Sunday, January 3, 2010


Well, I've read about as many top ten lists as I can take. Actually, I quit reading them over a week ago, along with the articles about the futility or stupidity or redundancy of such lists. Still, it's natural to look back, and at the turn of a decade, always interesting to go back to the last turn of a decade, so.

I've been thinking quite a bit about the changes in my life over the last ten years, and despite the busy-ness of the last few days, fully intended to sit down at some point and write about it. It's writing that helps me understand myself. Ah, narcissism.

Anyway, this post over on Mira's list (which, if you don't know, is a gold mine of info on artist's grants, residencies, and fellowships, subscribe now!) inspired me to sit down and get to reminiscing.

In January of 2000, I was still living in the basement of my struggling little bookcafe in Kimballton, Iowa. I was still swathed in pressure garments from the waist down (and would be until sometime in 2001.) Still taking several medications that swathed my brain in a grayish haze as my body slowly rebuilt the burned tissue. (Yes, doubly swathed. Should I say swaddled? Swaddled in despair, cuddled in gloom?) My marriage was a grim deadlock. My "business" was a joke. Things were not looking good, and I had no hope for the future, could not imagine any scenario where my life might turn out alright.

Soon, my husband would be gone and I'd pay off the building by myself. I'd teach part time in Omaha so I could keep the bookcafe open at least a few days a week. From January-June of 2002 I would close up the shop and live in NYC, helping my sister with her new baby.

In January 2003, acknowledged my failure and sold the building for half what it cost (it needed a new roof, and because of the debt incurred after my uninsured hospitalization, I couldn't get a loan.) Moved back to Omaha with my first dog, a handsome young mutt named Alice, and started over at the age of 45.

Moving out.

Young Alice.
Fast forward: Spend 2 1/2 years living in a studio apartment over a garage, chip chip chip away at the debt. For the first time since getting my teaching license in 1991, I apply for an actual full-time teaching gig. And get it! And don't really want it! But take the job, full of fear and trepidation, whatever, fear and trepidation is by now my confirmation name. Forward.

2005 become a homeowner. 2007 begin (oh, fear and trepidation!) an MFA in writing with the University of Nebraska's low-residency program, enabling me to continue teaching full time. (They are down there right now, at the Lied Lodge, having their workshops and lectures and readings without me; this is the first new year I've spent at home since I began the program.) Finished the book I'd started back in Kimballton, graduated in August, 2009.
Writer friend Erin Arellano marinating in the ambiance at Lied Lodge, January 2009

It's January 2010. It's 0° outside, but I have a warm Gertie on my lap as I type, and Alice snoring on her pillow at my feet. Though ten years ago home ownership was a distant dream, a fantasy I didn't dare indulge in, I am in a little house that is mine all mine (ok, and the bank's.) I have a job with benefits, even insurance, even a retirement plan. Ten years ago I didn't even think I could want those things, much less get them.

In two weeks, I am flying to Santa Fe for an education conference, courtesy of my employer. I'm seeking representation for my book and some days that seems an impossible dream, but though it's colder than a warlock's heart outside, the sun is shining. I fully expect this to seem a quaint yearning when I look back in 2020.

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CP said...

Thank you. Very encouraging. Similar blechies in my life. But, want to be hopeful.

Shreds said...

Why thanks CP. I guess I just wanted to testify. . . ten years ago, things looked so dark I couldn't imagine the light. It seemed I'd be down there forever, but the wheel keeps on turning. I'm glad I hung on.