Friday, August 3, 2012

The Light at the End of the Tunnel Might Not Actually Be a Train

Wow! Where did the last month go? I am constantly shocked at how long I go between posts these days. It seems like I put my head into a story and when I look up my kids have grown a foot, the pantry is empty, and I've neglected the blog!

Today I have a story to tell you.

Once upon a time, I was at my first MFA residency. I was crazy-excited. I was high on everything. The people, the classes, the ocean, the workshops. I had in front of me two years to do nothing but read and write -  to read great books and write my novel, with the help and guidance from some brilliant authors.

One of the first nights I met a graduating student. As soon as I found out she was graduating, I got all teary. "Aren't you so sad?" I asked. I couldn't imagine why anyone would not be sobbing uncontrollably at the thought of leaving the program. This was my dream. Even at the start, I knew it could never be long enough.

Her answer: "No. I'm ready."

What???? How could that be? I would NEVER feel that way, I knew. Come my graduation, I would be the one sobbing and feeling as though with the end of the program came the end of the most perfect era of my life ever.

(Seriously. Have you seen my pictures of the wineries? The bonfires? The ocean-view workshop room? Have you read my updates on staying up all night drinking wine and diagramming sentences and discussing the Oxford comma and great literature? If that is not some sort of literary heaven I don't know what is.)

Fast forward to this semester. I now understand.

I realized today, trying to juggle my son's marching band schedule, two girls spewing craft supplies all over a house I was trying to clean for a guest tonight, sitting in a doctor's office hearing that something I worried about is indeed worth worrying about, getting my blood drawn, making appointments for radiology, stopping by one store to by snorkel gear for our trip to Florida and stopping by another to buy a birthday gift, making breakfast, then lunch, then dinner early for my son and the later for my daughters and even later for my husband, and eating my own dinner at nine o'clock on the way to pick up my son across town, all the while trying to figure out how to finish a story due the day after our planned vacation without me spending a week at the beach in my hotel room with a computer... I realized I wished I were a 50s housewife who could spend the day just cleaning and cooking and taking care of the kids.

When did it all become so stressful? I sometimes think life in the MFA must be no different than it was before. I read, I write. That's what I did before. How is this so different?

I know I wasn't this stressed before, though. If I needed to drop writing for a week to just be a mom, I could. Whatever I wanted to write, I could. Without the thought that I was writing something a very specific person with a very specific style would read, and critique. I wrote for myself, and now, to some degree, I am writing to please someone else.

That is the kicker. Trying to please someone else. Everything I write I end up viewing through my advisor's eyes, and then trashing it and starting over. Merging my voice with his advice... it's killing me.

There are people in this program who work full time outside the home. How they do this I have no idea. I'm in awe of them.

I love writing. I do. I love this program. I am so incredibly lucky that I get to do this.

But I am tired.

And every now and then I think, I'd like to be a full-time mom and wife again. Have a clean house, an organized schedule, cook good meals that take more than 10 minutes thought and 20 minutes throwing together. I'd like to give my full attention when someone is talking. I'd like to sit down and do crafts with my kids, teach my youngest how to knit, my oldest girl how to sew. Bake with them. Make bracelets with them. Play games with my son. Heck, I'd like to just keep them in underwear that fits. And maybe not make them go hunting for the clean ones in the dryer. A girl can dream, right?

Our family mantra right now is "In five months!" The kids are looking forward to that day. My husband is looking forward to that day. And honestly, sometimes, even I am looking forward to that day.

But before I get there... six more stories to write and rewrite and rewrite and revise and revise again, and then polish.

I'm sure there will still be sobbing, though. It is, after all, still me we're talking about.


  1. I hope you're okay (medically speaking). And yes, five months will come and go. We had that same mantra, but it was with moving. We moved a lot. Like every year or two. And this last one, we were in a house we hated, with water that stained everything and was not safe to drink, in a location we didn't care for, and causing my hubby to commute three hours a day for work. Yeah, we knew moving to our recently purchased home would help ease so many weights off our shoulders. And so we had a family count down. :) So I completely hear you. But man, that sounds like a super busy day you had!!

  2. Wishing you some time away from the computer in Florida ... 5 months will fly by, and that's sort of a double-edged sword, isn't it?

  3. It's sort of like that dream writers who have full-time jobs have - to quite the day job and write at home. I have a feeling that it isn't nearly as glamorous as we all make it out to be. In fact, having tried it once (granted, I was a new mother and had two stepsons to take care of), I can say that I barely got any writing done. Once I got a full-time job, my writing picked up. So I guess the old mantra of, "Be careful what you wish for" applies here.

    I hope everything is ok on the health front - will keep you in my prayers. :)