This year, though, I didn’t really feel like writing an entire novel in November. Perhaps subliminally, I didn't want to be the writer who only did NaNoWriMo and then never bothered to get a book published.
I have also just been uncannily grumpy for a long time. I suspected that piling 50,000 words onto my schedule (and not getting paid for it) would add to my overall bad mood.
I’ve always had a cranky side to me, but motherhood has brought it out in full force.
I blame the lack of sleep and the numerous stressful events in my life, including, but not limited to, my brother's death, moving to a new city (and moving two more times within that city), having a baby, the Sailor’s promotion to Captain and haphazard schedule, a twin miscarriage and the hospitalization of my mom. (Pro tip: when a crisis happens to someone you know, just show up.)
I tried to blame my mood on everyone and everything, but in the end, the Sailor told me I needed to find my purpose. I found myself tearing up at his words, but he was right. He often is.
I have been foundering for a long time, and even though deep down I knew I was sinking, he offered me a life ring.
A year ago, I purged a ton of Pyrex and started selling stuff I no longer wanted around the house. In doing so, I realized not only how much junk I’ve accumulated over my life, but how many jobs I’ve had and how many identities I’ve carried around with me.
I have been, among many other things, a runner, traveler, writer, thrifter, maker, crafter, daughter, caretaker, teacher, canoe instructor, cook, server, journalist, volunteer, friend, soccer player, photographer, wife.
And then I added mom to that list, and everything else seemed to dissolve away, because, well — kids are intense. Of course I know that children are the greatest gift. But sometimes our identity gets so wrapped up in mommyhood that we forget who we were before this child came into our life. It almost feels like someone stole my identity and left me with a sleep-deprived, angry, grumpy one in its place.
Motherhood does that to a person.
The Sailor told me to pray about it. And while I have always had a deep faith, over the years I have been somewhat blasé about it. For fear of offending people, I have shied away from even admitting that I am a praying person because of the reputation sometimes cast upon believers these days.
Living in the South will do that to a person.
So I silently prayed for my purpose. I knew the answer before I saw the literal sign. I have a framed picture of a typewriter on my wall, near my desk that reads, ‘Your story matters... Share it with the world.’
Your story matters.
There's a lot of truth in those three words.
Within every ‘identity’ I’ve carried, I have always been a storyteller. Often the story is mine, although for years I wrote other people’s stories — tales of incredible people in far away places you’d have trouble finding on a traditional map.
I don’t know exactly when I stopped telling stories. Mine. Yours. God’s. I think it started when my mentor died. Not many people championed my writing like he did and when he died, a little of my soul seemed to go with him.
Writing is one of the few things that has stayed consistent in my life when everything else has changed. I have lived in numerous places and countries, taken on various jobs and roles, but I have always had my journals, my stories. And for nearly 20 years, I always had JH to tell me I was on the right track — whether I needed to pursue the story or scrap it.
Then, he was gone. And I felt like nobody reminded me to keep writing — to keep chasing stories. For over a year, I neglected this blog, not really knowing what to share. I wondered if people even read personal blogs anymore. Staying silent is not exactly a good way to honor the legacy of the man who taught me so much about writing, however.
|Actual writer's block.|
Over these past few weeks, I tried to think back on the times when I felt the most alive, when life seemed to have the most meaning. Immediately, I saw myself in far away places. I’ve traveled a lot and it’s natural that I have amazing memories from the many locations I’ve lived. I’ve always assumed that a portion of my crankiness lately is because I live in the States now, and even though we do still travel a lot, I find myself pulling clothes out of a closet more often than a suitcase these days.
(I do prefer suitcases.)
For this walk down memory lane though, the location didn't matter so much as what I was actually doing in each of them.
I remember a hostel on the hill in Budapest. I had an amazing view of the city from my window, but what I remember even more is how my fingers flew over my keyboard, racing to make a deadline.
I remember staying up late in my shared office in Mercy Ships, somewhere off the coast of West Africa, so I’d have a moment of quiet clarity to finalize a story.
I remember stumbling into a cafe, stunned, scribbling notes in a rain-soaked journal after a moving visit to Auschwitz.
I remember drinking super strong coffee from a tiny ceramic cup, listening to the sounds of rain, while writing in a mission building in Transcarpathia, Ukraine.
I remember wandering to my favorite cafe in the Canary Islands, tucking myself into a corner with a café con leche, while I wrote in my journal with a fountain pen.
I remember cradling my 3-month-old in a sling in this city where I now live, while I wrote my own eulogy to my former boss through a tear-filled haze.
I remember typing out random scenes in NaNoWriMo while the Peanut slept next to me, hoping he wouldn’t kick the keyboard and delete 10,000 words.
I remember all of these things because I felt alive.
Oddly, many of the things I experienced and later wrote about were not all rosy and cosy. They were messy, distressing, uncomfortable, annoying. Kind of like my life on certain days. Yet writing about them made me feel alive.
It's been a rough few years. This past year especially has been a doozy, and I have felt less than alive, most days. Lately though, something seems to be changing. Maybe it’s God. Maybe it’s the literal sign on my wall. Maybe it’s just me unearthing what was always there.
I remember now, that I have a story to tell.
MY story matters.
My STORY matters.
My story MATTERS.
I may not have actually published a book by the age I wanted. But I have lived more in my years than many people ever will and I have the stories to prove it.
This month, I won't get any bragging rights to 'winning' NaNoWriMo, but I am still writing a story. My story. I hope you'll stick around to read it.