I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks (eeek!) and this morning as I was trying to decide what to share I actually paused, uncertain as to what to do.
As a friend of mine said to me, during a particularly difficult time in her life, it’s hard to find something positive to write about when her world is upside down. So she avoids blogging during some of her darkest times.
However, since writing has saved my life in the past, avoiding it is only going to make me feel worse. I don’t have to share everything I write—but I must write.
So I wrote a gazillion log lines and short pieces, the first 250 words of my manuscript umpteen times, and reorganized my submissions calendar. I went on to compulsively read three books at once, pitched a couple of guest blogs, did some beta reading, ate too many carbs and drank too much coffee (yes, there is a maximum threshold, believe it or not.)
When none of that moved me, I perused Facebook and Twitter in a frenzy to see if any writers I know had any inspiration that would speak to my particular quandary—and at last, I finally came up with a post for today.
My husband and I enjoy browsing through second-hand and old book stores. We do this at least twice a month, finding some out-of-print edition or unique collection of airplanes, maps, art, poetry or other treasures.
John found an old atlas last weekend that is in pristine condition. Encased in plastic, the leather bound tome is huge and holds maps of all the countries in the world. We began to look at maps of England and Italy. In our respective past lives, we each lived in one or the other. John was stationed in England with the Air Force for over four years in the eighties; I lived near Naples, Italy for nearly a year in 2010.
As we are both map geeks, we got excited about it and began to show one another where this or that was on each map.
“Oh, that’s where I lived at first, near di Aversa, see? I could see Mount Vesuvius from my backyard.” I said.
John had to one-up me. “Well, see this map of Sicily? I went to Sigonella Navy Base to work. It was dark when I arrived. When I woke up I opened the curtains in my room and there was Mount Etna.”
Okay, so he won. Etna is nearly least three times taller than Vesuvius at 10,991 feet.
But….he didn’t live there for nearly a year! Ha!
So we started googling and reliving some old memories, each in his or her separate reverie. I found some photos of Mount Vesuvius online and I told John the story of when I climbed all the way to the top.
See, I had to win. He didn’t climb to the top of Mt. Etna now, did he?
But I digress.
It was a warm spring day near Naples. My roommate’s friend was re-enlisting in the Navy and they decided to have his ceremony at the top near the crater of the stratovolcano. We gathered in our respective Naples “beater uppers” and spent a morning driving up to the parking area located 660 feet below the summit. To reach the summit, we had to walk the spiral path the rest of the way there, and much of that was semi-vertical climbing but with a nice pathway instead of rugged hiking trails.
There were some moments on my ascent I truly felt I could not go on. At forty-three, I was not in my prime. Despite my daily low-impact exercise of yoga and walking, getting to the top of that volcano seemed out of my reach.
In addition to my age and being more out of shape than I had dreamed I would ever be, I had recently been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Although I had the symptoms for years before the diagnosis, the realization that my body would actually retaliate with any overexertion was hard to accept. When I was younger, even into my thirties and after giving birth to four kids, I enjoyed modified versions of basketball and softball games, of which I had played in school until I had to have knee surgery in ninth grade. I still tried to incorporate jogging into my walking routine. Running was one of my passions, but after injuring my knee I was forbidden to do it.
Now, after being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, I was forbidden to do “too much” of anything.
Being a rebel most of my life, I had to test that. When the opportunity to climb to the top of one of the world’s more famous volcanoes was presented to me, I could not in good conscience decline that invitation. After all, I had made it all the way to Italy, a dream of mine for nearly forty years. When would I get another opportunity like that?
So I did climb the remaining 660 feet to the crater. Even with the pain and imploding lungs, reaching the top of that mountain gave me such a rush of adrenalin and confidence. If I could do this, I could do just about anything, right? Whether it was a physical challenge or something else, Mt. Vesuvius gifted me with the knowledge that no matter the obstacles or seemingly low odds, if I set my mind to it, I could achieve my goals.
With that said, I thought about this experience in relation to my writing.
As life goes, we have times where we are on top of the world or in the deepest pits of hell. When this happens, writers can sometimes succumb to a manic-depressive pattern. Knowing I will go back down again, when I am up I write like crazy. I have to. Life gut-punches me eventually and when it does, I know I will mourn the loss of my muse and aspirations. I will stare at the screen or blank paper and curse myself. Writing eventually returns, but the words are often like vomit on the page.
When at last I get a grip on myself, and my writing, I give myself a bit of a break. I cannot expect perfection all the time, no matter how many times I submit myself to that torture.
After all, I have come this far. I’ve written two novel drafts in just over a year, countless short stories, poems, songs and blog posts. I was published in a literary journal for the first time this year. I’ve won writing contests and been featured in newsletters and as a contributor in a magazine. I have entered some pretty tough writing contests. I’m currently involved in the beginning stages of compilation of an anthology with other writers, and I’ve volunteered as one of six editors.
So, why do I doubt myself? Why am I thinking about turning around and going back down the mountain? I just got here so what’s the hurry? Yes, it took me nearly fifty years, but I’m here.
So here is a challenge for all of my writer friends out there, and for those of you doubting your abilities to follow your passion.
Love yourself enough to never give up on yourself and your goals and dreams.
Kick the inner editor in the teeth, slam the door in the naysayers faces, reject the rejection and do what is right for you anyway, tell the rest of the Doubting Thomas’ to f*ck off, and just do it.
When will you get another opportunity? You never know. Today may be your last chance to climb that volcano on the other side of the world.