My sister told me a funny and very pertinent story the other day as I was debating one of life’s hit-you-over-the-head moments that had occurred. She told me of a man who had been caught out at sea, desperately treading water to stay alive. A boat came by and asked him if he needed help and he said no, he believed that God would save him and his faith was so strong he let the boat sail past. Then a helicopter spotted him and sent a rope down for him to grab. Again, he shouted to the heavens, and the helicopter, that his faith would carry him through this dangerous and terrifying time and that God would save him. Within an hour, the man drowned and went to Heaven. Once there he said to God – what happened, I believed in you with all of my heart and you deserted me in my hour of need. God replied, I sent you a boat and then a helicopter, what else were you expecting?
The reason I bother to tell this story aside from the fact that it really made me laugh, was the chord it struck in me this week; the idea of having to be hit over the head to realize what is in front of me. I have four sons and quite a complicated and full life. But before these beautiful boys were born existed a writer who thought she could conquer at least one or two media genres without tremendous angst and sacrifice. Writing has always come easily for me as long as I’m writing from the heart about subjects I’m passionate about. I’ve worked with other women creating screenplays that I still would go and watch in the cinema or on TV, a novel that still stands strong subject-wise and I have written on my own in the quiet nook of a coffee house for years. All of these experiences were self defining more than I realized at the time, because when I sat across from a current Head Writer of what I know will be a successful new series, he was asking if I knew any British (I am a citizen) female writers living in LA that could be brilliant, (he may as well have said her name had to be Jennifer too!) and I wanted so much to say uhhh, yeah, she’s right here, right now. There was a time when I would have pulled my CV out of my bag, yes I would have actually had it handy, and waited for the perfect moment to pitch myself.
But I couldn’t. I had to admit in that moment to myself, the most important person to admit anything to quite honestly, that I wasn’t ready anymore. That that woman, that writer, is busy raising her boys and that being in the writer’s room would be the ultimate sacrifice for something too great to give up. I have friends who seem to do it all and there are days I could join their group and feel accomplished in different arenas as well. But what hit me over the head that night was how far away I was from that particular path of writing and how sad it made me that years had actually passed, not months, since I was really prepared to step up. I suppose I had always considered it possible and not that far away, and that moment made me see and feel and obsess on the truth of where I am and what is real.
I need to write, that much is clear. And I long for the format of story-telling; giving a voice to the characters in my head that play out dramas and dreams in equal measure. There I was minding my own business, being a good wife to the Husband and playing host to another writer thinking my life was quite balanced, when I got whacked with Life’s hammer from behind. I didn’t realize I had this sense of loss inside and yet it’s there, like a flower I forgot to water, but not dead yet. Like those tulips that wilt but with another stem cut and fresh water, they can rise again.
The boat, then the helicopter are two rescue attempts the drowning man didn’t expect; he couldn’t see them for what they were, and therefore didn’t use them. For me, what was ignited was a moment of recognition that I still care about continuing to evolve, being more; as a writer, a mother, a woman. More. Not a rescue, I’m not drowning, but a cause for action. More.