In the weeks leading up to my return to work last summer, I was quite afraid this would happen. It wasn’t my fear of teaching again. What I feared was the runaway train that is the life of a teacher: the constant demands and nagging feeling of a job not-quite-done, the mental to-do lists of all the things you could be doing marginally better, the worries and anxieties that come along with adding 23 children to the one you have at home. These children are not yours of course, but they get under your skin, causing you to love, obsess, and fret over them as if the fate of their entire future was squarely in your hands. And for 180 days, it pretty much is.
But that’s not an excuse. I’ve never done the work-home life balance well. Even in the days before TC’s injury, I struggled to put work away, to sit across the dinner table from my own child without feeling mentally preoccupied about the kids I had just said goodbye to for the day. I tried (unsuccessfully) to set limits on myself: no e-mail after 8PM, no lesson planning on Saturdays, no teacher talk at family gatherings. All these rules were for nothing, however, because the fact of the matter is that for all people at all jobs, the work has to get done sometime. That’s just the way it is.
I knew my writing would be the first thing I sacrificed. It was a fairly conscious decision on my part. My writing does not pay the bills. My teaching job does. But as I look back at my blog, witnessing five months of nothingness, I have to wonder how much I have allowed my job to serve as the excuse for why I am not writing more.
There is another reason – a much harder one to explain – and it has to do with failure. Writing a blog was never on my life list of things to do, so it was really disorienting to post my first entry two Augusts ago and have 5,000 people read it within the first few hours. I didn’t know who I was writing to and, in some ways, I still don’t. I don’t know that I write anything that makes me unique or identifiable from any other blog author except that I have inadvertently made a lot of people cry over the past 21 months. But regardless of my own author identity confusion, I have to admit that I love writing. I love writing so much that to fail at it even a little will suck enormously. And for that reason, sometimes it’s easier to write nothing at all.
A lot has happened in the past five months. In February I lost my father after a very long illness. The experience of being at his side during those final weeks was so intimate, so emotionally taxing, that I still haven’t found the right words to put around it. To tell the truth, I’m still not sure I’ve really accepted that it happened. And behind closed doors, living with brain injury oscillates between being pretty easy and emotionally devastating. TC and I are the survivors of some very rough patches and yet we venture on, resolved to keep working at this family and to repair the very fragile links that were broken. It’s not OK to write about yet, because we’re still very much living it. And after more than a year of living very publicly, we are both relishing in the occasional moment of solitude.
This all leads me to the thing that’s on my mind these days: I have to keep writing. You can’t be a writer if you don’t write. I certainly don’t have magical thoughts every day of my life, but as a reader, I know that I’m always happy to read even the most mundane thoughts by my favorite writers. The point is to get those thoughts out there – to risk failing, to risk offending, to risk succeeding. That’s the creative process. It’s full of self-imposed anxiety, ego, and guilt. But I learned so much about balance last year that I cannot let myself forget one of the fundamental principles of my new life: scary things are survivable. But living without risk is simply wasteful.
So, consider this a warning: I will be writing more – surely annoying folks on social media as I post links to non-magical thoughts. If they’re worthless, that’s fine. If they’re gold, I hope you read them. It is a true honor to write for any kind of audience and I appreciate all the people who have continued to check in as I’ve let stress, fear, and distraction take me away over the past few months. I hope life has been busy and rich for all of you and mostly I hope you are finding the time to live your passions. Because, really, that’s the point of all this, right?
Till next time…