Grasping for Terra Firma

There is a lot to say. There is nothing to say. I swing wildly between the idea that it’s all been said, but even so, perhaps my own yawp out into the universe is what I need to stop feeling angry and disconnected.

The election brought relief, but not much in the way of joy. I am angry in a way that will inform my activism for the next 4 years. There are few laurels upon which to rest. Still, it’s time to take a beat before formulating the next plan.

Our family is in month 10 of quarantine. We have managed to keep relatively healthy. My daughter was due to come off her chemo drug next month, but after her last follow up, it will be another six months. We can’t risk the tumors coming back and a major surgery being needed in the middle of a pandemic, especially since Minnesota is starting to experience an uncontrolled surge in cases and hospitalizations.

Graphic: A drawing of a house with smoke curling out of the chimney next to a tree.

We worked hard to make the house brighter, painting and changing lighting, in a effort to make it through the winter without losing our minds. My husband’s home office went from a dark space to a bright, airy room. He cleaned out his downtown office – they don’t want workers back in until the middle of next year. So far, we’re doing okay. But we owe a lot of it to delivery and grocery store workers, the unsung heroes of our daily lives.

Last month, I fell into a swamp of a depression. With my daughter in one room taking her virtual college courses and my husband downstairs working, I felt like I was haunting my own house. I was writing here and there, made it through a couple of rounds of a flash fiction competition, attended a virtual writing conference and pitched my current work-in-progress to agents. It felt like more of the same old writing dance I’d been doing for years.

Graphic: Skeleton head with a mortar board. I'm old! I'm going back to school!

Most decisions in my life seem like they’re made in an instant, but usually are the result of something that has been simmering for years on a back burner. I decided to go back to school. At the ripe old age of 53, I’ve been accepted into an MFA in Creative Writing program, which I start in January. The funniest part was contacting the University of Iowa for my 30-year old transcript. Thank goodness they didn’t want my GRE scores, especially since scores before 2015 are not accepted.

I haven’t been writing here, because I’ve been angry and depressed. In order to move forward, I had to make some intentional changes. After being on Twitter for a year, I decided to quit last week. It wasn’t making anything better and it was making me decidedly worse – angrier, more entrenched in my viewpoints, and more anxious. I returned to the old idea of asking myself “Is this helpful?“. It really, really wasn’t.

Graphic: Woman with headphones on asleep at her desk. Me, trying to make a podcast. Snoozeville!

My idea to do a podcast is dead on arrival. I simply wasn’t good at it, cringing at my boring monologues. Still, one of my goals for this blog is to make it as accessible as possible. I’m still learning how to do that, but one thing I’ll start adding next week is a recording of the blog post at the top of the page. More people are listening to podcasts and audiobooks, so I thought it might also be more convenient.

This blog, heading into its 9th year is anemic and needs a boost. Blogging may not be a thing anymore, but it’s my chosen media platform (and now, my only one). Long enough to have substance, but short enough to be digested in a few minutes. I’ve been disconnected from blogland as well as everything else, so I apologize if I haven’t visited your blog or even responded to some comments. It’s not you, it’s me.

So maybe I write this only to say, I’m back. I’m shooting for weekly posts with recording. I’m going to start reading other blogs again and I’m going to try to make this an activity that is more helpful to me and to you.

Let’s reconnect. Let’s be helpful to each other.

32 thoughts on “Grasping for Terra Firma

    1. Thanks, Cate. I actually picked Concordia in St. Paul, because their MFA in Creative Writing program is relatively new and completely online. I’d prefer that at this point in my life. I had to overcome my old school reaction to online education, but it is a lot easier to do that in the middle of a pandemic! I figure I’ll get out of it what I put into it.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Yay – congratulations on starting school! That’s awesome.

    Thanks also for continuing to blog. (And pitching your book(s). I want to read anything you write.)

    Stay safe and stay sane 😉 -Nikki

    >

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  2. More congratulations on the MFA–and I’m with you on podcasts. I can’t imagine talking to an empty room and being interesting enough not to put myself to sleep.

    Wishing you and your family health. Lots of health.

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  3. Sooo much to say so I will try to be concise:
    1) Congratulations on the MFA! 2) Welcome back; 3) I love reading blogs and I don’t think they are a thing of the past (at least I hope not) so look forward to reading your weekly posts; 4) I have recently also started listening to podcasts and love them too!

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    1. Thank you! After being on Twitter and finding the interactions perfunctory, I decided I’d better go back to what has worked well for me as a writer, reader, and member of a community. I’ve been listening to podcasts for the last few years, which is how I know I wasn’t any good at it! But it was fun to try and mess about with audio recording software. I’m hoping to use those gained skills to make my blog more accessible.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Carla. It’s admittedly a tough slog to return – more about the habit than the desire. I’m hoping I can get back in the groove of things, especially since the next few months are going to be quite isolating for a lot of people as we get pummeled by coronavirus. I’m starting off by holding myself to a schedule – we’ll see how that works out! Take care – hoping you and yours are staying well.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Donna! I was just thinking about how this year must be almost the exact opposite for you – from when you were promoting your wonderful book. It’s been interesting to see how that is getting done now. If I have something published, I’d have to stay on Twitter I suppose just because everything has to be virtually promoted. I’m looking forward to starting school. After a load of workshops this last year, I feel like I’m ready to do more digging in on the writing. I hope that all is well with you.

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  4. Congratulations on so many fronts Michelle – the MFA program, getting off twitter (it can be so toxic!), returning here, brightening the house, recording your posts, and most importantly keeping your family safe in a pandemic when health issues make that extra important. Good to hear from you again.
    Alison

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    1. Hi Alison! I missed you all! Blogland is such a soft landing, Twitter is like broken glass, keeping all wounds open all the time. I hope that you and Don are doing well. You both got some traveling under your belt just in time. I hope those memories and pictures boost your joy and comfort as we go through this pandemic.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We’re both well thanks, and, with huge gratitude, little affected by the pandemic – certainly not in any way I’d complain about given the level of upheaval and trauma it has caused so many. No travelling for a long time I imagine, but we are content at home. We have a beautiful leader here in BC, Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry, who gives a pandemic update every day. And each day she ends it with be kind, be calm, be safe. She’s our Jacinda Arden. It won’t be long I think until you have one of your own. So happy for you and your country.
        Wishing you and yours well.
        Alison

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  5. I’m with you. Trying to get back into writing … but it’s tough. Good luck on school–that’s exciting for you. Hopefully it will help fill your heart and head with something other than sad and angry …. I’m still looking for my filler 😉

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    1. I think getting off of all angry/all the time Twitter is helpful. Knowing that a certain person is about to be evicted is very useful as well – hoping for calmer times ahead. The layers of anxiety certainly wear on a person, but I find that if even one layer is removed, there can be movement again – hence the ability to return now. I feel like I’m breathing just a little easier.

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      1. I keep telling myself to get off Twitter. I never tweet. I just doom scroll so I know it’s bad for my head. I finally exhaled this weekend so maybe I’ll use that refreshed air to take that next step and delete that app!

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        1. I started off reading, then responding to others’ Tweets, getting more angry as I spent more time there. I am a bit ashamed of myself – the adrenalin hit I got from calling the President of the United States a “useless wanker” was addictive. And that really does become the issue – brain chemicals that are generated. It is also exhausting to have to keep filtering information. And it does give one the illusion of being informed or an activist. For some people, it’s not a huge issue, but I tend to have a compulsive/addictive personality – I have to be on guard. I’ve deactivated my account 20 times in the last year and it reminded me of how many times I had to try before I quit smoking for good. Good luck reclaiming your energy and time! There is a degree of freedom in letting some things go.

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  6. So delighted you’re back! Taking the steps toward doing what is good and sane for you can be hard, even daunting, but if anyone can do that it would be you, Michelle. Changing behaviors can be difficult, but not impossible. You’ve had experience doing the difficult and you’ve become good at doing the difficult. Again, congrats on the MFA. You’ll do great. You are a person who, after MUCH thinking, does great things, for yourself and others. I continue to wish you well. Stay well and stay 90% sane…love that “insane” part of you that keeps your writing so readable and you so loveable😊.

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    1. Ah, you’re too kind! Thanks for the congrats. It’s nice to have something to look forward to in the dead of winter. And I’m feeling so much better cutting out Twitter and a substantial part of the news. I like being an informed citizen, but like most people, I find it exhausting. Looking forward to burying myself in books and writing.

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  7. I’ve been “away” too Michele. I just hopped on to catch up on reading and was glad to see this post. I’m excited for your future plans! And it sounds like you made good changes at home. We have gray winters here in Washington and have made it a priority to have a well insulated, bright home with a woodstove to dry out our winter water logged air and bones. It definitely helps. I am glad you are back to blogging. Maybe we’ll see each other more here, but I need to find my way back to writing and not just reading. This year has me suffering from a weird form of mental paralysis. I hope it’s temporary but time will tell. Best wishes to you and your family.

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    1. Hi Ilona. It feels like time just keeps on slipping away. I understand what you are saying about mental paralysis. I’ve experienced it off and on all year. I’ve been trying to focus on movement lately, both mental and physical, in the hopes of shaking off the torpor. Lots more reading, committing to daily exercise. There is some movement, but lapses of being overwhelmed and increasingly more tired. Seems to pretty much cover things. It’s a tough slog! Hope you can find some daily joy – for me, that can just be a good cup of coffee, but I try to remind myself to appreciate the moment. There’s got to be some counterbalance to the chaos in the world. Wishing you moments of light and joy. Wow, I’m starting to sound a little froufrou. Too much time inside my own navel!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. The fact that I’m replying so late shows I’ve many of the same issues. I had heavy goals for my blog and thought with teaching virtually I wouldn’t have to adjust. Ha!!!!

    I haven’t written, I barely read, I’m behind on all I love to do. After 9-10 hours on a screen I’ve no desire to write on one.

    The struggle is real.

    I look forward to at some point reading all that you write, and I miss you on Twitter.

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    1. Thanks, Elizabeth. This is why I keep having “technical issues” on Zoom calls. I can hardly stand all the time I have to spend in front of a monitor these days – even taken to longhand writing, which is terrible because it’s nearly illegible. The struggle is indeed real. As for Twitter, I reactivated to keep the account handle, but have locked down the Tweets and won’t return until I’ve set up some guidelines for myself and decided what purpose it should serve. But thanks for your kind words.

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