Because it Loves Me Back
Summers are slow around here. No one in Minnesota wants to be inside doing anything, even if it is pleasurable or healthy or whatever. The kids are out of school, the sun is shining, sweat beads-finally-on our temples. There are gardens to be tended, lakes to be swum, barbeques to be had.
Now, in my fourth summer in Minnesota, I’m finally getting it. In the summer we coast. The work will still be there in the fall.
So this summer, rather than plan classes that no one would attend, I decided to set my writing and teaching mostly aside.
That’s a misrepresentation of the truth. In fact, that’s close to a lie.
I did step away from teaching. My writing, however, decided to leave me.
My writing decided I needed a break. This is the most I’ve written in six weeks, not that I’m counting. At first I felt like I was being punished. I was a spurned lover, desperate, panicky, franticly trying to ficure out what to change so that my love, my work, would return.
I’d started working at a farm, you see. Big River Farm, a nonprofit, certified organic, farmer training program. A place I’ve been volunteering for years and swoon for. Everytime I drive the forty minutes northeast of the Twin Cities, through the rolling farmland, through the Wilder Forest to the collection of weathered wooden buildings and barns I feel like I’m being lulled into a soft, relaxed trance. I get to work there all summer and fall. I get to support diverse farming, sustainable agriculture, and local food. All things I’m passionate about THAT AREN’T WRITING.
The farm job and the abandonment by my writing coincided, not surprisingly. At first I thought I was just overwhelmed with balancing the chaos of wrapping up classes and the commute. Then I thought maybe I was just physically worn out.
The weeks went on. I blamed the farm. I was frustrated—perhaps I should quit, I mused. I’d grovel for my writing to come back. Then frustration set in. What the hell? Plenty of people in the world work full time jobs and have families and write. My writing was awfully entitled.
Then I came to a very sad place, a place I’ve been before, the place where I just let go. Maybe writing is better off a hobby, a fun thing I do in the evenings and on the weekends. Who was I kidding anyway? And that felt more wretched—after all, I’ve given up so many things, worked so very hard to carve out a life in which writing could be center stage.
Writing didn’t just leave me, writing betrayed me.
Today I’m in a new place. Writing left me because it loves me back. In the way that our lovers and friends can see what we often cannot, writing saw that I needed rest. I needed space. I need other things to fill my life, a variety of joys and charms.
Look, I can be an intense person when I’ve committed to something. I know this. I am loyal to a fault and driven by a work ethic that is punishing. I can be overwhelming, and that intensity can only last so long before it burns out.
Writing is taking care of me, building in a breaks so that I can return to it, not the other way around.