Change is Inevitable, I Guess

img_3909Four months ago I went on a writing retreat at a cabin a few hours from my house. It was early August, the weather was hot and humid, there were thunderstorms. Hydrangeas bloomed outside the window and it stayed light way past my bedtime.

Today I’m wrapped in a blanket, sitting underneath a pile of more blankets, and the hydrangeas are dried on my mantle. Snow is piled on the rooftops and it will be dark soon, even though it’s only mid afternoon.

This is not news. The seasons change, life changes. Nothing is surprising about this. Even my blog has changed. (Did you notice? Long story short – I was out of my depth on my old platform technology-wise and so I switched to the convenience and ease of the WordPress.com format. I like it here. It’s pretty.)

There are other changes to note. My age changed (hello, fabulous 40!). My health changed a bit. I had a non-routine mammogram  & ultrasound that were initially worrying, but everything was okay. Still that, plus my creaky knees, makes me aware of how my body is always changing (the extra 10 pounds I packed on this fall has certainly contributed to this awareness).

My writing life changed, too. I have several projects in mind and I want to do all of them now, which means I get paralyzed and I haven’t done any of them. I almost gave up on the blog a few months ago, not convinced I had much more to say, and wondering if freeing up the blog would free up more time to work on other projects. (Results are uncertain since I was still too paralyzed to  write anything of note.)

And then there was the election and the world changed again, tilting on its privileged, white, entitled, anti-intellectual, racist, bigoted, sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, Islamophobic axis.

Since then (and sometimes in one day alone), I’ve spiraled, I’ve cried, I’ve rallied, I’ve withdrawn, I’ve grieved and succumbed to fear. Above all, I’ve wondered what world I live in. And what world will my kids inherit?

In this ever-changing world, I return to writing. As I write, I catalog and document what I see. I organize my tumbling thoughts and I communicate those thoughts to the world. I expect I’ll be blogging more frequently. As a librarian and writer, it is my responsibility to call out attacks on freedom of speech and to decry fake news (and to help educate people on how to spot and combat fake news). As a member of a diverse family, it is my responsibility to stand up against injustices and to work for the wellbeing of all people. As a citizen, it is my responsibility to hold my government accountable and to work for a just world.

See you again soon.

C is for Cemeteries

Okay, so maybe this letter is a bit obvious, since my theme for the month of April is cemeteries. So consider this a meta post.

Why cemeteries? When I was a kid, I didn’t like visiting cemeteries. I was keenly aware of what lay beneath my feet. I used to walk wide swaths around graves so as not to step on them. Cemeteries made me uncomfortable. I didn’t want to confront the truth that my loved ones would die someday. Or that I would.

I avoided cemeteries until the summer of 2013, when I drove past one on a misty July morning and got an idea for a new novel. (More on that in an upcoming post.) Then I started visiting cemeteries to get a sense of setting. What they gave me in return was time and space to reflect on mortality, on my discomfort with death, on what I wanted to do and explore before my life was done.

I haven’t made peace with death, by the way. I want to get to that place, where I can accept the fact that my life will end, and to do so with peace. Perhaps it involves some letting go. And some more time in cemeteries, listening to the lessons of those who have gone before.

I took one of my sons with me on a cemetery walk. At four, he had a rudimentary sense of death. He grasped somehow that the dead were buried beneath our feet. I watched as he stepped carefully around each plot, just as I had done so many years ago. I wondered what he made of it. As I was strapping him into his carseat later, he gave me his gift of wisdom: “The dead are beneath us, holding us up.” He may have meant it literally – and it is true in a literal sense – but there is wisdom there. I hope I can live into it.

Lost Dreams and To Do Lists

I recently spent a lot of time by myself in the car, driving to a writing conference. This means I spent a lot of time in my head. And I was reminded that there is a lot of scary stuff in my head. I was reacquainted with my obsessive thoughts about work, especially related to circumstances I really can’t control. I encountered many of my of my deep fears: Do I suck as a writer? Am I terrible at my day job? Does anyone even like me? Will I end my days sad and alone?

And that was all in the first thirty miles outside of town.

The truly scary stuff came later, namely this question: Do I still have dreams, even, or just a to do list?

Since I became a parent, I certainly feel like life is a checklist. I’m responsible for myself and two small people, not to mention tending a marriage, working at my day job and taking care of a house. I am not doing this alone – I have an amazing spouse who splits the “second shift” with me. But I still feel like I’m mediocre at everything at best. (I’m not alone – the New York Times reports findings from a Pew study that many families feel like this.)

This post isn’t about my obligations, which are more than some but much, much less than many. It’s about whether or not I still have time time and space to create and discern dreams. Writing is my dream – so in so many ways, I’m pursuing that dream. But it doesn’t have the lightness or joy that I expected. And I’m not sure I have other dreams on the horizon, but that’s mainly because I never feel like I have the time to ponder those dreams.

Which leads me back to the to do list. I certainly don’t make that time for myself. I have a to do list at work and at home. It’s supposed to go like this: Once I finish the to do list, I will have time to write. (Can you see where this is going?) Yep, since the to do list is never done, this means I never have time to write. Because I never make the time. I prioritize everything else over writing time.

It’s funny to write that now, since I’m still at the writing conference. I’m not at work. I’m not bathing the kids and putting them to bed. But it was also because I prioritized going on this trip that I came to realizations that had eluded me for months.

For the past few months I thought I’d lost my creativity. The answer is much more banal and (fortunately) easy to fix. I have dreams but I never prioritized them. Time for a new to do list, perhaps, one that actually reflects my priorities.