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700 Words

Sometimes you type the word count that you’re aiming for into the title box and just start typing. Because it’s scary, and you only have forty minutes until your family is expecting you back home for dinner. Plus you’ve waited until the last day to meet your own imaginary deadline and can’t put it off any longer. Such is the life of this unpaid, insecure writer.

It reminds me of when I went to Kroger last Friday. I had a small scrap of paper in my hand with only seven items on it, and I still had to force myself to get out of the car and go into the store. When I got home with a twenty-dollar air filter –one we’d normally pay five or ten dollars for, and tried to explain to my husband that it didn’t matter how much money I spent because I actually bought everything on the list, he looked at me kind of funny. So I said, you just don’t understand. This was all I could do today.

A couple of weeks ago I began composing this monthly newsletter in my head and I was so excited to get back to tell you how June has been so much better than May, but it seems this last week set out to prove me wrong. It hasn’t been a terrible week when you measure it by events or circumstances, but my emotions have been all over the place, like some sort of fun house ride. But instead of ugly monsters, unexpected falls, and surprising hairpin turns, this one consists of mundane tasks, unfinished projects, and an outing to a flower farm.

Last night I read four of my own poems (and two by a friend) on stage, out loud, to a group of about twenty people. I was joined by six other poets, and although we’d wished for a larger crowd, the setting itself was ideal. It was a couple of hours before sunset and we were in the midst of rolling green hills, majestic trees, and row after row of beautiful wildflowers. There were people in lawn chairs and kids spread out on blankets. My husband was in the crowd, along with three other people I truly admire, whose company I also enjoy. And on top of all that, we got to eat some really yummy tamales. After the reading I went inside our friends’ house and was serenaded by Roberta Flack on some amazing new speakers, and my heart felt full to bursting.

But today I’m tired because we didn’t get home until midnight and I overbooked myself with both a haircut appointment, and coffee with a friend I hadn’t seen in a couple of weeks. So it’s not been the kind of day where I feel like I can get a lot of good words on the page. But maybe that’s the problem, the pressure to make all the words “good” when really most of them should just be readable, right?

I’ve been fasting from social media this month, in an effort to improve my mental health and writing output, and the results have been pretty good. I’ve got a rough draft of one poem and more days of journal entries than I’ve had in the last several months; and overall I would say my mood and perspective is better now than it was thirty days ago. But I have to be honest, I’ve cheated a few times and even though those peaks were short and uneventful, they still made me feel like I was a bit of an alcoholic parked outside the local liquor store. And I’m worried that I’ll eventually go in and lose a whole weekend of my life.

So I think I’m going to fast again in July as well. Except for sharing this here. I don’t know if any of you can relate to this love/hate relationship I have with the internet, but I need you to understand that it's a real struggle for me and I’m tired of pretending that it’s not.

Here are the facts:

I’ve lived in the same house for the last seventeen years. I have stable employment, three healthy kids, and have been (mostly) happily married for twenty-five years. I’m also a lifelong churchgoer who’s always believed in God. AND I see my therapist twice a month and take a daily anti-anxiety/depression medication.

Because I have a lot going on relationally, and my mental health feels really fragile these days. I should be exercising more regularly, as I know that helps, but I’ve been battling allergies and vertigo off and on for the last five weeks, so physical fitness took a back seat for awhile. Hopefully that will change soon.

I share these things with you not because I want you to applaud my transparency, but because I need to remind myself that life is difficult and people are complicated, and I wonder if you might need that reminder as well. Yes, we’re doing a lot better than we were in 2020, but that doesn’t mean everything is “normal” again, whatever “normal” means. And it’s not “abnormal” to feel happy one minute and be crying the next.

It’s exhausting trying to be just one thing all the time and part of the reason I’m backing off the internet is because I need to be a three dimensional person. I need to have depth and space: days where I go to work and see friends and buy groceries, as well as days where I stay in my pajamas and read all day.

So now I’m almost two hundred words past my original goal and ten minutes past five o’clock when I wanted to be home. Which means I’m going to close the laptop and get outta this coffee shop. Hopefully I can revise one last time later tonight and figure out how to wrap this all up. Otherwise, I’ll see you back here before the end of July.

And now that I’ve eaten and watched three episodes of Derry Girls I can tell you the reason I started this monthly assignment in the first place. Part of being an artist is sharing your work with people. I was reminded of this last night at the poetry reading, but I wonder if it’s an essential itch I’ve been half-heartedly scratching ever since I first took up a pen.

I’ve been writing thoughts and feelings down for as long as I can remember, but it was only when I shared my work publicly that I felt brave enough to start calling myself a writer. Not everything I write is worthy of public consumption, but that doesn’t mean I should never share anything. Just like runners who sign up for races, there’s a communal element that completes the journey in a way that running alone doesn’t.

So thanks for being one of the folks who cheers me on here at the finish line. Your smiles and handshakes make it worth the work. May these words of mine make you feel a little less alone this Friday evening. And may the rest of your week contain laughter, music, and goodness, despite, or maybe even because of all the strange twists and wild loops. The ride won’t last forever, friends. But our love for each other will.

PS - here’s my latest playlist. Click the link if you’re in need.

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