I came across Penelope Trunk's post on 9/11 yesterday and I found the answer to what I had been looking for years. I have blogged for many years now and have written about family life, movie reviews, the state of publishing and even about my torn Achilles and the road to recovery. Yet there's always been this uneasy feeling within me that I "should" pick a direction and to focus on that. I thought I should just write about what my readers want me to write about and then I gave up on that, thinking it best that I write about what I want.
Yet, even then, I didn't really find a balance there. I always felt that I was doing this blogging thing wrong and that my topics were all over the place. But now I know what I need to do. In Penelope Trunk's post, she writes:
"For all of you who are planning to write to me to ask if you should quit one blog and start another, let me tell you that it’s much more meaningful to understand how the two types of blogging belong together. Because both types of writing are part of you. And the process shows you how you become an integrated person."
I was standing on the train when I read this paragraph and it was as though my world had stopped. I just nodded and felt a sense of peace. Yes, that is what I had been trying to do. It's not so much that I want to have separate blogs but I want to write about the challenges in my life among the competing pressures and how I have (and haven't) integrated them into my daily routine.
Yesterday was a difficult day for me. I didn't get a lot of sleep, worked all day and rushed home so that I could be with my family so that my wife could go out for the night. I was cranky, tired and not at my best. In my mind, I was wondering how I was going to make time to write my next book, watch the SEO optimization classes for work, go to work, take care of my kids, attend a writer critique group so that I can become a better writer and market my latest book coming out in a few weeks. There's a laundry list of things and I thought: "Nobody gives a shit about all the work I'm doing. They don't."
Then why do I do it?
I had struggle with that answer before and know the answer to that. I do. But the same old struggle comes up: What is work/life balance? How do I do that? How do I be a good father and husband? How do I make time to exercise and run? How do I make time to read, write? How, how, how? I will be honest in that I do get resentful of hearing other people's stories. Their lives seems filled with so much work than mine. And I have been honest and asked myself: "Should I quit? Should I give up?"
I just don't want to and I believe in my heart and in the deepest parts of my mind that I am meant to write and to live a fully integrated live. The challenge has always been that I struggle with it. I fight. I resent it and complain. What I want to write about now is the acceptance and integration process so that I can share that with others.
I do not have to be defined as society sees me. I am a white male. I don't really enjoy sports, like the Indigo Girls and am a big fan of the Anne of Green Gables books. I don't fall into the "normal" category of what a man should be and like. Heck, I like to clean and cook. The stereotypes that I grew up with don't fit me. That doesn't mean I won't site down and watch the Super Bowl or that I don't enjoy a good Mad Max film. No, but I, like many people, have varied likes and don't wish to ignore them any longer and try to be something that I'm not.
What I have learned so far is that it's important to admit how you feel. Talk or write it out. Share what you're going through--the messy parts, when I'm frustrated and angry or unsure of my path. By admitting how I feel, that helps me to own my feelings and then I can decide on what to do next. I can move forward. But this doesn't happen in a day and isn't like a light switch: Sometimes it's a gray area. I might think I know what I need to do but then need to regroup and admit I was wrong and then go another way.
Life is complicated. We all know that. It's not easy no matter who you are or what you do. But you're not alone. You're not without others who will listen, share their experiences and we also now have the tools to instantly communicate (social media).
Who else out there is fed up in going through your Facebook and Instagram feeds and seeing everyone's amazing life? I know that it's not true. Yes, people have good times but they're choosing to post the good stuff. I joke with my wife and said that I was going to post a photo of my cleaning a toilet. It's not always sunsets at the beach. Same thing is true on blogs. I've read a lot about other writer's successes, but I really want to also learn about their failures. Without failure, we can't succeed. I'll say it again: For every success I've had, there is a string of failures that lead back many years.
And that's where I am at right now. I am a writer, work in higher ed, a father, husband and a runner. I am all of this and more, but that doesn't make me special or different or anything different than anyone else. So I'm going to embrace the complicated parts of my life, admit to it and then write about how I feel. I've been feeling pressured and stressed and burned out. But I gave myself off this morning from writing my next book so that I could write this. And I'm happy.
Finding one's self and growing, can be hard, but it's not impossible. The themes in my books mirror this. My characters fail, fall, stumble and get up and dust themselves off to go onward. And that's what I'm doing now. Life is a messy, wonderful, complex gift and you're seeing mine unfold before you. Thank you. If you wanted to share you comments below, feel free or tweet me.