1 Comment

dreaming of calamity kim

I told my boss a few weeks ago that I am thinking of a career change. I’m not trying to leverage a raise or anything like that; I want to do something different. I want to pursue something that’s more closely aligned with where my heart is now: writing.

I love my job. It truly is the best job I can imagine, but the thing is I’ve been doing it for going on 8 years, and I’ve been a part of this institution for almost 14 years. I’m ready to do something else somewhere else. I’m ready to focus on my biggest love. Ready to teach creative writing to younger students. Ready to influence students in the way I wish I’d been influenced. And I’m ready to move into a job that will give me the time, space, and momentum to be a better writer, a more consistent writer.

It’s time.

And yet.

It’s a frightening idea. There is, of course, the fear of loss of security. I have a pretty good situation: a decent salary, terrific benefits, and a job that I know isn’t going to go away. So there’s this part of me screaming that it doesn’t make sense to leave.

For a while I thought it’s the fact that 40 is bearing down on me.

I think of all the options out there, all the things I could do. It’s pretty amazing to recognize the possibilities. That I am capable and qualified to do many things. The world feels really big right now.

The other night on the drive home I had this epiphany:  I’ve settled down, my life is secure and still. I have a wonderful love, a good home, a good job, a good set of routines. I am physically and emotially stable. There much rhythm to my life, perhaps too much. I need a little (self-created) chaos.

I need the chaos that creativity brings.

I spent a few (all too short) days at the ocean with my friend Ant a couple weeks ago—our annual writing retreat. I didn’t accomplish nearly as much as I’d hoped. I mostly blame the weather. It was sunny and clear, and too warm for November. Ant and I craved rain and wind. We wanted to watch the storms come in. Instead we walked the dogs on the quiet beach. It was perfect for reflecting, horrible for writing.

But I did get a few things done, and, more importantly, I came home fired up, ready to write more. I’ve spent more the past two hours in this chair in my favorite coffee shop, working on three haibun I started last year. They’re nearly done. I think.

And now it’s on to the next thing. More writing. Figuring out where this project is going. Polishing some short stories and readying them for submission.

But I need a spark. I need chaos and mess. I need something that will keep me going. I need to be around more writers. I need to be further from administration and management and closer to craft and process and storms. I don’t know if I can sustain this on my own. It’s scary. I’ve started and stopped far too many times. I’ve written about starting and stopping too many times.

So I posted three haibun today, my show of commitment to Acceptance and proof that I’ve been doing something other than poking around on Facebook on this dark, dreary evening. The sky looked heavy earlier. I’m waiting for the storm, for the wind and rain and words to fly wildly, dangerously



even the moon sees me, part i

So it’s Sunday, and I’m following my usual routine. Coffee shop. Americano. A ready laptop and Mum streaming into my ears.

Sundays are all about sifting through the archives, finding old journal entries and exploring what is there, what is possible, what might be spilled over into Acceptance. This morning I ran across an entry that is, in a way, prophetic. As I’ve said before, I’ve known for years that I was meant to write this book. I’ve come close to beginning it, only to see my own fears staring up from the page, telling me it’s too soon to go there, too soon to share.

This morning I found this, written November 13, 2008. I couldn’t figure out who the audience was until I found part of this entry on my old LiveJournal blog:

I have thought a lot lately about writing about that time, or of writing about the time that stands between here and that moment, or set of moments, five years ago. But while I am able to go there in my mind, sometimes without willing it, I am not willing to write it down. I do not want to tell you about it all.

Some of it you already know.

But most of it you will not be able to understand.

So I try to steer my thoughts away from those moments and instead let them settle on something else. Those words that need to resonate are not coming and I cannot find that something else.

Tonight I am remembering and the remembering is so strong I cannot will it away. I have been able to will it away when I am at work. I can throw myself into meetings and email and make it all dissolve into my day to day. At least, temporarily.

It is when I am at home, after my day has ended that it comes to me. Here is when it is so powerful it seems, in some spaces, all consuming. Like it could pick me up and carry me away. My memories are that strong.

But, as I told you, I do not want to write about them.

So I go back into my mind and push the remembering aside. Push aside the memories and the act of remembering. I go back into my mind to find the now, to find what is more pressing, what it more welcoming. What is easier to write about.

I have thought a lot about writing these past few days, but haven’t made time for it. I have thought of several things to write. About Veterans’ Day, and being a veteran. About my mother and her many illnesses. About my dog and his lack of hair. About puberty and fall and eagles and deer. Some days it seems I could pick a topic and run with it. Some days it seems so easy I almost do not want to do it.

I have been thinking about my place in the writing life, how I came here and if I belong here and where I am going with it all. I have had several dreams about grad school and searching for a place to write, for someone who will show me how to do it, for someone to model myself after.

I have been thinking about my place in this life, in my day to day, in the way I enter my office and the way I leave and the things I do when I am in there, at my desk.

I have been thinking about my place at home, my house that I rent, the things inside it and how it can seem so full and so empty at the same time. I have thought about buying a house and how that cannot happen anytime soon.

I am in a good place, really. I should tell you that I feel fortunate, that I have a good day to day and a good house and a good life in general. I should tell you that I will incorporate writing into all of this, that I will push myself and do more and do better and write more and write better.


I want to show you some things I wrote two years ago when I was doing some of my darkest journaling. I want to show them to you but I do not want you to see them.
Perhaps it is this: perhaps it is that I do not want you to see me.

(to be continued)


baby shoes and psychotherapy

My new friend and I have been on what sometimes feels like an emailing rampage. Linsey asks lots of good questions, and some of them really rattle my brain. Today she asked me to write a six word autobiography. And, following my standard M.O. of avoidance, I quickly wrote back with something snarky. But then I started thinking about it some more, and I thought of Hemmingway’s six word story:

“For sale: baby shoes, never used.”

These are some of the heaviest six words I’ve ever read.

There are all sorts of legends about how this story came to be, and whether Hemmingway even wrote those words. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is that they’re there, and what makes them brilliant is that they can tell a hundred stories. The reader can make assumptions about the baby (never born? died young?) and the shoes (too large? shoplifted?) and the reason they’re being sold (why not give them away, for example? and are they the only items for sale?). Each two word phrase has a story behind it. Combine all six words and there is an even larger story with even more emotion.

If I read those words and then close my eyes, I can see the shoes: old white leather shoes with sturdy soles and perfect laces. The same kind my brother wore as a toddler (when I was probably five or six). The same kind people used to bronze. I see those shoes alone on a sun-bleached wooden table in front of a farmhouse, a note with those six little words tacked on the table next to the shoes. Tiny clouds of red dirt drift across the cracked ground. And not a soul in sight.

That’s the same image I’ve had in my mind since I first heard this story years ago.

Consider that. The power those six words have—their ability to burn this story into my mind.

But also consider what I’ve brought to the story. My brother’s shoes. The cracked, red dirt from the backyard of my childhood home in Newberry, South Carolina.

I could go on, deconstructing the story and interpreting all that I’ve brought to it to make it my own.

So I thought of all these things when I considered my six word autobiography. What could I say about my life in six words that would tell a story? And what story do I want to tell? I thought of writing Linsey and asking for further direction, but I decided against it.

I imagined myself hovering just above the surface of my life’s landscape. What’s there? My childhood, a sometimes chaotic upbringing. College, the Navy, marriage and divorce. Restarting. Falling in love for the first time. More college. Loss. Grief. A career. Depression. Rebirth and growth. The process of discovering my own resilience and, more importantly, my Self. Writing.

I thought of these things and of how I came to recognize this landscape, to draw back and see all of it at once. And what I wanted to tell Linsey is this: If you want to see my autobiography, read the notes my therapist has taken over the past seven years. But I realized that, again, would be the snarky approach. So I gave her six words that (to me, anyway) say this:

If you want to know more about my life, read the notes my therapist has taken over the past seven years. Within those notes you’ll find stories of love, death, grief, success, depression, growth, loss, family, home, creative expression and droughts. You’ll find just about everything I know how to say about my life. I am thankful for therapy—I’m thankful for making the decision to start and keep with it; I’m thankful that I have a job with decent health insurance; I’m thankful for a therapist who understands me and shows me how to understand my Self.

So I imagine my autobiography filed away tonight, dozens and dozens of pages of handwritten notes in manila folders inside a file cabinet somewhere. But if you took all of those pages and condensed them as tightly as possible, if you put into six words the story that I’ve told over the course of seven years, they would read:

$50 a week: worth every cent.

I have no shame at all in saying that I am—and have been—in therapy. I think it’s one of the best things a person can do for her Self.

As I work on Acceptance, as I tell my story, much of what I will write has already been revealed in weekly fifty-minute psychotherapy sessions. I will rely on what I’ve learned in those sessions. And, if I do this the right way, the emotional weight that I’ve carried into and out of my therapist’s office will appear on the page.

I can only hope it works.