Prairie Center: The Trade Off

It seemed so obvious once I realized it, but basically the thought is this: There are parts of my personality and patterns of behavior that I haven’t accessed for two and a half years. When you live nomadically, many experiences are heightened, and for good reason. But I never stay in one place long enough or become close enough to other people to bring out my most comfortable, fully realized self. (Interlochen and Fishtrap were the exceptions–I was at each place for six months.) On the tour, I think people see me as disciplined, motivated, curious, serious, and driven. I’m not sure that they also see me as funny, devoted, engaging, or kind–the ways my closest friends and family describe me.
Yes, the tour “officially” started in January 2010 because I gave it a name and had enough acceptances to know I could stay on the road for a long time…but back in ’09 I went to Alaska for 3 weeks, came home to the release of my chapbook Lost Crossings, then headed off to VCCA for 3 more weeks. Over the winter holidays I worked to save money, sold my old Ford Ranger, sold $385 worth of other stuff, loaded 17 boxes of books into my parents’ attic, and loaded THE CLAW with everything else.
Which means that since August 2009, I have been traveling and, for most of that time, writing about war.
That’ll make anyone a bit too serious. I also put my life and my career
in my car, risking everything from my finances to my professional
reputation. That’s enough to make someone seem disciplined and driven to
the point of obsession.
What happened to the part of me that makes jokes, hides around corners to tease a friend, and doesn’t mind “wasting time” watching a movie? What happened to long afternoons of unscheduled time that end in potlucks with old friends–people who know me?
I can’t say that I have regrets. That won’t get me anywhere and I’ve seen and done too many amazing things on the tour to say that anyway. But I will say that the finish line is in sight and it’s making me reflect on how I might start my “return” to “the real world.” In some ways, I’m inclined to find those parts of myself that have been hiding and coax them out of the dark. But another part of me knows I’ve chosen this writing life because it suits me, and so far I’ve found the most professional success at it when I put just about everything on the line–even my own sanity, my own comfort–and do whatever it takes to earn my living as a writer.
Somewhere there exists a land of balance, right? A land that includes professional and creative success but also nurtures the fuller aspects of my personality–the desire I have to share my life with someone, the joy I take in making someone laugh, the privilege of old friends who bring out the best in me…
It’s a romantic idea, but I know better. I know that I must be able to find all of those things myself, no matter where I am or who I’m with. On the heels of the war stories being finished, with an expanse of time here at Prairie Center, I’m devoting myself to rounding things out. If for nothing else, I’ve got to do this work if I want to survive as a writer. A new formula for endurance is required. So begins the slow and steady work of ciphering it out…

Showing 2 comments
  • Lynn Lovegreen

    Good for you for being brave enough to make this tour happen, instead of just thinking about it or doing it half-heartedly. I wish you both a writing life and a domestic life. Maybe you'll find a life with a balance of both someday.

  • Beth Lively

    I think what you write about, storing away parts of ourselves to discover and allow for new ones, contributes to the layers of our lives…like sediment. We can always access those parts (as you know) and once refound appreciate them all the more. Wonderful reminder. Thank you.

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