Last summer, in the sprinkler
I don't even know where to start. I have fallen out of writing. I am lost a little in these woods. It's hot here, steamy, and humid, with stinging mosquitos. And yet, such lush beauty...
Summer came, and all my dreams of being a real writer, of being a work-at-home, or -from-home, or -and-sometimes-at-home mom seemed to fall apart like a dress sewn of paper and worn in a rainstorm. Little bits of it clung to me, but I couldn't quite reassemble it. My son doesn't have preschool in the summer. I got a part time job teaching at an amazing summer camp. I'm still tutoring.
While shopping with me last weekend for khaki shorts or skirts (camp uniform), my son became teary. "I don't want the clothes to fit!" he said as I flung aside another dud; "I want you to stay home! I want you to just be a storyteller!" Oh, little one, I know.
I mentioned to my partner that I wanted to find the magic key, the one that would fill our pockets and bank account with enough cash to live on, and would allow me to be at home. "That's everyone's dream," she said, or something like it. It's my dream, too.
There is another possibility on the horizon, still very, very hazy, and I am afraid to want it too much. But oh, how perfect it would be, if it would just pay enough...
In the meantime, the camp is great fun, and I am enjoying the process of learning on the fly. It's pretty magical at the awesome place where the camp is, and there are opportunities for soul-deep wonder every other minute.
So, despite all the cheering voices, all the helpful advice, and even the beautiful opportunity to write for Kind Over Matter (look for a link late next week!), I am full of self-doubt, and I feel those flakes of my paper dress drying a fluttering away. I feel so vulnerable in this desperate need for work, for the right work, for the ability to make it through everything. Kelly Diels sent out a post this week in which she talked about the slippery links between misogyny and perfectionism, and I wanted to jump around shouting and curl up and cry at the same time. Didn't help that I sneaked reading the email while sitting in church. Church is a pretty vulnerable place for me. I was afraid that someone would see me LOOKING AT MY PHONE. IN CHURCH. What is she doing??
It's been there all the time, the voice, the one that whispers, "If you do it right, they'll love you." Don't blame my parents; they let me know over and over how loved I was, and am, how special, how brilliant, how pretty... But see, somehow, I got the idea that all that love was based on the other stuff, the brilliance and prettiness and well-mannered politeness, and I was so afraid to let the plates I was spinning fall and shatter. I was afraid to step out of the role I had in my smallish town; if I tried to be anything else, I would lose my place, and then I'd likely have NOTHING, because I was sure I'd fail at being whatever-it-was. Better to be who I was known to be.
I'm living right now, feeling like a failure. I have a Master's degree in Waldorf education, and I failed to be The Best Waldorf Teacher Ever. There'a fair amount of arrogance in that statement. I honestly thought I was really, really good at teaching, and that that fact -- coupled with my sincere love for the students and my colleagues -- would be enough. And it wasn't. And while not all of it is my fault, I feel that I have failed everyone. My students, my colleagues, my family, my parents, my teachers, even my dog. Big, big load of failure right on my head.
A coach, who was leading a lovely program I was doing this spring, pointed out that I seem to beat myself up a lot. actually, I think I don't beat myself up enough, because if I did, I would be doing a lot better in the world than I am.
Part of the problem is, that I am kind of lazy. I get easily overwrought and overwhelmed, and I retreat to doing what feels easy, like refreshing FaceBook over and over and over, like reading YA fantasy (not going to stop that one), like eating junk all the time rather than actually allowing myself to eat nice meals with my family... And I stop doing anything that I know will move me forward. I stop writing, I stop making any effort to connect with friends, I stop trying to move myself at all. I just sit there. And then I wonder why I'm not making progress. Why my book isn't getting written, why Magical Bedtime fell apart, why my son is so whiny and tantrum-y. He's that way, because I am that way.
Also, there are a lot of goodbyes around here these days. My 18-year-old cat passed away at home last week. My friend Kornel, whom I was really meaning to visit, passed away in hospice Monday night. My best friend from high school is moving away on Friday. Let go, let go, let go, everything is saying, and I just want to hang on tighter.
So, here you go, reader. A post. Disclosure -- perhaps not full, but at least a glimpse of why what I said would happen didn't happen, and why I'm so lost. I'm still getting up, and loving my family, and working hard at work-type-places. It's just trying to move my own dreams forward that is getting stuck in the perfectionism-fear trap. Carry on.
There's a lot of haze in the air, from the fires out west, they say. There's still a lot of haze in here, in me.
Sara is a storyteller, writer, artist, teacher, wife, mother, and singer living in Minnesota. I write about storytelling, and about living a life with stories.