I am restless. After running errands, I go to Barnes and Noble with my free summer Friday (still madly in love with these 4-day workweeks), and come back with a stack of books and magazines. Still, I pick up one I already had at home: Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir.
I’ve delivered a novel to my agent and haven’t heard back, a fact which I tell myself firmly isn’t on my mind at all. At all! There’s another one, done, but needing an edit, and a third, a book of my heart that’s halfway done but which I know I’m just not good enough to write yet. It should be Atwoodian. It’s just wooden.
In the midst of all this, I’m pulled to pick up the memoir I put down eight years ago, the one I was sure I had to hurry up and publish, because who would care about undocumented immigrants in eight years? (Chants of Build That Wall! Play in the background as I recount that foolishness). There are all kinds of walls between me and that memoir: I don’t know the end, I don’t know the theme, and the grown-up literary world doesn’t want me because I’m a YA writer. Walls of unworthiness are my specialty. I need a sturdy sledgehammer.
Still, I separate my books into piles that grow when I’m not looking. The to-read pile, a mix of friends’ books I’ve promised to review, tomes which begged me to buy them and oppo research on what’s selling in YA, piles lengthening like well-watered trees sprouting in my living room. There are piles in every room, except maybe the kitchen, where I rarely linger. Which reminds me: I could probably fit some books in the kitchen.
There are journals, too, waiting to be written in, but often neglected. I write a lot, but not by hand, usually. I pull out the book of meditations I’ve bought myself today, off the discount shelves, a book of reflections, one for each day of the year. When I bought it, I told myself I’d write in a journal about each day’s thought. The Languages of Letting Go, it’s called.
It’s organized by date, and I pull up today’s reflection. It’s called “Surrender.” It begins, “Master the lessons of your present circumstances.” As I read on, my restlessness grows. I flip back to the one for my birthday. It’s called “Letting Go of Timing.” It says, among other things, “When will the future bring me what I long for? Will I be happy then?” All this damn Zen advice is giving me palpitations. I don’t want to accept. I don’t want to let go. I want to press a should hard against life, shove it by sheer will where I want it to go. My legs are shaking but strong.
I long, too, for a quiet cabin somewhere. Right after that thought comes the mom guilt. I can’t do that now, I tell myself. I can’t leave them when they’ll only live here a few years longer. I shouldn’t take time away now, not two weeks, not one. I’ll never get it back. In a couple of years I’ll have school years full of vacant time, freedom to throw on a tank top and old jeans, back up the car and live out of it for months on end, just as long as I’m back for Thanksgiving break. I think about these runaway fantasies a lot. The house rented in Spain for the summer. The low-cost living in Bali. I think that somehow, magically, money will have worked itself out by then, and I’ll be the kind of girl with a piece of hay in her teeth, a sun-kissed gleam on her shoulders. I’ll be a frequenter of diners off the beaten path, I’ll talk to bikers and waitresses, type out stories with fingers like wings, drive the back roads cross country during the day, write at night.
I long for it often, the uninterrupted hours to think, the road. Truth be told, I’d probably waste so much of the blank hours searching for WiFi and a little CNN, whining to myself about the rudeness of strangers. But I long for it anyway, the bucking bronco life, the wise world-traveler life, the life of the Real Writer.
I don’t mean to be ungrateful to my suburban middle life. Youth was poor and grasping, leading me to search for stodgy stability in the middle. But now, my feet are restless. That short brush with maybe moving out to California earlier this year has unmoored me from thinking things have to be only one way. I hunger to write, well, often, everywhere. I yearn to contain everything I need. I yearn to feel brave and alone.
Restlessly, I yearn.