While I'm doing the dishes, taking a shower, putting the groceries away, changing out laundry, folding cloth napkins, reminding myself of the daily to-do's, returning emails, I often listen to podcasts.
I have lots of favorites...The Moth, This American Life, Death, Sex & Money, Serial, Strangers, Magic Lessons and new to me and quickly climbing the charts...Dear Sugar.
Dear Sugar is a podcast co-hosted by Cheryl Strayed, best selling New York Times author of "Wild" and Steve Almond, phenomenal writer and all around amazing advice sharer. For sometime, Cheryl Strayed was the anonymous online Dear Sugar columnist at The Rumpus. The lost, the lonely, the confused, the broken hearted, the exhausted would write letters and she would answer them. But not in a Dear Abby sort of style, rather in a shake the shit out of you, shatter your small minded myths and make you get very real with who you are format...all while lovingly referring to you as Sugar or Sweetpea.
Based on that column, she wrote a novel called "tiny beautiful things," and developed the Dear Sugar podcast with her friend Steve Almond.
And upon my discovery of both, I've turned into a bit of an addict.
Throughout all of the unbelievable letters they receive and the experts they bring in to help them provide really well thought out responses...it occurs to me that the hardest thing about positing change is that we're often stuck with the way we are hard wired.
We try desperately to break out of old habits or all too familiar patterns or cyclical behaviors that tend to bring us back to the same problems only to discover that some of this hamster on a wheel behavior is who we are.
I am the oldest child. Type A. A bit neurotic. A little OCD. Not long ago, a good friend wrote to me and said in a nutshell, "Enough already. Start writing. And while your blog is really good and enjoyable. We want more. Something meaningful. Get going."
It was an unexpected and amazing kick in the ass jolt. And for the sort of person who has to have a plan, it also felt scary and something to be back burnered. The next day, I went for a long run, took a yoga class and my computer and went to a coffee shop and forced a 30-minute writing session that was really invigorating.
Certain that the closet writer who lives within would "out" herself in a significant way in the world, I refused to be mired by the way it's always been done in my life. Three years ago, I wasn't a consistent, avid runner. Now, for the most part, I am. A decade ago, I wasn't a parent and now my entire being is mother. So, how do I make room in a real way to be a real writer?
I think if I were to write my own letter to Dear Sugar, it might look something like this...
For so many reasons I admire you. I keep Torch, Wild, tiny, beautiful things along with Truth and Beauty, Bird by Bird, The Optimist's Daughter and many others by my bedside. I sort of pray that by some form of osmosis, you among your amazing cohort of women writing colleagues will permeate my being and give me a cool kid ticket to join the club.
I've written a blog for three years. I pen primarily about the joys and exhaustion of mothering three children while trying to retain the parts of me that have fallen seemingly very far away making peanut butter sandwiches and sandcastles at the park. There have been some decent entries. I've connected with amazing people finding the sacred in the mundane. In many ways, it really has been a life line during a time of isolation.
But I can't seem to let go of the nagging, won't let me be feeling that I want something different. My go-to methods are no longer working. I can't write chapters of a novel on the toilet with one foot on the floor and the other holding the bathroom door shut. I can't block out the demons in my head and heart saying you're too old. Your window is closing and it's time to lay this dream to rest. I have one more year until all three of my children are in school full-time. The practical thing to do would be to get a real job and to start contributing financially...not to wallow in a book that will never be published.
But still, I want it. And so, I ask, how might you advise a girl in the midwest to get over herself and to get on with the task at hand? How do I let go of my fear, my ego, my excuses and start carving away my passion and birthing it into this world that we share?
Really and truly, I'm all ears.
xoxo, Kelly's Hot Mess
I'm eager to see what they'd say, but parts of me already know. At the end of the day, much like running, I suppose, I'm just going to have to put my excuses on hold, knowing that I can always go back to them and just start writing with purpose and a reasonable deadline in mind. Alas, it's so much easier to listen to really good podcasts and fold the laundry.