A Still Place

I haven’t posted for a while, and it’s partly because I’ve been so busy. Mostly because I’ve been so busy. But there’s something else . . .

I feel as though I’m in a still place, a place of stasis. That’s not necessarily bad. Stillness is also peaceful, and I’ve been feeling less frantic than I have in a long time. It’s a good place: I love everything I’m doing. I love teaching undergraduate writing at Boston University, I love teaching my graduate creative writing students at Stonecoast. I have enough money to cover my living expenses and some luxuries, which certainly hasn’t always been the case. (Graduate school — ugh.) I live in a beautiful apartment, in a beautiful city. I just happen to have the best daughter in the world.

But it’s a strange place, too, because I’m not used to standing still. I’m used to things happening, to continually moving toward. Or, you know, away from . . . I’m used to a sense of motion, rather than stillness. It’s strange, for me, to think that I could stay here for the rest of my life, and it would be a perfectly good life. If nothing changed, I would be fine. Of course, that never happens. Things always change: if nothing else, I will get older. Nevertheless, if I stayed here, where I am, for a long time — it would be perfectly fine. And sometimes that fills me with a sense of panic.

Winter Storm 1

I think it’s because I’ve spent my entire life moving from place to place, adjusting to new circumstances. Hungary to Belgium to the United States. Philadelphia to Washington D.C. to Boston. To Richmond to New York to Boston again. University of Virginia to Harvard to Boston University. And now here I am, having lived in Boston for a long time, having been at Boston University for more than ten years, as a student and then teacher. A great deal has happened in that time — and it’s really only in the last few months, since I settled into this apartment, that I feel as though I’ve arrived someplace. That I’m not just transitioning from one place to another. There’s something lovely about feeling settled. But I’m not used to it.

I suppose what I should be thinking is, I’ve come to a place that I can build on. Here, where I feel both strangely at peace and agitated from that strangeness, I can finally start to build what I want to, which is books — I want to build out of words. My first full-length novel is already with my lovely agent. I just sent him a synopsis of the second novel. And I do have so many ideas, for novels and stories and essays . . .

So I suppose my advice to myself should be: settle in and work.

Winter Storm 3

The other thing I need to remember, to remind myself of, is that nothing ever stays the same. Stasis is, in the end, an illusion. The world may feel still, but it’s spinning. Everything we do, every choice we make, can change what happens. Who knows what will happen with this novel, or the one after it, or the one after that. The more we do, the more opportunities we are given to do things. And that sometimes means we are overwhelmed with work (ahem). But it also means we get to do amazing things . . .

I have already gotten to do a lot of amazing things. And I intend to do more.

So I need to take this stillness as the gift it is — a time when nothing seems to be happening, and I can maybe catch up, take a breath. Get ready for whatever is to come.

Winter Storm 4

(These pictures are from our snowstorm last week. Today we are having another snowstorm, and once again university classes are cancelled. I don’t remember them being cancelled twice in one semester . . . ever. Not since I arrived here more than ten years ago. This is a particularly heavy winter, just right for being contemplative.)

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6 Responses to A Still Place

  1. Great picture of you!

    You’re so lucky to be at this possibly-illusory still place where you can build the rest of your life on and be content with. Even your blog post in itself gave off vibes of tranquility. Things might change, and they always will, but hopefully for the better!

    I’m in a still place of my life at the moment, possibly for only the next one year, but it is not one I’m content with. It is as if I’m waiting for something bad to happen, to fail, but then I try to tell myself every morning that it will be okay. It might look inadequate and even static now but the hard work will pay off.

    “Stasis is, in the end, an illusion. The world may feel still, but it’s spinning. Everything we do, every choice we make, can change what happens.”- The last sentence is all the motivation I need for this week. Thank you so much!

    No pressure but keeping fingers crossed you blog more! Always makes my week. 🙂

    • Ifeoma, I remember being in a place like that so well! Honestly, it’s responses like yours that keep me blogging. And I really do believe that the hard work pays off — it always pays off. There’s a story by Isak Dinesen in which a king is given a ring, and told to look on the inside in good times, and in bad. He looks inside the ring and on the inside is written “This too shall pass.” Sometimes I have found that thought very reassuring!

  2. Laura Resnick says:

    I moved around a lot for many years: Washington, D.C.; France; Israel; New York City; London, UK; Palermo, Italy; Cincinnati, OH; a year traveling across Africa; Athens, OH; back to Jerusalem; back to Cinti. Then 2 years ago I bought this house, in Covington, KY (across the river from Cincinnati–I can see Cinti from my yard and can walk there in 20 minutes or so). It’s my first house, it took a LOT of research and work to be able to buy a house as a full-time, self-supporting midlist writer, and I bought it in a Neighborhood Stabilization Program where I more-or-less committed to live here for 10 years. (I am free to leave sooner, but then I’d have to repay some of the grant money which made this lovely house such a terrific buy.)

    After an initial 2-3 months of ambivalence (the weight of unfamiliar georgraphical commitment), I’m settling in with a vengeance, picture myself perhaps staying here forever, and very happy in my house. I loved the years of my life that were peripatetic. Now I’m loving a more settled existence where I’m a homeowner and making plans or setting goals that involve being in this location and this town for many years, with no exit date in mind.

    It’s a different period of my life, a different sort of phase for me… and when people who’ve known me for many years express surprise that I’ve settled down, rather than feel sheepish or like I need to explain, I feel like it makes sense that I’ve changed and don’t want the exact same lifestyle now that I wanted 20 years ago.

    Similarly, I have friends who settled down young, lived in the same town or house for 20 years, and now they’d like to be more peripatetic. It’s a satisfying thing to try a different lifestyle, whatever “different” may be.

    • Laura, that sounds lovely! I have to admit, I would love to find a house where I could imagine living for the rest of my life. An apartment in Boston isn’t it, not forever, although I could live here for may years if I wanted to. I guess I’m feeling the tension of knowing I’m in a still place, and also knowing it’s not ultimately where I want to end up. So there are places to go for me, but it will take a while to get where I want to be. I guess in the meantime I should enjoy the stability! But really, you sound like you’re in a lovely place, and the right place for you . . .

      • I think the two keys to happy home ownership are choosing the right time and the right place. I love owning a home now, but i think I’d have been unhappy owning a home in earlier years, because that wasn’t the right time for me to own one. And another reason I’m so happy in this house is that, despite having a very tight budget when I was home-hunting, which was very discouraging much of the time, I vowed not to settle. I was determined not to make this kind of investment in a house I didn’t really LOVE and WANT to live in for years. And eventually, I found that house at the right price (though it took resourcefulness and patience!).

  3. emily says:

    “Change is the only constant we’ll ever know.” — Clara C, Til We Go

    I’m feeling really static lately too and it makes me feel so restless. It’s like I have an affinity for change and exhaustion or something. My life isn’t even that static by normal conventions. Yes, the next year looks to be the same more or less. But after that, I don’t know, not that I want to know. I’m practically at the start of my life and my future is still as uncertain as ever. Maybe the uncertainty no longer bothers me. Or maybe my sense of time is off: weeks feel so long and years feel forever. Or maybe I wrongly believe that things will always work out. Or maybe I’m too carefree and should be more concerned . . .

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