March 19, 2008
You might think that someone who has joined a creative writing class would want to spend time writing. That would be a perfectly reasonable assumption, at any rate. Why would someone sign up for the group unless they were willing to put forth some effort and open themselves up to the process of having their work critiqued, whether it be the teacher, fellow students or even just the writer herself?
It really isn’t that easy, though. It’s not that I don’t want to be a writer, it’s just that I don’t want to write. It’s the same as my wanting to lose weight without cutting calories, or wanting to become fit without exercising. Thinking about dieting and exercise, and the desire to become fit and trim, should somehow be enough.
It’s not really that I’m lazy. It’s more that I’m kind of a dreamer. I spend a lot of time thinking about writing, developing plots and characters in my head, jotting down pithy lines of prose and catchy opening paragraphs that “grab” the reader. But by the time I actually sit down to put them into written form, I’ve kind of lost interest in the whole idea. The entire process from the seed of the idea to rejection letter has been played out in my head.
Besides that, I’m tired. My job consists of a largely of working with the public, which includes a great deal of diplomatic maneuvering, damage control and just plain schmoozing sometimes. Even my volunteer work consists largely of trying to remain calm and reasonable while being verbally abused by someone on the other end of the phone line. By the time I get home at the end of the day, I’m just plain burnt out—ready to do nothing more than sit in front of the TV and vegetate. Usually, I’m not even engaged in the program, but just staring blankly at the screen like someone in the midst of a catatonic seizure. I long for the clock to strike 9 so I can justify doing my evening rituals that prepare me for a good night’s sleep.
I’ve tried writing in the morning, The Artist’s Way morning pages, some spiritual reflection exercises and even spending some time making notes on my thesis project. While it’s true that I have more energy in the morning, in a very real way that in itself becomes the problem. Now I feel that I have to be up doing—completing the long list of things that I should have done the night before had not my absolute mental and physical exhaustion gotten in the way. I spend my mornings flipping though the news just enough to keep up with noteworthy events, walking the dogs, throwing in a load of laundry, emptying and refilling the dishwasher, showering, dressing, walking the dogs yet again after breakfast and then, finally, after being up for almost three hours, heading out the door on the way to work. Full of energy, I thrive in the morning, but my routine has become almost ritualized in its regularity.
And so, I find myself having spent almost another entire week without putting pen to paper. It’s not writer’s block from which I suffer, but a kind of life block—an inability to break out of the box of routine and predictability that has become more prison than refuge. There is little in the way of spontaneity or excitement. The truth is, my life is just not that interesting. Why would anyone want to read about it?
One day, perhaps soon, I will take the risk of doing something out of character. I may become like one of the characters I admire, living remarkable, maybe even dangerous lives full of adventure. I vow to either become like or write about people who live their lives on the edge. I really want to do this. Or at least I think I do. But then again, I may be only dreaming.
March 26, 2008
That’s it, I’ve decided: I don’t do reunions! "Class reunion"...2 words that strikes fear into the hearts and minds of anyone once considered to be geek, dork or invisible outsider. In a weak moment, I tried it once—my 20 year high school reunion--and that was it for me. My worst nightmares came to life as the anonymity of my existence became clear.
Now my reunions take on a different form. The occasional family wedding and more frequent wake or funeral become our gathering spots. It is there that I reconnect with family members that I haven’t seen in a generation. And, when we do, it’s almost as if time has stopped. We tell and retell our favorite stories about holidays past and all the players are fondly remembered caricature of the people that they were. The stories are the history of our lives, legends really, about a different time and place.
When time and circumstance calls us together, we make the usual plans to call more often or meet for lunch. But we do not, can not, really. Our relationships were built on the foundations of our grandparents and parents, many of whom are gone now. It is not the same. Our lives have taken different paths and the mortar that kept us together has chipped and worn away, little by little. And while we still stand as family, any untoward movement or interference would cause the remaining structure to crack and, quite possible, fall into a heap.
Knowing this, I think about my own three children, scattered about the country. Because we live so far apart, each gathering now becomes reunion. Favorite meals and activities are planned and friends and family visitors invited well in advance. It’s true that because of our modern tools, we keep in touch regularly, keeping our lives to a certain extent intertwined. But I can’t help but wonder, as time and distance among us increase, what it might some day be like. It’s hard to imagine that things like family relationships can change, but I guess that’s all a part of growing up: the circle of life, so to speak.
And so, I suppose that’s what reunions are for, after all. They have a value in the purpose that they serve: To reconnect in order to remember the stories of bygone times, catch up on current news and talk of the hope and dreams of the future. Reunions can be a wonderful thing. It’s not the event in itself—the reunion—that makes the difference. It is the people who attend and their connection to one another.