Change is a tough thing. Or, maybe it isn’t for everyone? It is for me. So the biggies can be truly brutal. Picking new colors for the rooms of my house, took forever. Not a biggie in the biggie picture, but as an artist, the idea of living with any color that didn’t “speak to me” seemed unbearable. I collected color swatches for months and painted samples on several walls, numerous times. Luckily, my wonderful painter was a Zen kind of guy and got it. He waited patiently and nudged me gently. Now when I sit in my “Ravishing Red” dining room (where, until I finally take on clearing my “office,” I type most of the time), the “Dolphin Blue” bathroom, “Iceberg Blue” game room, or any of the other rooms and halls I colored, I feel incredibly satisfied with my decisions. Buying a new car, oh my; that one was an entire year of coming to terms with the fact that I did not need a mini-van anymore! It took another year to actually part with said mini-van and it may take a couple more for me to stop wishing we still had it, when we go on any kind of car trip with the whole family. When the savvy dealer who was showing me all of the wonderful bells and whistles on the kick ass car I would eventually buy, and he pulled down the back seat and said “you probably wont be driving kids around in this much longer; you wont need that third row seat,” I melted in a puddle of bereaved paralysis in the buttery leather in the back seat. A year and a half later, two kids off in college and lots of time to myself, I feel just fine about shifting in to the zippy gears “my baby” offers and prefer that my son’s friends do not put their muddy shoes inside my car. Our dog Luke is only welcome with plastic cargo bin and drop cloths. It all just took time. Again, in the Big Picture these did not end up being all that big after all. The wall colors, the car (I’m still going back and forth on the car color, but that may take longer), which book for book group, hair: long or short? … Ultimately, smaller things on life’s scale. (My Ravishing Red writing space/Dining Room/Puzzle space ^^^)
However, this whole “next stage of life” thing is turning out to be a Biggie Biggie and what I’m finding is, that it requires a lot of… procrastination. As a matter of fact, some days it seems to require that I do close to nothing, all day… as I figure out what comes next. Procrastination is the word I’ve adopted for taking it easy. It’s something that plenty of other people do easily but it’s been a big step for me: spending some time doing nothing of any measurable “value.” About six months ago, I broke it down for my husband, after I found myself trying to explain why I hadn’t gotten a whole lot done one day and he asked (in that made for movie slow motion voice): “So, what did you do today?” Instead of ripping his face off, as I considered, I sat him down and announced: “I am now officially Semi-Retired. My job was to raise three incredible kids and two of them are now gone. That means that I have accomplished the major part of my career. Now, I need to figure out what to do do next, and that will takes some thought.” Surely you jest, was virtually carved into his expression.
Generally, I would say that for the past twenty-two years (Principessa is 21, and I quit working as a therapist when she was on the way, so long Masters Degree) I’ve scored in the higher performance levels of “checking things off lists.” I’ve got a “Just Call me Martha” mug, and I used it for a long time. My resume or check list would include: I’ve been very involved in my kids’ schools, check (that includes volunteering for loads of committees, PTSA president, tutoring, reading in classrooms, and lots of other “jobs”). I’ve taken more than my share of cooking classes and can confidently say that my family eats pretty damned well, check. No one has run out of underwear or socks or grown out of clothes, without me picking up replacements, in years, check. I clean up ok when I need to show up at the various work/community related things attached to my husband’s work, check. I’ve sat up waiting, worrying, grounding and hugging for countless dances, parties, sneaking outs, and other teen challenges, check. I’ve helped work on two rounds of college applications, check (and both applicants are now attending excellent schools), and I’ve more than met all requirements for jumping in and being involved outside of family. I can say with authority, I have not spent much time sitting around relaxing. In fact, the wheel I put myself on has been spinning non-stop for a very long time.
What I finally admitted a few years ago was that I had always wanted to be a writer, but had taken on as many things as possible so that I would never really have to shit or get off that pot. I could get some writing done in various newsletters, working on projects through the hospital, PTSA, Medical Alliance, or the various tutoring things I did with teens, but I didn’t really have to see for sure if I could do anything more with it. Six years ago, I sat down and wrote a novel in three months flat. I worked like crazy and felt excited and motivated to get it published; writing each day was really fulfilling. However, when faced with what to do next and the potential rejection of what I’d been wanting to do for so long, I put the manuscript on my desk and forgot it was there, for about five years. I should clarify here: I tried to forgot it was there. Middle Man in his never ending quest to push my buttons (or hold me to a higher standard?) would routinely ask: “So mom, when are you going to do something with your book?” Man it pissed me off! Mainly because I knew I’d filled all that open space with other stuff, that would continue to keep me from doing anything worthwhile with my writing. “I’m going to start a blog and call it Tales from the Motherland,” I started saying about two years ago… tick tock, tick tock.
So, three years ago I decided to make a move, at least test the waters. First, I took a writing class with the author Laura Kalpakian. From there I met some really amazing other writers and asked if they would like to continue meeting after the class, and from there I started considering really writing again. The premise of the group is that any member can submit up to 15 pages of writing, for the other group members to read and give written and verbal feedback on. It’s a pretty brutal process frankly, having your “babies” dissected and judged, but I figured I was finally doing something. However, if truth be told, I wasted the first year that our group met by submitting chapters as is and not really thinking that they needed to change. Hell, did I get a lashing! The group liked what I wrote, but it was nowhere near the completed novel I thought it was! So a lot of the 2nd year I struggled with how to change that, how to improve the chapters and make them solid and I spent a few months whining and thinking of burning the whole manuscript: this thing is crap, and it’s not worth the effort I would say some weeks. But, when you finally find your passion, your fire, when you really get your groove going, that’s when the real magic happens. In the past few months I’ve finally done that, and I finally think I know where I’m headed next.
I finally started this blog, just three months ago, and it has exceeded any expectations or hopes I had! Being “Freshly Pressed” one month in to my blogging was unreal! That weekend, which coincided with my 30th high school reunion was a dose of encouragement that I could not have envisioned to wish for! I had been straggling along, watching some days go by with a handful of readers (um, a handful, technically is 5 right?) and some days none. I was woefully lame at figuring out the technical aspect of how to work my blog: inserts, tags, links, photos, etc… BUT, I was at least doing it and that felt great! Today, I am at 9, 880 (current) reads in three months; I have 102 subscribers (half in other countries) and my posts get an average of 100 reads each. I love doing it and I’m motivated to sit down and put words to page, three times a week. My novel began to turn around when I finally got what my writing group Godesses had been telling me for ages: show us, don’t tell us! My God, stop with the narration and give us a story! I got it and finally started re-writing at least part of every chapter, and the feedback turned around electrically. I was hearing “best chapter yet” for weeks in a row and I wanted to find ways to improve the story: the dialogue, the movement of characters, the dreaded arc. I wanted to figure it out and move forward. Hallelujah! (Original manuscript,-> glad I didn’t burn it, but can say that most of it will never leave this desk. Rewrites!)
When I ran off to the wild wild west this summer and left house, hearth and kinders behind, to figure out how to really harness my groove, it all fell in to place. I wrote several new chapters that I think really enhance the novel. I listened to myself for two weeks and took some chances, only to see that I could do it just fine on my own, and it actually felt good. Damned good. I came home charged and really motivated to see this through, to whatever conclusion is in my cards. When one of the women in my group said last week, “you are very close to having a publishable novel here,” I really wanted to weep. I also wanted to vomit. The anxiety of seeing this through, of following through on something so big, is really daunting. It’s very exciting, but enormously daunting as well. I am racing up on fifty and I keep wishing I just had more time, that I’d done this years ago… oh, but then… I can hear the sage voices: You wouldn’t have taken the full path grasshopper. You would have skipped steps and it wouldn’t have been the same. You wouldn’t be the person you are now. You would have missed all those other moments with your children. True, true, all of it true. Still… to be forty and here.
(<– The office, I will eventually use… really.) So, I am writing every day now. On the days when I’m crashing (like today, waking up at 4:30 on fire with ideas and falling to pieces by 10: am) I force myself to procrastinate. I watch dumb TV; I take a nap (or try to); I eat silly foods; I play with my friends… I get nothing checked off. On those days, I still feel a little guilty, so I race around just before Hubby gets home and make it look like I got a lot done. A pan of brownies can make a whole day look productive. But more often, I am feeling entitled to my procrastination and the freedom to do my writing for as much of a day as I want to. The chapters are falling in to place and I’m now doing final edits on the “final” copy, before I pursue publication, which is in itself a ridiculously long and frustrating process. I’ve met with someone who is involved in the book world, who gave me lots of great advice, helped me work out a plan, and was very encouraging. Hmm, could it be that I might attain this long held goal? I’m off the wheel, and in the flow. Now, I just need to keep my eyes on the road I’ve chosen and see it through. It’s a thrill, it’s amazing … please excuse me while I go procrastinate a little longer.
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