Midlife Crisis

Well, I'm back.

This past year has been . . . difficult, to put it mildly, and life has been careening wildly first one direction and then another, with teeth-chattering lurches in between.  The long and the short of it is, I've been looking for meaningful employment (which I have to have) and have suffered a couple of career "disappointments", as my oldest son so diplomatically puts it.  These, my current jobless state, and the mountain of job applications I have submitted in the past few weeks have left me rather dazed and glassy-eyed.  It's difficult to work up enthusiasm for another day (after endless days) of filling out online applications, attempting to wrench professional skills and 30 years of experience to fit posted job requirements.

Round holes.  Square peg.

Languishing by phone, awaiting the positive results of "promising" job interviews is the most disheartening of all.  For every reason I know I'm perfect for an advertised position, my mind finds at least two others which would toss my resume into the reject pile.  Obviously, the powers that be have done so as well.

Lately, I feel like I'm trapped in a room, knowing I have to get out, get moving, and get on down the road, and yet, where there should be doors or even windows, there is nothing but — nothing.  Stupor of thought.  This has been especially difficult for me because the Lord has always provided a way for our family.  We have never truly known want.  We have never been affluent, by any means, we've had some tight times, and my sons out of school are making more than Dallas' highest salary ever was, but we always had adequate for our needs.  I know the Lord will continue to bless us, if I could just find that blinketty-blink-blink door.

I've spent a lot of time on my knees, with a prayer constantly in my heart as I consider.  I really need to take some college classes to make me appear more than just a self-taught college graduate on paper—to give myself some credit, or accreditation, if you will—but that leads to the inevitable, why?

I never dreamed of being an administrative assistant when I grew up.  I'm good at it, I have the skills, but it's not what (or who) I want to be, and if it's not who I want to be, why on earth would I spend good money and precious time making myself more marketable as one?  I could easily get a job as a medical transcriptionist, but the very thought gives me a twitch—and a headache.  I don't want to spend the rest of my life doing that, either.

If I did finally start college (you can't go "back" to school if you never started in the first place), I would want to take classes to make myself a better writer, even a historian.  Those are my two great loves academically speaking, and I love writing historical fiction.  My eldest son, ever the pragmatist, asks the question, "to what end?" —meaning, of course, "how is that going to support you."  My answer was that I could see myself teaching at the junior college level.  As a youth, I always figured I'd be a teacher, but at this time of my life, living where I do in the society I do, with the constraints I see so many of my teacher friends and relations struggling under, teaching in the public school system just does not ring any bells for me.  Junior college sounds doable, though.

All that said, my non-verbal, guard-it-in-your-heart response was, I'll be a published author by then, of course, and that will be enough.  But, I don't say that to him because I'm tired of the surreptitious eye-rolling.  (He's also suggested that I apply for disability because I really don't think I could endure transcription.  He gets my back up with that one.  I am not even 50.  I am not finished yet.)

But, ultimately, I did tell him what I've come to realize myself: that the open window that I keep frantically searching for, that path Out which will enable me to  get my feet on the road again, the answer that comes to me in the quiet listening moments of prayer (rather than the incessant pleading) is that I should write.  For several years now, I have felt that is the answer, but I keep squirreling off in cockeyed directions.  When I analyze it, I tell myself that I lack faith in myself, but recently, I've realized that my lack of faith in the Lord lays at the root of it.

If I had enough faith, I would actually submit what I have (which is plenty enough to meet typical agents' and publishers' requirements), get the attention of the right people, and then work with an editor to iron out the difficulties that have me hamstrung.  I've told myself I have unfaltering faith, but faith without works is dead, and that's me:  dead in the water.

So, I took the plunge and joined a writer's association.  While working with LDS Employment Services, I met a wonderful sister missionary who is also a writer and told me about it.  I don't think it was a coincidence.

American Night Writers Association is a group of LDS women writers who do what regular writers associations do.  They critique one another's work, offer suggestions and moral support, etc., etc.  I think this might be what I need to push me forward and hopefully the voice of experience I need to hack my way through the brambles entangling my feet.

Most importantly, they maintain LDS values — keeping it clean, if you will.  That's something I want to be sure I do and something that's difficult to find 'out there' in the big bad publishing world.  I don't want to write cloying, shallow treacle that sells only because it's "Mormon literature", I need a bigger audience than that, but I don't feel like I can expect the blessings of the Lord without keeping near to him in thought and deed.  I'm going on a wing and a prayer, and my prayers are the strongest part of that combination.  I do think it's possible, however.  I'm hoping that following in the footsteps of successful, published writers will help me accomplish it.

—A Chaotic Mind


Lucy Stern said...

Hang in there Penny, the Lord will bless you.... I know you are capable of doing a lot of things, I've seen you in action and know what you are capable of..

Lewis Family said...

Sorry I've been gone for a while. Life interrupted any blogging or even reading of my favorite blogs. But don't worry, I'm here now, so everything will be OK! ;)
When are we doing lunch with Marjorie?

Camille Farias said...

I know that I'm much younger than you but I really connected with this because I've spent my entire (short) adult life working full time when I'd rather be creating beautiful things at home. For a while, I even attempted to make a living out of creating, but it killed it for me. Turning my passions into my paycheck just never felt right. I resented the constraints that deadlines and criticism placed on my creative process. I don't have any advice for you except to trust in yourself and in personal revelation. After much soul searching, fasting, prayer, temple attendance, more prayer, and still more prayer, I discovered that I'm actually exactly where I should have been all along. I am confident that the Lord will lead you where you need to be if you have faith to follow his direction, even if that direction scares you senseless.

Truth said...

Hey Penny,
Thanks for sharing your blog! I really enjoy your thoughts! I also love writing and have been trying to work up the confidence to do something about it. Hopefully someday I will be as brave as you to move forward:).