Tuesday, July 2, 2013


What am I trying to do with my life?

I just checked the overview of this blog - the dashboard where I see page views, comments, etc. I haven't looked in quite some time; the last time I really noticed it was when I hit 5,000 views. Today, I'm at over 8,000. My post on bipolar disorder, Shame, has been seen 452 times, due in no small part to Columbia's late friend and Big Deal, Dennis Lane. 

My post yesterday hit 104. Bipolar disorder, bisexuality, and posts about my community life in Columbia seem to be the biggest draws. 

Again, what am I doing with my life? What am I doing here? What do I stand for?

I'm not counting my page views or blogging success as a measure of my writing skill, my perspectives, or my worth. It's a tool - I can see what interests people, and maybe, through that, what further topics I might explore. I'm also blogging over at Buster and Ellie, so I've gone into detail there about married life, growing up, and living in Columbia. A few of my words are out there - and rather than counting page views, I'd like to have some sense that what I'm doing resonates with people, or that what I say has a place in the world. 

I'd like to know that my writing has meaning. That my life has meaning. 

I'm not asking for affirmation or praise in this post. I have support from friends and family, and if you've ever commented on this blog you know I am absolutely terrible at following up on comments or engaging in dialogue, even when the subject matter is very important to me. I love the comments, most certainly, but I am shy and awkward even on the internet. In some ways, I don't want to be the story - I want what I write to be what matters. 

You see, I'm muddling along in life, trying to make sense of it in between loads of laundry and toilet scrubbings and iPad scribblings. I'm doing my best - and it's true that sometimes I don't feel like my best is good enough. Maybe that's what it means to be a writer; I only know that I have often felt inadequate: in my acting, musicality, academics, and interpersonal skills. 

I've often said that writing is an exercise in failure, and that's certainly true. But I think there's something more, too - writing is an exercise in discovering the self, the good parts and the bad. I find flaws in my writing and flaws in the way I execute my daily tasks. I also find a lot of good in me - the simple joys of writing and the delicious sound of words, the way I love my husband, my slow but hopefully unstoppable progress in loving myself. 

It sounds a bit like fortune cookie wisdom, or like a self-help book with meaningless buzzwords. I don't know. A discovery of the self sounds tacky - but I think it has merit. 

Again, I'm not totally sure what I'm doing with my life. I'm a housewife (while trying to reclaim that word in a positive way), and I'm a writer. I love being a big sister, and I am trying to be a good daughter. I am terrible with plants. I like French roast coffee, made in my French press, served in a giant mug from the Renaissance Festival. I like going to the gym - sometimes. I play the piano passably, but not very well.

I write blog posts about the Big Things, like sexuality, mental illness, racism, religion, feminism. 

I write blog posts which are nothing more than a close examination of the contents of my belly button. 

All of that is me. All of that, and little life lessons like keeping my mouth closed when I scrub the toilet (a lesson, I'm sad to say, hard-won). I am, as they say, a work in progress. I think we all are. 

That may be what I'm doing with my life - just becoming. Becoming something better, perhaps, while still being a person with flaws and doubts and insecurities. 

I was talking to my therapist about some of my family relationships, and I said that I can be overwhelmed by guilt - not being a good daughter, granddaughter, or not being supportive enough to people who need a shoulder to cry on. She said, quite firmly, Stop, and No. Guilt is a habit, she told me. Being overwhelmed is a habit. And all habits can be broken. 

Writing is a habit, too, and it's a good habit. Like my organic French roast, it's a good part of me, one worth celebrating and enjoying. That's part of why I'm writing today - I was daunted by the prospect of figuring out what to say after yesterday's post, but I knew that had to write, even if what I wrote wasn't terribly profound. 

I don't think there's any one of us who hasn't considered, at least for a moment, the question of "What am I doing with my life?" I'm sure it's common for people my age, set adrift in a vast ocean of what the hell, college is over, who am I? I think it's also common for everyone to have brief glimpses of being on the brink of not knowing something so seemingly necessary - career, relationships, health, identity. So I suppose I'm saying that I am not alone in my muddling, my questioning, my "discovery of the self."

Recently, a very close friend came over for dinner and drinks. We sat on the porch with our beer and cider and we read each other our poetry. I absolutely rejoiced in hers - she accomplished a great feat, finishing a challenging poem she had been writing for years. The way she read it, the words and the images and her intense lips, thrilled something in me - it was an invitation for me to be a part of her life, and for me to take more interest in my own. I read her the beginning of what I think will be my first book of poetry and I was suddenly, fiercely proud - and imperfect, and still in progress, and me. 

I guess I could say that I'm a writer. That's an identity, right?

My bad habits, as my therapist would call them, are still there, waiting to be broken. One of them is delaying my writing because of insecurities. Another is waiting for Facebook comments to come in after I've written a particularly challenging post. Yet another is considering this future book of poetry, "Conversations with my Father in the Garden," and putting it off because of my daughter-guilt and little Alice fear. They're all a part of the other habit, the good one, which in an uncontrollable urge to write. 

I feel like this post has gone on for far too long, and it probably has, because the only thing that's really on my mind today is a simple, deceptively effortless statement of truth, which is that I'm a writer and I have to keep writing. 5,000 views, 8,000; Facebook comments, family praise; being a voice in Columbia, being a drop in the ocean - it's just an easy thing to realize, after all, that this is who I am, this is what I am doing with my life, and that what I stand for is telling my story and inviting others to tell theirs, too. 

First, I will put the laundry away. And then - I will write. 

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