Shoulds, shouldn'ts, and have tos

This may turn out to be the most rambling and intimate post I have ever written, but that's where I am at this moment. "She held it in the teacup of her heart." I am giving you a glimpse of the teacup in my heart. It is a delicate thing, so be careful, please.

I am so grateful that I have this blog, less for the readership (which is wonderful, don't get me wrong), but for the outlet.

Where to begin?


I read Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Big Magic, a few weeks ago. It should have been subtitled "Stop making excuses and just get up and do what you love already." It didn't exactly touch me in the way I thought it would, but several weeks later, I find myself thinking about what she said about Big Ideas. About how Big Ideas will look for you if you are open to them, and if you ignore them, they will go away, seeking another person as outlet for expression. The Big Idea doesn't die, it just won't wait for you anymore, and it's willing to find someone else who wants to play with it.

I had a Big Idea last night. For a book. I could see exactly how it would flesh out in my mind and it is perfect and wonderful. I am so glad that the Big Idea came to me, chose me out of all people.

Now what?

When I was in college (all my best stories start this way), I took a creative writing emphasis, which meant that I had to take all of three fiction writing courses. The first two were fine, but the last one I wanted to be special. I tried one teacher and didn't like her, so I dropped the course. The next semester, my final semester, I found out that the editor of The Missouri Review, Speer Morgan, was going to teach the class. I was thrilled. I needed Speer Morgan in my life to tell me what to do with this burning itch to write. I honestly don't think I have ever been more excited to start anything in my life as I was the first day of class.

Then, who shows up to teach but the woman whose class I had dropped the semester before? Speer Morgan has decided that he's too busy to teach the course. Understandable, but I was kind of devastated.

I had to finish this class to get my degree, so I plugged along. It was an uninspiring experience all around. I remember nothing that I wrote that semester.

But what I do remember is one guy in the class asking her for advice on how to get published. She had several books out, none of them big. She could have given advice on how to submit work, how to edit, etc, as she had spent her life doing those writerly things. She did none of that.

She kind of sneered at the class, these young, impressionable kids, really, and said, "None of you will ever get published, so it's best to just give up on that dream now."

Wow. Really?

I wish I could go back to that moment and bitch slap that lady. It's one of the few moments in my life that I remember with precise clarity.

Instead, my 21 year old self slowly let that dream die. It was an unattainable thing. I was unworthy to write, is what I heard. What are you going to do with your English degree?? Ad nauseum.

I know that wanting to write and publish a book is a little like saying that you're going to be a professional sports player, but you know, there actually are people in the world that do both. That's what I would go back and tell myself. It is not actually impossible, just unlikely. You have to want it and work your ass off to get it.

These years since college, I have done absolutely no writing. Some years have gone by and I haven't even thought of it. It was an old, childish dream.

I did what I was supposed to do. I got married, got a job, and had kids. If I felt a void ever, I filled it with busy-ness. I painted a room, sold a house, had another kid, got a dog.

This is not to say that all of those things were not, and are not, great. They are great. They are perfect. Honestly. I am exceedingly happy with how that part of my life is going.

They are just not enough. It sometimes feels like there will never be enough.

I remember when I quit my job at the bank to stay at home with the kids, before we even knew that Miss A had anything going on medically, I came back to say hi one day and ran into my boss. She asked me what I had been up to and I told her about school PTA, Mom's Club, etc. I was a busy person.

She said, "I knew you wouldn't be the kind to be content to just stay at home." And she was right. Immediately after I started staying home, I started filling time. I filled it with all the things that a mom should fill their time with. And it wasn't quite enough, but I kept filling it.

I threw myself into caring for my children. I spent so much energy concentrating on my daughter and her disorder. Rightfully so, of course. She needed that. Maybe I needed that, too.

I have always felt "other" in my life. If there is a survey and 95% of people think this way, you can guarantee I'm in the other 5%.

But I don't say that stuff. I talk about the weather. I volunteer at school. I decorate my house and take my children to their activities.

And I simmer, just under boiling.

A few years ago, a woman in my town published a book and it totally rocked my world. Laura McHugh, The Weight of Blood.

She is a little older than me and got downsized from her job, and her husband told her to take the time and try her hand at writing the book she'd always wanted to write. And you know, she freaking did it. And it became a best seller and now the rights to the movie have been sold. She has another book coming out this year.

Ironically, or maybe not so much so, the book was super gory and explicit. It was a little hard to wrap my brain around this woman writing this particular book. This woman who attends PTA meetings and such. But it was interesting and well-written and worth the read, if you're looking for a suspense story.

I met her awhile back, and I said to her, "You did it." And she said, "Yes, I did."

Now, I am not naïve enough to expect that kind of success. That's crazy talk.



Liz Gilbert would tell me to stop saying "but" and just start doing it.

Laura McHugh is me, I am her.

I am blessed with a good enough family situation, where I'm not having to stare at my children every minute. A husband who can be talked into just about anything, aside from getting a cat. A blessed amount of free time that I squander looking at the wall.

But, what?

I hear the Big Idea and I want to answer it.

I think I Have To.

In my life, I oscillate between feeling totally confident in my badass self, and feeling completely unworthy for human consumption, sometimes in the span of seconds. It is disconcerting. I am an ADULT, for god's sake.

Maybe I don't know what it means to be an adult. Or maybe that's exactly how all adults feel.

We just don't talk about it.

We talk about the weather, instead.

Except, you know, I'm kind of done with that?

Just like I tell my kids, I think I have to give myself permission to shoot for the moon. I don't think it's a choice anymore.

I think that in this world where we like to put people in boxes, I have always fought against that. That may make me hard to take, but I find this me much more preferable than the one that makes you comfortable. If I'm honest with myself, I quite enjoy surprising people.

You may see me in a certain light, and part of me may fit in that space, but there is a lot more there. I just choose who I share it with. I delight in exploring that. It scares me, and frankly, why can't we all explore that part of ourselves? The part that says, no, you've got it all wrong about me. I've got it all wrong about myself.

It's cold today, and grey.