What Story Am I Telling?

Talking to You

“The ordinary life though is part of our story and every story connects to every other story through time.” – Shawna Lemay

The shortest version of this story is that, two weeks ago, I gave my notice at a job I’ve had off and on for 15 years so that in 2021 I can write in my free time.

That’s not the reason I gave to the more practical-minded people in my life. I told them that my family needed more of my time, that trying to balance work commitments and family demands is more stress than I want in my life. They don’t argue with a woman who puts her family first.

On some levels, that pisses me off — I knew I would get no arguments if I framed it as quitting for my family. I didn’t tell them I was quitting to write because there is nothing practical about pursuing a passion. But that’s a different, longer story, and I don’t have a broad enough view tell it.

My story doesn’t have a journey; it’s too nebulous for a plot. It has me plunking my ass in a chair at my desk in my writing nook every afternoon. It has me figuring out writing rituals, asking myself how I’m going to write on the days when I’m drained. (For fuck’s sake, no one give me advice.)

I’ll still be squeezing my writing into my spare hours. Quitting paid work only gives me a few more spare hours in the day. I’m scared that I’ll waste it on housework, laundry, Twitter. I’m scared that it will get snatched back by the pandemic if my kids need to move in and out of online school. I’m scared that the projects I want to work on will become stale when I can’t get to the places that spark my creativity. I’m scared that this is a wild experiment and I haven’t defined my parameters for success.

I hope that by naming my fears, by inviting them a little closer, I’ll be able to perform some small acts of psychological alchemy to deepen my creative life. The ordinary story, connected to every other writer, is that I don’t have to define myself by success. I don’t have to define anything at all. There is yes to this right in front of me; there is learning the wisdom of no. It is okay if I’m horribly unbalanced — I can’t reasonably hope to be otherwise.

Perhaps it starts with opening myself up to rambling. Hunkering down in cluttered corners with no purpose. Blatantly unfinishing thoughts.

Can a person do the simultaneous work of clearing away and filling up the same few square centimeters of psyche? Can we ever do anything else?

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