It is hard to look at one’s self fully in the mirror, to not look way, to not let your gaze linger on the parts of your face or body that you like or skip horridly over the parts you don’t.
Hard, but sometimes necessary.
When I graduated from college (May, 2005), I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to hold down some sort of boring but important job (administration assistant) and write short stories and eventually a novel. Or two. I wanted to be published and respected as a writer who created something worth reading. I wanted to see my name online and in print, to see my books on shelves. I wanted to eventually be able to quit that boring but important job and write full time. To take long walks and then sit quietly and write long novels full of literary symbolism and allegory. I wanted to write the sorts of things that English majors would argue about later, “Did you notice the two phone cords in the first chapter, how they were coiled up but also intertwined… don’t you think that was foreshadowing???”
I got the job but I didn’t write. Instead I embarked on a spiritual journey, leaving my Christian faith behind once and for all and finding meaning in the Pagan world of symbols and chanting, of spoken word stories and of ritual.
I revised my plan. I would be a boring job person by day and a Priestess by night. I would learn the jargon, learn the stories, I would write the songs for the next generation and carry the symbols to others, I would share peace and love and faith in the Goddess.
I wanted to explore myself in new ways. I started thinking more about who I was as a writer, as an artist. I felt disconnected and tried to live my art though life moments, fleeting moments that were full of self deluded clarity. In the mornings, I was still me, still trapped, still floundering.
My marriage ended. (That’s a whole other story)
I took new vows, vows to the Goddess., vows to my Circle, vows to the person that I wanted to be; an artist full of holy grace. I wanted to paint and plant flowers and do something huge and beautiful with my life.
And then I was raped. Brutally and without mercy.
In the moments that followed, I tried to cry out to the Goddess, but it was hollow. I thought about calling out to God. It felt just as empty. I thought about my ex husband and was filled with shame. Not longing, which surprised me, but shame. I found a way to stand up. I found my anger.
And then I found solace in the bottle. Many many many bottles to be exact. Bottle of beer, which I hate. It was like double punishment, forcing myself to drink something I hated in order to black out from a life I was also starting to hate.
The rats in the walls closed in. The “cheerful” Christmas lights on my windows seemed to mock me.
And I wrote.
And wrote. And wrote again.
Poetry. Stories. Sketches.
I found my fiction voice again. I escaped into stories of other people, people suffering, but also people who weren’t suffering, people who were just living their lives.
Eventually I decided to get sober. (That’s a whole other story too).
I kept writing. I was amazed I could write without drinking. Sometimes I couldn’t.
I met a man who challenged me, supported me, loved me without saying the words. (He eventually said the words.)
I realized that I had left the Goddess behind and had hardly even noticed. I read science books and atheist books and relabeled myself. Again.
I began to write about science, about critical thinking, about politics.
My fiction was published but instead of feeling accomplished I felt afraid, worried that my best fiction was behind me. I was afraid to start again, afraid to fail when I had gotten the tiniest taste of success.
I wrote more nonfiction, critical essays, more politics.
I started a novel. And then another one. And then another one. They gathered dust.
But nonfiction was easier, it had a quicker pay off.
It was published, applauded, accepted.
I took my place as a blogger, a monthly columnist, a political writer and reporter of the news.
I had a daughter and felt another bit of myself atrophy and die, replaced by being a mom, but still. Could I be more than a mom?
I looked at my fiction and was bored, was afraid, was intimidated.
I hid from fiction and wrote more nonfiction, I took on another role, another blog. I liked listing off my nonfiction accomplishments.
But I would wake up at night and wonder, what am I doing? What am I doing it for?
How can I teach my daughter to follow her heart if I can’t even find the time to follow mine?
And then my fiction was critiqued as being “too nonfiction” in a workshop.
And then I was offered another two opportunities to go further in the nonfiction political world… avenues to name in print, name on blogs, more little tick boxes on my resume.
But, I had hit a wall, and I knew it.
Today I wrote my last Community Alliance article. I sent in my letters of resignation. I closed a few doors firmly and even locked a few.
Fiction. My old friend, My on again off again lover. My muse and my hope and my curse.
Short stories. The novel, a new one of course. Reviewing fiction, reading fiction, WRITING fiction.
There are only so many hours in the day. There are only so many days in our lives. I want to be a writer of fiction. I want my daughter’s mother to be a writer of fiction. I want to be seen in the circles of friends and writers and everywhere else one circles in… as a writer of fiction.
Already I have written 3200 words in a new fiction piece and started to feel the need for a drink, for some time on you tube with cats. Already I have thought about writing a nonfiction article about… anything else.
A new chapter in the same book. Perhaps someday a new book.
I am going to be a writer. I am going to hold down a never boring and always important job (Stay At Home Mom) and write short stories and eventually a novel. And then another one.
One word at a time.
I will build for myself the life of words that I want.
I will be a writer of fiction. I will be published. I will see my name in print, my books on shelves.
Word by word I will create something worth reading.
In the mirror of introspection, I look at my eyes, dark and full of fear. I look at my mouth, too big for its own good at times.
I look long and hard at the body of work I have and the body of work I want. Counting calories, counting words. Pushing myself to sweat, and to also sometimes to stay still and keep typing.
The mirror version of me is ready. And so am I.