There is a time to write, and a time to speak. A time to edit, and a time to listen. A time to proofread, and a time to take a nap.
Sometimes you just have to start running and have faith that the ground will rise up to meet you.
That’s how I feel about my life, right now. The last year and change was tumultuous, but I battered through and now am out on the other side. I’ve been idling for a few months, waiting for my life to start, anxious for a new adventure. This is not entirely unwelcome, because last year around this time I put on a cable-knit sweater and a pair of pajama bottoms and decided to take a break from life.
It was a welcome break. I lost my father and my job, and I just wanted a chance to sit back and consider what it all meant. So I sat down on my back porch, with my faithful German Shepherd on my left and a cup of coffee gripped in my right hand, and watched the morning grow old and surrender to the afternoon. Then I farted around until night fell and worked on my novel. It was a serene, if unexciting existence.
I kind of felt like I had retired. I was so done with everything that had characterized my life in my early twenties; forty plus hour work-weeks, apartments I couldn’t afford, boys who never called back, and a sense that the pace of this life was too fast and everyone else was lapping me. But then I got over it.
I started freelancing and got a boyfriend. Then those things ended, as most things do, and I found myself in this place, again, wondering what life was going to put in front of me. I felt a sense of panic as I slid into the monotony of small-town life. The uncertainty of purpose was crushing me.
Last year when I took a vacation from life, I found refuge in my writing, in telling a story that had been trying to claw itself out of me for the past two years. It needed to be told, and so I let it out. Now that I’m editing my manuscript, I realize a lot of it is my story, my interpretation of the things that are both wrong and right with the world, the things I’ve seen and regretted and cherished.
But as I told that story, I recovered from the wounds that had caused it. And once I was healed, a funny thing happened. I felt an urge to jump back into the thorny brush that had bled me so – hence working and dating again.
There is nothing wrong with working and dating. They both provided me with experiences I was eager to have, a sense of purpose, of being able to affect the world and those in it, and the grandest prize of all, human intimacy. But as I delved into those experiences, a funny habit flared up: I silenced myself.
I didn’t write. Not that I had the time to, and not that I think there is anything wrong with not writing. I’m so sick of the old adage that you have to write all the time every blankety day or you’re not a writer. There is a time to write, and a time to speak. A time to edit, and a time to listen. A time to proofread, and a time to take a nap. And sometimes, there’s a time to shut the fuck up and watch the world for a bit, because there are interesting things happening outside the walls of your cranium.
It wasn’t so much the not-writing that was the problem. It was the silence, or the act of silencing. I silenced the voice that came from my gut that told me that this guy wasn’t the one. I silenced the need for a steady job and paycheck to work for a cause I believed in. I had no time for doubting, only for living and trying to make it work. If there is one thing I’ve learned about myself it is that I will get that goddamn square peg in the round hole if it kills me. Or until the peg breaks in half.
I suppose this is the point where I say the big lesson I learned as a result. There wasn’t really such a big new lesson, though. I had already learned it, probably around age six: listen to your gut. This was just another instance (or two) in which I was trying to teach myself a lesson I hadn’t mastered.
What I did learn, though, is that having a bono fide “job,” whether or not it makes you a millionaire, lends a certain amount of legitimacy to your life. I think of writing as my career, but chances are nobody’s going to pay me big bucks for it, which is kind of the world’s way of saying, “that’s nice, but can’t you do something, you know, useful? Like stand on an assembly line for instance. ” I’m going to put the job talk away and reflect on it in some later post.
I also learned that, as a writer, or a professional speaker, or journalist, or some other form of communicator, there is nothing more painful than feeling that you don’t have anything worth saying, anything someone wanted to hear. I still feel this way, reluctant to leave my hermit-hole of silence, but like I said before, sometimes you just have to start running. Maybe you’re running because you want to get in shape, or maybe you’re training for a marathon, or maybe you’re just bored out of your wits. It doesn’t really matter why, just run. Because it’s what you do. Or, because it feels better than not doing it.