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Unbridled Happiness

Me and a friend posing with a fox statue. I am leaning forward, lauging, trying to make sure everyone is in the shot

Fun times on the 2nd Annual Bemidji Pub Crawl/Sculpture Walk.

The other night I started reading Lindy West’s Shrill.  I was looking for something new to read, and avoiding Roxane Gay’s Hunger, which I desperately want to read yet know I am not ready for it. Look, I think you either love Gay’s writing, or you don’t, and that is fine. For me, however, she guts me, lays me bare, and makes me deal with myself. All good stuff in the long run, all painful in the short run, right now I feel like I’m full up on dealing with myself and my stuff, thank you. West’s writing hit the spot, relatable, inadvertently insightful, and full of just the right amount of escape from my own life.  Oh crap, maybe I just described my other current read/re-read Harry Potter and the Sorcer’s Stone. I don’t think West would mind the mix-up.

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House and Home

View of a Welcome to North Carolina sign from the passenger seat of a car

Not the correct drive home, but at least a driving picture.

During the hour and a half drive back to the house, I tried not to think about how good it felt to be among friends in GSO, or the tension seeping back into my shoulders at the thought of returning.  Sitting at Ouiser’s awesome kitchen island eating my first hot, home cooked meal in longer than I dared to count, I laughed and I felt joy and comfort chatting with Mama Ouiser, her sisters and my friend. It was a glimpse into the life I expected to have upon my return to N.C. A life where I could invite friends to my home, cook for them, and where I could share my wonder at the new course my life is on. Later, I felt similarly as I sat at Starbucks chatting with Dr. Phoenix and Dr. Leaving Academia. There was a cloud in that conversation, however, we couldn’t seem to stop careening back to my housing problems.

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Eulogy for the Unknown

We never met. In fact, I’m fairly certain we didn’t even exchange emails, or tweets.  Anissa Mayhew was, however, one of the first people I followed on Twitter.

Though the medical bills from my own stroke prevented me from ever getting a t-shirt, I almost obsessively followed the Free Anissa campaign during her second, I believe, stroke.

Anissa’s eventual recovery, her continued writing, all inspired me during my own recovery and struggle to finish my dissertation.  The strength of her friends and family provided a window into what my friends and family went through on the other side of my stroke. In fact, I am fairly certain it was Ouiser who first encouraged me to read and follow Anissa.

In the last few years, as the DH’s medical emergencies, moving to Minnesota, the DH’s crisis, our divorce, and my move back to North Carolina kept me a little preoccupied, I would see the announcements of the latest from Slightly Bent Productions, but it would often get lost in my feed before I had a moment to click through. Still, when I saw @Cecliyk’s tweet, “Damn it, @AnissaMayhew! I’m going to fucking miss you. Hope you are enjoying high heels and bacon right now.” My heart dropped. I snooped around and learned that Anissa died today.

We never met, but the tears came quickly and easily, as if for an old friend I hadn’t seen for a while. She’ll never know it, but Anissa Mayhew made me feel less alone as I recovered from my stroke.  Knowing there was someone else out there recovering from a similar event, struggling to continue writing and maintain her voice, made me feel as if I could get through it all myself. Her absence is a great loss for her friends, family, and more of the world than they may realize. I wish them all peace.  Anissa will be missed.

 

 

Working Lives

Recently, I was asked to write a book review for a professional journal. Given that I knew I wanted to read the book, was confident I could write a good review, and have nothing else in the publication pipeline right now, I ignored the truly crazed status of my to-do list and agreed.

Yesterday, I stopped reading a chapter here and there, and committed to finishing the book. No, you won’t get my review here. What you will get is my personal reaction to this book. How are those things different?  Well, my review for the journal will put this book in conversation with all the other interesting recent books on writing center studies and comment on the professional need for the books, and all of that wonderfully boring outside of the profession kind of stuff. My personal reaction to the book — that is the stuff of this blog. Because in addition to all that wonderfully boring stuff I will write about, this book made me think about myself and my career.

Hell, my whole life is making me do that right now! This book just gave me an interesting frame in which to do that. The book is a case study of nine writing center directors with different backgrounds working in different institutions in positions with different types of contracts. There was hardly a chapter in the book that didn’t resonate with me in some way. The whole thing got me thinking about my own career trajectory, which is a little weird for me.

Yes, this is yet another thing that creates a dissonance for me between the class I grew up in and the class I’m slowly moving into. I wasn’t really raised to think in terms of career, you see. Since I was 16 I moved from one job to another: bagger at the grocery store, checker at the grocery store, front desk worker at the hotel, video section manager at the grocery store, night shift desk worker at a hotel, shift supervisor at Starbucks. All of these jobs were just that, things I could leave easily for something different or seemingly better.  Even when I started teaching the adjunct nature of what I did as a graduate student made teaching feel like a job, not really the career to which I aspired.

Things have changed though, and as I move through at least three of the different types of writing center positions described in this book, I have to acknowledge that I am on a career path.  See, I started out my work in writing centers like many of the directors in this study.  I’d been working on a Rhet/Comp Ph.D. and worked in the writing center, admittedly more than most, but it wasn’t where I saw myself building a career.  Writing centers weren’t even going to be a part of my dissertation until I took my first position directing one.

In many ways, I saw that position as a job, something to do while I finished my dissertation, and the nature of the position helped me to see it that way.  My first position as a writing center director was an academic staff position at a large, regional, RI institution.  I started out as a 10 month employee and my official title said nothing about the writing center. I was a Coordinator in the Undergraduate Tutorial Center. Yes, my primary focus was to direct and expand the writing support services, but my title didn’t reflect that at all.  I found this awkward, and more than a little embarrassing, at writing center conferences, where upon introduction I would make it a point to explain that I did the work of directing the writing center, without that title. I learned to do that work, on that job.

One of the things this book does, and which I will talk about very sagely and academically in my review, is to try to understand how  the different types of position a writing center director can shape the position, and even determine whether or not a person will stay in that position over time. Eventually, I needed to leave that job, and it was easy to do while still thinking of it as a job. I’d advanced as far as I could in that position, and at the time I missed teaching and faculty life. Consequently, I took a chance. I left a fairly stable academic staff job for a two-year contract that came with teaching and faculty status.  I had ample reason to believe this two-year contract would be a stepping stone to more permanent employment at the same institution, but that didn’t change the initial temporary status, or the employment insecurity that can bring. The gamble paid off though, sort of.

This fall I will begin a tenure-track faculty and writing center director position, at a new institution. According to general lore, this is the holy grail of writing center positions. I will have a tenure home in the English Department and a 2-2 course load because of my release time for directing the center. It is, however, back in North Carolina, which means that in the last two years I will have made two cross county moves. (Yes, you can bet you’ll be hearing more of this.) In this particular case the general lore is confirmed by the case studies in this book I am reading to review.  The directors who stayed in their positions for the length of the study, and up to one year after, were the directors who taught, and were on the tenure track. I chose not to stay in my first two positions because they did not offer me one or the other of these elements. What I have to wonder though, is how much of my decisions were based on the way academia socializes us to think that success is a tenure-track job?  Do people seek out and stay in tenure-track faculty / writing center director positions because those positions represent the best working conditions for writing center directors?

Certainly, the temporary nature of my two-year contract played into my decision to apply for other employment, and yes – probationary tenure-track employment received first consideration.  Seeking out those positions was primarily motivated by my desire to stay in one place for a while. I know I didn’t really consider whether or not splitting my time between teaching and faculty responsibilities and directing the writing center was necessarily the best way to direct a center. It wasn’t until I started thinking about my working conditions that I realized how often in the past two years I missed my academic staff job.

I know, right?!? When I first started, I wasn’t sure I would be able to hack it because I was so used to fall break, spring break, etc. It took me at least two years to adapt from an academic schedule to the M-F 8 – 5 staff world. I miss that structure though.  I miss being able to plan my time off / vacations when they make the most sense for me, not when the academic calendar says. As a staff person, when I decided to take time off during spring break, or fall break, I could actually take that time off. I didn’t have to spend it catching up on grading or planning for my courses. Yes, while I was in that position, I missed the teaching I get to do now.  Thinking about the last couple of years though, what I wanted to accomplish and what I was realistically able to get done, I am not entirely convinced that balancing assistant professorship with writing center directing creates the best working conditions.

Like the authors, I don’t have the answers for what is the best. I am not even sure we can define one particular set of conditions perfect for directing a writing center.  There are too many factors, to many variables, and ultimately it is a matter of personal preference. What I do know, is that as I move into this new position, my biggest challenge is going to remain balancing the competing demands for my time and attention.

 

 

 

Fresh Sheets

A life time ago, I took a quarter of Russian while at community college.  I may not remember much beyond the first seven letters of the alphabet, and a few random words, but I did enjoy that quarter.

One of the best parts of learning a new alphabet was learning the names and sounds of new letters and accent marks.  I may not have any idea of how or when to use it, but I still walk around saying Мягкий Знак, which is a “soft” mark, to myself just because it is fun sounding.

A different Russian letter has been on my mind lately, the Щ. According to my old text book, this letter sounds like a double “shsh,” as in fresh sheets. It was some Saturday in early November, as I put my freshly washed sheets back on my bed, that this Russian letter came back to my mind. You see, in that moment, I realized I’d been doing something slightly odd, for me anyway, since September.

For at least two months, I’d been pulling these particular sheets off my bed, washing them, and putting them back on the bed in the same day. Not earth shaking behavior, but different from my typical routine of pulling sheets off the bed, putting new ones on, and then eventually washing the old ones. I like a newly made bed, and I especially like variety. Though not everyone will see them, a new set of sheets on the bed helps me feel like I’ve redecorated just a bit; so I often change my sheets, mix up sets with patterns and coordinating solids, because it makes a room feel a little new to me. Keeping the same set of sheets on the bed for over two months, even through washings, not my usual behavior.

As you can imagine, these sheets were special. It’s not their fabric or thread count, these sheets are special because they came unexpectedly. As August ended and September began, and everything in my life changed in a week, Dr. Lawyer-Author (or Dr. LA as we’ll call her) was a lifeline for me. I’d call with legal questions, end up a blubbering mess, and she would put me back together and help me find the answers I needed, and in the midst of everything, she sent me a care package. Ouiser’d sent me all the music I could need for this transition, and a lifetime membership to the Total Badass Club. My name may have changed, but it’s still valid. Dr. LA, sent me a care package of things I would definitely need, like a journal and wonderful yarn I was only allowed to use for myself, and this set of sheets.  The sheets simply said, “New sheets for a fresh start.”

I chuckled a little to myself, “Only Dr. LA would put sheets in a care package.”  But, I washed them put them on my bed, and a couple of months later finally understood. The rest of this house, even as I slowly deep clean, pack away, and rearrange things, remains something cobbled together by the DH and I.  The Cuba travel poster that hangs in the kitchen, we picked together.   The coffee and end tables in the living room, he picked out. Certainly, I’ve started adding my own touches … the cork boards of postcards hanging next to the Cuba poster, the new shower curtain I adore, but for a long time those sheets were the first; the first things of my own on this new journey.

They also represent the most important element of this transition, my friends. Through out this black hole of a year, it has been my friends, specifically my girl friends, who have seen me through. Dr. LA, Ouiser, Dr. Phoenix, new friends yet to be named, and old friends who popped back into my life, they gave me the strength, the resources, and courage to do what had to be done, and picked me up afterward. There is no way to thank any of them enough for all they have done for me.

A family visit meant switching out the sheets to a whole new set, but I think today, as I prepare for a, hopefully, fresh start in 2017, I will put my favorite set of fresh sheets back on my bed. Maybe, given the current political climate, I should work a little harder on re-learning Russian as well.

 

 

 

Preparations

Pembleton CrosettiIt feels like 2016 has been a year of goodbyes and endings: David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, the Obama presidency, etc. Writing a eulogy for the year would seem appropriate. Frankly though, I do not have the heart or stomach for the retrospective. My heart and mind are thoroughly engaged in considering the year ahead.

As I have posted before, each year I choose a word or theme to guide me, 2016’s word was Stewardship. Many times this year it felt like a poorly chosen word, but in the end I think I can see it in my life. While I thought I would use this year to be a good steward of my finances, health, and relationships, the year drug me kicking and screaming into being a steward of myself. It taught me to sit with my emotions, name them, and truly feel them. It forced me to have the courage to listen to my gut, and sometimes the best stewardship is to let something go.

This morning I sat down to brainstorm my theme and word for 2017. You can see my brainstorming starts at a particular place, independence.img_1396 The word isn’t just a goal I have or a place I want to be. Independence is my state of being.  It is where I “Stewarded” myself in 2016.

As I mentioned before, much of what happened this year is, and is not, my story to tell. The consequence of those events though, that is definitely mine to tell, painfully mine to tell. In 2016, I divorced the DH. As with the whole of our marriage, it was fated – full of signs and wonders, quick, and complicated. I’m pretty sure that describes all marriages, but the DH and I have always prided ourselves on our story. The story of our marriage ended this year. The story of my independence began.

This year, 2017, this will be my year of discovery.  Discovering who I am, where I want to go, and who I will be. More than vulnerability, more than visibility, more than any of the other words I’ve chosen to guide me over the years, discovery challenges me and frightens me.  There is no way to know what lies on the other side of discovery, no way to prepare for it, and that is a vulnerable place for me to be.

I won’t make any promises about how often I will post, or what the content of those posts will be. What I will say is this: Discovery requires exploration, and exploration requires documentation, so maybe there is hope for rejuvenating this space after all.

 

 

Home – pt. eleventy thousand and something

“I wonder if it will be –can be– any more beautiful than this, ” murmured Anne, looking around her with the loving enraptured eyes of those to whom “home” must always be the loveliest spot in the world, no matter what fairer lands may lie under alien stars.  ~LM Montgomery Anne of the Island

After a new friend tweeted about her Anne of Green Gables book club, I promptly bullied my way in … begged and pleaded might be more like it.  Turns out I am joining the group for their discussion of the third book Anne of the Island. In this book Anne goes off to college to earn her B.A., and the themes of home and place figure prominently throughout.  Given everything going on in my brain and life right now, me stumbling into this book club counts as inordinately perfect timing.

Yeah, I know who could think I’d have anything more to say about home and place, but are you really surprised? C’mon, we’re rapidly coming up to the one year anniversary of my latest cross-country move. The year’s been eventful, and a girl needs to do some processing.
**Note, I know I’ve been all sorts of vague about events this year.  The thing is events are still unfolding, and much of what is happening isn’t necessarily mine to tell.

This post starts with a quotation about how some people have a home, a place to them that is always the loveliest spot in the world.  I’ve written before about how much I envy people who have this clear connection and relationship to a place they call home.  It is not something I typically carry with me.  The most difficult question I typically get from people is “Where are you from?”

You’d think that question would have gotten a little easier this year.  Yet, each time someone asked me I struggled.  I was born here, but I moved when I was young, then I came back for undergrad, but I moved to go to grad school and was there for thirteen years, and now I’m back.  Yeah, no one has time for all that. When I admit I have all these ties and connections to Minnesota, people just assume that I have moved home, that I have come back to that one place, the place I’m tied to.Lakeview I mean, who wouldn’t want to come back here, right?

In some ways, I think they are right.  All year, I’ve felt grounded in a way that I don’t typically.  It’s not family, because I haven’t see that much more of them than I might have otherwise. It’s not the town, because I truly have never lived here before.  There is, though, a familiarity here. My transition to this region, this town, this university it has been smooth.  Smoother than many people could expect I’m sure.  As my last post highlighted, I’ve made friends here. I’ve created a home for myself. For the most part, I even enjoy my work here.

Recently, I’ve had to do a lot of driving down to Minneapolis. When I am there, I miss Bemidji.  I miss my house. It’s quiet, the deck, the yard.  I miss the ease of getting around town, and the view of the lake I get every time I go anywhere.  On the drive home there is also always this distinct moment when I feel like I have put the bulk of the journey behind me and crossed into home territory.  For whatever reason, that moment comes when I crest the hill and drive down into Walker, MN. It’s like at that point my body says.  “Yes, here we are in Northern Minnesota.” But, is this my home? I am still not sure.

Going to see my family in May heightened the tension for me. For the first time, I went back to the Harbor and felt likeGHC view I didn’t want to leave. I could imagine myself back there.  Yes, it was primarily the people.  Being closer to my immediate family and old friends would be nice just now, but it was as always, the landscape too.  There is something about the mix of mountains and ocean that is unique.  Even on the Harbor where you are in between, without a direct view of either, the land envelops you.  Often the only way I can describe it is feeling embraced.  Since then, I’ve often daydreamed about what it would be like to move “home.” Even in my daydreams though, I’m not truly convinced the Harbor is my home.

As momentous as this past year has been, the upcoming academic year will be just as eventful.  This is the final year of my two year contract and the university and I both have some decisions to make. Right now, I feel a lot like Anne when asked about life after college.

“And after those four years –what?”
” Oh, there’s another bend in the road at their end,” answered Anne lightly, “I’ve no idea what may be around it — I don’t want to have.  It’s nicer not to know.” ~LM Montgomery Anne of the Island

This morning on the deck, as I started to re-read Anne of the Island, all of this kept swimming around my head.  Where is my home?  What is next? As I thought about all the places I’d been: where I might want to return, where I definitely would not, and what new places I’d like to try, I realized something.

Minnesota has always been a sort of chrysalis for me. A place where I spend time, where I am tested, grow and develop, but it is also a place I move out from. Certainly the choice to leave here as a child was not mine, but the coming back here for college, leaving for graduate school, and coming back here now, those are mine. No, this is not my declaration that I will leave here. It makes sense to me though, that in this time of change, in the midst of a year that feels like a crucible (sorry for the mixed metaphor), I feel both rooted here and restless.  The trick in the next year will be to figure out how this year has changed me and how long I need/want to stay here.

The Fullness of Friendship

It’s been nearly a full year now, and, yes, there are still boxes in the attic that need to be unpacked. Did I mention this year’s been a little rough? Sorting through old papers, deciding what to keep, and where to put everything hasn’t been high on my list.  Also, it is all in the attic.  As lovely as that room is right now, it was not fun in winter, so I just didn’t go up there.

Today, I started that project.  I need about three more bookselves, but I should be able get some order established up there.  Right now, though, it’s an even bigger mess than it was – in that, worse before it gets better, phase. The former class evaluations, course syllabi, and conference programs got boring, so I let myself get lost in some boxes of stuff.

Not only did I find the sappy stuff from our dating months, I found a shoe box full of cards and letters from before I got married. It was fun to look through those old postcards and letters. To see the nice good luck cards, from the places I worked before going back to school, moving from Mankato, or moving into teaching in Greensboro.  Apparently, I had a quite extensive correspondence with my old dorm RA.  Not the floor person, but the girl who was in charge of our whole wing.  We’d not spent a lot of time together on campus, at least not that I remember, but we maintained a good long relationship through writing. At least, I hope I was as good a correspondent as she was!

As I mentioned it’s been a rough year, and I don’t expect that to change any time soon. The highlight of this year, however, has been maintaining and creating friendships.  My postcard exchange with Ouiser has been epic. The phone calls, random presents, Michonne, chats and all the other ways friends stayed in touch helped me through my truly big move in thirteen years.  Playing trivia, weekly lunchesStudent Acheivement Day, twitter conversations, and all the other ways I’ve managed to make new friends here helped me through my first real winter in just as long.

Reading through my box of long lost post cards, letters, and theatre memorabilia, it was comforting to be reminded of how blessed I have been to make good friends in all my travels. There was at least one letter, postcard, or note from a friend during each major change in my life. Though I’m not in contact with everyone I found in my box of treasures, I’m proud of how many of those people I remain acquainted with, and especially proud of how many of those people are still important parts of my life.

I even brought a few of my old postcards down to include on my new postcard board. PostcardsThough Ouiser still dominates this board, I’m happy to include some of my old jems from the Advice Monkey as well. Whatever the rest of this year brings me, I am glad to have had this moment to remember that whatever else, my life has been rich in friendship.

 

 

 

This still matters

Periodically Ouiser sends me articles from Greensboro about things she know will interest me.  One of the stories I’m nearly always happy to get an update about is update about Deborah Moy. Nearly always. I was not happy to hear that the man accused of her attack was release. Also, the updates written by Brian Clarey tend to get mixed reviews from me.

In 2009, shortly after the September 2008 attack, I wrote a piece for Shakesville, posted under the title “This Stuff Matters” about the media coverage of this case, and specifically Clarey’s treatment of it. You can find details of the case there. Yes, having a piece at Shakesville, feels as good as being a PhD now, instead of a PhD in Training as I called myself. Even if re-reading it today makes me want to edit it one more time.

Clarey’s updates receive mixed reviews from me, because on the one hand, as Ousier points out, he is the only one who still covers the story. At the same time the lens and tone of his coverage is always off. Like Clarey, I was drawn to this case, and am still haunted by it, because of a personal connection.  The DH had worked with Moy, and remained friends/acquaintances with her.  His profound dismay when he called to tell me about the incident, coupled with my own horror as I heard about it etched this story into me. Little did the DH and I know, when we heard of the mid-September attack on Moy, that I was also just three weeks away from our own life changing event.

As I’ve written about before, on October 4, 2008 I had a stroke.  I spent the next three weeks in the hospital recovering. One of the effects of the stroke was that it took me a very long time to begin to accurately remember the days and weeks leading up to the event.  I could remember my 35th birthday on September 2nd, mostly because I was sick with the flu/cold I unconsciously associate with the beginning of my stroke time. I could also remember the doctor’s visits when I complained about the pain in my neck, which I assumed was from coughing and working at the computer. Yep, I was wrong about that! The attack on Moy was one of the few, not health related, things I remember from that month, and I remembered it fairly quickly. There are really no facile comparisons to make between our recoveries, and I would insult her determination and fortitude trying to make one. Linked by one degree of separation and some traumatic associations, Deborah Moy and her story were simply never far from my mind.

At first, my outrage and anger at the way her story was represented (read the Shakesville article then dial up the outrage by about 1000) kept me seeking out stories and updates. Hoping beyond hope to find a story that acknowledged the horror of her attack and humanized her, I searched.  These days, as happy as I am to find Clarey’s periodic updates, I’m still searching for an article that treats Deborah Moy as a human; one that doesn’t fall into sad gender traps, valorize the author’s story over her own, or verge on the cusp of inspiration porn.

This morning, when I received the article link from Ouiser, I started reading without looking at the by line. By the time I got to the following paragraphs, I scrolled back up to confirm that it was Clarey’s byline.

I didn’t really know Deb back then except as another face at the bar, but I identified with her as a member of my tribe: the floundering artists, service-industry lifers, lifestyle drinkers and other assorted stripes of the creative underclass. And it pissed me off that no one was doing anything about it. So of course, I did.

All I had to go on were several disconnected threads, snippets gleaned over nights at the bar and in after-hours apartments.

I had to stop. As I pointed out in detail in my piece for Shakesville, the problem with Clarey’s early reporting was precisely that he did not present Moy as “a part of [his] tribe.” The problem continues in this new piece. The piece verges on inspiration porn praising Moy’s spirit, perseverance, and determination, while valorizing her character and never really letting us get to know her.

You know what, if that is the story she wants told I’d be all for it, because it is inspirational to me. Clarey, however, never lets us forget that this story is really all about him, “… no one was doing anything about it. So of course, I did.”  Later in the article, after discussing the police failure to solve the case, “I never thought I would solve this crime — and I have never come close — but even now, in preparing to write this story, I start picking at threads. Chasing ghosts.” Intentionally or not, in his updates Clarey re-writes the story to be one of his own heroic reporting.  He follows the story no one else will; he maintains his connection. Moy becomes a part of his tribe, but only in her perseverance, which is also his own.

Look I get this, to a certain extent,  is “Bart’s People” reporting, and that Clarey is following the tropes of the genre, which including inserting himself into the story. I’ve done a similar thing here explaining why I continue to follow this case.  To me, however, this story has always been more.  It’s a reflection of how we treat victims, and especially women, when telling their stories. I don’t want the tropes, the party girl, the girl who loves her dog and drinks her milk, the survivor who overcame.  I want Deborah’s story told with respect for her as a human being.  The one that is hard to tell because it is all those things and more. Clarey tries, but never quite gets there.

 

Daily Practices

As someone who routinely exhorts others to try daily writing, and who knows from experience how helpful it can be, lately I’ve been woefully bad at following my own advice. Since finishing my dissertation, I have periodically tried to get back into daily writing practice.  Participating in a writing retreat, joining a writing accountability group, making spreadsheets to track my progress, pursuing different types of writing, I have tried everything.

Out of all that effort, I have an article that still needs about 5 – 10 hours of revision before sending it out, the sporadic blog posts you see, the first few scenes of two novels, and the first drafts of two poems.  Starting things seems to be the easy part for me, the continued effort – or actually finishing – that is not my strong suit. Are there external factors in some of this, definitely: last year within the span of three months I took a new job, packed up the house, and moved to a new region of the country; now after spending the last four months adapting / learning my new job, I am being pressured to start taking on more and more; and, well, there are other significant challenges not for blog consumption. The result, I am fairly certain that anyone who looked at this list, or listened to me talk about things for a while, would tell me my inability to get back into daily writing practice is to be expected, and that I need to cut myself some slack here. In fact, I’m fairly certain I have heard those exact words from nearly all my close friends.

Surely within the archives of this site there is one, if not six, versions of this post, so what is different this time?  This time, I am accepting it. Instead of supplying a lot of “yeah, but…” excuses and responses, and continuing to beat myself up about not writing while forcing myself to try to fight through it, I am taking the braver (for me) route of practicing a little self-care, of letting go of the pressure to always write. This morning I realized that I am able to take this position, to be a little kinder to myself, because what I have been unconsciously developing is a daily reading habit.

Lukes mug

Coffee is the only daily practice I can typically maintain.

For a girl who’s been reading voraciously as long as she can remember, it might seem strange that I am just now developing a daily reading habit, but I am. I have always read voraciously, but I have also always been a binge reader. I love to read in one, or two if necessary, long sessions where I can truly immerse myself in whatever world I am exploring. Though they were often spread out over a longer period of time, even my audio book listens counted as small binges, given the length of my commutes.  Now that I no longer have that commute, my book listening has slowed considerably.  I put my Audible account on hold in December, and have seriously considered cancelling it because I am just not listening as often as before.

This year, though, this year.

I know we are only a month in, but this year has already kicked my ass and taken my name. I’ve been in full on crisis mode for about three weeks already; and since that is not ending any time soon, I’ve done what I always do to cope … turned to books.  I have just had to learn a new way to do that because there is no time for long escapes into other worlds, or even just good advice. Every day for the last week or so, I’ve programmed my coffee pot, set my alarm, and gone to bed early.  I have done all those things, so that when the coffee starts brewing, my white noise app shuts off, and the alarm starts to play “Rise Up,” I can snooze for 15 minutes, then get up, fix myself a cup of coffee, get back in bed and read for 30 – 45 minutes. It’s not working miracles, but I do think it’s contributing to my ability to manage my current situation. In fact, though it has always been very good, Monday at the Dr.’s office my blood pressure was the lowest it has ever been.

Also this morning, despite everything I’m reading, or perhaps because of it, when I found myself in the middle of some bad self-talk and mounting shame about how I should be using this time to write. I was able to stop those thoughts, and realize that for now a daily reading habit is enough.