The next number of posts, all titled Conversations on… come from email communications between a dear friend and me. With her permission, I am publishing excerpts from them because I feel they pertain to everything we’ve been discussing on the blog. Kate has been in the process of trying to figure out how to be a writer and still maintain her teaching job. She has very recently decided she must leave her job and fully embrace a “writing life.” At her request I’ve changed her name and am using initials for people she brings up. Those of you who have not read any of the earlier Conversation pieces, may want to go back to have a better understanding of Kate’s progress (there is a list of links to the earlier Conversation series, in order–read from the bottom up, at the bottom of this post). It’d be great if you all would join our conversation…
All photos in today’s post were shot by Kate on visits to New Mexico.
I THINK you are traveling home tomorrow and I so hope your trip with your family has been good. I’m eager to know how your throat is doing this many days after your treatment. I’m also wondering about the emails you sent out and the responses to them. There’s plenty of time for you to share these with me. No rush. You’re just very much on my mind.
I just finished this post I wanted to share with you. I think you’ll notice it was born from our recent conversations:
I have a secret to tell you: living your dream isn’t everything you think it will be. It isn’t the final or the whole answer. This fact hit me like a ton of bricks shortly after leaving my day job. I was stunned. I think I thought the leap into the dream, living every day as a working artist, was it. But, in fact, it was just the beginning. I didn’t understand this so much back then.
I read somewhere long ago that we never get to escape ourselves. No matter where we go, we always take us with us. I thought they were just talking about geography but I understand, now, they weren’t. We take ourselves into the lives of our dreams, too. What this means is the same issues that dogged me in my corporate life, other than a boss and my clients, still nip at my heals now. The sorrows that kept me awake nights then, still hold me sleepless. If anything, being an artist has brought them to the fore. It is harder to hide when my work is everyday, always, below the surface. The fact is, even though I am living a life I truly love, it is still hard, because I carry that hardness in me. THIS, folks, is what living our dreams does: it shows ourselves to us.
Sue, a reader of the blog, sent this quote, by Katherine Mansfield, to me: “The mind I love must have wild places, a tangled orchard where dark damsons drop in heavy grass, an overgrown little wood, the chance of a snake or two, a pool that nobody’s fathomed the depth of, and paths threaded with flowers planted by the mind.” I love it, in part, because it describes me—the me I have denied in lieu of some better sister, some perfect girl.
I look at Finn and I don’t know where this dog finds his joy but he is filled with it. Shaggy from starvation, no telling the state of his organs, old injuries causing him pain, he is happy—simply happy. And I think it’s why I love him so much because, given everything, all my blessings, I haven’t found that for myself yet. But it is just there at the tip of my fingers now. It is within reach. It is there in the dark damson of my mind, in the overgrown wood of my heart, in the snake or two of my laughter, in the unfathomed depths of my soul. It is there for me when I can love these things that were born into me—that have waited a lifetime to be recognized; that have wanted, more than anything, to be seen—first by me.
And it is there I will find my joy and nowhere else but.
Safe journey home.
I did find your reflections very moving and meaningful, even more so because they arose from our recent exchanges. Let me first respond by sharing the reflections about my own situation that are triggered by your thoughts: This post is meaningful to me because at times I fear that my own departure from the life I have been living so unsatisfyingly will result in little more than a transfer into my “new” life, of the things that have “dogged” me before, that they will just continue to do the same and I will live to regret my decision. I will have traded one set of miseries for another. This fear represents one extreme and is not entirely rational, I know. Somewhat paradoxically, I believe it comes from an understanding of what you write about here, that living life as an artist is one of the hardest imaginable things to do, even though it has the potential to bring the fulfillment and reward that a corporate (or academic) day job can not offer. I am haunted by the fear, not that I will wake up and realize that the “dream life” is not simply a joyful escape—because I know it isn’t—but that once having plunged into it I will fail to maintain my own sense of purpose, fail to re-establish my identity outside of the one(s) that I have known in the past, and recede into a lonely and directionless dark space without any frame of reference, sign posts, perspective, or hope, resigned to feeling like my life was one long series of mistakes and this is yet one more wasted effort. This is not, however, what I expect to happen, though I live with fears rumbling around inside. I am determined and fully committed to entering this new life with the understanding that it is mine to make work, with discipline, vision, and ever-deeper reflection, all difficult to achieve and maintain. I am not afraid of these things; I embrace them. I am beginning to embrace the fears, too…
To be continued…
[catlist id=17 orderby=date order=desc numberposts=-1 excludeposts=7898]
Love to you all,