My life is a spinning compass. Out of control, seeking direction and looking for a place to land. I feel lost here, in this moment. Spiraling. looking for meaning, purpose and the voice of God somewhere. Anywhere. There a thousand pieces, images that flash in my mind, like still frames in a movie montage. And I can’t seem to put them together. They just whiz by, and I am left confused. Directionless. Spinning compass stop for just a moment, and show the way. Because I don’t know where to go from here. Because I feel so close to something real. Something beautiful. But I can’t seem to find the sure steps along the way.
When I was young, I dreamed of success as a writer. I envisioned my life as a millionaire author by the time I was 25. And, in my college mind, my thirties would be spent running a media company, based around the many screenplay adaptations of my successful novels.
Oh, and somewhere in there, I had time to marry a rock star (that passionately loved Jesus), and raise two highly artistic children that had traveled the world with us based on my husband’s tour schedule. We had houses in Europe, and would bounce back and forth between countries as our demanding schedules permitted.
But, the problem was, I couldn’t even get my college term papers done on time. It didn’t occur to me then, that the two were related. So, as my twenties passed by, through tedious work, blood, sweat and tears pouring into a stop and start writing/receptionist/retail career, I didn’t understand.
Why wasn’t God giving me all the things He had promised me? Obviously, I knew that some of my dreams were just playful fantasy. But, the gist of those dreams, were so powerful in my heart, that I knew it was part of God’s plan for me.
It all hit me today. Today, I applied for this writing job. It would be making a lot more money than I’ve ever made, and would be a lot of work, but nothing I haven’t done before. And, I realized, everything I had worked for, was coming together in some way. Now, this job is hardly “the dream.” It’s just one more train car on the track to success. But, as I thought about the work it would require, I realized, I could completely handle this job–now.
If I had been given the same opportunity a decade ago, or even a few years ago, I would have floundered. I would have not had the self-discipline, or the organization, or have some of the practical job skills that would have made the job work. I had the raw talent, that had been pruned by some formal training, but those were not enough to allow me to succeed at this job.
And suddenly, so many of the questions of my life began to make sense. There is wisdom in that phrase, “working up to it.” God doesn’t give us success until we are ready to handle it.
So, that’s my question to you–can you handle success? If you were given the keys to everything you wanted, could you handle it? Or would you flounder? I don’t know. It’s an interesting question. My own answer isn’t a resounding, “yes.” Success comes in levels. I could handle some levels of what I am after, but if I were to put myself at the pinnacle of my own definition of success, I would have to say “no.” And God, in his infinite mercy, knew it all along, and all of these years, has kept me from falling flat on my tail.
I love my patio. It has become my favorite place in my home. It is spring now, and the weather is brisk and cool, and new life is coming up around me everywhere.
From my third story, I overlook the swimming pool. It is clear and blue, and deceptively inviting, as the water is much too cool to swim. But the waterfall fountain bubbles long and deep, and drowns the pace of life to a tranquil hum. I have a sort of a natural oasis up here.
I’ve taken up gardening…that is, I bought a couple of plants. They are growing nicely—nubile green sprouts boldly poking their heads above the earthen pots. On the wall, a bird has build a mud-based nest. The two parents regularly flit in and out, along with a milieu of relations that stop in to say hello. They periodically swarm the patio, marking their territory of sorts. I guess I am on their approved humans list, as they don’t seem to bother me—a subtle presence with notebook and coffee.
And so I love to sit, here at this table and write. Although, life has been so busy I can barely capture a thought worth writing. Surely, there must be something. And, so I have pages and pages where I tried to capture meaning in the everyday….The birth of a co-worker’s child, the revolving door of people in and out of my house, the conversations I’ve had, both great and small, a dinner party we’ll host tonight, and all of these people that populate my life, new and old.
And yet, they all seem to be playing some sort of larger purpose. They all seem to be part of a great symphony, and I haven’t quite caught the melody. I can hear strains and various chords, and yet, I can’t seem to capture the harmony of it all. And, so I live, each day, loving, laughing, moving, savoring each moment and tucking it away in my heart.
That’s what life is. Seasons of movement, and seasons of rest. Seasons to plant, and seasons to birth. Seasons to create, and seasons to work. It is spring here. And new life is all around me. It is beautiful. It is right. It is good.
So, my New Year’s Resolution was that this would be my best writing year yet…or something of the sort. I think I was rather exhausted after a drama-filled fall and didn’t put a lot of effort into creating a gleaming vision for 2018.
I used to believe in New Year’s Resolutions. There was a streak of about three or four years, that I made one solid resolution each year, and amazingly enough, I kept it, and came out better and stronger the next year. Then, I got cocky and started making too many, or making them too ambitious and the magic failed me, and my resolutions stopped working.
So, then I got discouraged and made my resolutions vague and half-hearted. Now, my only resolution this year was that I would try as hard as I could with my writing, with the afterthought that it would be my best writing year yet.
So far this year, my novel was rejected by yet another publisher, and the web company I was writing for folded and laid me off. It’s only February and already I’m off to a great a start on my best writing year yet.
As I scan the want ads for yet another writing job, I had this sinking feeling in my gut. What if I’m still doing this when I’m 50? Already my 20’s are gone in a flurry of college, temping and failed freelancing. What if this–blogging, writing novels that don’t sell, and chasing an endless chain of short-lived staff-writer jobs—is all my writing will ever be? i’ve sworn deep in my heart, that I will make it as a writer or die trying. What if that’s what happens? What if I die trying to make it as a writer?
There’s the cliche, “Find the joy in the journey.” I am enjoying the journey. But, what if the journey is all I’ll ever have? What if I never arrive? Will it have been worth it?
I guess every artist has to ask themselves that question. If I never “make it,” will it have all been worth it? I don’t have an answer. But, it’s an intriguing question.
…And I have to believe in my heart, that is this is that liberating crossroads, one must come to, right before that “big break.” Because I don’t think I could handle any other answer.
I think I chose a bad profession. There’s just not a lot of room in our world for writers. That is–unless you go into scriptwriting, which is all plot and dialogue and leaves little room for playing with the beauty of language–my favorite part of writing.
But, writing is the talent God has given me, and I’ve at times felt he was rather adamant about it…in a tender, beautiful sort of way. There is nothing more touching in the world to feel the Almighty God demands you do the one thing in the world that makes you the happiest. I hope every one of you gets to know that feeling. It’s exquisitely, heartbreakingly beautiful and freeing.
So, God gave me this passion, but in our world, there is little lucrative use for it. So the pattern my writing career has followed thus far, goes something like this. I get a job as a staff writer somewhere, usually working from home. I work at it for a while, bursting out of my skin because I actually get paid to write. Then, eventually, the powers that be realize that having writers on staff is a waste of money, because writing just flat out doesn’t sell. Then, the job gets “restructured,” or the company folds, yada yada yada…I’m out of a job.
So, then I do the only other thing I know how to do–work retail. I get some even lower paying retail gig for a few months, until I can find another low-paying writer job that pays a little more than the last one, leading me to believe that I am climbing some sort of ladder. So goes my professional life.
I am aware of this cycle, and I have often wondered if I should go back to school and be retrained to use my talent in a new way. Perhaps my undergraduate education is outdated, and I need new, updated skills to survive in this market. Then I scoff. That might be true if I were in a technology field. But, in English? I doubt sitting around in stuffy classrooms, analyzing Charles Dickens would do much for my professional marketability.
My only other option would be to do something radically different, like move to the Cayman Islands and teach Scuba Diving or something. Given that I have a debilitating fear of fish in their natural habitat, I guess I have to make it as a writer.
So, this week I finish out another cycle of the retail phase. I spent two months at Office Depot (Want a printer, anyone?)–and now I will start another full-time writing job. I am optimistic about this one, I’m making more than I’ve ever made, and the company seems to be a good one, a lot of good energy. So, I’m happy. But, I really would like to break free of this pattern. This sort of “in-between.”
A couple years back, I met with a business consultant about my writing career. He said my writing was all over the place, and I needed to focus my vision to build a consistent brand. I know he’s right.
But, whenever I start thinking about all of that business stuff, my head starts to hurt, and I feel like that guy in Jerry Maguire. He was the top draft pick, and all the agents were fighting over him, and he picked up his hotel phone to another sales pitch, and he interrupts them and says, “I just want to play football,” and hands the phone to someone else. I relate to that guy sometimes.
I have a confession to make. I like to burn paper. It’s a weird nervous habit I have. Sometimes, I see a lighter, or a box of matches sitting on a counter, I’ll just sit there and burn the edges of any paper that may be around. It could be a piece of junk mail. It could be an envelope, a grocery list. Whatever, I just somehow feel the need to set it on fire.
Now, I don’t set it ablaze, mind you. I simply light the edge, and I get an odd satisfaction out of watching the fire eat the paper. And, just before the fire gets going, I hastily put it out. Then, I start again. There’s some kind of thrill of watching the destructive power of fire, I think. And there’s an even bigger thrill, in seeing how far I can let the fire go, before I know it’s time to put it out. I love to think about the phenomenal energy of fire, and how it’s all at my whim. That the power of my inevitable breath, will trump the fire and stop it dead. I am greater than fire.
I think there’s some sort of psychological principle at work here. Maybe there’s basic spiritual human instinct. I have a God given authority over nature, and I am not afraid to use it. Maybe it’s a control thing, and the power of control over destructive forces. Or maybe my sin nature gets off on the ability to destroy. Maybe it’s some kind of rebellion against childhood rules about playing with fire. As an adult, I can play with fire if I damn well please. (Real mature thought process, I must say).
Maybe I think too much. Maybe I just think fire is interesting. And really, if you think about it, if God created fire, then wouldn’t appreciating the complexities of it, in fact be a form of worship? I would like to think so. Beyond that, I don’t know why I do the things I do sometimes. And, you know what? That’s okay.