“It’s not calculated at all. It never has been. One of the things I had to learn as a writer
was to trust the act of writing.”
~ E. L. Doctorow
I’m grappling with the shape of my life. It’s no ordinary discontent. No gasp of desperation. I live a life enriched by friendships, continual learning and wonder and mystery. I’m fortunate. Grateful for each day, even when it stinks. Even when things get scary uncomfortable. I appreciate the value and satisfaction in an ordinary life as highlighted in the NYTimes The Small, Happy Life. I read about the obituary of a woman who’ll be ‘known and remembered for her pound cakes and peanut butter fudge,’ thought it a mighty fine legacy to be remembered for something you created that gave others pleasure. And yet, I hold something hot in my hands I must give away to a large, very large, circle. Something more than settling into the novelist I am. Something big.
I’ve been here before. As a 39 year-old student at a large respected university with a mere twenty-year history of women students, I learned the word patriarchy, had my eyes opened to the million ways it plays in the world. With a long ago history of abuse by a significant other, I recognized myself in the milieu. I became an activist for women’s issues. Set my sights, forged ahead with steady intent to secure a Women’s Center on campus by the time I graduated two years later. I ignored every warning it was an impossible dream. Believed every minute I would succeed. On the eve of my graduation, the Provost told me the prime space he allocated for the Center was a result of his meeting with me. Oh, it was all of us, I told him. I wouldn’t own even the acknowledgement of my part in the creation of my vision. I stepped back into the shadows. But here I am, again with no calm space inside me. Me and my toolbox crossing a crazy wide ocean of intention, far from discernible solid ground. Each day seeming to progress how E.L. Doctorow and I write novels, “…like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
Two weeks ago I got sick. Bumped from the dogged plan I wasn’t happy in, decided to regroup. Listening to webcasts of accomplished lives by business coaches this past week I’ve felt my stuckness shake loose bit by bit. Then a friend in New Zealand gave a shout-out. You need help, he said. We spent three hours on Skype. Oh gosh, yes, some of it personal. Relationships are that way. The upshot is for the first time since my decision to step out, I feel jazzed, in motion. Feel I’m not alone. I sense a confluence of letting go yeah-but stories and the implicit messages from those living and dead that I’m too much, too loud, too weird. The Women’s Center they said was impossible was a thousand steps, unknown territory, a learning curve. It was focus and persistence and knowing it wasn’t about me. It was One Big Vision. Like now. I can trust the act of doing like I trust the act of writing. Isn’t that how anything’s done?
”In my dream, the angel shrugged & said, if we fail this time, it will be a failure of imagination & then she placed the world gently in the palm of my hand.”
~ Brian Andreas
Another zen journey to mindfulness. Getting to Wise.
A Writer’s Life.
A secret: I still get those ‘too much’ messages on occasion, and I don’t care.
A favorite: My mother-in-law’s pound cake.
Photo from the film Life of Pi