Sometimes epiphanies present themselves in the form of your sassy friend Wendy telling you, in her Australian accent, look, love, that tree you’re barking up? It’s the wrong one.
Wendy had invited me and our mutual friend Nancy to her homestead in central New York for the weekend. “Please help me by taking apples home with you,” she said. And who were we to refuse? We harvested a hefty amount of gorgeous Liberty and Cortland apples. We drank red wine. We talked about our lives, entanglements, dilemmas, progeny, and about how we choose to conduct ourselves as mortal beings whose days are numbered.
I talked about feeling anxious about how to earn income while homeschooling and writing. I described my scrambling to somehow discern what I need to do in the next 8 to 11 months (which I had framed as my only window of opportunity to figure everything out). I explained my idea to launch a small business offering research services to individuals.
“Is there even a market for that?”
“That’s what I need to assess. I think there could be. But it will be a huge amount of work, another more-than-full-time task. I don’t know how I’m going to do all this.”
Wendy gave me a stern and loving look. “You know, you are a brilliant writer.”
Nancy added, “Yes, a brilliant writer, Jen. Better than some published authors we know!”
Wendy said, “You should be writing. You should be making money from your book and from writing, and going around, talking about your book, inspiring people. That’s what you’re here to do. You’re here to show people how you’ve changed your life, and inspire them to change theirs. You know how you were talking earlier about the necessity of art and writing as activism, to create systemic change at the level of culture? That’s your work.”
It hit me all in a rush.
I had been using my declarations of pragmatism as an excuse. I had erected it as a rampart against my own fear: the fear of not being good enough, successful enough, marketable enough. I had said to myself, “Best to return to ye olde MLS (master of library science), your Marketable Credential, except figure out how to use it to work from home and on your own timetable.”
Call myself a writer? Consider that anyone would ever pay money for my writing? It had seemed inconceivable. Other messages had prevailed, somehow, about what it meant to be a good mother, a solid provider, a reasonable woman. There was no way, no way in hell, I told myself, that I could ever earn money or otherwise get my and Lily’s needs met from writing. It was stupid to even consider it. I had no publications, no connections, no agent, no MFA, no workshops, nothing but a driving desire to write. I needed to think about Real Work. And in that grim self-talk, I suddenly recognized what I was doing. This was not pragmatism. This was cowering in the face of voices sneering. Little woman. Just a mother. Who do you think you are? You think you’re important? You think you have something to say? You think anyone would value you? with the coin of the realm, no less? Stay home. Keep your head down. Be humble. Don’t get out of line. If you do that, perhaps you can be safe. I had resigned myself to hunkering down, shouldering my burden, glumly slogging my way through to some Answer, even if it meant tabling my writing until I could return to it.
And when would that be? In some mythical tomorrow when I’d finally discovered exactly how to homeschool full-time, achieve financial independence (almost certainly full-time), AND suddenly have all this time to write?
Had I learned nothing from my journeys? Had I not clarified my priorities? Had I not examined the almighty economy, as it is presented to us, monolithic, unavoidable, demanding obedience, and found it to be lacking? Had I not avowed my allegiance to an entirely different economy, the Economy of Love? Had I not proclaimed my unmitigated fidelity to my own heart, to my child, to all my loves?
My loves, waiting. Excitedly.
There sat Wendy and Nancy, leaning forward, their eyes shining at me. They had no doubt. They were waiting for me to do my work. There they sat, a pair of love representatives, their eyes multiplying two by two, until I could sense all my loves gathered, glimmering faintly and with deep-rooted affection. A whole devoted throng stepped forward in spirit and spoke.
You have gifts that you must give to be whole.
Nobody is served by your self-abnegation.
You have been called. You have a mission.
Seize your confidence.
We know you will put your blood and soul into it.
We will not let you fall.
… See, love? The right tree is right here. Best to gather your apples from this one.
Interested in supporting my work? I invite you to contribute to the economy of love with
- brainstorming creative ideas for bringing in income
- knowledge of the writing world
- offering your gifts, tangible and intangible
- caring for Lily while I write
- hiring me for odd jobs
- donating if you are able (if you don’t wish for Paypal to take 3%, please feel free to contact me for alternate methods).