Friday, May 18, 2012

Before Oregon...

This is the mantra you hear around my house all the time now. With only four weeks until residency, it seems like everything hinges on this. "You need to go to the doctor and get that cough checked out before Oregon." "We need to set up the vacation plans before Oregon." "I need to finish all the touch-up painting on the trim before Oregon." "You need to hem my skirt before Oregon." "I need to revise two stories and a novel and write a new story before Oregon."

You'd think I was leaving for a year-long trip to some remote Survivor location.

I'm not. I'm just going back to school for ten days. But ten days is a lot to be away from home when you're the one who makes all the cogs in the wheel move smoothly, and it's an intense ten days that I can't afford to show up less than 100%.

If it's top in my family's head, it's overtaken mine. It's really all I think about. Which is sad, because this is a big time in my kids' lives. It's the end of school. They have award ceremonies and band concerts and choir concerts and piano recitals and parties and the pool opens. And it's not that I'm not at all those things and loving them all.

But in the back of my head, there is always school. There are advisors to consider, book lists to solidify, plane reservations to make, shuttles to book, clothes to buy and pack, There are silly things, like hair cuts and jewelry, and bigger things, like planning the thesis.

Oh thesis, how you vex me.

Okay, I admit, the thesis is taking up the majority of my brain power these days. Do I use my novel? Do I use the short stories I wrote this past semester? Do I mix the two? What is my strongest writing? Do I even have any strong writing anymore? To say I feel anxious and stressed doesn't even begin to come close. I've been praying a ton these last few weeks. For peace. For wisdom. For clear eyes. For more time to work, and more work to complete. But mostly for peace. And a closed mouth so that I do not drive those around me crazy with my anxiety.

I can't believe I am three quarters done with school, that there is only one semester left. Only one more advisor to get to know, love, glean brilliance from.

When I told my advisor how stressed I was about coming to the end, about feeling like this is the last chance to "get it right," to write something worthy of an MFA, to produce work I'd be proud to see leather bound in the Pacific University library with the other MFA alum, he said the smartest thing ever to me.

He said, "Heidi, the thesis is not the end product of your graduate work. The end product is whatever you go on to write for the rest of your writing life."

Now I just have to work on not stressing over the rest of my writing life.


  1. "Heidi, the thesis is not the end product of your graduate work. The end product is whatever you go on to write for the rest of your writing life."

    Wow! That's a great adviser.

    Good luck with it all. 10 days from home would feel like an eternity.

  2. You will do this! It has been a joy to be on this journey with you!

  3. I'm stressed just reading this post! All I can advise at this point is to breathe. Take a moment just to relax, look around you, listen to the birds, and absorb the moment.

    And your advisor is quite right: this is just a step in your writing path.

  4. You can do this ... and yes, those are wise words from your advisor.

  5. You are really almost done? That much time has passed? I don't envy you your thesis, but well...I might envy you your MFA. What are your plans for when you are done? Some short story writing, or are you going to jump back into novels?

  6. I love that you pray for a closed mouth so that you don't drive anyone crazy. I'm pretty sure my kids would love for me to pray for that.

    I can't believe your almost done, it feels like you just started. What a great accomplishment, but I can kind of understand what you're feeling. Enjoy your last semester