Nothing is off schedule
Returning from an impromptu break with a journal entry.
This piece is unedited. I read it back to proof for typos and that’s it.
I often have the feeling that I’m running out of time. It’s like there’s a portion of my mind devoted solely to thinking about all the things I need to do and all the hours I waste not doing them. Write that novel, take that volunteer shift, do your day job, do that homework, write that essay, don’t forget the chores, don’t forget the bills, don’t forget to spend time with Mark and your family, remember to brush the cat and make sure he feels loved, read those newsletters stacking up in the Substack app, write that newsletter of your own, write the thing you promised, do the thing you promised, apply for that course, read that novel for book club, respond to that message, and that one, and that one.
This is all to say I haven’t written for this newsletter in a month, though I thought it was two weeks, time unspooling faster than I can reel it in. I haven’t written that piece on the theory of control in fiction writing because, quite frankly, I didn’t feel inspired to and already felt like I was offering enough of myself elsewhere. I give endlessly at work, falling behind on my own tasks to help others with theirs. I give up my free time to volunteer to listen to people considering taking their lives. I juggle my desire to be a therapist with my desire to be a published novelist and wonder if I need to choose. I think about the life I want to have, the job I want to have, the children I want to have. I have to juggle my desire to help others with my desire to be selfish and it feels like I never have the balance just right. Someone always loses out.
A story cannot be a story without a character and their wants. Not their needs, but their wants. They often get their needs in the end, but it’s their wants that drive them.
We have no choice but to put one foot in front of the other each day, up onto the next step, but sometimes I feel like stepping off the stairs. But onto what? That's the thing. It’s a sheer drop either side. There is no lay-by for life. There are scant opportunities to stop and admire the view, and sometimes the view is only that of the stairwell walls, the confines of your life.
I spent two hours working on a last minute spreadsheet of stats for work and ended up crying. I wanted to do a good job. I wanted to do a good job for my team and have them turn round and tell me they won’t fire me this time, but if I put a foot wrong next time, well, I’d see.
In reality my workplace is great. Everyone in my big team is genuinely lovely, something I’ve never come across in a job before. There is not a single person I even mildly dislike, and everyone does their best to support each other. But after being told I was useless and worthless in previous roles for the same kind of work I get praised for now, I worry that failure is just around the corner, that everyone is waiting for me to slip up and reveal myself for the fraud that I am, that they’re being nice out of pity for the youngest member of the team, even though I’m about to turn 28.
I should be putting this in my Morning Pages that I did for a few days in an effort to be a Real Writer until I got a cold and couldn’t face getting up at a reasonable time. What does sharing this publicly get me?
When some people accuse others of over sharing, they’re assuming the other person isn’t thinking straight. But sharing our vulnerabilities benefits others as well as ourselves. It tells us all that we’re not alone. It tells me that I am always in service and that isn’t inherently a bad thing.
Which means to say I know I’m not alone in being behind, and neither are you. Time might feel like it’s sand slipping through our glass fingers, but it feels that way for everybody. We get older and forget to invite novelty into our lives and our brain stops making so many memories because every day is much the same and not worth keeping.
Except all days are worth keeping. All of it, every part of it. Even the days where you get nothing done, because each day is a gift, a miracle, a statistical improbability in this strange little universe. You want and want and want and get a little back in return, sometimes, when the universe feels like it. You only get out what you put in, but life is a lot of putting in and not much return on your investment. That promotion, that dream achieved, that want fulfilled - the high lasts for a day or two at most and then it’s back to the grind, back to working for the next thing, because the work is all we have.
How do we get comfortable with knowing it never stops?