What Now?

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

I’m sitting on a fourth floor balcony overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  I’m looking at the beach, listening to the waves, but I haven’t stepped foot on it yet.

I haven’t stepped foot much of anywhere this weekend.  It’s after 3:00 on Saturday afternoon and I’ve left my hotel room exactly once to steal coffee from the continental breakfast and take pictures of the property for the review I’ll be writing later on UpTake’s hotel blog.  I did stick my head into the hallway to decline maid service and request two extra coffee and Splenda packets from the cleaning cart.  I have a gift certificate for dinner at a nearby hotel, but I haven’t decided yet if I want to leave my nautical themed cave long enough to redeem it.

And this weekend is all about what I want to do.

Ironically, I hadn’t thought about my marriage at all until I stepped into the shower and began to take stock of what I was thinking about.  And realized it wasn’t that.

To be fair, most of what I’ve been thinking about has been Jen Lancaster and Barbara Weibel – neither of whom are married to my husband or in the middle of a basically one sided separation.

The first thing I read upon checking into my king oceanview suite was the about page on Barbara Weibel’s blog, Hole In The Donut.  She’s one of the travel writers on the Hotel Blog I “edit” – and I use quotation marks because what I do there in no way reflects what that verb suggests – and she writes hotel reviews that read like Hemingway novels, if Hemingway wasn’t a bitter hack with a bizarre aversion to plot lines.

I went to her blog after reading a recent post she’d written about a beach in Vietnam and wondering “what in the hell does this woman do for a living that she is constantly traveling to these exotic places?”

Turns out, what she does for a living is travel and write about it.  And take pictures.  Although, come to find out, “for a living” is a subjective term that doesn’t necessarily reflect things like income and net worth.

In Barbara’s world, “a living” is about what you do with your life, rather than how you fund it.  The funds come as they may, and sometimes it’s enough and sometimes it isn’t, but the living is the means rather than the end.

Of course, it wasn’t always that way for her, as she outlines in her About section.  It took a debilitating illness and a whomping savings account for her to reverse the mechanics of “doing for a living” – but the point is, it took.  And she’s doing it.

I exchanged a few emails with Barbara and then opened my new copy of Jen Lancaster’s first book, “Bitter is the New Black”.

I didn’t buy this book earlier in the week because I gave a shit about the story.  In fact, I had no idea what the story was when I made the one-click Amazon purchase with my gift card balance.  And I didn’t buy the book because I was fan of Jen’s blog and was dying to hear more of her voice.  I don’t even read her blog.  (To be fair, I don’t read the blogs I read lately, either.)

I bought her book for the same reason I started reading Danny Evans’ blog a few months ago.

I bought her book because Jen Lancaster was a blogger, and now she’s an author.

And I’m kind of an asshole.

Ah, right.  The dots.  Let me connect them.

You see, I have this incorrigable belief that if you can do it, so can I.  It doesn’t matter what it is, because I’m fucking fantastic.  If you can sell, I can sell more.  If you can keep two dessert options on hand at all times and maintain a dust bunny free home, then I can make my baseboards fucking sparkle while the cookies bake.

I have never once had a problem in my life that stemmed from my inability to do it.  My problems, if you can call them that, come from my tendency to master said it before getting bored and moving on.  We’ll come back to that.

My point is:

Anything you can do, I can do.  Better.

So if Jen Lancaster can parlay her blog success into numerous best selling books and a career as a real live writer, well, then, so can I.  Naturally.

I just needed to do a little research.

So, in the name of research, I got my hands on a copy of the book that started it all.  And that’s how I came to spend 12 hours holed up in a hotelroom on the beach reading “Bitter is the New Black” from beginning to end.

Come to find out, the only thing Jen Lancaster and I have in common is that we are both kind of assholes.

While getting immersed in her story about a wealthy executive who “lost everything and found herself”, I agonized over the strength of her voice.  She was funny.  She was confident.  She was fucking brilliant.

And she was completely different from me.

I found myself wondering for the first time in, well, ever, if maybe I couldn’t do what she had done.  At all.  Let alone better.

And then I got to the part of the book that details how Jen came to be a writer in the first place.  I read about how her husband, Fletch, offered to support her while she worked on her writing career.

And for five whole minutes, I thought about my marriage.

Maybe, I thought, I can call Jared right now and tell him this entire thing was simply misdirected frustration over what I was doing with my life.  I would tell him our marriage was fine and that the real problem was that I was a tortured artist trapped in a fully employed body.  I would beg him to come home and passionately explain that what I really needed to be doing was focusing on writing and getting published.  I would beg for his forgiveness and assure him that everything would be fine, if he could just maybe find a way to support me and the kids while I gave it all up to pursue my passions.

Really.  I should not be expected to clarify my assholishness to you people more than once in a post.

I know.

And to my credit, I didn’t call him.  And I mentally kicked myself very, very hard for even allowing that thought to run naked through my brain.  I promise.  There was much mental flogging and flagellation.  (Although, in my defense, it was just a thought and you cannot be judged for having thoughts so much as you can for sharing them.)

Oops.

Anyway, I finished Jen’s book and stepped into previously mentioned shower where I thought about having not thought about my marriage except for that one thing I thought that didn’t really happen or count.

But more importantly I thought, what now?

What the hell is it that I want?

And, do I really?

Because I have been adamant about what I’ve wanted in the past.  Numerous times.  See: “dust bunnies” and “Betty Crocker bake offs”.  See also: “account executive”, “stay at home mom” and “business owner”.

I have pleaded my case more than once that this, this right here for real this time, is exactly what I want and need for my life.  I have been sure.  I have been certain.

And I have been wrong.

And now see also: master and jump ship.

The thing is, I know that my reference to that jumping ship thing is complete and utter bullshit.

My fear is not that I don’t know my gut.  I have become intimately familiar with the voice of my gut in recent months, and I know when your cells speak to you that you should listen.

My fear is not that I don’t know what I want.

My fear is that I have bills to pay and children to support.  My fear is that I don’t know exactly the next step.  My fear is that I still have 27 fucking pages of this nonfiction book done and I can’t get an outline or proposal together to save my ass and I don’t even know which one I should try to do first.  My fear is that I know the beginning and the end but the middle has big huge gaping holes in it because for the love of God it’s hard to remember what happened when I was 21.

My fear is that maybe, just maybe, I can’t.

People have dreams they can’t realize all the time.  And while everytime that doubt is whipsered in my ear my instinctive response is that “I’m better than that”, my very next logical response is “that’s what they all think”.

So again I ask, what now?

I fantasize about a fairy godmother who takes me by the hand and points out each next right thing.  I obediently do, because I know that each step is the right one and that all I needed was someone to show me the way.  Bippity Boppity Boo.  I have clarity and confidence.  And time and money to hold down the fort in the meantime.

Do you hear me, God?

I NEED A FAIRY GODMOTHER!

IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?

*sigh*

And still, here I sit.  On a fourth floor balcony overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, listening to the waves.

And I haven’t got a clue what now.

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  1. avitable says:

    You can.

    And you will.

  2. Shash says:

    The fact that you are even able to articulate this dilemma in your life clearly shows you to be on the right path. I’m greatful for this window into your journey. Oh, and I love you. :-)

  3. Finn says:

    So you don’t know “what now.” So what? You know something that you didn’t know yesterday.

    I struggle with the same things you are struggling with now. You know what though? You just have figure out what you want to try, then try it. If you don’t like it, you try something else. No one is keeping score except for you.

    Now, about the book. Are you writing it just to write something or do you have a story to tell? If so, tell your story. Figure out what you want to say, what you want people to know, to understand. You have a wonderful voice, you create an instant intimacy with your audience. Those things translate to a great, readable book — when you find the story.

    Also consider the following: Maybe your story’s not done yet.

    But you’ll get there. If anyone will, you will.

    OK… next time I’ll just shoot you an email. :)

  4. Ms. Karen says:

    I can certainly understand the whole “pause and reflect” aspect of what you’re going through right now, and that whole “jumping ship” thing. I can do it, then I’m ready to move on to the next “it.”

    I also understand about the chapters and the lack of a letter. I have two “finished” fiction manuscripts but no stones to write that letter and send them away.

    • Miss Britt says:

      @Ms. Karen, you’ve finished it but not sent it?

      Do you need someone to kick your ass?

      Please – go. Go, go, go. Go find yourself an agent and submit.

      The worst they can say is no.

  5. Poppy says:

    I hate to be that older chick who says this, but you’re growing up.

    Life used to be so easy because you didn’t fold in all of its complications and try to take them on.

    Now you’re taking them on.

    I’m not discounting any hardships you had when you were younger, you obviously went through some very tough stuff a decade-ish ago, as well as more recently, but your brain is now maturing in a way that allows you to realize you don’t know it all, don’t have everything figured out, and you’re still the one who has to figure it all out, not anyone else.

    It gets easier with time and acceptance. And then solutions magically appear because your brain adapts to all the new stuff you are responsible for owning and figuring out.

    I highly recommend redeeming that dinner coupon.

    • Miss Britt says:

      @Poppy, I DID use that dinner coupon!

      Because grown ups know that you NEVER turn down free food.

      Ever.
      :-)

      • Poppy says:

        @Miss Britt, even if it sucks and you shoulda come to Atlantic City with me and eaten at a FABU restaurant where fancy clothes are a really good idea… I am absolutely certain my $16 salad and $42 steak and $??? drinks are going to rock my fucking socks off.

  6. muskrat says:

    Maybe you should hole up one weekend and write instead of read?
    Also, doing something for money while pursuing other loves are not mutually exclusive. You can do it if you just sit down with a planner and become a scheduling Nazi. Unfortunately, this is why I can’t watch any TV and hardly write/read blogs any more. But, building something that’s mine and that allows doing work that matters to me is worth it!

    • Miss Britt says:

      @muskrat, I don’t want to freak you out, but…

      there is a chance you and I are like brain linked or something. While you were leaving this comment, I was on the beach working out this very schedule thing you’re talking about.

      Crazy, huh?

      I suddenly feel like I have a big johnson.

      How do your boobs feel?

  7. It will come.
    (that’s what she said)

    Don’t flog me for saying that it will resolve itself, because it truly will. Start small, focus, and go for the little things first.

  8. Becca says:

    I agree with Popppy, go eat dinner with the certificate. I am reminded of a Reba song where she says she eats alone, goes to the movies alone, and isn’t afraid.

    It is healthy to question where you are headed, and what you actually want instead of what you are ‘supposed’ to want.

    I am in no way comparing your situation to mine, but I spent the first year of my seperation with my ex wondering if I had screwed up, how I would support my kids, etc. I think that is normal too, no matter what you decide.

    No matter what, I have faith you are strong enough for all of it.

  9. Bre says:

    Can I have your Fairy Godmother after you’re done with her? Or we could “rock-paper-scissors” for her. Hell, I won Jay in a “rock-paper-scissors” competition! LOL

    I have faith in your writing career, because honestly? If you weren’t Jay’s sister I’d still read this blog. Enough said.
    (Hahaha, who am I speaking so mightily? “Enough said”… wow)

  10. AJ says:

    I don’t know how religious you are, or what you believe in, but I am a Type-A, over-achieving, over-analytical nut at times. And I’ve got myself in some pickles in life. I read of few of Stormie O’Martian’s books, and they’re decent. They’re religious and contain a lot of prayer, but they tell you how to quit trying to figure out what you’re supposed to do and just let it happen.

    So for what it’s worth, just thought I’d pass along something that’s helped me. Hang in there, none of us really have a clue what we’re doing. You love your family and want to do the right thing, that’s more than half the battle right there.

  11. Sybil Law says:

    I fully believe it’ll happen, too. You can do it.
    I’ve thought many times in my life that I wish someone would just TELL me what to do, and yet, no one ever has, and here I am. Somehow, I’ve made mistakes and still – here I am.
    What now? – is an annoying question. Wish I had some kind of answer for you!

  12. OHmommy says:

    I know you don’t know me well at all. But I know that I have left you some messages here and there in the past couple of months.

    *This* post that you wrote today, the main message, has consumed me for years now. I have dabbled in things to keep me busy trying to see where I belong and what I should do. And every time I leave with the same questions. What now.

    I too read Jen’s book and thought exactly the same thing. Tonight, I am kicking myself in the butt for not talking with you more in Chicago. There is so much I wish I could have said. Discussed.

    What I want to say now is… hang in there. You are not alone.

  13. Beth says:

    Pick your self up, dust yourself off, and bake some cookies!

    I think there is something huge you are forgetting…see that little box on your blog that says “feedburner” and has over 1,000 people subscribed to it? You are writing, and people are reading, quite a few in the terms of the blogging world. You are a success, maybe it isn’t what you have envisioned for yourself, but it is success none the less. Life is way too short to spend time stewing on the what ifs. Just keep doing what you are doing, if its meant to happen it will. Much Love.

    • Miss Britt says:

      @Beth, yeah, I was kind of thinking the same thing yesterday.

      Not about the success – but about the fact that I *am* writing. A lot. And that makes me happy.

      So I’m just going to kind of enjoy that, you know?

      (Also – what if is not the same as what now.)

  14. lceel says:

    Okay Miss ‘Anything you can do I can do better’, try this on. I’ve been married for 32 years. Through thick and thin, the ups and downs and sideways pushes, through it all, we’ve stuck it out.

    When we got married, we promised each other that the one word which did NOT exist in our vocabularies was ‘Divorce’. We are now, and have always been, devoted to ‘US’, and to our marriage.

    • Miss Britt says:

      @lceel, Heh.

      Well, technically, I *can* stay married. Just like I *can* be a kick ass stay at home mom. And I *can* bake some hellacious cookies.

      Of course, the difference in those scenarios is that we’re not talking about a relationship where two people have to pull their weight, are we?

      BUT – more importantly… the point is kind of that just because you did, doesn’t mean I should.

      Even if I can.

      • Hilly says:

        @Miss Britt, I wanted to agree that just because we *can* doesn’t mean we *should*

        We’re all made differently. We all have different needs to make us feel whole and happy. Staying married just to prove that we can really isn’t the point of being married anyway.

      • lceel says:

        @Miss Britt, Thank you. I was worried about how you would respond to my comment – a lesser woman would have been pissed off at the temerity of what I said, and rightfully so, and would have laid me out for it. Thank you for taking the high road.

        I have no idea what your circumstances are – I have no idea what your relationship with him is/was. I really had no business making the remarks I did. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to apologize gracefully.

  15. Robina says:

    Ah Britt. I’m not good at putting what I’m thinking on paper. Sometimes even I don’t understand what I’m trying to say.

    My motto has always been “Life is short, live it while you can”, and it seems that I am always searching. But I have never really “known” WHAT I’m searching for, but I keep on looking.

    Just have a wonderful relaxing time, and maybe try not to think so much, which I KNOW is hard, but if you MUST think, go walk the beach and do it. There is nothing better than thinking and walking on the beach.

  16. I’ve been here and will probably be here again. As we grow and change, so do our aspirations and goals. Over and over and over. Which is why people switch gears, switch careers etc all the time. Look at Daren and I – he is on his 3rd or 4th career and I’m going to be on my 5th when I go into nursing.
    The fact that you’re asking all these questions of yourself (and really, us too I guess, through blogging) is a good first step to finding the answers. But of course only you can realize what the answers are, right?
    As for the writing, have you ever done the exercise of just flow writing, whereby you just write and write and not edit – then look back much later and edit?
    Ya I think I’m doing that RIGHT NOW. Haha…kidding.
    I hope you find your answers. More importantly, I hope you never stop asking questions. That’s a great quality to have.
    xo

    • Miss Britt says:

      @Karen Sugarpants, “More importantly, I hope you never stop asking questions. That’s a great quality to have.”

      And this is why I love you.

      Because you get that.

      Because seeing me ask questions doesn’t freak you the fuck out.

      Well, I mean, that and because you’re awesome in a million other ways, too.

  17. Kelly (Kay) says:

    You can. And deep down, somewhere, you know that. My guess is, if you didn’t know that, you wouldn’t have been willing to risk it all on the chance.

  18. perpstu says:

    You can. You will. Have faith. I am 36 years old and one year away from finishing the education that I need to go into the field that I should have gone into 15 years ago.

    No matter what you will be fine. You have a support system and that is huge! Lean on your family and friends. I have found that the mental part of it is a lot harder than the rest. You CAN do it!

  19. Hockeyman says:

    I certainly don’t have any real meaningful advice aside from what was already said here in these comments. However I will leave a quote I first heard during the film Kung Fu Panda, yes I said that, which stuck with me.

    “The past is history and the future is a mystery, today is a gift and that is why the call it the present.”

    It may seem hokey on the surface, but if you read into a book like The Power of Now and A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle it makes much more sense. I read A New Earth and it is enlightening.

    • Miss Britt says:

      @Hockeyman, no, it makes perfect sense.

      And after reading it here, it’s actually something I focused on for a little bit this weekend.

      So – thank you. And Jack Black. LOL

  20. Loralee says:

    Britt,

    OMG.

    I am so effing sorry. I have had so much hell hitting me this month I only swung by on the 11th…I missed everything that has happened and I am so very sorry, babe.

    I can’t do anything but give you a big effing hug and tell you that I really, REALLY feel your pain right now (even though the situations are different, I still get it more than some.)

    I can’t give you platitudes or shoot sunshine up your ass, but I can tell you that will WILL figure it out. You are just too self-honest and smart not too. Even if it takes time…the answers will come.

    xoxoxoxo to the moon.

  21. Dawn says:

    I’ve written chapters and outlines. And I’ve send them to publishers for consideration. And, even with a published contact there, the books (not I) have been rejected.

    Completely unrelated… I’ve stood in my bathroom, crying and saying out loud “I hate my life. This is not the life I wanted.”

    But then… the day goes on. And good things happen. No, my book didn’t get published. No, my life didn’t completely change. But my husband made me laugh out loud. And my dog did this really funny jumping thing in the back yard. And my father called me just to “hear your voice.” And I went to bed feeling happy.

    I’m not sure that I have a point here beyond saying that you’re not alone. And things change and things get better.

    xo

  22. pgoodness says:

    Honestly? I’ve got nothing, but I couldn’t NOT comment, because I was reading and thinking and impressed that you’re trying to figure it out.

  23. Karen MEG says:

    I should read that book. Well, if I had more time to read (I know you can sympathize).

    These are really important questions you are asking yourself; you’re not just settling, you want to be passionate about you.

    You know, I have a friend whose husband was a writer-in-waiting and she offered to support him with that if he chose to do the career change. And she really meant it. Unfortunately, he never took her up on it and they did eventually divorce. I’m sure there were other reasons, but one wonders where things would have led if he’d trusted her.

  24. I so want to do that living thing without worrying about making the living. I’ve got one finished fiction manuscript, lots of finished stories and poems, and several unfinished fiction manuscripts. I haven’t touched any of these in forever. I need to figure out how to balance my many careers and interests and decide what the hell I want to do.

    Someone above said that you should just hole up for a weekend and do it; DO IT!

    • Miss Britt says:

      @Elizabeth Kaylene, yeah, I realized this weekend that the story isn’t coming. It’s just not. And that’s OK.

      I have tons and tons and tons of things I want to write right now – and so I’ll write those. Because that’s just the next right thing, you know?

  25. if anyone can do it, you can. i don’t care what “it” is, i have faith in you.

  26. Fantastagirl says:

    Just start writing, screw the outline and everything else.

    Pretend that you are sitting around the kitchen table, and tell the story. If someone asked you about it, you could talk to them about it.

    Tell me about _______ from 5 years ago – just write what comes to mind, don’t worry about the order, proper sentences, etc.

    Then you can go back and make it pretty… you have a story, the details, they will come back. and if typing/writing it out is to hard to do – then record it.

    I have faith in you…

  27. avitable says:

    Testing the comments.

  28. Mr Lady says:

    Oh god damn it, Britt. This is what happens when I check out of the internet.

    Dude, I am so sorry that you’re going through this and I’m so sorry I’ve missed the boat on being there for you. Adam has my number. If you ever need it, get it from him and call me. I swear I know where you’re at right now.

    Hugs,friend.

  29. Al_Pal says:

    Gosh. I missed out on knowing what’s up, too.

    A friend who was going through a really hard time awhile ago realized that what helped her the most was perspective. So, I wish you perspective.

    Sometimes it is easier to believe in fate, and sometimes free will. It does seem to be a combination. I hope your days get better soon…and/or that you have super awesomeness in the future to make up for the pain that is now.

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