Just before I started this post I sat down at my workbench in my office (odd in-and-of-itself because I haven’t spent more than fifteen consecutive minutes in this room since some time in March), I opened my computer (which earlier today I spent a good nine hours on, trying to dig myself out of an over-full inbox), and then I rolled my shoulders, smiled a little bit, and started to write.
I’ve been trying– damn it all to hell and back again– to sit down and actually write for months.
I used to have this entire internal monologue that would happen whenever I was working on my houses or around the farm, and that voice basically wrote my posts for me. By the time I sat down to type it all out, it was essentially just dictation of all the things that had gone on in my head throughout the day. And that worked that way for me for years…
The same way that it’s fun for me to start a project I’ve been mulling over for a while and finally see it come to life, it was fun to sit down and finally see my stories in words and not just in my head. If I did a really good job– and I bet I’ve only truly done a really good job a handful of times in the last decade– I’d feel like I really touched on something capital-T True. (And maybe I’ve gotten close to that more than a handful of times over the years even if I didn’t quite nail it.)
And then… it stopped.
I can’t tell if it happened all of the sudden in the last year, or if it was a gradual thing, but instead of being able to sit down and pound out a decent story in a few hours there were a lot of false starts, a lot of days inbetween drafts–sometimes so many days that the thing I wanted to say didn’t really seem relavent anymore–and even when I posted something I didn’t feel fantastic about it. (Ugh, god, sometimes there’s nothing I hate more than “good enough.”)
If there’s anything in the world more powerful than the stories we tell other people, it’s the stories we tell ourselves… so here are some of the stories I’ve been telling myself about this:
- I’m ADHD and need to be on meds. So. True story: I have close friends and family members who are very close to me in both temperment and behaviors who have been diagnosed with ADHD, are on the meds, and I can see the overwhelmingly positive impact it has had on their lives. I am a fan of the medication and the impact it has had on them. I see some of those things in myself and think, shit, if I could just take a pill and make the part of my life where I forget the hose is running in the 30 seconds it takes me to get from the house to the spigot and end up flooding the barn for 4 hours, or literally can never find both my keys and wallet at the same time, or that cannot fucking sit still long enough to write a full blog post… if I could take a pill and fix that shit? That would be amazing. Okay. But also, I’m a real high-functioning adult, right? Like they haven’t found the thing yet that I can’t do, and do successfully, once I put my mind to it. And yes, it feels like it’s getting increasingly harder to put my mind to it, but I still get a hell of a lot done and get it done right. I’m not sure if I also get to have it “easy”, and that might honestly be what it is. I legitimately don’t know if I have a wiring problem in my brain or if I’m just being lazy and want it all to be easier.
- It’s all social-media’s fault. Like any good finger-pointer I can never quite deicde why I think it’s to blame, but I’m sure it is. Sometimes I like to think it’s because of the distraction, but I can never quite tell if it’s Instagram that’s distracting me– I mean ALL THE BEARDS you guys, come on– or if I just gravitate to social-media because I can’t focus and it’s there.
- I drink too much wine. Well. Okay. There have been weeks (uh, months?) when this is definitely true. It’s another thing I reach for when I sit down, can’t figure out what to write, get antsy, and want something to distract me. Which usually works for the first two glasses, and then the next thing you know I’m making up new lyrics to old songs and dancing around the kitchen with my cat, and thank god I live alone. I do like to make sure that pendulum swings the other way too, just to keep my liver in check, but it turns out not-drinking wine doesn’t make me more likely to sit my ass in front of the computer and write some shit.
- It takes too long. Eh… I don’t really know how to shorten this into a sentence. I like the instant gratification of sitting down and writing something and then posting it and calling it done, which has basically been impossible for me in the last six months. So I sit down and spend a couple of hours at it (in between the wine and the facebook and the singing songs to my cat) and at the end of the night I don’t have anything to show for it since I didn’t get to hit the “post” button. And this can go on for days, at which point I become less concerend about what the hell I’m writing and more concerned about just getting it the hell done. (Also, I feel like I totally just channeled Spock from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home in that last sentence, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about we can’t be friends.)
- I’m no longer in bad relationships. Okay, one, you guys know I adore all my exes, right? “Bad” is overstating it. But, like, ah… there was kind of a trend in my life where I used to put a lot of energy into relationships (thinking that, like everything else in my life, if you put the work into it, it will be awesome, which so far has held true for houses I’ve owned, but, uh… not for my relationships.) If I’m being honest though–and why the hell not?– one of the side effects of most of my relationships was that I was a little unfullfilled and there wasn’t much I could do about it. So I focused a lot of energy on things that did fullfil me, like writing about the good parts of my life. (Like, dudes, if you’re not going to laugh at my stories the entire internet will, so there.) But realistically there hasn’t been a great return on the time or energy investement I’ve put into my past relationships… I’ve found that I’m a hell of a lot happier “dating” and not getting too serious about it. I get to spend time with awesome (often bearded) dudes– I have a lot of great people in my life because of it– and I’m not obligated to “give up” more time or energy than I want to. Fortunately for my overall happiness level, I’m extremely fullfilled for the amount of time I put into my friendships and dating, but that means I spend a lot more time with other people than I have historically in my life, and, unfortunately, that translates to less time writing. (Ugh, is this that whole “struggle is good for your art” shit playing out in my life? Because it’s probably true, but I’m still not putting myself through the emotional exhaustion of “men who cannot communicate” again for the sake of it.)
I mean, honestly, there’s probably truth in a lot of these things. In the pursuit of authenticity, it’s dangerous to turn a blind eye to real things in your life (even if you aren’t proud of them), and it’s just as dangerous to make those things the whole story when they aren’t.
So here’s how this story started…
Facebook has this fun little feature called “On This Day” that shows you things you’ve posted on that particular day sometime in the past, and a last week it came up with this.
Which at first I thought was from last year (seems legit, I’ve had a lot of bonfires at this house over the years) but then I read the caption: “Still warm enough for siding the house and having bonfires.”
And I’m like, when the hell in recent history was I siding a hou… OH.
That post was from 2010, five years ago. So, out of curiosity (and, because I can, since I’ve been documenting my life online for so damn long) I went back to November 2010 and looked around a bit.
I don’t often stop to think about how different my life was five years ago. No farm, no Parker and Doc, no chickens, no bees. I was about to spend winter living in a garage. I’d been building a house with my dude-at-the-time for seven months. We were not happy, but we were doing a good job faking it because we were seven months into building a house together and at least 10 months away from even getting close to living in it (which we never actually did at the same time… go figure) plus he was a good dude. There was no drywall. I was 29 years old (and pretty sure no one would ever want to date me again anyway because I was so old… ha.) The first time I picked up my hammer to hand-nail that siding, my wrist flopped around like a dead fish. I had a five minute commute to work. I had a few close friends, but there were probably way more people in my life peripherally that didn’t like me than did, thanks to living in a small town.
If I hadn’t read through those old posts and someone asked me who I was five years ago, I’d have said, “Eh… pretty much the same as I am now I guess. Loved projects, loved power tools, loved bearded dudes.” The highlights are the same, right? As are some of the details, “Liked drinking beer after a long day, had a hard time finding my keys and wallet (even in a 400 square foot garage), and clearly facebooked pictures of my bonfires and house projects.” All true.
But really? It’s all different. Between five years ago and today there has been a gradual shifting of… everything.
And none of it has really been intentional. I never said, “I want to be a person who thinks more about planting an orchard and raising bees than putting an actual floor in her kitchen.” Five years ago I wouldn’t have wanted to give up house projects for other projects. I wouldn’t have said, “I want to spent two hours commuting every day, and then another hour-plus at the gym before I get home most days instead of blogging.” In fact, two years ago when I started lifting I said the exact opposite… that absolutely would not give up my time working on the house or writing to be at the gym more than one day a week.
I had no idea in my early thirties I would enter two years of eating disorders caused by trying to “be healthy” that would change my entire perspective on life (first for the worse, then for the better.)
I couldn’t have guessed how many amazing people I would meet (and occasionally date), some that were a part of my life briefly, and some that have become great friends, many of which I hope will always be in my life in one way or another. I had no idea how that would shape the way I interact with people, how many incredible stories I would hear that would inspire me, how many akward stories I’d have to share myself.
Here’s what’s real in my life right now: I sometimes have trouble paying attention, even to myself. I have to actively work at it, and sometimes– after a long day of working at it– I just can’t. I sometimes finish the entire bottle of wine and not the post I’m trying to write. I sometimes choose to spend time with my friends or go on dates when, if I didn’t, I’d probably sit down and try to write something instead. I sometimes update my social media accounts with pictures or brief posts, and instead of revisiting later to tell the full story, I call it “good enough.”
I’m also stronger than I’ve ever been, in all of the ways. More capable, more tested, more sure of myself, more successful, and just literally fucking strong. That hammer that used to hurt my wrist feels like a kid’s toy these days, and I’m not even half as strong as I could be.
I also don’t care half as much about what my house looks like. I want to get it done, yes, but I’m not nearly as worried about the aesthetic details as I am about greenhouses and chicken coops and getting my garden into shape.
There has been a gradual shifting of everything in my life, and the stories don’t run through my head like they used to. I don’t know if that’s because my life is full of so many other things, or my brain is tired, or because I haven’t been practicing being a good storyteller enough, or that maybe I don’t have as much to say. I love where I’m at in life in all of the ways except maybe this one. But last week I looked back through my old posts I knew I had something to say about it, today I sat down ready to write something, and three hours later here are all these words reminding me that I still have a few stories left in me to tell.
And hopefully the ability to tell them well.