The key to developing a successful writing career is developing the habit of sitting down to write every day even when you don’t feel like it. I have been trying to do that. Some days, my brain feels like wood and I can’t seem to make myself do it. Some days, I have a long day of teaching and I can’t seem to find the time. Every week, though, no matter how I did on my goals the previous week, I vow to begin anew. Last week, I wanted to write four blog posts but only did two. Instead of focusing on what I didn’t do, I need to start focusing on what I did do. I sat down and wrote two blog posts. I also finished my character profiles for my latest novel. Maybe, I didn’t accomplish everything I set out to do, but I did accomplish those things. This is the third Monday in a row that I have written my Coffee Klatch post.
This week, I will continue to squeeze out time to write. I will sit down to write even when I don’t feel like it. I will remember that every day is a new beginning and each day I will begin again.
At 52 years old, I think a lot about the past. Things that I could have done differently. What if I had pursued psychology instead of teaching? What if I had focused on my writing instead of putting it off?
When I find myself starting to regret the past that is gone, I stop myself and focus on today. The choices I have made for myself have shaped who I am today and the life I have. While I am not always happy with how things are, I have a lot of things in my life for which I am grateful.
Watching my son grow up reminds me of all the possibilities that still await me. In his eyes, all things are new. When I experience things through his perspective, I remember that I still have something to offer the world and the world still holds promise for me.
I have a job teaching community college that I love. When I catch myself dwelling on losing my job teaching middle school or not being able to find another one, I remember that I am valued at the college where I teach. After leaving for a semester, they welcomed me back with open arms. That’s much more than any of the public schools I worked for ever did.
My husband and I don’t always see eye to eye. When I am frustrated with him, I remind myself that he has been my partner for over half my life. We are very different people, but we meet our challenges together.
Sometimes, I beat myself up for not writing. I don’t always blog or work on my novel, but writing is always a part of my life. When I have a problem, I always write about it. It has been the one constant in my life. I have been writing since the third grade. Even if I never get published, I will always be a writer.
Regret can sap my energy and my hope. It’s like a sweet poison. It is so easy to slip into the past and rewrite my life, but when I slip away, I miss the blessings that are right in front of me.
I often have a clear sense of where I want to go, but I don’t know how to get there. My destination is clear, but I only have a vague set of directions. Take my novel. My beginning is clear. I know where I want to start. And I know where I want it to end. It’s the middle that confuses me. It remains blurry and indistinct.
My life seems to echo my novel. How do I get from here to there? How do I meet all these goals I have set for myself?
To find my way through the maze of my novel, I have been creating a blueprint, a map, that I can follow to get to the end. But I can’t seem to map out the rest of my life.
I just finished reading Life after Life, by Kate Atkinson. In the novel, the main character, Ursula, dies and repeats the same life over again. In one life, she lives only one second as she is strangled by her umbilical cord. In the next life, she is saved by the timely arrival of the doctor who was absent during her first birth. In each lifetime, she lives a little longer. Each time she returns, she brings back impressions from her previous lives that allow her to avoid the deaths she has experienced in her previous lives.
This novel made me think. What would I do if I repeated my life? If a genie appeared before me right now and offered me the chance to relive my life, would I take it? I know there are mistakes I have made and things I have done that I would like to change or erase, but would changing these things alter my fundamental sense of self? What would I change? Would changing one thing change the course of my life? What if I never met my husband or never had my son? The risk of not having them in my life would be too great to contemplate.
Of course, my life is as it stands. No genie is going to appear, so my mistakes are safe from correction. Everything I have done in my life, good or bad, has led me to this time or place. Every mistake has offered me an opportunity to learn and to grow as a person. Each one, no matter how mortifying, has made me who I am.
One thing I am trying to remember in my 52nd year is that fretting about everything won’t make anything better. Last year, I spent endless days worrying about my job which I ended up losing anyway. All those tears and the sadness that darkened my days didn’t change things and ruined my time when I wasn’t at work.
I am trying to learn to be a “glass is half full” kind of person, rather than looking at everything that is wrong all the time. Maybe, I can’t find a teaching job, but, on the bright side, I don’t have to deal with bratty kids or kids who don’t want to learn. I don’t have to go to work every day and face disrespect.
Each day is mine to fill as I wish and I am trying to make the most of it-to fill my days with writing and to revel in finally being able to stay home with my son.
I hate the word, “triggered.” It seems that everyone, whether they have suffered trauma or not, has something that triggers them. As much as I hate the word, it is the only word I can use to describe my reaction to Feast: True Love in and out of the Kitchen by Hannah Howard. Feast is Howard’s memoir about her undergraduate years and her battle with body image and eating disorders. As she described her feelings of inadequacy and shame about her body, I couldn’t help but think about my own life-long struggles with these same issues.
My stomach churning, I went to bed and almost cried. I thought of all the decisions in my life. The times I thought I should have turned left, but instead turned right. Then, I heard my son, Hunter, laugh. He and my husband like to stay up late, so I was in bed before they were. Hearing him laugh shook me out of my misery. I realized that all my decisions have lead me to this place, with my son and my husband. My life isn’t perfect and my career didn’t turn out as I thought it would, but I can still be proud of everything I accomplished.
I wanted to quit reading Feast, but I made myself finish it. By the end of the memoir, Howard learned to deal with her issues and to become a powerful advocate. I felt, if she could do it, as young as she is, I could do it, too, with all the experiences of my 52 years behind me. That is what I am trying to do. Always moving forward, never backward, like a shark, carving through the water of my present and my future.
I have been reading this series by Lillianna Blake called Single Wide Female. In the series, the main character, Samantha, has a bucket list of things she promised herself she would do when she lost weight. After losing 80 pounds, she finally decides that she is tired of waiting to explore the items on her bucket list. She is still working on weight loss, but she is tired of putting her life on hold until she is thin enough to live it.
I found this series at the right moment in my life. Something just clicked for me in my 52nd year. I finally felt ready to lose the weight that has plagued me my adult life. I started exercising a couple of weeks ago. I ignored all the little nagging doubts (and the pain in my hip) and just started. I lost five pounds. It doesn’t seem like a lot but that is the first weight I have lost in over a year. Last week, I joined Weight Watchers for the umpteenth time. This time around, I was ready for the structure. I don’t view my diet as a limitation any more but as a stepping stone to a healthier life. I have now lost seven pounds.
Another dream I have always yearned for is to become a writer. Like my weight loss, I started slow. I started writing in my journal. I found a book that would help me tackle the idea I have been thinking about. I started to write more regularly, maybe not every day, but enough to keep the flow of my writing going.
While I don’t have a bucket list that compels me to skydive or walk across hot coals, I am feeling like I want to move out of my comfort zone. I want to see what is out there for me.
I have never thought of myself as a radiant person. I am more like a hide-my-light-under-a-bushel-basket person. As I grow older, however, I feel less inclined to hide behind the expectations of others. At 52, I want to be who I am with no apologies and no hiding. I am tired of apologizing for who I am.
This is the year I am going to make my life reflect who I am on my terms. My 52nd year will be the year that I make the changes I want to make. I have stopped the self-recriminations: why didn’t I do this at 32? or 42? The important thing is that I am doing it now. I am going to come out from under the bushel basket and be radiant.
When I was in high school, we had to take a class as part of our PE credit. It was called Outdoor Living. We spent most of the class inside. One thing our teacher tried to teach us was how to read maps and a compass. For the final, he gave us a homemade map and a compass. We had to use the map and the compass to find a particular spot on our high school campus. My friend and I wandered around for most of the class period completely lost. Even though we knew where we were as far as our campus, we could never quite figure out how where we were related to our destination. Our teacher finally had to come find us.
I feel the same way now. After finishing a stint at our local community college, I am again without a job. I find myself lost within the familiar confines of my life. Nothing feels the same. I can see where I am on the map, but I don’t know how to get where I am going. I am not even sure of my destination anymore. What is it that I want to do? How am I going to earn a living? Where is my compass?