I should just start every damned entry here with : Wow. I can’t believe how long it’s been since I last wrote. I am SO sorry.
If I could have a t-shirt made, or maybe a tattoo put on my arm, it would help diffuse a LOT of public awkwardness, especially about this blog. It would be a handy catch-all tool, y’know? Like, if I ran into someone in the supermarket who wanted to know when I was going to post something else on my blog? I would just smile and point to my t-shirt. If I received a text from friend who asked, didja get that thing I sent ya? I’d shrug, take picture of the tattoo, and hit “send”. Done.
Procrastination has been the name of my game and I’ve been a champion at it. I should have a gold medal in putting things off. Like, every time I think I’m going to finish something, I wonder what’s in the fridge. Oooo! Maybe there’s some peanut butter in there…
Like all procrastinators, I have really, really good excuses. Like… I’ve been busy! Cleaning my house! And organizing my office!
No, seriously. You should see my office. It’s friggin’ amazing.
I’ve also been doing this other huge thing. I’ve been dismantling my empire. I’ve been making this transition from full time employed bookkeeper to very-part-time-employed bookkeeper and most-of-the-time memoir writer. See? That’s something!
This transition… ugh, I can’t even finish that sentence. Okay. Take a breath, Lolo. This TRANSITION has been a challenge. I am still finding my “groove”, as they say. I’m used to going non-stop for 14 hours a day. This whole “having time” is a new concept to me. And, because old habits die hard, I am finding myself wanting to fill my days with anything other than writing. EVEN THOUGH I FIRED MY CLIENTS SO I COULD WRITE ALL DAY. You would think that after having let go of nearly ALL of my sources of income, and feeling like this book is burning inside me, just dying to get out, I would be at my desk all day and night, neglecting hygiene and regular meals and just cranking out page after page.
The reality is that it’s going to take more than a few weeks to cure 30-something years of living like I’m running from a burning building. I’m still getting used to the fact that normal, everyday activities are part of the process of writing, as well. Nearly every writer I have ever read about didn’t spend more than a few hours a day working on their craft. So, it’s normal to want to clean the office and take care of errands in between bits of writing. It’s also normal to have this book filling your head for years and then to have a Cindy Brady moment when you sit down to write it. I’m ON AIR right now, and instead of feeling like a well-prepared game show contestant, I feel pinned down by the weight of my task. I feel like I can’t even type my own name without wondering if it’s right or true.
Now that I have that other stuff done (have I mentioned how amazing my office looks?), I have nothing left to do but sit here and type, so I need to learn how to break through that paralysis. In the past, it was my work that kept me both chained up and upright in the face of a task. It gave me purpose, and it didn’t matter that the purpose was not always fulfilling. Work was my drug, and I was addicted to the productive qualities of it. Coming down off it and entering this world of much delayed gratification is giving me the shakes. I still clamor to do something measurably “productive” during the day because, let’s face it, writing a book is a nebulous, possibly pay-off-less endeavor. Sure, you’ll have plumbed the depth of your soul, and opened yourself up to criticism, and dedicated yourself to a task for a while, but, to quote a line, “Where’s the fucking money, Lebowski?”. If there’s no cycle of work, get money, spend, and work more, I get fidgety. I start to dwell on the fact that I have become the person I both loathed and envied my whole life: someone who could afford to do nothing but swim around in her own thoughts all day. My mandate has been: survive. It is now: just be. And write a book while you’re at it.
On my bad days, I start to turn book-writing into this luxurious folly designed for fops and layabouts. I start to feel like my connection to everyday people will peel away and, while they’ll be talking about commuting and diaper-changing and all the rest, I’ll have nothing to share but a clean office and a few pages of self-indulgent journaling a day.
See how nasty self-defeating and downright violent my language towards myself is? Who’s to say I don’t deserve this “time off” from the noisy scramble I designed my life to be? I’m so accustomed to trading in my time for money; this new thing is downright unnerving. There is comfort and routine in work, and clearly defined expectations. This? This is uncharted territory. This has no map, no end-time in sight. This is just me desperately flailing around in the water for a very long time until I get a rhythm going.
Then again, on my better days, I feel this sense of right-living, of right-being, like everything and everyone is lining up in such a way as to really make this happen. For example, last week I met with a writing coach. She was encouraging and tough at the same time. She was genuinely excited about this book! And really, the average Joe on the street does NOT curl his lip derisively when I explain that, rather than work for a paycheck, what I do all day is write stuff. My friends are incredibly supportive. Everyone is HAPPY for me. That alone keeps me thinking I have chosen the right path for myself.
I have to remember the path has many unforeseen twists in it.
A few days ago, my friend Ruth and I sat on the floor of my office and fiddled around with one of my manual typewriters that wouldn’t quite work. The carriage was sticking in places and part of the ribbon housing was dented and wouldn’t click back into place again. Ruth and I sat cross-legged on the floor for more than an hour, trouble shooting. We used an old pair of boxer shorts to dust and polish the thing. Ruth used brute force to bend the housing back into place. I typed the alphabet a few times to see how the carriage worked. It was so meditative and enjoyable to use our brains (and not the Internet) to work something out. Afterward, when Ruth had left for the night, I looked back at the spot on the carpet where we’d sat for an hour. It had been a while since I’d sat on that floor,or on any floor, really. My life is spent in chairs, and at desks, and at chores that yield immediate and necessary results: chopping carrots, filing paperwork. The typewriter repair was an exercise in letting the world go about its merry, digitized, faster-than-light way and about me letting my folly take me where it would. I tried to remember the last time I’d just a) sat on the floor and b) did something entirely frivolous for hours. It must have been when I was a kid, engineering some game or vehicle out of cardboard tubes and scrap wood. I nearly cried at the thought of it. Once upon a time, I played for playing’s sake.
I’m cringing a little how fitting this metaphor is, but what if this is not about swimming, but floating instead? What if I’m struggling to move when what I need to do is be still and enjoy the view? What if the ease comes when we realize there is nothing to do but stop paddling our arms frantically and let the world we’re in support us? There is relief in surrender, sure. But to know that what we need is TO surrender; that is the trick.