Still Straddling the Fence


photo by Henry Burrows

Almost three years ago I wrote this essay. It was one of the rare times when a personal piece was actually easy to write. At the time I was struggling, trying desperately to figure my life out. My husband, Nolan, had been gone for two years and I had made several big life changes that I hoped would make me happy. But they weren’t and I was trying to figure out why.

For weeks, one of my best friends, Jon, (who was my first editor years ago) had been suggesting I write more about what I was going through. Since the day I first met him he has encouraged me to follow my gut – to analyze less and trust more. But instead of doing, I sat night after night thinking. I wrote some but refused to show any of it to anyone. He kept pushing, and told me to just send him something. Anything.

So I sat on my bed that night after I took a shower, body and hair still wet, wrapped in towels, and wrote with my laptop perched before me. Before I had time to think or waver, I hit send.

He fixed a few grammatical mistakes and told me to send it somewhere. Anywhere. And I did. It was scary and exhilarating. Over the next few weeks, I made more big changes. I quit my job to freelance. I started writing more. I took more trips, and more risks. I started dating.

I thought I was changing my life – that things were finally falling into place. And in many ways, they did. But in some ways, I continued to be stuck.

It has been three years and I sit here now, once again, staring at the blinking cursor thinking about my life. I am still scared, holding back and fearful. Not trusting. I am spending more time thinking than I am doing. I spend more time worrying than enjoying. Way too much time enveloped in stress and not nearly enough time doubled over in laughter.

After Nolan died, I was overcome with this intense feeling of clarity. It shone a spotlight on what is most important to me and left me petrified that I will never have enough time to experience all that I want to do.

I am torn between wanting to simultaneously push those realizations away, wrapping myself once more in a security blanket, and embrace them, forgoing anything mundane in everyday life to embark on epic adventures for fear that the world – or my life – may end tomorrow. Bouncing back and forth between the two can be paralyzing. Neither is a fulfilling way to live. You can no more live every minute of your life focused on death than you can live without ever considering your mortality.

I need to find my sweet spot. I still need to work, pay bills, cook and do the laundry, but I don’t want to forget that this is it. This – right here, right now – is my life. I don’t want to get so bogged down by minutia that I forget to have fun. I don’t want to plod along doing things one way just because that is how others do them. I want to laugh more. Travel more. Love more. I want to continue to focus on what matters to me most and what makes me feeling exuberant and alive.

And so, that leads me here to this blog. I have been thinking about starting it for a while but have held back, debating the pros and cons with myself and a few friends. I hope that it will help me focus on the big picture, relish the small details and write more. Because as Jon always says, “Stories don’t do anyone good when they are just in your head.”