Giving Up the Ghost
I’m a useful sort of person. It feeds my ego to be needed, to be relied upon, to be allowed to demonstrate my competency. My office is organized, collated, labelled and efficient. I remember birthdays, dental appointments and people’s preferences.
On the flip side, I’m tense, terse and occasionally quite sarcastic. I don’t wait for others to catch up. I don’t have time for small talk or nattering or gossip. Which means you’d like me to do your taxes, but really hope I don’t show up for a party, where I will be dressed as a dark cloud with a 50% of rain. Part of it is that I’m an introvert, but a lot of it comes from my sense that time’s a-wastin’.
If there were a support group, I’d go to at least one meeting before I got irritated with all the time wasted on pleasantries. Intellectually, I know that these exchanges are critical parts of human interaction. It’s how we connect, how we are seen and feel part of a larger whole. It’s not that I’m above it or incapable of it – I just have things to do. Always.
In my fantasy life, I’m warm and generous and know how to put people at ease. But then I think about having to listen to the details of someone’s medical procedure or hearing them whinge on about why it’s unfair that their little Boopsy didn’t get into a higher reading group at school and it’s like nails on a chalkboard. I’m ripped out of fantasy land and I’m me again – impatient, easily aggrieved and temperamental.
Lately, I’ve been an ogre to deal with – at home and in the world at large. I finished up my paid job (egads – unemployed!), wrapped up a fundraiser and volunteer events and now I sit in the shadow of an old life. This moment is what I’ve worked for, what I’ve made conscientious decision after conscientious decision for, what I’ve fantasized about for years. Being an unemployed writer. I know, it just bowls you over with its grandiosity.
You’d think I’d be bursting at the seams with stories I’ve been dying to tell. That I’d pull out all those hastily-scrawled notebooks from college. That I’d be ready for this moment and embrace it will all the vigor of a POW at my first meal on the outside. I have some twisted form of Stockholm Syndrome – waiting for the call for financial reports or an urgent volunteer need. I’d be busy and comfortable again.
It’s an understatement to say change is uncomfortable. External change has happened. But here I am, still me. I don’t feel differently. I’m not inspired. I’m still procrastinating. This is the gray danger zone for any kind of change. This is where I’ll either breathe and relax into a new state, or I’ll find a new job, sign up for classes, volunteer to save the planet and make friends with someone really, really needy.
Every once in a while, a small smile will sneak across my face when I realize what I’ve accomplished. And maybe that’s the problem. I saw the means and the end, but nothing beyond that. If you focus entirely on getting somewhere, little time is spent on the itinerary once you’ve arrived. The goal posts have to be moved a little farther ahead. I’m here, but I have more steps in the journey.
And so, I write this clunky, awkward, navel-gazing post as the first step into this brand new shiny life. I haven’t written anything in weeks. I was so intent on finishing everything else perfectly, completely, with no regrets. It was merely procrastination dressed as dedication and competency. I begin work on my second novel today and leave the gray zone. It doesn’t feel comfortable and I’m having to wrench even these words from my brain. But one step, one word at a time.