Friday, June 27, 2014

True Identity

One shelf in my apartment is dedicated solely to the creative spirit. It contains writing prompts, a thesaurus and a book of baby names. Pretty much the basic tools needed to write a novel. And at the far end is my thesis from grad school, a collection of short stories that can stand alone but combined tell a larger story of one particular character. That thesis feels like a hard stop. A period at the end of a long winded sentence. The death of my writing career, if you can even call that piece of my life a career.

For the longest time, I identified as a blogger. With my MFA, I segued to a full-blown writer. Such a title felt warranted as I built a portfolio of published work. These days I don't feel like I'm much of either. Instead, I'm a career woman with a prestigious job, a company car and a pension. Just re-reading that soulless sentence sucks the air out of my lungs.

This evening I attended a talk with Jennifer Weiner, an author that most women in the 90s could personally relate to. She was the every-woman. Plus she was funny and engaging and flawed. I haven't read any of her more recent releases but was incredibly amused by her talk. At the end, members of the audience were permitted to ask questions.

"We have so much in common," this meek skinny girl said while standing in front of the microphone. "I have a story inside me but have writer's block. How do you work through that?"

I cringed at her question. I turned my attention back to Jennifer Weiner and cautiously awaited her response.

"You sit in a chair and write. You can't wait for inspiration."

That's the answer of a writer. It's exactly the answer I would have given. Except unlike the audience member who asked it, the woman who sheepishly returned to her seat with defeat plastered across her face, I felt inspired by those words.

When I got home, I tossed my keys on the dining room table and kicked off my shoes.  I poured a glass of ice water and plucked a craft book off my shelf. I'm still not ready to finish my novel. There are too many limitations to the final steps of that project. But maybe I'm ready to finally tackle that screenplay I've been tossing around in my crazy head for a year and a half. It's a story I adore and believe others would too.

At the very least, I know I'm ready to get back to being a writer.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


A few weeks ago, I sat down in my therapist's office after a lengthy hiatus. Back-to-back travel had me on the road for four weeks straight.

"It's been a while," she said as I settled in.

"It has," I replied as I placed my purse on the ground and adjusted a throw-pillow behind me.

I don't recall most of that session, other than hitting rock bottom. At a certain point, my body image issues entered the conversation. Though the basis for resuming therapy, it had yet to be truly addressed.

"You clearly suffer from some degree of body dysmorphic disorder," she said as she jotted a note.

"No shit. That's what I told you when I first sat down on this fucking sofa. Listen, I appreciate the progress I've made from these sessions. I really do. But I'm so fucking tired of being controlled by this."

Her attempt to provide Freudian and Jungian explanations was lost on me. Anger turned inward. Adopted belief systems. Blah, blah, blah.

"I am at the end of my fucking rope," I confessed as I folded a tissue in half and in half again before pressing a corner to my eye.

She proposed group therapy. You'll like them, she said. It will be good for you, she said. Think about it, she said.

"I'll do it," I replied. "I'm willing to try anything at this point."

The following Wednesday, I sat down in my therapist's office but this time was joined by two men, another woman and another therapist. There were nervous glances and conservative chuckles. There were general introductions and deeper confessions.

"I know marriages are difficult," I started, my voice wavering. "But I'm sitting here in this room and can't help but be envious of all of you. Because at least you've gotten there."

One man leaned forward, pulled his glasses off and confessed, "My wife hates me." The woman next to him admitted she never realized how empty her past relationships had been until she met her spouse. The other man said that looking at me he saw nothing but beauty and confidence, capability and warmth. But in this moment of pain and sadness, he wanted nothing more than to hug me and comfort me.

"Maybe just saying that to Paige is good enough. Is it?" my therapist asked as she turned to me.

I took a moment to catch my breath and dab my eyes. I studied my chipped manicure and thanked the almighty Christian Dior for developing waterproof mascara. Then I spoke.

"It is. Because you don't want anything in return. I know that, at the core, your concern is genuine. Thank you for that."

When the session ended, we each gathered our things and made our way to the elevator. We descended to the ground level, said our goodbyes and headed in different directions. In the real world, you remain strangers for the sake of protecting confidentiality. In the real world, you fight your demons alone. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that that seventy-five minutes spent with four complete strangers hadn't left a mark. In a really good way.