I keep putting this off.
I’ve been having a hard time writing lately. We’ve all been there, this isn’t a wheel I’ve suddenly reinvented. Procrastination, excuses, extremely urgent Ryan Gosling internet gossip. There are so many reasons not to write.
As an obsessive-compulsive/workaholic/not-quite-perfect-but-damn-well-trying mom, writer’s block is not something I often have a problem with. I’m determined to keep writing despite all of the obstacles in my path, and all of my hyper-driven and over-scheduled ways mean that when it’s time to write, writing happens right away. There’s no time for lost in thought, no time for inspirational web-surfing or broadband brainstorming. The need to write trumps even the need to clean or to organize or to prepare for tomorrow or for next week.
Lately, though, it is the need to not write that trumps them all. It is as if the barrier I built up in my brain to keep the task space separate from the writing space has fallen in on top of itself, like the scene from the Ten Commandments when the parted Red Sea turns back into one big ocean of water, tossing horses and soldiers and fish and ships all around in one giant gurgling soup. Now that soup is my brain.
I start a new job in a few days, and that OCD part of me has been planning for months all of the chores that will need to be completed before I can comfortably inject myself into a new and high pressure (if we count the pressure I’m putting on myself) situation. My life right now has become one huge project of cleaning out and organizing and making room in my head for this new big experience, my den literally filled with bags and boxes and plastic bins of crap we never unpacked from the last house, piles of old baby clothes and toys that need sorting and sending to charity. It’s gotten so bad that my daughter won’t even play in here anymore (my husband gave up weeks ago).
So I sit here, alone, surrounded by memories and by yard sale style mementos. There are linens embroidered by the hands of my almost modern ancestors, and there are nursing pillows from Amazon. There are family photos, binders of work I completed in both masters programs, binders of all the final essays from each of the classes I taught (I’m a registrar – shouldn’t I know how long I legally need to keep these for?) and nearly a decade of office kitsch (do I throw it out? is it supposed to come with me to the new job?). I look around and I am overwhelmed. There is no room here to lay down words on a page.
But I have been in this place before. It isn’t about having no time or about being too tired. It certainly isn’t about my den being such a mess – lord knows how grateful I am to have any kind of dedicated space for this work. It’s about me wanting to withdraw from myself because I am afraid.
I’m afraid I will regret having left a known for an unknown in my job situation, afraid I will find myself overworked, overstressed, and underqualified. I’m afraid my daughter will have a hard time adjusting to summer school and to preschool, afraid she’ll regress in her sleep and that I will in turn regress in my own wellbeing, which will of course make me more prone to failure at the new job I’m already afraid of failing at. I’m afraid my daughter will hurt herself or get sick or just be very, very sad in her new surroundings, and I’ll be faced with choosing between demonstrating my commitment to the new job or acting out my love for my child. I’m afraid of change.
I’m afraid of change and I’m in love with it. I love the roller coaster feel, the rave-reminiscent adrenaline of excitement and of possibility. I love make believing like when I was a kid that I’m the ugly duckling heroine of a makeover movie montage, a late bloomer on the verge of finally revealing my true abilities and success. And so for all of my fear, I’ve gone headfirst and whole hog into this period of transformation.
In the past month and a half, I did the following: negotiated a new job; had laser surgery and threw away the contact lenses I’ve been wearing for twenty years; bought a new computer; got a new haircut and a new wardrobe; finished my second masters thesis and degree; turned thirty-five and had a big party; went surfing; starting wearing shorts (and yes, this is actually such a big deal that there will likely be a post on it, like, next week). And because I needed a big dose of symbolism to go with it, I spent my last day of work running the commencement ceremony I was also to take part in, finishing the morning by walking across stage with the very last of the graduates.
Like I said, headfirst and whole hog. CHANGE. I just haven’t quite figured out a way to write about it. Which of course means I haven’t quite figured out a way to think about it – or as I might tell my therapist, I haven’t figured out a safe way to approach my emotions about this experience, so right now it’s all about the experience itself, about the moment. Kind of like those raves I used to go to or those dreamy extended vacations – all experience, no interpretation needed.
At some point I may have to allow myself to actually feel what it feels like to be afraid instead of just describing through words and gestures what it looks like. Until then there are closets to clean out, files to sort through, bills to pay and to shred. So many boxes to be checked off of my list.