In order to write about life first you must live it.
My wonderful webmaster, Christine, reminds me often of the importance of blogging regularly. Unfortunately, consistency and I have been at odds this past year. Since February 2016, when my husband and I made the decision to sell our home, we unwittingly propelled ourselves into an unknown future which would reverberate for months to come.
No sooner than the realtor planted the sign in the front yard—with reassurances it might not sell for at least a year—that we began the slow, often painful process of putting the past in its place to embrace a future that was, as of yet, uncertain.
That’s a flowery way of saying the decision we made would pretty much make our lives suck for a solid year. In the short term, we dealt with massive paperwork, an onslaught of housecleaning and showings and more showings and realtor demands. But in less than a month the thought of this overweight monkey off our backs became reality. Honestly, it seemed as if things were looking up.
But for anyone who has ever sold a home, you know this is just the beginning. We spent months navigating family dynamics and emotional drama until the day we pulled out of the driveway for the last time, moved into a one-bedroom apartment, and a second three weeks later. There is something about having most of your earthly possessions in storage that is both exhilarating and terrifying. Where were the photo albums, the box of poetry rough drafts, my recently purchased sweaters from Ireland, the wine opener? Mislabeled boxes in the closet, the apartment parking garage, the back of my Jeep. Boxes, boxes everywhere, life reduced to boxes. After our move to a second apartment, I became obsessed with finding things; unpacking and repacking boxes and visiting the storage unit for reassurance everything was still there. I frequently woke from nightmares; recurring dreams of wandering aimlessly through unfamiliar streets and alleys in search of home. All this while packing up for a third move (this one cross-country) and finishing up fall semester of my senior year at Hamline University. During one particularly trying day, I sat on the floor of a nearly empty apartment making last minute changes to my end-of-semester project while movers grudgingly packed, unpacked, and re-packed my computer/monitor/printer. “But I just have one more edit!”
As I presented my chapbook that evening, I realized the months of transition, stress, and upheaval had indeed found its way into my writing, echoing the words of Mark Twain, “Write what you know.” Poetry (and later collage) became an outlet for dealing with psychic trauma. One of the poems in this collection, “Late at Night My Mind Goes Walking,” came as a complete surprise and soon manifested itself in collage. Why the woman on a ladder with flames licking her ankles? Or multiple images of owls? Unbeknownst to me, my subconscious was hard at work making sense of circumstances I could not.
As I sit writing this blog, I look back with amazement at how my art and plans eventually came together. Our third and final move to the mountains materialized, the life we had envisioned came to pass. If you are reading this blog, swamped with difficulties or in the midst of major transitions, take heart. Let the temporary challenges provide fuel rather than frustration for your art. By the time you find yourself on the other side, you will be amazed what you’ve produced and learn so much about yourself in the process.
Making a big life change is scary. But know what’s even scarier? Regret.