Numeral V of The Gatita Chronicles

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View from our apartment in San Pedro. Yes, that’s the ocean. Good-bye!

People say that having a child changes your life.  I say that traveling with a cat alters your destiny or at least your destination.

I used to be a spontaneous traveler, a fluid nomad of sub-cultures, a born again gypsy; now I’m a 50-something, widowed too early, with a hairball who holds court appreciating no one and nothing. Tomorrow morning we leave San Pedro, the port of Los Angeles, a place I’d planned to be for three full months, but our Air BnB rental was not, as the owner had originally indicated, available for the entire summer. If I were willing to share the apartment with the original tenant who happened to be absent for the month of June, I was welcomed to stay.

Whaaaat?

I do not want to share a place with a complete stranger, and I definitely do not want to share it with a man. I don’t want to share. There wasn’t enough time to be as upset as I probably should have been. Instead of spending that first week developing a temporary community, I was dedicated to finding a rental with a view for July and August that was a) still available, b) not ridiculously expensive, and c) feline friendly. The San Pedro Air BnB owners, have actually been gracious and kind (aside from this not-so-small booking oversight), inviting me to dine with them on several occasions, no doubt hoping my wine intake would diffuse any travel wrath; it did. But this last week of June, when I should be editing, I have instead been secretly packing, something I must do on the sly so as not to alert Gatita’s now fully formed road phobia.

(Speaking of editing:  I’m making progress! I went off track for a bit with all the road travel in May, but the shortened time in San Pedro actually helped to spur me into rewriting action.)

At the moment, Gatita is napping in the bedroom, something she does 15 to 20 hours a day now.  She is 12 human years which equates to an elder 70 in whiskers age.  I have closed the bedroom door so she will not hear me as I tip toe my luggage and packing containers onto the patio for easy transport. This strategy is a necessary process if I’ve any hope of Gatita remaining calm tomorrow when I place her, my final package, into the Jeep early in the morning. We have a four-hour drive up the Pacific Coast Highway to central California and a place called Morro Bay.  I’d like to remember that coastal drive as howling-free.

But if you were thinking of feeling sorry for me because I have to contend with a psychotic cat, you’ll want to keep reading.  My girl is justified in her newfound dread of the highway. Let’s just hope her experience in the Mojave does not repeat itself, ever … read on:

Cat on a Freeway

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Crossing the Mojave via IH-15

Before entering Los Angeles, Gatita and I had to make our way out of the hot state of Nevada and into the arid part of California untouched by ocean breezes or water of any kind.  I’m convinced that someone, somewhere captured photo(s) of the worst ten minutes of Gatita’s and my life on westbound Interstate 15.

Her continuous crying began two days earlier as we left Idaho and headed into Nevada, using all their dusty backroads with heat floating up from asphalt. When we left Las Vegas that morning, I didn’t turn on the air conditioner but instead rolled down the windows so a cross breeze could keep us cooled off.  My more frugal side did this primarily to save on gas, but also because the only temperature that seemed to be coming out of the 2001 Jeep’s outdated air conditioner was warm air.

I tried not to think about what the lack of cold air would mean between Nevada and California, another 200 miles of mostly desert land, better known as the Mojave.  And so it was just outside of Barstow, 60 miles west of Las Vegas when temperatures started to inch towards 100 degrees, and it wasn’t even 10 o’clock in the morning yet.  We passed a white and black road sign that read:

$1,000 fine for abandoned animals on the highway

Who in the hell leaves a pet out here?  I was thinking as we passed through the city of Baker, headed toward an exit for Zzyzx. It’s apparently so scorching in the desert that people gave up trying to use vowels in their town names.

I’d left the Jeep windows down a little lower than usual, not concerned that Gatita would see this as a primary escape route. She was too intent on sitting up towards the back of the truck, her mouth open as she faced the driver behind us, panting as if to cool herself off but really it was flat out dyspnea, so distressed was she from our continued driving.

Then all of a sudden, the 70-mile an hour slowed to 50 mph then 20 then a snail’s 10. Throughout this trip, I have stayed in the far right lane, sometimes designated as the slow car and truck lane. Other cars sped by far faster than the legal 70 mph, oblivious or in defiance of the other posted signs of speed radar by aircraft. Of course, I never saw any aircraft and obviously neither did any of the speeders but it no longer mattered:  All of us were now inching along at a mere 5 miles per hour.

I rolled the windows down even more because our slow speed did not allow for any air, hot or otherwise, to be felt. Gatita had been at the back of the Jeep crying, and I had managed to block out her voice so when the crying stopped, I didn’t notice immediately. It was purely by chance that I thought to glance in the rearview mirror, but when I didn’t see her, I turned my head towards my blind spot, first on the right then on the left. Already, her body was half-way out the window as she dragged her belly through. If I tried to roll up the window to stop her, I would injure her ribs.

“No! Gatita, no!” I yelled but it was too late.

She had done the unthinkable and squeezed her body through a narrow opening of that backseat window, landing in between two lanes of the highway surrounded only by dried, spindly shrubs. Had cars been going their normal 70+ speed, she would have been killed instantly. But when she landed on the freeway, she stayed still. I maneuvered the Jeep onto the shoulder of the road and slammed on the brakes, opening the door before I’d even placed the gear into PARK. Jumping out of the truck, I placed both palms up as I faced drivers while mouthing the word Stop so I could grab her. But one car in a hurry to drive 10 mph instead of 5 mph ignored my plea and sped up in front of Gatita, spooking her and causing her to dart across the final left lane and onto the desert median, almost three lanes in width.

“Gatita, come here little kitty, please girl, please come here.”

I did not dare run after her, but only walked quickly, at a pace that would not frighten her. Every couple of steps, she veered farther south until she was almost halfway across the median. On the other side of the highway, cars were heading east at a normal 70 and 80 mph. She would be hit for sure.  If she weren’t she would be lost forever, her pink collar absent from her neck and no doubt under the Jeep seat where she always managed to get it caught on something, pulling until it snapped off.

“Gatita, please, please stop,” I kept saying in an elevated voice but not yelling, trying hard to sound normal and not desperate.

Yelling would make her quicken as would any speed faster than what I used to keep up with her, praying with every step that I reached her before she reached the other side of that freeway.

All of a sudden, she turned east and began heading back towards Las Vegas. Clearly, she had lost her kitty mind. But, she was not close enough for me to lunge for her so I did the only thing I could: I kept up with her. And we walked like this for a solid five minutes. If I tried to accelerate my stride even a little, she picked up speed. Surely someone was filming this from a smartphone if only to report me to highway patrol when the carcass of my cat was eventually found.

Although the air felt cooler outside of the Jeep, I knew this was a deceptive dry heat, famous for its ability to send a body into heat stroke or exhaustion, the lack of humidity detrimental regardless of human, animal or plant. Now I knew why the Department of Transportation for Nevada and California put up the white with black lettering signs — for idiots like me.

Gatita seemed determined to walk all the way back to Las Vegas while I wondered how long I could stay out here parched. I’d already stopped sweating in the dried air, a bad sign for both of us.  Maybe she’ll wear herself out and let me catch up.  I pictured us both passing out on that median, nobody dumb enough to stop and help us. There would be no point. There was nothing and nowhere to go for sixty miles in either direction and only barren land on both sides of the highways.

Then a trucker beeped his horn causing Gatita to jump and veer back north towards the westbound lanes we had come from. I smoothed my voice even more as I made non-stop lip smacking sounds, difficult from my saliva-free mouth. She was so close to the shoulder of the lanes now and even though the cars were slow moving, they weren’t stopped. She was scared enough to run directly in front of a rolling tire.

I whispered, “Gatita, como estas chica, que paso?”

And that’s what did it, hearing Spanish because she was, after all, a Mexican cat, born in the state of Morelos, the city of Cuernavaca. She is what I brought back with me on the airplane after my Mexico sabbatical ten years prior. When she heard the familiar Spanish, she stopped abruptly on the shoulder, crouched into a tight position, miserable as her tiny paws rested on the hot road, but allowing me to catch up to her.

“Okay, okay,” I whispered as I reached down. She didn’t try to fight as I gently picked her up, wrapping my arms around her.

I pet as I cooed, “You’re such a good kitty,” while thinking, I’m going to kill this cat!

“It’s hot, I know, but we’re almost there.” Damn it, Gatita!

The westbound lanes were still backed up but not going as slowly as before, and impatient drivers were still hurrying to go nowhere. Once she was in my arms, most cars slowed down in anticipation of me crossing the highway lanes, but the semi-truck that I needed to cross in front of had a loud motor sending Gatita back into a panic. I felt her struggle against me as I realized that she could still spastically bolt from my arms.  The truck driver must have noticed when I did because he turned off his engine, the silence calming as I looked up to mouth, ThankYou!

Once we were both inside the over-heated Jeep again, I continued to hold Gatita until I turned the key in the ignition so I could roll up all of the powered windows. When the engine was running, I tried the air conditioner. Still warm air.  Dammit!

As pissed as my cat was at me, she did not leave my lap right away. Instead, she moved her face so that her mouth was next to my ear, better for me to hear her cry I guess. But I was sweating in that Jeep.

“We’re stuck with each other until we get to Cali,” I said as I placed her on the passenger seat.

She meowed as she walked across the console and onto the baggage in the back of the Jeep to stand once again facing the drivers behind us, her mouth open while she panted. There was little for me to do except hope the traffic started up quickly. We still had another hour of desert highway to cross, two hours until temperatures started to fall by twenty degrees.

I inched the windows down. Try to get out of that!  Within minutes, the flow of traffic started to accelerate to 25 mph until we were going 70 mph again. All of a sudden we had the cross-winds and it was as if that bizarre ten minutes on Interstate 15 never happened.

By the time we reached L.A., the Jeep’s air conditioner was pushing out a cooler temperature once again.

The Gatita Chronicles I to IV

So where it used to be only the veterinarian or a male stranger who received a hiss, now it is me, her beloved owner, a misinformed Herodotus who thought to honor this Siamese by taking her along on a 10,000 mile road trip.  I don’t always know when it’s coming, that sharp pressure of air pushed out from her opened mouth, her body stiffening while her ears flatten. Sometimes she gives me a half-second warning of a low growl, while her tail moves in between her legs as though she’s having a flashback and before her paw swipes at whatever part of my body is closest to her.

If you’re wondering about the first four Gatita Chronicles, they look like this:

  I.   North Carolina: a drive-by from Hurricane Joaquin and red fox

 II.   Michigan:  blizzards and water leaks

III.  South Dakota and Montana:  tipis, torrential rains, snowstorms, coyotes, and mountain lions

 IV.  Wyoming:  bison, grizzly bear, and altitude

   V.  Nevada:  no air conditioning crossing the Mojave

  VI.  California:  earthquake and probably mountain lion (recent sightings in the Morro Bay area!)

Maybe there really will be #TheGatitaChronicles but I can promise, she will not want to star in them.

More from Morro Bay … so long as we can keep this to a minimum:

When she hears the click-click-click of the keyboard, she decides it's nap time in my arms.

When she hears the click-click-click of the keyboard, she decides it’s nap time in my arms.

Very difficult to type like this.

Very difficult to type like this.

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Kathryn and Me

Over the weekend, I engaged in a heavy dose of self-torture by reading about literary genius, Jonathan Franzen, and how he came to be so god-like to book critics. This followed with a dream in which I met Franzen, who refused to speak to me HDU_Lovebecause he was disgusted with my writing.  It was, of course, a metaphor for my secret fear about my own work.

On productive days, I am happy with my progress, the shape of my story coming to me with consistent pieces.  On unproductive days, I question what to write next or is it time to print it all out and start massaging, or worse: the story doesn’t make any sense and I need serious guidance with pulling it all together.

I used to think that my greatest fear was that I’d get to the end of this writing sabbatical and have an unfinished novel.  After being snubbed by Franzen-in-my-dream, I realize that writing a mediocre book would harm my spirit more.  So I decided not to do that — to write a crappy book.

Then I read about Franzen’s partner and fellow writer, Kathryn Chetkovich, who wrote a beautiful essay a few years after Franzen’s first bestseller, The Corrections, sold over 3 million copies. The memoir essay, “Envy,” haunts in its honesty as Chetkovich describes living under those victorious years with Franzen while she plugged along, her feeble attempts to finish a book in the overwhelming shadow of her lover’s success. Reading Chetkovich helped me to understand that there would be something far grosser than to write a substandard novel: to live with Jonathan Franzen while I wrote it. Writing rumor has it that Franzen is less prickly than he used to be, now that the world has acknowledged his literati greatness, but the thought of having him as a live-in critic would be enough to make me break my no-alcohol-for-Lent vow. So I’m not going to do that either — go live with Jonathan Franzen.

I will never be a Franzen.  I would need to redo childhood, probably attend a different school system; read more books, read the right books, not that that wouldn’t be fantastic but it’s not reality. I can be a better writer than I am today, though. I’ve seen improvements in my own work over the last four years before I hit the road and opened the sabbatical up to more than only writing.

That enigma of a story, “From Down Under,” (renamed In The Land of Oz) which I began in late 2014 is already being reshaped since I kicked off my writing journey.  I am doing most days what I set out to do until I compare myself to great novelists, or other non-Franzen writers, ones whose content is not in the same genre as mine or even literary fiction at all. But I compare.  I compare because they’ve finished and I haven’t. They’ve published and I haven’t. They did what they set out to do, and I’m still a work in progress.

So I pull inward, reminding myself that Rosemary-time is not Franzen-time, and I let go. I let go of Jonathan Franzen and allow Kathryn Chetkovich to be my guide. Sometimes I spend more than six hours a day with the novel (Franzen), but sometimes significantly less, and yes, sometimes no actual writing at all but pondering and thinking and reading (Kathryn), always the reading of those writers I would be honored to emulate.

On this made-up adventure-by-highway, purposefully solo if one isn’t counting the cat, I continue to do my best to address those hidden fears and unacknowledged insecurities so that they are not barriers but motivators, pushing me into a realm of doing what I do not already know how to do but doing it anyway.  Most of all, and this is the best part, I am humbly reminded of why I am writing in the first place:  Because I live for the flow of the words and with each sentence that I write, especially the run-on ones, I am able to love my husband all over again.

If Kathryn can live with Jonathan and still produce the lovely essay, “Envy,” and eventually write two books on her own — in the face of Franzen’s fifth novel and second blockbuster, Freedom — then this soothes my yet-to-be-published self.  And I thank her, I thank Kathryn, for reminding me that all writers struggle, that to be a better writer, one must be willing to put in the work, even if you’re living with Jonathan Franzen.

Kathryn Chetkovich’s essay, “Envy,” published in 2003.  Truly touching:  http://www.theguardian.com/books/2003/jun/22/extract

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Out of Dixie and into the Hand

Gatita helping me to read my handwritten directions. She's very old school.

Gatita helping me to read my handwritten directions. She’s very old school.

My first night in Michigan, I had a dream in which I took the same roller coaster ride over and over and over again. A friend of Hook’s was at the festival with me, which I’ve learned from previous dreams usually means that Allan is somewhere nearby.

In the last months of Hook’s life, this same friend told me that he’d had a dream in which all three of us were living together in a house. In his dream, the landlord of the house was being mean to Hook and me, bossing us around. The friend said it was pissing him off how Hook and I were being treated, but that neither of us would say anything, that we just took whatever the landlord dished out. The friend’s dream, of course, was symbolic of living with a terminal illness: The house, Allan’s body; The landlord, the cancer.  This friend was with us when Hook took his last breath, so it has never surprised me when he and Allan show up in my dreams together.

In my sleep state, our friend gave me a quizzical look as if to ask why I kept getting on the roller coaster. I felt confused, because until I saw him, I hadn’t realized that that was what I was doing. There was no memory of the actual rides, only standing still on the platform afterwards and a feeling of exhilaration, each greater than the last. When I turned around to try and explain, the friend was gone and I saw only “210” appear in large, block white numbers, the size of a billboard. The numbers didn’t flash but held steady, not in the sky but in the air, off to my left.  When I woke up, I thought, What does 210 mean? Then I remembered, somewhat distressed that I could have forgotten even for a second: 210 is 2:10; 2:10 was the time of Hook’s death, or the time of his flying away, the moment of his freedom, the moment of ours, depending on how one interprets it.

Out of Dixie

I have left Dixieland and am now residing in the Hand state. If I am on an amusement ride of any kind, it is one made up of highway driving and short-term rental living.  I was not sad to leave the Outer Banks, but I wished more than once that there was a way to box up the ocean, the same way I boxed up nine containers of Quahog, Whelk, Clam, Oyster, and Wampum shells. Of course, the only box I really needed was the litter box which I washed out with soap and water then put inside a plastic bag and stored away for the drive.

Cats can hold their urine and feces for up to 24 hours. Gatita had used the litter box only an hour before our drive began. That first day, our trip was a simple 3.5 hours from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina into Kilmarnock, Virginia — from Dixie to Dixier – to spend time with some of Hook’s family. Fifteen minutes after I’d merged onto our first highway, Gatita began to circle the inside of the Jeep, beginning with her bed (the passenger seat) then my lap, then the entire length and width of the back area of the truck before returning to her bed. She walked this circumference several times before making what I knew immediately was her bathroom cry. She paused over the passenger seat and began urinating as I said “oh my god, oh my god, oh my god”.   Then, she walked over the console to stand on my thighs, arching her back and squeezing her butt muscles so that she could drop four, dry cat turds onto my lap. I did the only thing I could do – I petted with my free hand and soothed with my voice, reassuring her that we wouldn’t drive forever.

At the first exit, I pulled off and found a store that sold club soda and corn starch, allowing the feces to roll down my pant legs as I stepped out of the Jeep.  After I used paper towels to soak up the urine, I poured club soda over the wet area then generously applied corn starch. If you’re a cat owner, this is the one true solution to pulling up the yellow of the urine while simultaneously neutralizing the smell.  After I changed out of my poop pants, Gatita spent most of that first driving day asleep on my lap which is all she ever really wants anyway. After two days, we left Virginia and Hook’s family and began our trek up north to Michigan and to my family. I secured a litter box in the back of the Jeep which Gatita used several times, all of them for feces gifts that dropped from her kitty bunghole which faced the Pennsylvania and Ohio drivers traveling behind us at 70 miles per hour on the tollways.

Pure Michigan

Sanford is northwest of Midland.

The state of Michigan, sometimes referred to as the state shaped like a mitten, sometimes the Hand state. Temporarily, I’m living in Midland with one sister living in Sanford and another living in Saginaw. Although Sanford is not on the map, it is northwest of Midland.

Gatita and I arrived Michigan on December 22nd with dates and days immediately melding into a holiday fugue so that even knowledge of the exact hour became a mystery. I grew up in the Eastern Time Zone, lived in Michigan for the first 23 years of my life. I am by birth a Michigander, a girl from the Midwest, someone who enjoys board games and euchre.  I have traveled fourteen countries, driven European-style in one of them. I read maps, get around with little effort on other continents, but I come home to the Hand state and immediately lose all sense of direction. It has taken me 36 driving years to understand that I rely solely on comfort and awareness to navigate my home state.  I only know where to turn via landmarks or routes driven a thousand times in the past, familiarities that take a while to return when I’ve been away too long or when the visual marker has disappeared and been replaced by shiny, newer versions that appear when a state begins to prosper again. Last week, I found getting lost amusing. This week, I find it frustrating. By next week, I hope to find it educational.

Before leaving North Carolina for Michigan, I set up a short term rental in Midland, a halfway city between both of my sisters’ homes – one in Saginaw, one in Sanford. It was the only efficiency I could find that was fully furnished, accepted a cat, and would allow me to pay by the week before committing further. I was desperate to get Gatita onto steady ground so I ignored the duct tape holding down the carpeted entrance. By the next morning, I could distinguish the smells of stale smoke and old grease as I manhandled my Murphy bed, a mattress that springs out from a paneled wall at night then slips back into the wall in the morning, revealing a sofa underneath. Odd smells aside, the efficiency is all very retro and That Girl, and it hosts a heating unit that could warm up Alaska.

Before the first snow fell, I watched from a writing desk as the tall pine cone trees, always sturdy regardless of freezing temperatures, shook with the wind while some needles fell to the ground. The earthy smell that comes from these evergreens remains vibrant throughout the winter, almost as a reminder to humans that this is what we’re supposed to do as well.

For the last two years, I have avoided holidays with my Texas family and any semblance to what Hook and I had celebrated together. Here in Michigan, I was able to let go of Hook’s absence during the Christmas days of festivities, remaining centered through it all.  When sadness did finally come, it wasn’t until I was alone with Gatita, the one traveling companion I never wanted yet clearly need on this journey.

I’m in the midst of setting up new, temporary digs in Michigan, while preparing to welcome in the New Year.  I am indeed on an adventurous ride of sorts, but it is one of my own choosing and creation, the direction and purpose decided solely by me, with a quirky scientist guiding my every turn.  Even the snow in Michigan contributes to this revealing-itself-along-the-way sabbatical.

For now, Gatita and I are warm and safe and looking forward to 2016.

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Vices in Week Two

HDU_LitLast Saturday, I created a dinner out of organic peanut butter, leftover chipotle sauce, and two scoops of Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream that had been forgotten in the back of the freezer in a decaying container.  As a dessert, I added a freshly peeled carrot – a real carrot and not one of those tasteless baby carrots that dry out within an hour and start to whiten with what looks like toe jam.  If you’re wondering, the assembly food line looked like this:  Scoop the peanut butter, pour on some of the sauce, dip both into the ice cream, lick the spoon dry then bite the carrot.  Fresh carrots have that slight, earthy taste which balanced out the processed sugar I was shoveling into my mouth.  The limited protein reflected my refusal to hop into the Jeep and drive 1.5 miles to the grocery store.  That would have required a shower or at the very least, contact lenses in the eyes instead of my outdated, see-into-the-future glasses.  I was much too busy dreading my still unfinished taxes by tending to my vices of which the over-consumption of sugar is only oHDU_booksne.

My second vice is actually only a vice when I give into it on a non-stop, 24-hour, no showering or brushing my teeth basis. (Always, personal hygiene is the first to go.) Because I’m trying to up my writing game, I’ve checked out from the library books in twos and threes.  Telling myself that I have to read is like telling myself that I have to eat Godiva milk chocolate salted caramel bars. There is a danger with both, because I don’t read and I don’t eat — I inhale — and if I’m in procrastination mode, I run the risk of either overdosing on words or passing out from a sugar coma.  That both would find me in the same state — laying on the sofa, mouth open, dribble flowing and the cat perched on my chest causing me to gasp for air while trying to sleep — shows my consistency in all matters vice.

To avoid my taxes which I finally dropped off to the CPA yesterday morning which is why this Monday afternoon blog is posted HDU_taxpaperworkon a Wednesday evening, I checked out five books from the library while putting two more on “Hold.”  I started out with respected memoirist, Mary Karr, and two of her triology memoirs, The Liars’ Club and Lit, switching over to (some say) the 21st Century’s great American novelist, Jonathan Franzen, and his novels, The Corrections and Freedom.  Franzen once snubbed Oprah unintentionally-on-purpose saying her book club wasn’t where you’d find his readers, the literary elite. I’d inadvertently checked out his book in LARGE print so that it felt as though HE WAS YELLING AT ME THE ENTIRE TIME I was reading which, if he was snubbing Oprah, this self-proclaimed “unashamed elitist” probably was.  My literary jury is still out on Franzen but I’m sure he’ll still sleep soundly at night.

It was Karr’s writing that Gatita and I curled up with.  Her writing pulls you in like a child’s hand reaching for yours during the scary parts of a movie, leading you through the icky parts of her memories so you’re not overwhelmed when she does share.  You can hear her small, east Texas girl’s voice as she writes, “My nickname was blister tits,” or “My daddy’s Pete Karr.”  How do you read the words “my daddy” without automatically hearing a dialect from the south?

On any given day before I would give in to Mary Karr on the sofa, I’d exhaust myself through exercise so much so that I dreamt about three roaches in my house-in-the-dream.  Cockroaches in a dream symbolize being fed up with ourselves, annoyed at our own stalling of whatever it is that we’re putting off.  I had walked by that table full of tax paperwork for so long that I’d taken to running or swimming or walking five to six days a week in avoidance, sometimes occupying myself with two forms of cardio in the same day!  And I’d be 10 pounds lighter if it weren’t for the processed sugar. But you know, now that I’ve dropped off the paperwork, I congratulate myself on being two whole months earlier than I was this time last year.  So yes, I did drink a margarita today and I was damn proud when I did it and my daddy’s name is Lou!

The Writing Projects

What was originally written in memoir form might become fiction but the title probably will not change.  Without Flag (WF) is about an American Hispanic woman who leaves her home in the United States to live and travel throughout Mexico so she can learn Spanish and maybe even a little about how to embrace her Mexican ancestry.  Instead what she discovers is how to accept her Mid-western, American roots.

Is that the story I start with or is it Down Under (DU), currently written as fiction with Daniel and Ava as the lead characters whose lives are turned upside down by tragedy. The obvious autobiographical tones cannot be ignored except the story begins with five young adults standing in Waterman’s Bay in Perth, Western Australia, facing the Indian Ocean.  One is reading a poem while another is holding a canister of ashes, Ava’s ashes, and the rest of the troop are wondering what it all means … while I wonder in real life how the story will turn out.

I know I will not begin with the how to, career book, The Mystery Behind The Masters (MBM), targeted at back-to-school professionals and which already has an unreadable first draft to it.  It’s still a worthy write but not this year and maybe not next year either.  The sabbatical will definitely not start with Noisy Neighbors (NN), a fictional comedy about Hank and Lucy and the wacked-out, eclectic neighborhood they moved into.  Because Hank has difficulty remembering people’s names, Lucy dubs each of the houses by their owner’s personalities.  In NN, you meet the young couple, the gay guys, the single lady, the weirdos in the green house, the surveillance freaks, penis boy’s mom and dad, and of course the noisy neighbors.  NN is both comedy and drama because these neighbors are actually connected by more than just their zip code only they don’t know it.

HDU_Gatitahomeless

Gatita in the front cactic bed of the Hook House. Apparently, I’m not scratching her enough so she’s taken matters into her own face.

Even though With Love, Big Lou (WLBL) isn’t on the short list, I can’t help jotting notes into the biographical WLBL files as memories spill out about my father and a series of letters he wrote to me over three decades.  Nor is 30 Days in The Jungle (30 Days) on any list except my hard drive one, about my online dating experience prior to Hook when I dated 12 men in 30 days and tiered the dates based on where I was in my 30-day menstrual cycle — the jungle.

Are these short stories, essays, books, or novels?

It’ll be interesting to see how and when each of these writings reveal itself.  Oh, and I almost forgot the last writing project titled, How I Survived in the Austin Wilderness After My Sucky Owner Deserted Me.  I could never desert her so you — whoever you are that is reading this post — you call me, okay, and say you’d loved to take my cat for a year.  Like Hook, she urinates outside.  Unlike Hook, she also defecates out there relieving me or anyone else of the litter box hassle.  (Actually, I can’t say Hook never defecated outside.  Let’s just say there is a hand-held spade in the garage that I never touch.)

My goal before July 15th is to choose only one of the stories above, to accept that as my calling and to resist “should” or “need to” or “must” and devote all of my energy and carrot-eating ways to writing that story.

“… someday if my life flashes in front of my eyes, it will at least hold my interest.” – Gregg Levoy, Vital Signs

Until next Monday …

Rosemary

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Artists in Week One

HDU_bobnewhartStand-up comedian, Jen Kirkman, quipped when describing her wedding day which she said is supposed to be the best party of your life,

“There’s no party that begins with church.”

And there is no sabbatical that begins with filing taxes and writing a check to the Internal Revenue Service but that is where I am today.  In my Pre Sabbatical time after I write in the mornings, I sift through paperwork and drop figures into a tax organizer for my CPA. But once I get on the open roads next month, neither the I.R.S. nor the Texas jury summons I responded to online will be given my attention.

The first morning of my first day, I did not wake up at my normal 5:30am but at 10:30am (noisy neighbors).  I didn’t let a few hours lateness take me off course, though.  I rushed downstairs, flipped on the coffee pot and sat my butt in the writing chair which for now is not my writing office but the dining room table.  For the briefest second after opening the laptop, a bolt of fear hit and I said out loud, “Oh shit,” as in Oh shit, what did I get myself into.  Why did I have to tell the entire world that I was going to write a novel? But I didn’t say novel. Did I say novel? I don’t think I said novel. Who writes a novel in a year? WTF was I thinking?  

But that was only one-half second, maybe a full one, then I laughed and I started writing.  It’s so much fun to be insane!

Bob Newhart

PBS aired a program, Stand-up to Sitcom, about comedians who successfully transitioned to television from the stage — Newhart, Burnett, Barr, Seinfeld, etc.  Bob Newhart was an accountant before he became a comedian. Those familiar with his stammering style of delivery can picture him in a starched white shirt and office suit and tie. While tabulating figures and processing endless rows of numbers, Newhart scribbled out comedy bits at his desk throughout the day.  In the evenings, he frequented clubs that would allow someone dry like him to stand and tell jokes. He was the most unlikely of comedians so that when he quit his accountant job to pursue comedy full-time, everyone including himself, thought he was crazy.  The hardest lesson Newhart said he learned was how to become a comedian as he was being a comedian.

That’s where I am. I’ve no illusions about my writing.  Well some. I can definitely picture Oprah interviewing me on a maroon velvet sofa while I say how I really got started. Like Newhart, I have to learn what I do not already know with grammar, prose, basic editing.  I will be learning to write as I write.

It’s no secret that writers expand their craft and vocabulary by becoming not voracious writers but insatiable readers.  As I mentally pack my two suitcases for my writing road-trip, I can share that the contents will look like this:  One suitcase will be full of clean undergarments and a selection of clothes not falling apart.  The other will be filled with books and maybe even one of Bob Newhart’s for inspiration.

The Rolling Stones

I had two wonderful writing professors when I was completing my graduate work.  The first guided me in the art of free-style writing where you sit and let the words flow out, not worrying how they sound or whether they make any sense. (Apparently, I’ve mastered this.)  The time for editing comes later she always said.  The second professor was much more in love with the perfect prose and never held back on her critiques.  She was the kind of mentor any struggling writer needed to develop a style.  When my sentences didn’t make sense or inanimate objects performed action in my stories, a great deal of red marks showed up in my manuscripts.  Her favorite phrase:  “Show me, don’t tell me.”

The writing project I completed for the second professor ended up being more than a 52,000 word essay, but it took me 30,000 words before I found my writing voice.  My final manuscript was good enough as a thesis, but for consideration by a literary agent, it needed to be re-framed.  Even though I knew this, I still stalked writing agents at a conference in 2012. One asked to see my first fifty pages and after I sent off that manuscript, I received a pleasant, “I like it but I can’t sell it.”

I would have believed the agent more if she had said, It needs work, as it so obviously did.  I realized my own truth when a month after the agent’s initial rejection, I received an email from her that began, “Dear Rosemary …”  The email went on to read that she and her literary house wanted to publish my work titled – [something not mine]. The entire time I was reading the email, my heart was pounding fast but not with excitement as one might expect.  I wasn’t saying Yes! Yes! Yes! in my head.  My heart was pounding No! It’s not ready. It’s not good enough. It still needs so much work.  And I was right because the agent wasn’t talking about my manuscript but someone else’s, and the attached contract wasn’t for me but for another Rosemary.

The color red filled up my cheeks from embarrassment but not the humiliation that comes from thinking you were picked for a team then they decided to choose the other guy.  I was shy about my own work and I hadn’t realized how deeply until that moment.  The problem was, I didn’t know how to fix the manuscript, how to do a full overhaul, how to build a whole new framework.  I’m not even sure I know how to do this today.  What I do know is how to go about trying, who to contact to figure this out, and I feel oh so much more comfortable admitting that I don’t know what I don’t know.

After the sad second rejection from that literary agent, I put that writing pile aside.  I did email a few more anemic requests to other agents and when they did not respond, I shrugged my shoulders with indifference.  Over time, I surrounded my writer’s pile on the desk until I almost couldn’t find the original manuscript when I walked into my writing room. All of this, of course, was happening simultaneously with Hook’s diagnosis.  After a few months of dribbling words on the laptop screen in that old manuscript, I gave up.  I gave up not because Allan was sick but because it was a great excuse to say, “I have writer’s block,” when really I meant, I have writer’s fear.  

I turned inward to the only consistent, writing outlet I had, which happened to be a blog — this blog.  This was a safe platform to dump a truckload of emotions, to share pieces of a world that made less and less sense, and to write and write and write. It wasn’t manuscript writing, but it was the lifeline that I needed at the time.

I vaguely remember a song playing at Hook’s memorial, The Rolling Stones, You Can’t Always Get What You Want.  I’m not sure why he mentioned it during our awkward “which songs would you like played at your memorial” conversation. Whether it was for him or for me or for both of us no longer matters, because yes, we get what we need.  Sometimes what we need comes in the oddest forms and timelines and when it reaches us finally, we have to answer that calling, we have to answer our truth.

Pre Sabbatical Update

What I really wanted to share were some of my writing projects — what they’re about, how far along they are.  But, I am determined — Determined! — to reduce the number of words per blog post.   Here instead is a quick and fast sabbatical update:

  • WHEN:  Pre sabbatical now; Road sabbatical July 15th.
  • WHERE:  Expect first landing spot to be the Outer Banks in North Carolina.
  • WHAT:  There is someone out there who has no pets but likes cats.  You know you want to call me.  Call me!
  • HOW:  Note to self:  Call the damn realtor.

Until next Monday …

Rosemary

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Pre Sabbatical

WBR_SabbaticalI’m still trying to figure out how to write a blog post that doesn’t involve 3,000 words or 30 hours.   I’ve decided to post weekly from now on even though I know that what I write in Week 1 might not be true by Week 4.  Like, how my sabbatical landing spot will probably begin on the east coast of the United States instead of the west coast.

With all this planning, my emotions are jacked-up so that it feels like I’m swaying on a pendulum with ecstatic and absolute on a Monday that could swing over to doubt and insecurity by a Friday.  I remind myself that this vacillating uncertainly is nothing like the god-awful unknown of 2013.  No, this is good unknown, uncovering the unknown and when the tiny Rosemary troll on my shoulder tries to mutter, But what will people think? Or worse, What if you fail? I easily shrug her off with: People aren’t thinking about me because they have enough to think about in their own lives.  And the failure?  Not possible because just doing the sabbatical in the first place makes it a success.

That’s the absolute truth.

We hold back on so many choices sometimes wondering how it will look to the outside world.  But who is this outside world that we’re concerned about?  It’s not our family, they love us.  It’s not our friends, they’d support us however and wherever we needed. And if we did happen to fall flat on our faces, those same family and friends will be right there to help us stand up.  The people we’re worried about are the ones we don’t even like, the ones we don’t even respect.  In our lives, they are non-essentials and so what if they’d like to see us fail and fail miserably.  Theirs are not the voices that the universe will hear at least not when it comes to us.  When a person trusts what the universe is offering and they heed this instinct, the communication between that individual and the universe becomes clear.  We just have to listen and respond and slap back any trolls when necessary.

I’m in pre-sabbatical mode right now which I’ll explain in a moment. Sabbaticals in general are meant to be a time of rest and relaxation except when I’m writing there is usually little rest and relaxation. On my sabbatical there will probably be a lot of running and swimming and fretting and yelling at the laptop – That sounds like crap or For God sakes, use a comma already.  Sabbatical time for me means space – on the calendar, in my mind, where I live. It’s for focusing on only one writing project at a time instead of trying to edit multiple projects simultaneously. It’s a time when I sit my butt in the chair and resist texting friends asking if they want to meet for happy hour so I can escape the house and the white screen.

During pre-sabbatical, I must figure out:

WHEN does my sabbatical begin?  If you call my voicemail or send me an email, the message says I begin a sabbatical June 1st 2015 because today is when writing becomes the priority again on the calendar. That means no clients, no client meetings, no client-related business of any kind, and no business networking events.  The only social events are those related to writing or editing or publishing or how can I improve my writing, editing, storytelling and on and on and on.  This is how strict I have to be with myself, because I can easily fill up a week with breakfasts, coffee chats, lunches, happy hours, dinners and never write a word in between. But I will still be in Austin for June tying up loose ends until a firm departure date is set for mid-July. In the meantime, I will blog weekly with the goal of less words per post.

– WHERE will my sabbatical begin?  With previous sabbaticals (Europe, 1994) and (Mexico, 2004), my primary focus was about exploring other countries or immersing myself in those cultures. This current sabbatical is about absorbing my writing but with a different vista than my current one. Some folks have asked why I’m going anywhere at all, why not stay in Austin. And I could except I desire a change to my physical environment – not permanently – but for this writing year.  Even though I’m calling this my writing sabbatical, it is also a time for centering my energy and healing my heart and saying good-bye and good-bye and good-bye.  It’s about growth and learning and maybe a couple of visits to U.S. landmarks. And because I do my best writing near water (recent torrential rains in Austin aside), nearness to the ocean is essential, and someplace not overrun with tourists which is why San Diego got knocked off the starting list. I had a recommendation for the Outer Banks in North Carolina and am seriously considering this now as the kick-off place.  I do know that for the month of October, I will be in New York to have coffee with Hillary in Brooklyn then I’ll be attending a writing conference in Greenwich Village. (Do you believe me about the Hillary thing?)

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A twofie of us. You can’t see it in this photo but Gatita has beautiful blue, eyes — cross-eyed.

– WHAT do I do with Gatita?  My cat is needy, she wants to eat all the time, and she cries for no apparent reason. She’s exactly like me. Gatita is what I hauled back to Texas from my time in Mexico, her and her little kitty passport with her scrunched up feline face. I’ve thought about taking her on the road with me in the Jeep, but there’s a strong possibility that a month-long portion of my sabbatical time will include a return to Mexico for research on one of my stories. Mexico may have let Gatita out, but I do not think they would let her back in.  Plus, as vivid as my imagination can be, I cannot visualize her hind legs stretched tall while her front paws are latched onto a rolled down window, her cat face gloriously blowing in the wind.  I could picture that if a horrifying wail were emanating from her mouth at the same time.  If you know of anyone who would enjoy loving on a bilingual Siamese who understands “No” in both languages, please holla.

– HOW do I manage the Hook House?  This one I’ve almost figured out. The thought of packing and moving again, even temporarily, makes me want to curl up on the sofa into a fetal position and binge on Netflix. I could lease the house furnished but then I’d have to toss everything when I returned because I cannot do someone else’s cooties.  But the cootie situation does not eliminate leasing a furnished house from the option list.  Whatever I decide will be fine. It’s the process of decision-making that causes acid to drip into my stomach and the fact that I always learn way too many lessons about leasing after instead of before. Maybe this time will be different; and, maybe my 20-year old metabolism will return.  I have until the end of this week to call the realtor.

In the beginning of this mental planning in late 2014, I kept thinking that Hook was perhaps frowning on what I wanted to do.  It would have been so unlike him to embark on a sabbatical without knowing exactly what he would accomplish and with whom and how it would all turn out.  But when I allow myself to trust my own instinct instead of worrying what might have been his, I feel a warmth, a reassurance of sorts deep in my chest. That’s him. That is him letting me know that whatever I decide, he’s perfectly okay with it.  And, if I’m to continue being honest, I’ve been waiting.  I hadn’t realized for what but now I know.  I’ve been waiting for the tears to dry up, waiting until the hopelessness went away, waiting until I felt comfortable with removing my wedding rings completely.  I didn’t even feel bad or sad or much of anything when I took the rings off to tuck away in their original bronze-colored boxes.  After I placed my bands next to Hook’s, I kissed each one and thanked Allan for understanding.

One last thing before I close. When Oprah Winfrey was interviewed at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business in 2014, she shared an hour’s worth of wise nuggets about career and life.  One piece of counsel stuck with me, and it applies to how I painstakingly chose to finally grant myself this sabbatical and knew with complete certainty that this was the right thing to do and the right time to do it.

Oprah said, “Listen to what feels like the truth for you.”    

I am learning to listen and to heed my truth, and I want so much for you to listen to yours, too.

Until next Monday …

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Everything Happens for a Reason

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This was me being silly in class.

Two nights ago, I finished a three-week painting class in Austin. Actually, I’m not sure my work can be considered painting as much as wild stroking of a brush.

Will you keep painting, our instructor asked each night as she walked back and forth in front of our easels, the ones we stood behind as we sprinkled water on our blank pads and smoothed over the page with rounded mop brushes to prepare the paper to accept paint. I led with my right hand then switched back and forth between left and right.  I’d painted this way once before, a year ago, so I wasn’t surprised to find equal comfort using my left to water down the thick watercolor paper.

Watercolors.  I didn’t realize it was a watercolor and book-binding class.  I’d read the course description, in fact read it out loud. After I received an art list of supplies from the Dougherty Arts School on what I needed to purchase prior to the first class, my memory still blanked about the content of the class.  I showed up that first night with my brown bag full of watercolor paints and brushes and charcoal pencils and an odd assortment of other materials.

I wondered out loud, “Will we be drawing a nude?”

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Cover of the art book I made in class. Double-click to see full sized. Rosemary Hook, Dougherty Arts School, 2015.

The instructor was a young creative – a hippie I think – who taught art for a living and played the saxophone for fun.  She agreed how cool drawing nudes could be and I didn’t let on that I just wanted to see a naked body especially if I didn’t have to touch it.

Someone said recently, You have to start dating.  Actually, no I don’t.  It’s not a law of the United States or even of the Widow handbook.  I do applaud those widows, though, who have fallen in love again.  For now, anyone other than Hook appears insufficient and lacking somehow or at least that’s how I explained it to a friend of Hook’s.  But I’m not sad or wanting in any way.  Well, maybe a little but it’s not the held-back-from-living that it was this time last year.  I wrote to that same Hook friend that it felt odd to say out loud that Allan has been gone for over a year and a half.  That’s like no time at all.  I know he’s not coming home but the memories still hang around and unlike divorce, you’re not at all interested in falling out of love with the person who is gone.

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Rosemary Hook, Dougherty Arts School, Austin, Texas: 2015

But we do need love in our lives and I thought to do this by bringing more color into mine and this was how I signed up accidentally-on purpose for a watercolor class.  Now that it’s over, I am declaring that my painting is not horrible.  I mean, I don’t think anyone’s going to call me on the phone and offer to host an exhibit but I learned that 1) I paint in the abstract and 2) my abstracts are less awful than when I originally painted them.

What does it mean that I would paint what I would not normally gravitate towards in an art gallery?  Analyze that one for awhile.

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Rosemary Hook, Dougherty Arts School, Austin, Texas: 2015

I like to see people and structure and bold colors in artwork.  In fact, I’ve never purchased original artwork that doesn’t have one or all of those aspects in it.  It was difficult to resist a glop of deep cobalt blue on starch white and instead apply a watered down version of that vibrant azul.

You don’t have to be afraid of using more water, the instructor liked to say as she shared how she took a watercolor course by accident-on-purpose, too.  She needed a final class for her undergraduate work and a watercolor class was the only one still open.  She had begrudged the time on her academic calendar until she fell in love with the paints and now here she is more than ten years later teaching watercolor painting.

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Rosemary Hook, Dougherty Arts School, Austin, Texas: 2015

The second part of the class and the tangible goal was to bind a book from the art we created.  Our instructor kept reassuring us how great our bound paintings would look which was hard to imagine as we splashed water and color and sometimes salt onto 22 x 30 watercolor pads while occasionally drawing an outline before applying paint to paper.  I could not see how anything I was creating would be worthwhile to keep especially compared to the delicate works of my classmates.  But after we painted pages and pages and created a collage from cut outs, we trimmed down those same sheets into book size dimensions and well, now I could see.  I could see how focusing on a small piece of the full creation highlighted its beauty.

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A real Pepsis thisbe, tarantula hawk wasp, can be found at the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve in Austin, Texas. Had I painted her, you would see her red satin wings and soft black underbelly.

I will not be teaching a painting class to anyone – in the universe – ever.  No amount of margaritas could ever trick me into believing otherwise.  Although, maybe if we had had margaritas in class more of my Jackson Pollock would have emerged instead of a sketched, mutated Pepsis thisbe which began as a homework assignment then turned into me inventing a story to explain why this tarantula hawk was stylishly disfigured.  In the children’s story in my head, Pepsis thisbe had two winged friends:  Glenostictia pictifrons (Glenda for short) and Sceliphron caementarium (Cammie in the story).  They all have female names because they are all female wasps.  I’ve not passed into science nerd-dum but my teacher in this subject matter exited the world so I’m left making up stories about Pepsis, Glenda, and Cammie and their two mantis friends, Hook and Rosemary.  They all, of course, live at the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve where humans occasionally visit.

Oh yes, I could go on and on.

But that’s how creativity of any kind works.  You can start out in one channel and end up in another. As an untrained painter, I was excited about what I produced in my classes.  I thought about framing and hanging some of the pieces in the bathrooms of the Hook House and only mentioning them to visitors with a casual, Look at this from an unknown artist, what do you think?  But there would be no reason for me to be in the bathroom with someone so that wasn’t such a great idea.  Nonetheless, this artwork in its amateur form represents a time in my life in a way even words have not been able to do.

The instructor had a unique way of deconstructing our work for us.  She invited us to see our paintings from her angle – pointing out our distinct strokes and what she saw as our artistic style.  She’d softly offer suggestions for alternative brushes or how we might continue to add other colors over time to these pieces if we wanted a different outcome.  Did I want a different outcome?  Yes, but in more than just my painting.

Someone said recently without meaning harm, “Oh so it wasn’t recent,” in reference to the length of time that Hook has been gone.  I have to remind myself that the rest of the world isn’t tuned into Hook’s absence at a level that I’d like them to be. Some of his friends and colleagues still are.  When I hear from them or receive a hello or his name is mentioned by anyone other than me, it’s like opening a small gift full of joyful tears. It’s not all Hook all day anymore but that doesn’t remove my secret desire to use a bullhorn to announce:   He died, yes, but he hasn’t disappeared forever!  At least not for me, never for me.

Everything Happens For a Reason …

WBR_baddecisionsI used to like this saying because it was accommodating, and because life often appeared more acceptable if one were willing to allow for this unexplainable wisdom.  Then the image on the right popped up on my Facebook feed.  After my stomach stopped hurting from all the laughing, I felt a What? creep into my brain.  It was an uncertain What that pokes and prods and uses a foot to open a door so that self-doubt can sneak inside.

My art instructor felt there was a reason she ended up with that watercolor class she never wanted. There is no reason that would make sense to me as to why Allan had to leave when he did, and my only true consolation comes from knowing he died having lived a full life. No regrets. No bucket list items still to be crossed off.  But the same is not true of me.  I have a one-item list that is prepared to haunt me if I do not act on it soon.  I don’t want to be one of those, I wish I would have people. And if everything happens for a reason, I’ll either be successful or unsuccessful and it won’t matter one bit because, well, everything happens for a reason. See, it’s accommodating.

Had I fled the state of Texas after Hook died, that would have qualified as a bad decision. Mourning doesn’t know logistics. Instead, I held onto a buoy in the middle of my life. I swam through the worst of grief while building my business back up and did my best to re-create a new home.  My progress was slow, true, but it was progress nonetheless.  I’ll even give myself a B+ for overall effort with weekly outbursts of, Today was an A day!  (I actually say this stuff, out loud, to myself when I’m alone.)  What I’m trying to explain is that I didn’t run away. I did not give up hope but mainly that was because I had no hope to give up. I did become slightly amazed at what I’d been able to produce writing-wise without discipline and through tears. I mention discipline because real writers write every single day or nearly every day. It is their life, and it prompted me to ask myself what could happen if I actually committed to this craft daily.

So I signed up for a NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – where each sadistic writer agrees to pen about 2,000 words a day and/or at least 50,000 words in a month. I never wished I was on crack more than in the month of November last year.  Although I didn’t need to start another new novel, I did and for the sole purpose of proving that if I cleared my calendar and physically left my home office that I could sit in a chair every single day without wireless access and with no other purpose than to write.  Could I do it?

Well yes I can.

I’m not Allan. I could never be him. I don’t wear plaid. But I’m so (glad? relieved?) that he was wholly satisfied with what he’d accomplished in his life before he left it. As I continue to strive to live in my now, I’m ready to say out loud what journey is next for me — a year-long writing sabbatical.  The questioning What? bubble was meant to test whether self-doubt would mar my choice as being one of a “bad decision.” This is the writing sabbatical I never took with Allan.  It is time.  It is time for a year of focus and carefree creating in whatever direction my right hand leads me.  I must answer for myself whether I have the discipline to finish a novel.

That I will publish something before I die is a given assuming I do not die next week. Even if the world falls into chaos, I will at least finish a book. But it is one of my in-the-works novels that my heart and my mind want to jump into first. I’d been holding back rationalizing that I needed to be focused on a non-fiction book first.  I stalled, because when I’m not working on what I really want to be working on, it’s drudgery to do anything else. Drudgery is what I put in the to-be-filed tax paperwork. I could spend another year stalling on both the novel and the book wondering how long the universe will keep trying to get through without any action on my part.  But I would have to be dead to ignore the communique.  Besides, since anything is possible, I could finish both a novel and a book!  If I produce nothing at all, it will not be because I was not disciplined. It will not be because I did not sit in the chair every, single day for hours and hours at a time to write and only write.

My soul is begging to create what it wants to create, to conceive what it feels drawn to conceive, and to be let loose to do what I’d meant to do back in 2012 before our world fell apart. Crying for a year and a half does not count as a sabbatical.  If everything doesn’t happen for a reason, then I plan to make one up with a splash of paint and pray to God that I don’t end up living down by the river in a van.

Details about the upcoming sabbatical in the next post!

xo

Rosemary

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