If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours. — Henry David Thoreau
This spring, I was forced to move from my writer’s loft, and get a new place.
I had only lived in my loft for six months, after selling or giving away nearly everything I owned (including my library, a beloved lifetime of learning reduced to two large boxes, now kept in storage), declaring bankruptcy pro se (i.e., without an attorney, a near insurmountable feat for the lay person), and moving to the middle of nowhere to write a story that needs to be told.
“It’s going to be my Joni Mitchell moment,” I told friends. “Joni moved into the woods to write Blue, that’s what I am going to do. But it’s going to be a book.” Honestly, I can’t bring myself to Google to see if that story is remotely tethered to a single shred of fact. Somehow, I came to believe that Joni Mitchell wrote Blue in a cabin in the woods, so I should do similar, for the book. Why, I don’t know.
That’s my story. It’s not the facts that matter to me. It doesn’t matter if it was Joni Mitchell, or Gabriel García Márquez writing nonstop in his basement for a year (100 Years of Solitude took less than a year to write, an unprecedented creative act for the work’s sheer volume and scope, as his wife sold off their furniture to pay the bills, and buy his cigarettes), or J. K. Rowling on the dole, in a coffee shop letting the magic pour through her. Hundreds if not thousands of anecdotes exist about writers, artists, musicians, those who were set on fire, who did what they had to do, for whatever the reasons they had to do it, dancing to a music that others could not hear.
However, rather than having my Blue moment, I was moving, yet again. Before I uprooted myself from my digs and singularly insular life in Cambridge, my landlord had agreed to no less than a year lease, my giving way to her request for a three month written “trial period,” with the year lease to be signed after the trial ended, because she was elderly, and persistently expressed a deep fear of someone coming in and ruining her home. Then, conveniently, or karmically, there are no accidents, after my life overhaul, and before we signed the actual year lease, she decided that she needed to retire two years earlier than planned, fearing for her health, or some such thing. At the end of the three months, and before signing the year lease, she suddenly needed to move to Florida to a retirement home. At 67 years old.
Deep fear. That should have been a warning.
Without much further sympathy for her fears, I let her dig her far too early coffin, deciding that the legalities about her decision were irrelevant and not worth fighting over.
I learned a great deal; I was to learn more.
Because I had placed myself in the middle of nowhere, in the center of the pine and woodland studded northeast, without transportation. There is no economy in these parts, simply acres and acres of freedom and woodlands. Views of flora and fauna are great, but not really where one goes to “get a job.” All I could do was ask, “where do I go, and what do I do, next,” and refuse to undermine myself with my internalized Mother’s voice scolding me for hubris and foolishness.
After a month of creative reinterpretation, a.k.a. “problem solving,” and nixing the idea of relocating yet again, I decided to stay in this area, though my cost of living would go up 100 percent, that without even thinking about car payments.
I called a few friends, who graciously helped with my relocating expenses. The care shown me was so brilliantly beautiful, their no questions asked generosity still overshadows all the pain I felt as I picked up the phone and said, “please, can you?”
Should anyone ask, this is what living a dream probably means for most of the blurry eyed: An idea. Or two. Or three. A story. No car. No viable income on the horizon. Pushing through the anxiety of sleepless nights. Finding reserves that you didn’t know you had. Asking for help. Knowing that you’ve not yet even started. (Agent, what agent? Proposal, eh, you mean the outline, right?) Problem solving. For this woman, living the dream also meant a phone and work experience.
Because, to pay the bills and write, I bit the bullet, googled, and found a company that would hire me for the raunchiest and most denigrating of calls, something I’ve not had to do in almost 15 years, having been spoiled by an elite clientele in my now bankrupt business. Fifteen years of busting my backside, setting my own rules, usually serving those in a six-plus figure income bracket, completing graduate school, and I returned to square one by turning two-bit phone tricks with some of our most vulnerable for some of our least desirable, at less than minimum wage.
Living the dream, indeed.
(To be continued.)