It's been eight weeks today since I stepped out of my red heels and into an earthy pair of Deerfoams, traded my Revlon Lipstay for Carmax, and christened my youngest daughter Queen of the Commute with my gold-starred Starbucks travel mug. Quitting my job to write full time at home means that dressing up for me anymore is putting on a pair of jeans to go out, which actually feels like a pretty big event in and of itself. Most days I just wear yoga pants and a CuddliDud shirt. Honestly, it's 4:43pm right now and I'm not even dressed yet. My favorite yoga pants and CuddliDud shirt are spinning in the dryer and I'd much prefer to wait for them as opposed to putting on something that isn't my favorite. In my defense, I showered today . . . after reading the April issue of Oprah cover to cover in the the hot tub. I'm counting it as research because the theme was change . . . and I needed to know more about that. I could just go straight to pajamas, but I've GOT to go out for a bridal shower gift. At this point, I'm strongly leaning towards an on-line purchase -- you know, where you buy the gift and give a card at the shower announcing the gift, and then it gets delivered directly to her house. I don't suppose you can Skype into these events (?) . . . I'm not really going to do either of those things, but it feels good to have some choices.
Earlier this week, a friend asked me if I felt free. I told her I would let her know in my next blog. it's not as if I couldn't have committed to an answer right at that moment -- I was standing sockfoot and nap-fresh in my kitchen trolling Pinterest for new dinner recipes on my IPad, and carrying on three text conversations on my IPhone with the thrombots of Tom Petty's Freefalling beating a rhythm in the background of my brain -- but it's complicated. I work every bit as hard now as when I was dodging kids in hallways and collaborating instructional practices just quick enough to stay ahead of the next state mandate. And I probably get even less sleep (even factoring in the naps). I'm a list maker, and most days my lists take over and sprouts buds. And to be honest (again) not much of the feverish activity that they've dictated in the last eight weeks has had much to do with actually writing a book.
So what am I doing here?
It turns out that quitting a job to stay home and work is actually hard work in and of itself. There's a transition period. Ask any woman who works 50+ hours per week outside the home, and she'll tell you that some things just don't get done. I spent the entire first month of my defection undoing thirteen years of just don't get done. I started from one end of the house and bulldozed my way through to the other end deep cleaning, organizing, redesigning, redecorating, replacing, repairing, and trying to remember where all these things had come from. And why we still had them. And why we ever had them in the first place. And why someone hadn't taken them with them when they left. One day -- about the third week in -- I walked past a pushbutton phone still hanging in the kitchen. Logistically speaking, it had to have been the 75,000th time I passed it in the ten years since we've had a landline. How was I just now seeing it? And then there were the shadow boxes and Victorian curtains in the dining room that were ever so popular in the 90s. And the games and the puzzles and the crafts and the office supplies all stuffed indiscriminately into cupboards and cabinets. I'm a big fan of candles and candle paraphernalia (toppers, votives, snuffers, matches), and apparently I decided subconsciously at some point to devote five separate drawers in strategic places to this endeavor and fill them all just a quarter of the way full. Maybe I thought if somebody found one stash . . .
Some time in that first month I also spent a week shopping for a new healthcare policy (the old one went with the paycheck and I can't even talk about that experience yet), and I attended a one day social media seminar that was a catalyst for this past month's objective: building a website and blog to showcase my writing. In addition to Facebook, which I mastered a long time ago, I've learned to navigate my way through Twitter (I still don't get it), Pinterest (how did I live without this?!), and Instagram (meh) in order to direct traffic back to my site. Now I'm a slave to statistics. I am exploring and testing what works and why it works and when it works (did you know that Thursday afternoons at 1:00pm is an optimum time to post a new blog? And that Mondays have the slowest traffic?).
Shopping has also filled my days. I'm the proud owner of a new IMac desktop (I was only two days into the website thing when my husband stopped me from hurling my old Toshiba laptop out the window and gently guided me towards the Apple Store), a deluxe edition Nordic Track elliptical (there's a setting to wash my gym clothes when I'm finished with my workout), and a nifty new pair of air light Nike Fitsole running shoes. I can't afford any of these things. I don't have a paycheck (and I'm using my savings to pay for a ridiculously expensive health care plan that we may never need. Whoops! Tangent. Another blog. Another day. Maybe check my Politics Aside page next week;), but I can't afford not to have them if I'm going to make a living by spending 8-10 hours a day behind a desk.
Which brings me back to The Middle of July. My whole reason for jumping ship from that noble institution of public education in the first place. I have managed to work in some editing and researching and writing and perfecting over the past eight weeks. I have not managed, in the words of Paulo Coelho, to focus all my sun's rays. I have not accomplished pouring my whole heart into my writing yet, as opposed to the three chapters worth that I've managed to piece together over the past several years. I'm not worried, though. I've accomplished so much in life already, and I know my discipline will kick in when it counts the most. In the words of a dear friend (I am not in short supply), everything that I've ever done up to this point has prepared me for this, and the last eight weeks are no accident, and no exception. I needed to get my house in order. My poor husband is just now catching on that it was only okay to leave his dishes in the living room when I didn't have time to bitch about it. I know that he is just as anxious for me to retreat to my office in long stretches as I am to get there.
So the answer to your question, my dear friend, if you've read this far, is that I do feel free. To quote Toni Morrison (from Beloved), I get "to wake up at dawn and decide what to do with the day." It's an intoxicating kind of freedom, borne of passion and idealism. But it's about to get more real. There are things that I must do, but I get to decide how to make those things happen. I have worked long enough and hard enough that I have afforded myself some choices. And right now, in my feverish madness to create, to accomplish, to channel what God has given me in a noble direction, I am free. Free from people pleasing, free from convention, free from cultural and institutional timelines. Free from keeping up, measuring up, and shutting up. It's the most that anybody could ever ask from God in a lifetime -- that, and to be given so many words. Thanks for asking.