I’m one of the lucky ones. About 95 percent of the time, I’m absolutely certain my life is on the right path.
But then there’s that creeping five percent. What goes on there? Is that something I even want to share with other humans?
Yes. Yes, it is. In fact, it’s vital that I do.
I see danger in 24-hour, seven-day-a-week Susie Sunshine mode. Hi, I’m so upbeat. I can see the positive in everything. Oh, your husband lost his job? Don’t worry. Your child was born with a scary disability? It’ll all be just fine. Just. Fine. See? Doesn’t that make you want to be around me all the time? Doesn’t that make you want to be me? Doesn’t it?
Admit it, you want to smack her.
I confess that at times I have been her. I do tend to see positives in most situations, and while I’m proud of that, I also try to be appropriate and have empathy when issues arise or people share their problems. I bring this up here because I think it’s important for someone like me, who lives out loud via her writing, to come clean on that wholly uncertain five percent.
I have spent the better part of 30 years using my writing gift to make a living. I’ve cultivated it, persisted in it, mostly thrived in it in ways I couldn’t have imagined. For nearly 14 of those years, I have been an independent contractor. Writer is who I am.
But there’s a part of freelance life that comes with a big price. Gigs end. Yes, that’s right. They keep you happily employed for who knows how long and then they end. It’s not possible to perfectly prepare for those endings either. What are the odds that the next gig is going to line up just so to keep your income stream steady?
It’s fair to say that 95 percent of the time, I look at these transitions as opportunities, gifts, time to take stock, a moment to explore infinite possibilities. But last weekend I was in the five percent place. What the fucking fuck am I doing? Why am I not signed up to the 9-to-5 prison like everyone else? Yay, a retirement package. Steady work. Steady money. Steady.
What most of the free world calls security.
I was going from my couch to my kitchen, making coffee and reading the Sunday paper, muttering to God, to people in my life who have died (spirit guides, if you will) and asking them what in the hell I’m missing. What are you trying to show me? Am I missing signs? Come on, hammer me over the head with them. I can take it. Just show me, for Christ sake.
This went on most of the afternoon, this emotional wave hovering somewhere between grumbling and panic. Then my mother, as she is prone to do, called to tell me about the television selections for the evening. “Anything new?” she asked after she gave me the rundown. We had spoken at length the night before, so perhaps she intuited something.
“Yes, plenty,” I said.
The floodgates opened and I shared my frustration at the guy who’d inquired about my content writing services and then, upon my follow-up, told me he’d already found someone to write his web copy for “cheap.” And the woman who’d extended an invitation to be on a panel at a conference and then stopped communicating with me despite several attempts to connect. I explained to my mother that I wasn’t all that disappointed about the panel, but about the rudeness. It stings.
What does all this mean? Normally, as I said, I jump into action mode. I rise to the challenge. I admit to myself that the three terrific freelance gigs that ended in the last few months had in many ways run their course. It’s time for fresh.
At one point Sunday evening, after hanging up with my godsend of a mother, I realized I needed to just let things be. See where the instincts and emotions take me. The high point of my Saturday had been talking to a young woman about being a writer. Her mother, who I’d met once, reached out and asked if I’d talk to her daughter. I was happy to and it turned out to be soul stirring.
In my stillness on Sunday, I thought about the circumstances under which I’d met the mother. She had been a colleague of my dear friend, Kevin, who died unexpectedly nearly four years ago. As I then watched The Long Island Medium, as Theresa Caputo talked to dead people, I thought about Kevin and the timing of that woman asking for advice. I like to believe that this is what happens when people we love cross over, that they work some magic.
That prompted me to walk over to my desk and pick up a folder with two articles Kevin had printed out and given me with a little cylinder of sacred dirt from the Santuario de Chimayo in New Mexico. I hadn’t touched the folder in ages. One was a feature about the sanctuary from Catholic Digest. The other was a column I had written for Fox Business about the sanctuary. Kevin had encouraged me to write the piece with this advice:
“Wrap it up with the importance of faith to achieve anything – faith in yourself, faith in those close to you, faith in mankind, faith in a power greater than ourselves.”
I firmly believe all that muttering and fretting in my five percent state of mind was meant to lead me to that quote.
A reminder to keep the faith.
It has never, ever let me down.