vaguely interesting. And on the extremely unlikely chance anyone from said company runs across this post, I am not ungrateful for the opportunity. Everyone is very kind, I’m learning lots, and I’m glad I can be of service. I’m just very confused as to why the interviews continue.

What is the lesson here? Is Joni Mitchell singing in my ear, reminding me “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”? Am I to take this brief experience “For What It’s Worth,” with Buffalo Springfield reminding me to “Beware” the materialistic entanglements of corporate America? Or, as usual, am I simply over-thinking everything?

I realized this morning it’s all that and more, including the over-thinking. All this is also a reminder of how spoiled I’ve become, living the life of an academe these past almost five years, working for pay only sporadically. Many of my colleagues work full-time, and raise a family, and still find – no, make time to write. Why does the idea terrify me so? My physical endurance is somewhat shaky, with far more too-frequent migraines than I’d hoped after that mystical threshold of menopause. But I guess that’s my reality. Deal with it. If my friends can juggle it all, so can I.

So I’ve decided to reframe this time of my life. It’s not an upheaval, a crisis, or a chaotic reshuffling of the comfortable and the familiar. It’s a paradigm shift, with exciting opportunities for growth in any number of directions. If I can stay open, and flexible, and receptive, the universe is ready to reveal a new path to a future I’m sure I can only begin to imagine.

Not that I won’t still be waiting for The Call…

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Okay, so the squirrel climbing my pant leg to get away from Barkley wasn't quite what I expected when I intervened...

It was an…interesting encounter. I was trying to dislodge a hanging tree limb broken by the latest windstorm and in the process startled one of the many squirrels that occupy our backyard. Barkley, our English Springer, is always on the prowl for them; when this one dropped right at his feet, he pounced. It squealed. I yelled, trying to call Barkley off before he did any permanent damage. The frightened critter zigged and zagged through the pachysandra and found purchase on my pant leg. Luckily I was wearing long jeans and not shorts! He didn’t stay around long, only made it about knee-height before skittering up the tree again. Those few hectic seconds left Barkley adrenaline-fueled and disappointed, nosing through the garden for the one that got away. After shaking off the residual shudders for a few seconds, I left the tree limb until hubby could help cut it down.

I had the best of intentions in trying to remove the limb and in protecting the squirrel, but nothing worked out quite as planned. As I relived the event, sharing it with family and friends over the next few days, I realized it was a metaphor for my life. I usually make at least a quick perusal of the situation, looking for solutions before diving in. Sometimes I get bogged down in that decision-making and never take action, but that’s another story. When I do find the chutzpah to move forward, things often turn out quite differently than expected.

In 2004, we downsized and relocated to southwest Ohio with no friends or job prospects, confident in our historic ability to always find work in a short amount of time. Boy, did I get that one wrong!

In 2006, I went back to school to finish my long-delayed college degree because conventional wisdom said it would make me employable. I stuck with the fall-back reasoning that my studies in the Classics would give my writing more credibility (read: get my work published). While I grew personally and professionally in a myriad of other ways, again completely unexpected, credibility and meaningful publication still elude me.

In 2008, after finishing my bachelor’s degree, I dove right into grad school. Our driven, goal-oriented son urged me on. The thesis for a master’s in creative writing would be a novel which I intended to write anyway, why not get the degree as well? I was two-thirds of the way through the program before my wise faculty advisor finally convinced me that an academically-finished novel is rarely a publishable novel. I still have lots of work to do on that one.

In 2010, we bought our first home, something I never, ever, expected to see happen. But again, we were overly optimistic. I was graduating with a master’s degree in June; surely I’d find work in no time so hubby wouldn’t have to continue shouldering the financial burden alone. Not –

Here it is a year later, 2011, and while technically I’m living the life I’ve always dreamed of, spending my days writing and making a home hubby looks forward to spending time in after a long day in the classroom, it’s not at all what I expected. I’m shopping completed novel number two, looking for an agent who believes in me, piling up rejections on smaller pieces, and adding a few non-paying publication credits here and there. It’s lonely work, hard work, frustrating work, but it’s work I love…when I allow myself to stop fretting about outcomes and concentrate on the moment.

And when I manage to stay out of the path of the squirrel.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were? ~ Satchel Paige

Age has never bothered me much. I don’t recall straining for sixteen (driver’s license), eighteen (alcohol, in my day), or twenty-one (adulthood!). It just was. Another year to survive, another number to mark off the calendar. Even fifty, that half-century milestone, didn’t cause a ripple. It was a big year, too. Married thirty years, finally earning a bachelor’s degree, diving into grad school, but the age? Eh -

But this year, on Friday to be exact, our daughter will be thirty. Yikes! That hits harder than any milestone of my own. How did I get to be the mother of a thirty year old?

As is my norm, I started comparing my life at thirty to her life now, see how I measure up or, more likely, fail to. She’s independent, “in a relationship,” more feisty and sure of herself than I ever was (or am now, most of the time). No children, which I keep telling her is fine, but insensitive family members and a personal physician who should know better have an impact on her psyche.

Not all women are cut out to be mothers. At eighteen, I was wise enough to know that of myself. Unfortunately, I allowed the patriarchal religious community we found ourselves in shortly after we married to convince me otherwise. I love my children dearly and can’t imagine life without them, but I also know they deserved a better mother growing up than I was able to be at that time. To thine own self be true, my daughter.

At thirty, I was ten years married, mother of two, fighting recurring bouts of depression and vague health issues no one could satisfactorily identify. The only concrete memory I have of that birthday was receiving the legendary ribbon-tied floral box with thirty long-stem red roses from my father. Never before or since have I had such a delivery. Other memories are lost in the haze of too many anti-depressants and too little sleep.

We worked hard to make ends meet, my hubby and I, but it was rarely enough to do more than make it to payday. We learned to be adults as we grew into our marriage, making it up as we went along. We still wonder how we survived. The constant struggles of never enough are the times I’d hoped to spare our children, but we failed in that regard. We were never taught to handle money well, so that particular talent was not something we were able to pass on to them.

And now she’s thirty – a milestone, to be sure, but I hope not a stumbling block. I want her to continue to grow into herself, to find her bliss. I want her to find a life partner and soul mate to stand by her in good times and bad, as I have found in her father. If her dreams include motherhood, so be it. But I hope it will be a conscious decision, for the right reasons. Her children, and her mother, will thank her.

Happy birthday to our beautiful Megan ~

The years teach much which the days never knew. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, May 05, 2011

So many raindrops…

Rain. And still more rain. Total precipitation in the Dayton area topped 8.7 inches in April, half an inch more than the next closest record of 9.2 set in 1996; the normal average is around 4.5 inches. It’s hard to take comfort in ‘April showers bring May flowers’ when May starts off with more of the same. Our poor flowers are under water.

When I hear of the devastation suffered by those further west and south, of the monster tornados and torrential rains that have wreaked havoc on such a large swathe of the country, I feel guilty grousing about the weather. We’re fortunate, really, to have nothing worse than minor flooding in our corner of southwest Ohio. But after a month of very few dry days and very little sunshine, it wears on the psyche. I feel as helpless as the tulips struggling to stay upright in the constant deluge.

Mid-way through April, I shared the rejuvenating power of spring. The winter doldrums slipped away and my writing flowed almost effortlessly. I joined the earth in creation. As the showers continued, however, I began to sink. My brain became as heavy as the waterlogged earth, unable to absorb another drop, another word. My writing has become sodden and lifeless, and I flounder in the depths.

Today, long-absent sun rays reflect off the accumulated water pooling in backyards and farmers’ fields. The air holds the mustiness of damp earth, heavy and pungent in the almost non-existent morning breeze. According to the prognosticators, we have less than twenty-four hours for the land to dry; more rain is on the horizon for the weekend. And yesterday, I lost my umbrella…

But it’s May; I’m ready for those flowers. Some fresh ideas and words wouldn’t hurt, either.