Turning, Turning To Come ‘Round Right

The day begins like pulling teeth; dreadful, obligatory, and wanting of pain killers. I coach myself through the steps, remembering: transformation never moves in a straight line. The body and spirit remember things, revisiting them with the turn of the same month or season. Two years ago February was a verifiable turning point in my life, marked by many points not the least of which was the decision to leave teaching in pursuit of writing. It also marked the loss of a loved one as I knew him, and the acceptance of my parents as mortal, adult humans who have flaws and pain just like the rest of us.

So by mid-morning I have had coffee and attempt to perk up, so to speak. It works long enough to get a few things done on my to-do list. But still, I find myself stopping in the middle of tasks to stare for long, forgotten moments into the distance. I must do this literally twenty or thirty times a day since this depression began. When my eyes go off like this, so does my spirit. I can feel myself wavering as if in lingo about where I best belong, what my best purpose is. Either that or I relive, unnecessarily, moments of the past.

By mid-afternoon my responses to my first MFA packet of the semester come back from my advisor. It is chalk-full of suggestions and recognition for the potential my stories have. The advise strikes a chord, however, and I get lost in a mental spiral of turmoil, questioning the validity of my book and my experiences, my tone and my approach.

A quote comes to me, by William Stafford: “I must be willing to fail. If I am to keep on writing, I cannot bother to insist on high standards. I must get into action and not let anything stop me, or even slow me much. By ‘standards’ I do not mean ‘correctness’–spelling, punctuation and so on. These details become mechanical for anyone who writes for a while. I am thinking about such matters as social significance, positive values, consistency, etc. I resolutely disregard these. Something better, greater, is happening! I am following a process that leads so wildly and originally into new territory that no judgment can at the moment be made about values, significance, and so on. I am making something new, something that has not been judged before. Later others–and maybe I myself–will make judgments. Now I am headlong to discover. Any distractions may harm the creating.”

A twinge of optimism and hope infiltrates my body, like a jolt of cold orange juice…And then the phone: It’s dad calling with good news! One of my recently published essays has been discussed on the radio station out of Johnson City, TN 89.5 WETS. This is groundbreaking! People have read my words and then talked about them over the airwaves! I do a small victory lap around the office. Words to matter. Life is heavy and hard and magical and poignant all at once and still, we wake up breathing and thinking and ready for the day. I can do this! I can, I can.

And so the day goes forth, up one hill then down the next. I haven’t spiraled like this in years and I’m hoping it will end soon. Either way it’s a lesson. Life goes on and despite our best deceits, it utterly unpredictable.

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