The Three P’s

It’s been a whirlwind 10 days. First, driving 900 miles north for the summer at Interlochen. Second, directing the Writer’s Retreat (joyful, fulfilling, and…busy). Third, driving 140 miles south to catch the Lake Express ferry and taking it across Lake Michigan (highly recommended – holy cow!). Fourth, officiating and marrying my dear friends Dan and Sara in the wedding this weekend in Milwaukee (a personally written 25-minute ceremony, thank you very much!). Fifth, giving a reading at People’s Books Cooperative downtown. And very soon, sixth: taking the ferry back across, driving 140 back the way I came, meeting tonight with a colleague to catch up on what I missed, and teaching my first class of the summer 12 hours later to a room full of bustling teen writers. Phew.

On the Lake Express, I caught myself resurrecting THE CLAW. (For new readers of The Writing Life, THE CLAW is the name of my unstoppable 1989 Volvo station wagon, shown here…and it carried me for 31 out of 36 months of life on the road, including 3 cross country trips). In addition to being ridiculous and fun, THE CLAW has also become a symbol for “going after life” and grabbing it for all it’s worth. Hence, the hand symbol (conveniently also similar to the shape of Michigan itself). I’m glad I snapped this photo, but I’m also glad that my three years on the road is done.

When I moved back home and settled into the Airstream in August, I promised myself I was done with life on the road. My heart, mind, wallet, and snow tires were all worn thin. But then the Randolph College 7-week fellowship came. Now, the book tour and Interlochen. This fall, more book tour. I’m far from complaining–theses are in fact all opportunities that I aimed for–but I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I really really want to make my life in North Carolina work.

Putting everything on the line and living from place to place to support myself and my writing taught me a lot. For instance, there are what I call the Three P’s in life: the partner, the position, and the place. Life on the road taught me that I can go for a very long time with two out of the three. But eventually, something has to give. I have the position. I have the place (and want very much to be there, even now, hiking with my crew and noodling Gus the Superdog)…but I don’t have the partner. Flashing THE CLAW on the Lake Express reminded me of how equally hopeful and heartbroken I felt when I was “out there” on the road. For so long, my habits, patterns, and daily decisions were shaped by my choice to be transient.

Of course, merely moving home, buying the Airstream, and unpacking wouldn’t make everything else fall back into place. Certainly, I knew it would take work. But what I didn’t know was that the transition would not be instant. The seeds I planted while on the road are still coming to fruit. That’s a good thing, professionally, but personally it means that I still feel rootless from time to time. Most people don’t make good dating partners when they’re rootless, though. I have my writing–I always will. And I’ll always identify with my writing as my home that stays with me wherever I am. But the other part of me–that part that needs stability and connection, a place to exhale and someone there to hear the edge of my breath…that part is being put on hold. Again. That’s a little hard to get excited about.

Meantime, three cheers:

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