2004: The Necessary Year

March 1998

"Have I, um ... missed my window?"

I'm not sure if that was my exact phrasing of the question, but I wanted to know: had I, years ago, unknowingly shied away from the opportunity of a lifetime? Had I blindly passed it in the night of my own muddled periods of depression? Was my life supposed to have become something more than ... this?

Mary Jo's eyes were shut as she thought, or conjured up a muse, or whatever.

"No, honey," she said. "Your life won't even begin until you're 37." She paused, then added, "But you'll have a piece of the pie at 34."

January 1, 2005

So, I'm 34. And I do think I have a piece of the pie.

2004 was a big year. I'm calling it "The Necessary Year," even though that sounds really cheesy, like a bad drama that tried for an Oscar but overshot by making itself too serious and too not-fun. But it was a necessary year. I swallowed a lot of pride this year, pride that's been keeping me from the immediacy of life. Along with the pride, I started swallowing anti-depressants, a.k.a. "happy pills," because I didn't think that my then-inevitable suicide would be fair to the people I loved. That was tough, because my experience has been that "Happy Pills + Me = Zero Creativity." That's still the case, but I've taken on the challenge.

It was a "necessary year" because I've been though a lot that I needed to go through ... the first year of marriage, the return to church, the Creative Non-fiction workshop, the "book tour" ... so anyway, here's my story. My "2004: The Necessary Year" story/recap.

In 2004 ...

My book was published. I lived my first full year as a wife, with a new job and a new home in a new part of the country. For the first time in my adult life, I wasn't continually stressed about money (the dual-income thing is nice ... as is a husband who actually likes to deal with bill-paying). I met and bonded with long-lost relatives. I got up the nerve to take my first-ever writing workshop (Creative Non-fiction). I took on a freelance-writing job. I started taking piano lessons again. I entertained long-abandoned dreams: becoming a novelist. Becoming a composer. Making a living off my art and creativity.

Also in 2004 ...

I wanted to kill myself. I thought of ways. I made some plans. I broke lots of glass things. I threw furniture. I went to piano lessons and spent entire "lessons" crying. I called in sick from work because I was too tired and depressed to get out of bed, much less be productive. I went days without eating and felt my old self-hating anorexic self coming back. I drank too much wine. I thought about checking in to a hospital because I'd become so non-functional. Then I decided to start taking happy pills because it wasn't fair to the Hubster for me to be this way.

Also in 2004 ...

I learned something about boundaries. And the Hubster's. They say the first year of marriage is the hardest. It was hard. Not that the Hubster and I fought or anything, because we really didn't. Not much, at least. But it was hard. I went from an independent thirtysomething to a wife. The whole "boundaries" thing was a challenge. He had to learn my (rather weird) boundaries. I had to learn how much crap he was willing to put up with. It was tough. I won't go into the gory details. But it was very tough. You married folks know what I am talking about ...

Also in 2004 ...

I joined a poetry group. I started going to church again. I took a Bible study class. I met with other writers weekly to practice and discuss creative writing. I signed lots and lots of copies of my book. I started a blog. Through that blog, and through the blogs of others, I've made some friends. I hiked the Art Loeb Trail. I wrote monthly articles on hiking and outdoor sports. I indoctrinated small children on Sunday nights at the local Presbyterian church ... and felt good about it.

And I made some friends. Finally. As an introvert, as someone who prefers the company of cats and pianos to that of actual people, it's a challenge for me to make friends. It took a while. I like the people at work, but they're acquaintances. Not friends. I met some folks through my writing workshop, and some friendships still may spring from that ... but not yet. I've met people through church, people whom I genuinely like, but I'm still feeling them out ... I fear that when they discover my cynicism and sarcasm regarding most things religious, they'll drop me. My best friends have been those I've met through the poetry group. I really love my poetry friends. Even though most of them are a good 30 or more years older than me.

Then, of course, there is Deborah. She's my piano teacher, but she's also my friend. We haven't done a lot of "friend" things, other than a few dinners, but we definitely connect. And that's good. I also feel like I connect with Vance, my theory teacher. Good to connect with people. Also good when the only people you can connect with just happen to be brilliant and talented musician types. :-)

Also in 2004 ...

I wrote roughly 700 pages of JOURNAL. I read a LOT of books. I'd list them, but I can't remember them all. After I graduated from college in 1992, I sort of swore off book-reading. Not consciously, of course. Then, in grad school, I read a lot (you kinda have to do that when you're in English Literature), but none of it was for pleasure. Then I moved on the my career life and quit reading altogether.

Then, a few years ago, I picked up a book and read it. And another. And another. And remembered how much I love to read. Remembered those endless nights under my covers as a child, pen-light in hand, reading "in secret." So I started reading again.

And the writing. With reading comes writing, always. I wrote several drafts of essays, outlined some short-story ideas, and started on a novel--my first since 1990.

The creativity definitely took a nosedive when I started taking the happy pills, but I have made the effort to keep it alive. Every morning, I write. Every Saturday--or at least a few hours every Saturday--is devoted to the novel. I practice piano a good five hours a week at minimum. I work on theory--not enough, but enough for now.

It was also a year of ... the election, the continued Iraq war, beheadings, The Passion, Michael Moore, the horrible tsunami, and the western North Carolina floods. It was the year of any number of pop-culture happenings of which I'm completely unaware. But, as I read through my journals, I don't mention those things much. My journals are an escape from the "real world," I guess. And all of these notes are being written after reflecting on my six notebooks of journals from 2004.

So, what are the New Years Resolutions?

I'm not sure. Part of me wants to pursue my creative dreams more, whereas an equally important part of me says I should work on being a better housewife (I am a horrible housewife). Part of me wants to prepare for *the* piano recital that I never performed in college (thank you, Depression) ... but part of me wants to make dinner more often (my poor husband survives on canned soup and Ritz crackers).

So I'll have to think about the New Year's Resolution a bit more before I make one ... or twenty-seven ...

For now, I'm working on being a better wife, I guess. Dan and I have spent our New Year holiday cleaning the house. We're going with the "bold red kitchen" look and bought paint today. I painted the front door white and it looks great. Tomorrow after church, the Hubster's going to burn brush and I'm going to get my office straight and ready for 5:00 a.m. morning pages Monday morning. It's a good life. 2005 will be a good year.

And next year, I'll thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail ... and maybe do that long-awaited piano recital ... we'll see.


TulipGirl said…
I cried reading this. I'm glad you have a piece of the pie.

Grace and peace, TulipGirl

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