I woke up one day this week and thought “this is so damned hard.” And I actually chose this path!
Lots of choices aren’t mine—the frustration of asthma attacks, the grief from losing my stepmom that stirs up the grief of my brother dying, a family member turning from sobriety after years. Profound sadnesses with ongoing adjustments.
But the ones that are my moves—3,000 miles across country, leaving friends and family and familiarity, and the embrace of life as a writer, are a deeply complex mishmash of delight and fear, of one step and then another and another.
Last month, we finally gave up our 9-year dream home on the beach in Florida. Unlike the almost developmentally inevitable decision to leave MA for CA, to downsize after the kids had left, the sale of that maybe-someday, maybe ‘retirement’ Boca Raton oasis was wrenching. Sure, our first damaging hurricane and the increasing cost of the place on our now one-income household was a huge factor. But we could’ve rented it out until we were ready to return, right? The glaring fact of the matter is that, actually, we’ve moved on and beyond.
I never could have predicted we would be so damned lucky to have a tropical getaway, and then I never could have thought we’d no longer need it. What a relief it was to escape the 24/7 pressure cooker of owning David’s practice, to sit on the beach and read and write, even if the morning was spent on the phone working.
But, finally, what is a life spent planning the next getaway? From the tarmac on the way home, already dreaming of the trip back? A life of constant nostalgia. Living a life chosen decades before, no longer right for the now? Resentment, even despair in certain moments, that life at 40, and then 50, was an unending treadmill toward nowhere.
Yikes! That’s dark.
Boca represented a yearning, a wish to be fulfilled. It just wasn’t meant to end there, it turns out.
Because a life engaged, no matter how hard it is to persist, to persevere, to summon the energy and the confidence to put words onto paper, to put the words out for readers and judgement, is for me, by far the richer choice.
Sure, a pithy narrative of an artist life, especially on social media, would be filled with struggle, struggle, and then success! Lots of no’s and then a magical yes (preferably involving a major deal with HBO or Netflix!)
Truth be told, one of the hardest aspects of my now-life is truly accepting that it will alway be a struggle, it will always involve readers who say ‘nope’, it will always impart moments of supreme self-doubt and residing in the state of ‘unknowing.’
This is not a blue-sky, toes in the sand, surf gently lapping kinda life.
It is, though, fodder for the angsty soul (me, yes indeed), and holds rewards of such monumental shining magic—a beautiful sentence, a character revelation, an aha coming together of structure—that I leap out of my chair, shocked this is really me making it happen. And grateful beyond my wildest dreams.
Couple that with deepening relationships with my writer friends, weekly and monthly brainstorming over the fate of a character, the twist of the plot, the purpose of that sentence, that paragraph, that amazing symbol the writer hadn’t even known they wrote (wow!) And, the collective gathering of news and machinations of Publishing, the ‘way to go’ and ‘chin up’ and ‘keep going’ support that I would never, ever have gotten to this point without.
In the words of my mentor Joshua Mohr: Be persistent. Be tenacious.
One step and then another, fall down and get up again, dust off the advice and laugh. Silly me, I chose this!