Planning and worrying and waking up
in the morning with items on the list
clanking like quarters in the brain’s tin cup,
this and that and what you might have missed
or who pisses you off… The numb
knockings of anxiety are like the heels
of sturdy little shoes steadily beating
on upholstery. It’s how anyone feels
having been put into a chair, meeting
responsibilities from a padded perch
too big for anyone’s ass...–From “Things to Do,” by Molly Peacock, quoted from Cornucopia: New And Selected Poems.
I have been home from residency for three days now, but until today it didn’t sink in how far I am. I don’t mean in physical miles; I’m lucky to live in the same city. I mean in mental miles, the distances we feel in our souls when we realize how far away we are from where we would like to be.
I think I have done well, fitting in writing with my home life. So far anyway–how can one tell these things after only a few days? But, I have fit in time, and I have a “room of my own”–a spare bedroom filled with bookshelves and an antique writing desk and bulletin boards and dry erase boards and pens and notebooks and all the things a writer could possibly want. I have ordered business cards and scheduled a writing group meeting. I have started blogging again. But the key thing here is that I have been home.
Tonight is my first night back to work. I work three days a week, twelve hour shifts, at a psychiatric hospital. I love the kids with whom I work, and in fact many of them will find their way onto the pages I write. Some already have. But it is visceral, hard, often gross, work. It tears heartstrings and bruises skin–sometimes, it even breaks bones. I have had shifts where I could do nothing but sit and want to cry, others where I yell at coworkers, some where I have even yelled at the kids. When you are surrounded by screaming and cursing and yelling and biting and attacking, how do you stay calm? How do you think “it’s all okay–I’m going to write now?” One of the perks of working third shift is that for maybe half of my shift–on a good night–I can sit and write and edit. But even then, sometimes it is hard to get in the “write” frame of mind. And then I have off days where it seems like getting the strength and stamina to face the blank page is far more than I possess.
And there is home, too. All the things like laundry and cooking and cleaning and emptying the litter box and letting the dogs out and making beds… how does this all fit in?
I find myself, more and more, missing my quiet room at the Brown Hotel. I miss being surrounded by writers and books and creative minds.
If you are reading this, how do you find balance? Where do responsibilities to others end and responsibilities to your own craft begin?