I’m packing up, getting ready to move near my parents, who are approaching ninety. Frank and I will be heading to the NC coast at the end of the month. Between now and then, I must load up all my earthly goods, cramming 2800 square feet’s worth of stuff into a mere 800. I’m shedding a lot of beloved items, passing some on to my children and grandchildren, selling others. I’m committed to keeping only those things I use and/or love.
Though my goals are strictly material, ruthlessly aiming for no clutter in my lean, mean, tiny apartment, the exercise itself feels spiritual. And it feels somehow connected to my writing life. For most of my adulthood, writing has been wedged into the nooks and corners of my world, something I could always put on hold, if anyone had a need for me. Surprise! There was always a need! Children, spouse, parents, sibling, friends—everyone had emergencies and problems. Everyone needed me.
It feels good to be needed; it’s pleasant to think your loved ones just couldn’t get along without you. But now, as I approach what I am considering the last third of my life, I’m shedding everything but the essentials. I’m paring down to the elemental me. Yes, I’m still a mother and grandmother; I’m still a daughter and a sister; I’m still a wife. But I’m unloading much more than furniture—I’m unloading the idea than I can ‘fix’ things for my family, that I should be always available to them. I’m throwing out the idea that to be loved, I must be useful. I’m embracing the idea that I can simply ‘be.’ The love, like my precious photos, will remain.
What this means to my writing is that, finally, I am going to give it center stage. Writing will become my main focus. Just as I will claim a smaller space and fewer possessions, I will also claim this time as my own—and I know what this time is for. It’s for throwing myself into writing in a way I have not done. It’s for thinking and dreaming and telling myself the kinds of stories I want to hear. I’m slithering out of my former life, shucking off the old skin. It just doesn’t fit me anymore. And I can’t wait to see where my writing will take me, once I give it a chance. This new me, unencumbered and soaring above the waves, will surely settle into its truest self. And I know that whatever time I have left on this beautiful, blue/green world will be spent putting one word after another—always following the line across the page, always telling the never-ending story.