My puppy is stupid. He wants to eat everything, even things that are bigger than him, which is pretty much everything because he only weighs 5 pounds. Right now he’s crunching on a lego man and I’m letting him because 1. Natural consequences, kids. Pick up your shit. and 2. It’s preferable to the laptop cord he was trying to eat before he found the lego man. Nick hates it when I knowingly let the dogs chew on things, but he’s not the one who’s here all day and doesn’t understand how tiring it gets, trying to stop your 7-month-old Bichon from eating bookcases and walls. Plus, I kind of have to admire his gumption, his single-minded focus on EAT ALL THE THINGS. So what if the laundry basket could hold 20 of him? Charlie doesn’t look up at what must seem like a million miles of green plastic and lose himself in a sea of self-doubt. No. Charlie knows he wants to EAT ALL THE THINGS. He looks at a million miles of green plastic and thinks, “One bite at a time.”
Then he destroys the fucking laundry basket. One bite at a time.
I’m trying to take lessons from Charlie.
I quit the Blogathon. Just quietly slipped out. Waited until the darkest part of night, when the Blogathon was snoring quietly next to me, and crept away. Put my pants on in the hallway, even, because I’d rather a stranger see me dressing than risk having to look my commitment straight in the eye and actually say, “I quit.” The truth is that we were a bad fit from go, anyway. Partly because of my personality, which reacts to boundaries and parameters like a feral cat caught in a trap. Partly because of my writing style, which depends more on inspiration than skill and is therefore unreliable at best. Partly because of my life, which lately feels like a treadmill stuck on high. And partly because, like clockwork, every 6 weeks or so I decide that I’m a terrible, talentless hack who has no business taking time away from my family to embarrass myself by trying to be a writer. And so I slip away. Stop the Blogathon posts, close out the manuscript, delete the half-written essay, decide that from now on I will be practical and realistic. Content. God, what I wouldn’t give for the gift of feeling content.
But there’s this thing I can’t get rid of. It feels kind of like heartburn, but more insistent and uncomfortable. I tried to describe it to a good friend, who also happens to be our priest. “It’s like I have to do this,” I said. “Like I was given this very specific purpose, that I’m supposed to be writing.” Like I have to write or I will die, is what I want to say but those words feel too intense.
“That’s a call,” she told me. “That’s how I felt about becoming a priest.”
A call. Yes, that’s what it is. Only that sounds a little too tidy and romantic. Is there a word that can convey all the messiness and pain in the experience of it? How it makes me feel much more Mad Hatter than telephone operator? How I sometimes lose myself for days in endless questions about what it means to be talented vs. creative, a good storyteller vs. a good writer? I suspect I am the latter in both of those comparisons, when what I really want to achieve requires being the former. Being the latter means a good career as a business writer. And a lifetime of never being able to quiet this thing, this call, this Hatter slowly driving me mad.
But this life… we only get one, right? Just one ride. For all of us who have things like computers and internet access and literacy, it’s a pretty good one. It feels greedy and risky to want more. But… we only get one. And I can’t speak for any of you, but I’m just controlling enough to want to drive this sucker. Even if it’s scary. Even if I’m not sure. Even if I’m embarrassing myself. Even if it means I steer myself off a cliff. So be it.
At least I did the driving.
This post is me holding myself accountable.
Telling the whole world: I’m going to try to do this.
I’m scared. I don’t think I’m good enough. I’m worried about what it will mean to live my life as The Person Who Failed as opposed to The Person Who Had Potential. I like living on the Potential side of the equation; it feels limitless and hopeful. But it’s also stagnant and unfulfilling.
Being The Person Who Failed also means that I was The Person Who Tried.
So I’m taking lessons from Charlie. One bite at a time. Slowly, carefully polishing a manuscript. Compiling a list of literary agents. Jettisoning the leftovers into this blog.
Tomorrow I turn 35. 35 is going to be The Year That I Tried.
Come hell or high water, I will try.
Time to drive.