Big Life

Today it started to sink in a little bit. Last night on the drive home from seeing my son for the first time since I dropped him off with his mother on July 1st, I saw a break in the clouds. Metaphorically speaking…and literally too I suppose.

The last few days, Winter has begun to flirt with North Park. Four or five inches of heavy, wet snow dropped on us a few days ago and the mountains have been glazed with snow, which is melting off, but I think will serve as a base coat as the nights get longer and winter settles in.

A year ago…it’s hard to imagine what was going on a year ago. Like now, I was preparing for a court case. I put my writing on hold. The book, which was writing itself had to be paused so I could represent myself in court. That thing they say about a person who serves as their own attorney has a fool for a client…believe it.

It was a waste of time, but I did save a little bit of money on attorney’s fees. Anyway, enough about that. We are talking about a break in the clouds.

Yesterday, I got a my first face-to-face visit with my youngest kiddo. We played chess for an hour. He beat me twice. I’m proud of him. It was so nice just to be present with him and interact that I forgot to take pictures. It was good to just be near him, encourage him, help him through moves or teach him better ways to play the game. Zoom calls are no substitute. It’s a long process, but one I hope will end well for him. He has a lot of patience for an eleven year old. He could teach a lot of us what strength really is.

I wish he didn’t need to be so strong.

On the way home, I stopped at the old neighborhood where I had landed shortly after I began the journey of my divorce and new life. The old house has been bought and it looks like it is being flipped again. I spoke with my neighbor and former coworker. We caught up. I had left the neighborhood without saying goodbye back in December. We weren’t all that close, and about half an hour of chatting in the cold evening air was enough to motivate me to head back into the mountains. I stopped at Dutch Bros. for coffee. Chatted with a couple of my friends there. Then raced to Ft. Collins to pick up a copy of Big Life Magazine, which bought my story about road tripping with my mom and my son in Oregon and Washington back in March 2021.

I found the final copy at the Barnes and Noble there and then raced home before the weather could get too bad, with an ETA of around 11:00pm. The roads were dry and clear all the way up until the pass on the Colorado/Wyoming border, but with 4WD locked in, I didn’t have any problems. Just the solitude of the road at night and the ground blizzards which whip across the highway like snow snakes.

Today, I finally got a chance to read the article. Other than a few edits they dropped in, it looked great! My son and I have a picture together in the pages of a nationally published magazine for which I am a writer in the Summer 2021 issue. The magazine is about living your best life, and in a weird meta way, selling a story there was doing just that.

My imposter syndrome has taken a major hit.

Sometimes I feel like moving back to my home town was the worst mistake of my life. It cause a lot of feathers to be ruffled. Parents often live apart so that they can pursue their goals and dreams and continue to provide the best life for their kids. I’ve known parents who live a thousand miles away and make it work. Moving has brought me back to court. This process is slow, painful, and expensive. I’m not a fan.

But moving has challenged me to refurbish a 120 year old house and push my comfort zones in so many ways. Recently I designed, built, and installed a secret door bookshelf because I’ve always wanted one. I have Scooby Doo to thank for that. In the last couple months, I have taught myself how to use carpentry tools and skills I never thought I would have used past Woods I in high school.

I highly recommend the Bostitch 16 guage nail gun, by the way. It saves so much time and makes a better looking product than trying to beat nails in with a hammer.

Also, in moving, I have a little bit more freedom to write. I’m making headway on the novel. I’m pitching stories to magazines. I’m getting out more and having new experiences and writing about them. Sometimes things get intense, but on days like those, I pet my dog, Penny, and I sit down to work on the book or write a blog post, or challenge myself. In the last eighteen months, I’ve lost a few people who were very close to me. I blame myself for a lot of that. My regret is that I wish I could have been better. But it’s hard to do that when your world is coming apart at the seams. We are all struggling these days.

I’m learning. Always learning. Some lessons are hard. They humble you. They make you grateful for what you have instead of what you want. You learn that you can’t take anything for granted. Not your kids. Not your health. Not the people who are closest to you. You need to appreciate every moment you get, because nothing is guaranteed. We are not promised tomorrow.

Today, I read that article and for a little bit there was a break in the clouds. I am a nationally published travel writer. I’m achieving my goals. It takes baby steps to get there, but a year ago, I would have never dreamed I would be writing these words. A year ago was a whole other life away. Someone else’s story.

Tonight I sit typing these words in my office. I feel comfortable in my own skin. I miss my son, but I am trusting in the process. I’m working. I’m keeping my heart open to lessons it has needed to learn. I no longer fear the winter like I used to. Back in those days when being snowed in felt like you were being strangled, for no other reason than you were locked in with yourself.

Tonight, I’m comfortable with that. Listening to my Portishead Live from Roseland NYC album. The house is coming together. Things are falling into place. What comes next just might be scary, the next push out from my comfort zone. The next horizon to cross and a whole other set of stars to see shining in the sky.

Regrets

I could have been kinder. I could have been more patient. I could have listened better. I could have made fewer excuses. Kept quiet. Listened better. I could have fought harder. Fought less. Not held on so tightly. Gone that extra mile, but not the next seven.

Sat in the mess and just felt the grief flood through me.

Cheered louder. Waved more flags that weren’t red.

Not hidden behind old habits and distractions. Not run like a horse in a barn fire with eyes wide and wild, just running and running hard, afraid that I was still in the blaze.

Not embelished for sympathy. Not overshared to exorcise demons.

I shouldn’t have been mean. It’s better to be kind than it is to be “right.”

Kept my jealousy in check.

To stop second guessing myself or catastophizing everything.

To have been less prideful and shown more grace. To trust better.

I could have drunk more coffee. Unashamed.

Apologized more.

I could have gone out and watched the sunset today.

I could have played catch with my son more.

Apologized less.

I could have told people No when they needed to hear it and not worry about losing someone who refused to believe I was serious when I said it.

I could have lived less with regrets and just lived more.

I wish I would have learned about Boundaries instead of how to do polynomial equations.

Climbed more trees. Broken more bones. Believed in myself more.

Beat myself up less.

Been myself more.

In the moment.

WIP Progress

The other day I realized that on my novel in progress, I have a ton of scenes written, but almost no thread of continuity when it comes to structure. I’ve decided to start drawing things together and as I have been writing, I am coming across a strange phenomenon. I am discovering that I have been unwittingly rewriting chapters. Some better, and some not as good as the originals that have been buried underneath scenes and partial chapters in my Scrivener documents.

Sometimes the scenes are exactly the same, with the same similies and metaphors, other times they are just slightly skewed, but the concept is there, just taken from a different angle. So, I’ve been stitching some of these together, weeding out the paragraphs that aren’t written as well.

I think what I am learning in this process is that the story is a good one. It carries with it a lot of undenable Truth, and even when I have forgotten that I have already written a scene, I later find it. The scene needs to be told, it has to be revealed, and that’s just what is happening.

I once heard a big time writer say that they don’t carry a moleskein notebook around with them, because if the idea is good enough, they can afford to forget it, because it will come back later when they need it. This seems to be a hybrid of writing down everything and then the idea coming back later.

One of the reasons I love Scrivener is that I can leave it on all day long, and if I have an idea or a thread of dialog, I can just hop on, click the new button and go to town writing it, without the lag and bullshit of a typical Word document.

The drawback is that I can leave it on all day long, and once I hop on and click the new button and go to town, it just gets lost in a giant jumble of other files, which I cannot for the life of me keep track of.

Today has been a day of a lot of just forcing myself to sit and work. Which is very, very hard to do sometimes. I have had only a handful of people in my life who have understood what I need to do. Even if they don’t understand how I can peck away for hours on a story, to disappear completely for days at a time, at least they get that for my own mental wellbeing I need to do this. If I don’t write for a while, they can tell. Like a good grandma who asks if you’ve eaten, they have asked “When was the last time you wrote?”

It’s lonely because a lot of people don’t understand that, especially if they punch a clock at work. Writing isn’t something I turn off when the end of the days hits. It’s something I am constantly doing. Whether it is an assignment with a deadline and cash on the line or if it is the story and I have to pull over and jot something down. Lots of “Can Clinton come out and play?” to which I have to say, “Sorry. He’s busy. He wants to, but that’s all he will do if you let him.”

At least that is the plan on how it should work. Sometimes I play entirely too much. And with every early night in bed, I hate myself a little bit more because it was another day wasted when I could have been writing.

So if you have a writer in your life, don’t ask them how the writing is going. And if you don’t hear from them much, that is a GOOD THING. This is a 60+ hours per week job. Let’s be honest, sometimes we write in our sleep if the dream is good enough. We might be fun at parties, but all too often we don’t want the party to stop. Until we need it to stop. And then it is full blackout for fun. I dated a woman for a while who often told me her daydream of sitting with me in the room while I worked and she would read or draw and bring me coffee or whiskey, depending on my needs. Yeah, we never did this. I was much too interested in having fun whenever she was around. I’m a lock myself in my office and put on the headphones writer. Even my own son has given me excuses to just say fuck it and go do something else. Because parenting! My dog has been known to enable me to do anything else. Because ball!

The Facebook crash the other day showed me how often I was checking in on distractions, rather than just use my time better.

If you want me happy, just let me work. Yes. I’m lonely. Yes. I’m boring. But I’m doing something good for myself that needs to be done. It beats the alternative of hating myself at 11pm and knowing that I lost another day to distractions.