How many times have you seen an old friend–from elementary school, or college, or a past job–and you smiled. You promised to call them some time. You swore you’d find them on Facebook as soon as you found a wi-fi signal. In that face-to-face moment, you felt good. An odd sense of euphoria mixed with nostalgia and novelty swept over you. In that moment, you were absolutely going to reach out to that old friend.
Then the moment passed. You didn’t mean to be cruel or hateful. The euphoria diminished. The nostalgia dulled to any other memory. The novelty was gone. You continued your day with the person in mind, but without the energy to lift your hand and dial the number or search the surely too mundane name for Facebook to track. And with upgraded privacy settings on top of that? Forget it!
That has been my relationship with writing.
We find each other. We get lunch–sometimes even dinner! We reminisce over the old days. Writing always likes to remind me of the summer ’06. It was our most beautiful hurrah. I read 28 books in the month of August. I had multiple YA fantasy novel series simultaneously pouring out of my head. Wow! It was a summer romance that could best Grease!
Summer eventually winds down and Autumn chill takes over. My love affair ended and I didn’t realize how much it tore at me until we met again. And again. And again.
Surely this has to stop eventually, right? Either I stop writing or I pursue it with every fiber of my being. It’s like a drug. The high is sensational and the drop is death. The real world dragged me away from my fling, ensuring me it would stay by my side until I got over the affair. It kept its end of the bargain, but I continued cheating on reality with every tempting letter and every new character beckoning me to parks and monuments, or into the City, or over state lines on a winding Virginia highway.
Reality always took me back when I fell. I’ve worked cushy office jobs since 2013. I’d earn a paycheck and watch it disappear with rent and groceries and midnight panic attacks in the middle of the Kroger parking lot. I watched from outside myself as I ran inside for Hostess and Tasty Kakes. I watched weight pile on and slough off. I watched routine become monotony. I’ve said hateful things to myself that no one should ever say to anyone. Reality didn’t know the pain it was causing me, keeping me away from my writing romance.
I found the true love of my life. I met a man as imperfect as me and I saw in him a passion that I swear I remember seeing somewhere in myself once. I grew so fond of him and couldn’t believe he felt the same way. He said I challenged him and I blushed. I’ve always wanted to feel like I made an impact on other people. I made him laugh and smile and feel happiness and he did the same for me. I married this amazing man and together we struggled and together we overcame.
I’m proud to say that while reality never let me go, always holding to its promise, my husband didn’t feel the upset if I admitted to falling prey to writing’s temptations. He didn’t actively encourage it, but how could he? I’d been fighting it for as long as I’d known him. I never let myself feel so strongly towards it that anyone could really understand what writing meant to me. He’s my love, not a mind reader. I let myself find new passions, this time together with my husband, then boyfriend.
Hobby games took over. Board games and card games. Tabletop games with pencils, paper, and imagination. It tickled an old itch, but I didn’t succumb immediately. I felt the constant fight against my nature as I sat to my new life, exploring what I never let myself discover before. I’ve never been a good loser. I’ve always felt my entire life balanced on the edge of a knife and where a compliment was a kissing breeze, a failure was a tornado that would topple me into oblivion.
This has never left me to this day. I tried to face this fear head on as we played games week after week. My soreness became points of laughter and contention. It became me, but it wasn’t becoming. I knew I was the buzzing in the atmosphere. My contorted face was the anticipation of dark storm clouds over the horizon. It was always over nothing!
Still I tried to make things better. I tried to work with my husband to introduce our fun to reality and hope he approved to let us live by it. He wasn’t impressed by our mission statement. I tried broadening our scope so reality could see the potential. Our theatrical background could make our hobby entertaining. Surely people needed our brand of entertainment. He continued to shake his head.
I delved into the world of tabletop role playing games and wouldn’t you know my old lover was waiting for me there. Fancy meeting you here, writing! We hit it off immediately, just like I knew we would. It felt so good to see him again that I wanted–no, I NEEDED–this time to be different. I introduced him to my husband and they got along great! At least insofar as they kept to certain topics. It was fine. I didn’t need them to be best friends, I just needed them to accept one another because I realized on that last lunch date that I maybe, just maybe, this time my writing wouldn’t leave me. We would finally work things out and make this relationship healthy.
It still didn’t feel right so on a night when my husband was out, we met up and we talked. We talked for hours. I completely lost track of time. We finally realized we were trying to be together, but we were prying our bodies apart from one another. He was very straightforward and told me it was all or nothing. I didn’t honestly believe him, but I wanted to believe I could give my entire self up.
Reality’s words clung to my ears and slithered through my head and choked my heart. The paychecks had to keep coming. I wasn’t going to win any lotteries that would let us be together. I was in a committed relationship with my husband and our shared passions. How could we ever make this work? Could we? Should we continue to bother?
He said, “Brenna, let me show you just one more thing before I go. It’s late and I don’t want to keep you up.”
I scoffed. “That’s never stopped you before.”
He bit back a smile as he pulled up a website I was well versed in: Twitch.tv. It’s the platform my husband and I use for streaming our board gaming. He showed me a Creative stream, not for video games and board games, although they are fans too, but these streams were for artists. Others who share our dilemma of love versus reality. An incredibly talented artist with a heart of gold was talking about her abusive father and how she lived in her car towards the end of her high school career. She talked about how she would forever regret the four years she stopped drawing because reality had given her the same advice he game me! I felt betrayed, but not convinced.
I saw one more stream and it was all I could do to stop myself from crying on the spot.
A kind man with a stream during my work hours was cheerfully reading from an absurd, but charming novella he wrote in the style of a modern day crowd sourcing website a la Kickstarter. Each chapter was a video log transcript or a comment section or poorly written fanfiction about the characters. He didn’t earn a cent for what he did. He was simply pursuing his passion for writing. His wife worked twice as hard to allow him to stay home and write like this. Here I was about to work two jobs to ensure I can save money so sooner than later my husband and I can finally feel like we’re succeeding in this weird “life” task.
He fears I’ll be resentful of him. I could never because what I didn’t mention was that in the last year and change, he’s been saving money (simultaneously to wedding fund saving) to pursue his voice acting dreams. He created an incredible piece of art with his voice alone and it received such praise from everyone who heard it! How can I be upset over that!
What upset me was that now even my husband had a passion of his own to pursue and the only thing I found myself crawling back to was writing, the thing I always let go in favor of reality. How could I be the only person who couldn’t make sense of her dreams?
And so I did a few things in quick succession which continues to make me fear that writing is leading me into a whirlwind summer romance. I agreed to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo, which is another National Novel Writing Month event. I made a separate Twitch account hoping to live stream my writing to hold myself accountable and maybe reach out to other writers. I also started a blog to get these damned words out.
Camp NaNoWriMo starts in 10 days and I’m working on an outline of the story I’d like to write for it. I simply can’t stand idly while writing takes off again. I don’t know how many more heartbreaks I can face before it becomes the last one. So I’m looking up writing on Facebook, putting his number directly in my phone, and I’m going to make the call about dinner.
It’s going to be at a fancy restaurant this time, for what it’s worth.