Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Where the heart is

Since we’ve been home, rather than immediately falling back into our old routine, Russ and I have been in a constant state of readjustment. Our trip across the country was more than a long vacation. We agreed beforehand that it would be a “reset” button for us in some ways. We didn’t realize just how true that would be or how far we’d go with it.

Those last two weeks, when every day meant long drives and moving all our stuff yet again, we longed for the day when we actually woke up in our own bed and didn’t have to pack up and check out by 11:00… really, hotels, what is up with 11 am checkouts? Get with it, noon is the new 11. On our first day back, it was nice not to have to move. But we did have to get used to being in our home again. It sounds simple, but surprisingly, it was more of an adjustment than life on the road. Bags went unpacked, souvenirs sat on the dining room table, and it took us three days to completely wash a load of towels. Still, weeks later, we haven’t completely adjusted. I think we left part of our brains on the road somewhere because we can’t seem to get it together and function normally yet.

When it’s just you, your husband, some clothes and a van, to put it bluntly, shit gets real. You realize how attached you are to your possessions and at the same time, how unattached you are. The highs and lows in life are magnified. For hours and hours, while you drive uncharted territory with nothing to do but think, you come to a lot of realizations. You realize what has to change and what doesn’t. Your ego gets in the way and fights you, but eventually, you concede. When you’re with your partner, all of that doubles because they’re going through it, too. Even the best relationships have their baggage and let me reassure you, every last ounce of that baggage will resurface at some point. All you can do is deal with it and get through it.

There’s not a doubt in my mind that I’ve experienced enough to write a book about our time on the road. If I tell the story right, as cocky as it sounds, I also know that it’s a story people will care enough to hear. It might not be the next Eat, Pray, Love or make any kind of bestseller list, but it will sell… if I do it right. Weeks later I’m sitting here in my office with receipts, notes, phone numbers, stories, pictures and postcards. I feel like I’m trying to put together a crazy puzzle and I’m fighting the inner voice that’s telling me I won’t be able to do it.

Then there’s the question of how honest I’ll be and how much of the story I’ll tell. Do my readers need/want to know what was said on the night of the South Dakota tornado scare, the argument in Nashville or that hilariously catastrophic night in Atlantic City when we left something critical in the van that was valet parked? Do I try and put a positive spin on every place, which wouldn’t be hard since we loved 95% of it, or do I talk about the fact that, yes, the obesity in Memphis and the smoke-friendly Texas environment and factory farms disgusted me?

Writers are chronic over-sharers. Telling our stories are what we do, sometimes at the expense of our privacy. I have tried to write articles where I leave the “me” out of it. Those articles are dull, lifeless and flat. What gives my words the breath of life is the “me” that I put into them. Some people...fellow writers, even... have a problem with this and don’t approve. Those people are lucky in the sense that they can write about certain topics that have nothing to do with their personal lives. I envy those writers just like I envy those of you that go to your office, work 40 hours per week, then go home and forget about work. The writer is always at work. Don’t get me wrong, at times it seems like the writer is perpetually on vacation and those are the times we are incredibly blessed. You’ll never catch me complaining about writing off a Vegas trip on my taxes or scribbling into a notebook from the comfort of a lounge chair or the days following “wine Wednesdays with the girls” when I literally work from bed. But every now and then I find myself wishing I could “turn it off.” I can’t turn it off… ever.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with over-sharing to a point. You’d never catch me writing about sex in detail (unless it was under a pen name…hmm!) or anything like that. I keep plenty of things private, believe it or not. At the same time, I’m not sure how I’ll feel about putting so much of what happened on the trip out there for anyone to see. The first book I wrote was completely fiction. I created characters and scenarios and made things up and made them go how I wanted them to go. If people don’t like the story or the characters, it won’t hurt my ego at all. If they hate this story… well, they hate us! Then there’s the fact that my mother is one of those people who thinks I should have a boring office job and a completely private life. Ah, how easy her life would be if I didn’t tell my funny drunk stories in my blog or tweet about my utter contempt for Sarah Palin! I’ll change some names and identifying details in this story, no doubt, but I can’t change me. And if I don’t put some “me” into this story, all it’s going to be is a really boring travel recap with a few love stories thrown in. Sorry, Mom. You should just join the witness protection program right now.

My husband said it best the other day, as I lamented over this very thing.

Me: But do I talk about... you know, our stuff?

Him: I think you should. I think it makes the trip even more awesome and it makes the story a story instead of just a travelogue.

Me: But what about your family?

Him: My family is awesome. They won’t care.

Me: Oh yeah. But what about my mom?

Him: She’ll just have to understand.

Me: But what about her friends and her co workers? She gets embarrassed by the things I do as it is. What is she going to tell them? What will they think?

Him: *pause* Exactly how many of those people’s kids wrote a book?

Me: *pause* No kidding.

So there you have it. I’m just going to sit down and write the story and go from there. I don’t know when it will be done, who on Earth will want to publish it or who will want to read it. At this point I can barely visualize it in my mind. But I’m going to tell the story and just not worry about all those things yet. Our trip was amazing and crazy and we are still recovering from it in many ways. But we’d do it again in a heartbeat. As the saying goes, no one promised life would be easy… just that it would be worth it. The same can be said, I’ve learned, for true love.


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