Day 7

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried keeping a blog or writing as a habit. Its not that I don’t write, I just write sporadically. I’ve kept a journal since I was about eight years old. In the last decade, I write in a journal on two different occasions… on planes, and when I’m super super stressed out about something and can’t sleep. Now, because I have traveled every 4-6 weeks for the last decade or so, I have plenty of entries. It’s a mechanism to deal with anxiety I might feel about flying and it’s also a way to reflect on what’s going on in my life at that time. Separately, I’ve taken numerous writing classes – memoir, screenplay, dramatic writing. I’ve done the Artist’s Way, taken workshops in writing + yoga, and free writing flings. In the moment, when I am working on my writing, I feel challenged and if I’m lucky, inspired. Sometimes, I even write good shit. The problem, of course, is consistency. I have spent most of my life believing that I am not a writer because hello, writers write. Every day. All the time. It’s the work they can’t not do, as Scott Dinsmore says. Or said. Isn’t that right? Isn’t that what defines a writer?

For me, though, I sometimes hate it. Yes yes, the blank page, the fear, the doubt. Moreover, though, am I wasting my time? Shouldn’t I know already? Shouldn’t I feel a deep compulsion, every day, to tell my stories? I think I used to. I have suppressed those feelings for the last 20 years. When I was young, I dreamed of telling stories through film and books, not being able to dream yet of an internet connecting me to the world. I had an active imagination, I had fun with my stories, and I moved to California believing without a doubt that I would make it in Hollywood. Boy, was I dumb. And thank god because if I hadn’t taken the leap, I wouldn’t have had such a wonderful, adventurous life. More fodder for the page, I guess.

Maybe I am more afraid that this isn’t the work I can’t not do (note: as a grammar nerd, this sentence tortures me.) But it’s the work I can do now. I’m in a position in my life where I finally have the time to find out. I am not trying to figure out how to avoid a late notice from the electric company. I’m not worrying about bouncing checks to my ex for rent and wondering how much interest he’ll charge me. I have stability despite the fact that I’m not working, because my supportive, generous husband wants me to take this time to figure out what’s next for me. And I do, too. Which is terrifying, of course, but also liberating – and I still need to find a way to see that I deserve it. That I don’t need to be suffering. And that just because I am white and educated and privileged, doesn’t mean I can’t also complain from time to time. I know who I am inside and what I believe, I know my level of compassion. Maybe the problem is that the work I can’t not do is work I actually can’t do. Humanitarian work? Diplomatic work? Or is it writing screenplays and memoirs about my life which I think is extraordinary but honestly it’s not. And isn’t that the point? That my stories will resonate, that despite our obvious differences, we are fundamentally the same?

So, today is day 7 of the writing challenge. I’m not ready to find out how to monetize my blog or get 100,000 followers by this time next year. I’m not ready to say this is the work I can’t not do. I feel that this work, this expression, much like my journaling, actually just allows me to get the spinning mind down on paper and frees it up for what’s next. I have to remind myself, every morning, that today is a new day, a new opportunity. I only need to see the 10 feet in front of me, I don’t need to know where the road ends.

Just the two of us.

Last night I had a dream that my boy surprised me with a visit. Technically, he stole my credit card to come visit his pseudo-girlfriend and happened to bump into me on the street but its my dream and I can interpret it however I wish. In the dream, though, I remember feeling so elated. I wanted to show him everything. There was a humpback whale in the Hudson, there were horses running wild, there was a huge kitchen with a wood fired oven and plenty of space for cooking, there were trees and fresh air and also beautiful little homes and all the people we loved, looking for adventure. And then I woke up at 6:30am because my husband is not here next to me. He’s traveling for work and whenever he’s gone, I wake up early, even though I hate that he wakes up early every day.  I’m sure there’s a psychological term for this. Anyhow, what I loved most about the dream is that while it was outlandish, it was also exciting and hopeful. Or maybe it was sad. Maybe it was about me letting go of my 17-year-old and recognizing that I have shown him what I can, that his motivations are his own. Maybe that’s not a sadness but a resignation on my part. Maybe the outlandish nature was really for me, to see that I have more life ahead of me that can be wonderful, even without him.

I spend a good deal of each day fighting the guilty feeling of leaving my son. Not just four years ago when I moved to NYC for a job but 16 years ago when I left his father. At the time, I had nothing, no money, no support, no full-time job, and my father had just died. I remember watching Oprah in the afternoons when my boy napped. One day, she was talking about how you can’t change your life if you can’t change your mind. Change your mind, change your life. I don’t know what it was about that moment but I believed that if I stayed with my ex, my soul would wither away. I would die there. So, I left. We shared custody of our boy, but we were never married and I never filed for child support, despite the vast difference in our incomes. I was a pushover and my ex was a bully. Neither of those qualities are admirable but I don’t regret my decision. Except, every day, I feel the weight of missing my son. Of course all parents miss parts of their children’s lives… they go to school, go to friends’ houses, take piano lessons and play soccer games. But its different when you can’t kiss your child on the forehead every night before bed. When you can’t ask them about their dreams every morning. When you see a bruise or a cut on them and have to ask how it happened. When you make all sorts of excuses why its necessary to stop by their school during the day, just to see them for a minute. I don’t know if my ex has ever felt these things. Some people say that mothers feel differently, have different needs, but I’m not sure about that. I think the difference is a willingness to acknowledge the sadness, the missing out, and the choices we’ve made that create our circumstances.

Fortunately, technology has allowed us to stay close. I don’t know how people did it in decades past. My son and I text daily, FaceTime a couple times each week, and use the old phone, as well. Still, these conversations aren’t natural. They are sometimes forced as opposed to the organic flow of conversation when spending time in a room with someone. Technology isn’t nuanced, its very black and white. People can be misunderstood, especially when we can’t see a facial expression or reaction. If we hadn’t had 13 years before I left to create a solid foundation, I’d be more worried about our relationship. But despite everything, our distance, his teenage years, my worries and guilt, we are good. I like to pat myself on the back occasionally for how well he turned out. He’s communicative, emotional, and honest. And we are often acknowledging how grateful we are to have each other, to be perhaps non-traditional (most of his friends never talk to their parents about anything substantive,) and to have the right amount of parent-teen friction. I hope he will always know how much he is loved, that even when the world seems to be against him, I will always have his back. And that despite being a family of five now, somewhere in my heart and mind, it will always be just the two of us.