It seems like I am always saying how much things are changing for me, but what a journey the last decade has been! Sometimes it seems like the whirlwind of change will never end. In fact, it doesn’t. All life is change. Still, I am looking forward to slowing down a bit once the new house is built on the homestead. The shop is all but complete (just need to get those last few wires connected and inspected…) and we have acquired some equipment. Up next a farm tax number and the new house. All that seems pretty great, and it is, but like everyone, Tom and I have had many plans delayed or waylayed entirely by the pandemic.
Now, you’d think as a writer, I would get a ton of stuff written with nearly a year off of work and fresh out of graduate school, but that isn’t what happened at all. In the summer of 2020 I graduated with my MFA. I won’t mince words here. I loved my program and my professors, but grad school, even under normal circumstances, is necessarily challenging. It should be challenging, and it is. In my case, I had just moved in with my father, to help care for him in 2017, just as I was finishing up my bachelors. While I was staying there, my husband received his colon cancer diagnosis. He would have surgery and then chemo for 6 months. He had to retire from the lake, and Dad said that he should move in there too, so we could both help care for Tom. Dad had experience with caring for cancer patients, having just lost his second wife to the disease. Tom moved in, albeit reluctantly. He felt he was being a burden. He wasn’t. He and Dad got on well, and Daddy really grew to love Tom and Tom to love Dad. I’d thought about graduate school, but at that point I would either have to do it online, or not at all. One program kept popping up. The Red Earth MFA program. This low-residency program would only take me away from my guys for two weeks twice a year. I was terrified, feeling very inferior, and unsure. With much loving support from Tom and Daddy, I was finally convinced that I could at least apply. To my great surprise, my application was accepted, and I was even more terrified. I also walked on air for months. I’m pretty sure I was completely ridiculous about it. In 2018 I graduated with my bachelors, and Tom and I took a trip to Colorado. With Tom’s chemo done, a graduate degree in my future, and the vacation of a lifetime for me, things were looking up.
Then, in February of 2019, Daddy died. We were going to have to find a place to live and sell the house. We’d already been looking, but Daddy’s passing had been kind of a shock. We’d gone out a few times to look at places, but nothing really stuck. Then we went out on highway 33 to look at a piece of land. It had a house on it, but was in such a state of disrepair and the lot was so overgrown, we had pretty much decided on sight that it wasn’t for us. On the way there, though, Tom spotted a house on the top of the hill that was for sale too. We stopped. We walked the land. We knew.
We purchased the land that April, but had much to do before we could move out there. We worried about leaving Dad’s house empty, but couldn’t do all we needed to to prepare it while we lived there. The new place needed to be worked on too. We were really in a pickle. After months of back and forth, trying to work on both properties, we’d finally decided that we just needed to be here on the homestead, and that we’d try to make Dad’s place appear inhabited until it sold. It worked. We finally moved in. The first thing we did after we moved was build the shop.
I was halfway through grad school and the student loans were stacking up. The bills were enormous, we were bleeding money and I was going to have to go to work. I took a job substitute teaching with Sapulpa Schools. It was flexible, which was exactly what I needed to finish out school and not sink completely. I will freely admit that at this point, near the end of 2019, I was struggling, hard. I was holding onto a lot. I was still grieving Dad, still worried about Tom’s recovery, still reeling from the move. Both of us wanted to build this homestead up for the family, and worked, it seemed endlessly on one project after another, gardening, chickens, you name it. And I was still trying to finish school. Then, it was 2020.
The world stood still.
Logically, this would have seemed like a good time to take time to write all the stuff I didn’t have time to write when we were doing all the other stuff. Nope. Instead, I threw myself into the homestead. We both did. The family, not having work either at this point, were available to help. The gardens were glorious. We spent our days perpetually busy, and our nights sleeping hard from the day before. The stress of going to town for supplies, I tried to carry. I was worried about bringing the virus back home to Tom. Tom seemed unfazed by the whole thing. I couldn’t fathom it.
Despite my protestations, family kept coming. In May, 2020, I graduated online. This may not sound like a big deal, but that week, our internet had been sketchy. We’d had people out repeatedly. We thought it was fixed. It wasn’t. During my reading, (a requirement for getting my degree, it equates to my thesis defense) the internet went out. There would be a gap. My professors and colleagues took it in stride, but there was this thing in the pit of my stomach screaming that I had failed and ruined everything. I didn’t.
In September of 2020, a miracle happened. I saw a job posting for a position at the library. I had applied there before, but the schedule clashed with my schooling. Now, it wouldn’t. I applied again, and in a few days, Martha called and said I could start on the 8th. I had a job again. Full time with benefits.
In October of 2020 we were exposed at work. The library shut down. I thought everything for me was alright until I went to sautee onions and garlic and couldn’t smell them cooking right in front of me. I got covid. I think Tom had it too, though he refused to get tested. We quarantined and quarantined some more.
We got vaccinated as soon as the vaccine was available to us. Tom, mostly for convenience, and maybe so I wouldn’t worry so much. Me, so I would be a little less likely to accidentally kill him, since, you know– I kinda like him a little.
Still, not much in the way of writing. By the end of December, I was beginning to think something was up. Why hadn’t I taken any of that time to write? My resolutions for 2021 were to lose weight and write more. I still didn’t know it at the time, but neither of those things were going to happen. Worse, I didn’t know why. It plagued me. I spent a lot of time feeling guilty for not writing, but staring at the page in frustration when I’d actually make myself sit down to write. It didn’t begin to dawn on me what was going on until I realized I wasn’t reading, either.
Writer’s Block? Burnout? Maybe.
What I do know is that I am finally coming out of the fog, and I feel my strength returning. I am reading and writing again, even if it is a bit start-stop. What’s more, I am feeling stronger in spirit again. I am deeply grateful for the lessons of the past years, even if they have been hard and costly ones. I have far less fear now than I had about anything before. I have reached a point where I am at peace with the idea that I am not immortal and that I am not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. I’ve made a few decisions about the potential direction of my life and life’s work going forward, and feel more confident than I have most of my adult life.
What made all this change possible?
I believe I went through a crysalis time. I will write more on this idea soon, I think, but for now I will just say I think I’m ready to stretch my wings, and I hope you’ll join me on the flight. I am still working on the Dark Lit Digest project, and now have added the Oklahoma Authors project at work to the big bad list of all the things. It’s all terribly exciting and I can’t wait to spill all the beans, but for now come hit up my Facebook and YouTube links to get all the latest and hottest news. I will try with all I have to not wait another year or so to post to the blog again, but because I value honesty I will make no promises.
I will just say,
Be safe, be well, and we’ll see ya!