Forever-Ever?

Captured on film for Eternity.

Words written in my novel so far: 24,111

Miles run yesterday: 4.5

Days until my 40th birthday: 38

A couple of nights ago, I had a dream that all of my hair went gray overnight. And I’ve been chased a lot in my dreams lately.

I have had more dreams than I can mention where I am running a race, and the course isn’t marked well. In one, runners were expected to crawl through a hole the size of which only my nine-year-old daughter could fit through.

I didn’t fit.

Is it my 40th birthday looming? Other stressors? I don’t know.

Like I’ve discussed with friends: aging isn’t so bad if you’ve checked off all of the things you’d hoped to accomplish.

If not? Well, welcome to some funky dreams, my friend.

Back in college, my cute Psychology professor dude talked to us about Eternity Projects… what you hope to leave behind when you’re gone. Perhaps it’s that you birth an amazing kid who goes on to save the world by finding a cure for cancer. Or you create a modern-day equivalent of The Statue of Liberty.

This may come as a shock to some readers, but I was not totally concerned about my Eternity Project at age 20. The end of my life seemed comfortably far in the future.

At age almost-40? Not so much.

And in the immortal words of Prince, or the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, or [Place Symbol Here] or Prince (again): Forever is a mighty long time.

I suppose I have to come out of the closet at this point and say that as I consider my life and my future, I am almost completely an Intuitive sort of person.

You may now play new age music, burn incense and chant with me.

Kidding.

But much has been written on fellow writers’ blogs lately about choices and self-doubt. I posit that this is simply the human condition.

But amid all the weirdo dreams and daily white noise, we all need to get in touch with that incense-burning, whole foods-eating, chemical-free part of ourselves and follow the signs.

I had a cool affirmation this morning! After waking up slightly off-kilter, definitely questioning if I should change the setting of one part of my novel, I started researching more and found a “thumbs-up” kind of sign for my original setting. It was just the sign I needed to move forward and stop worrying about crawling through holes that weren’t my size.

Do you have times when you question your choices? How have you resolved those issues? How much do you trust your intuition over research?

And lastly, a plea for research help: does anyone know a person who a.) lives in Santa Barbara, California or b.) has lived in Santa Barbara at any time over the past 20 years? I’d love to speak with him or her!

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24 thoughts on “Forever-Ever?

  1. Holly says:

    “Like I’ve discussed with friends: aging isn’t so bad if you’ve checked off all of the things you’d hoped to accomplish.” Totally agree!

    You are one of the fittest, youngest-looking almost-40 person I know. Very cool that you have a good sense about the setting for that section.

    I really value intuition, and use logic to back up the decisions I’ve already made intuitively.

  2. 4amWriter says:

    This is the kind of kick-in-the-butt post I needed, thank you. I agree with you that the age of 20 does not synch well with future planning–or worrying. I often think about how different my life would be now if I’d taken college more seriously and actually went out and got a job using my degree instead of waiting tables and bartending. There was always tomorrow or next year back then.

    I turned 40 last September, so I’ve already crested that hill you’re looking at right now 🙂 This past year I have grown more than I have my entire life, and I know it is because of everything I didn’t do and wished I did, rather than the other way around.

    I want to be someone who is always doing something on that wish list, rather than only adding to it or staring at it forlornly.

    I know one of the reasons I have been highly anxious the past month is because I have wrapped up the final draft to my novel (again) and am getting ready to query it (again). I am so uptight about it that this weekend I decided I had to rewrite the opening page to my novel. I have no idea if it was a good decision or not, but what matters is that I know what I’m doing. I’m stalling.

    So, I decided to stop this nonsense and just send the bloody thing out (pardon my French 🙂 ) and move on to my next project.

    I don’t know anyone who lives/lived in Santa Barbara. Sorry!

    • annewoodman says:

      Yes, I know what you mean about avoiding risk. I’m sure we all do it, to a degree. Particularly when certain areas of our lives are lining up just right–I think we get worried about upsetting the balance.

      The good news about querying is that if you only send out a few at a time, you can see how your revisions are working out or if your synopsis is drawing the interest you desire.

      I have several (excellent) writer friends who seem to be on an endless round of revisions… and I just want them to get that novel published! ; ) I agree that (in many situations) it is a form of procrastination, of risk aversion.

      But the other agents you’re not querying don’t know about the few you send out… there’s something that is comforting about that, to me. If your first few queries bomb, you can go back to the drawing board without having risked much at all.

      I’ll be waiting to hear how things go! Good luck!

  3. Carrie Rubin says:

    Do I question my choices? Every day of my life. But I also trust my gut and try to listen to it, though my practical research side is often louder. 🙂

  4. robincoyle says:

    40? Try staring at 53 and asking yourself the same questions! Ugh! 53? How did THAT happened. Happy Birthday 38 days early.

  5. I, too, am 39 and have been going through a period of transition or awakening or whatever the hell you’d like to call it for about 4 years now. I feel like I’m finally at that place where I know there’s only so much time on this earth and if I’m ever going to accomplish my goals I better get to it. I question myself all the time, trying to remind myself that I can’t go back so I may as well go forward. Great post 🙂

  6. jmmcdowell says:

    I’m always questioning what I’ve done and what I still want to do. And milestone birthdays don’t always help. With blogging, I’ve purposely not said how old I am, just to avoid a reader’s preconceived notions about any particular age. 🙂

    I want to follow my intuition, and sometimes I do. But I always question it. Even when it turned out to be right. 🙂

    • annewoodman says:

      It’s funny… once I’ve made the decision, I don’t look back. It’s the beforehand part that sometimes seems overwhelming.

      When I started writing my blog, I just decided to put it all out there. It has been very freeing! (But I certainly understand keeping things private in this big Internet world.)

  7. David Gentry says:

    If you think turning 40 means you’re old–try having a KID who’s turning 40.

    Love,
    Your Mom

  8. Amy Mak says:

    I love your blog! You are a really good writer. I linked to it from 4amwriter, a good writer friend of mine. I am a writer, mother, and avid runner – I’ve even started some of my blog posts the same way you have: Miles run, words written.

    Anyway…this post reminds me of when I was in college and whenever someone asked what we should do, I always said, “Cliff jumping!” But for whatever reason, the cliff jumping never happened. It’s always bothered me. And then, last week, I was in Sedona, Arizona with my family. We went swimming – and there were cliffs! I clambered up the rocks and stared down at the water. Oh my goodness, what was I thinking? I hate heights. But here was the moment! So I jumped. And it was SO great I had to do it all over again. Just for the look on my children’s faces was worth it. That jump made the whole trip. I keep thinking about it. I am usually scared of something because I’ve never done it before. But sometimes (like that jump) it’s the best part. That’s why it’s great – because it’s hard. That’s why writing a novel is so great – because it’s so hard.

    Apologies for the book-length comment, but cheers to you and good luck. Sorry, I do not know anyone in Santa Barbara. But my hair did seem to go grey overnight. I dye it and no one is the wiser 🙂

    • annewoodman says:

      Thanks, Amy! And thanks for stopping by… I’ll have to check out your blog!

      I am so impressed with the cliff jumping! That is something I haven’t done (but also hadn’t thought to do it). It reminds me of a book by one of my favorite writers, Erica Bauermeister: Joy for Beginners. One of the women overcomes some of her risk-averse behavior by jumping off a cliff… it might have been in the same area where you did it!

      I do share your belief that some of the most worthwhile things are difficult. And so incredibly rewarding.

      BTW, I am starting to believe that no one actually lives in Santa Barbara. ; )

  9. I remember turning forty. I was fairly upset about it for a good six months while I was 38. By the time it finally arrived I was fine about it and partied for weeks. Hopefully dreading being 60 right now, while I have four years to get there, will end the same way.

    My goals have become smaller but deeper. I do trust my intuition and more frequently can rest peacefully at heart while I sit out the exterior fuss and worry during the wait for that voice to finally speak. I see the good in slowing down and no longer shooting for the moon all the time, weighing those times more carefully.

    What I’m regretting right now are the physical changes, avoiding the mirror until I’m dressed, waking vaguely tired most days, almost desperately needing a nap, hitting a 5k time that took every ounce with a HR well over max, and which was still slower than a much easier one 5 years ago. Five years from now I will be that much slower and saggier. Having an ego. I thought that would go away but fear it might instead get worse.

    However, I have the resolve now that I didn’t have five years ago, the resolve to move forward with as much grace and acceptance as possible, to try things I’ve said no to before. But not parachuting.

    • annewoodman says:

      Ha! I have jumped out of a plane! But I was 22 and figured only my parents would miss me if I died. No biggie. ; )

      I hear you about the physical changes. Probably because you are such an active person, the physical changes are more noticeable… someone our exact same ages who sat and watched TV all the time might not catch the changes so much.

      I like the “resolve” part. Hopefully, we will both continue to get more graceful and accepting so that when we turn 80, we’ll have the whole thing figured out!

  10. David Gentry says:

    I strongly suspect that people who say they apply reason to a decision first and then act are deluding themselves, unless they are robots. We want something, and then we come up with reasons why we want it.

    William James confirms my suspicion. He says that will is first, then reason. He also says, “Reason is a small island in a sea of emotion.”

  11. Oh to be 40 again. Robin, I’m with you.

    I like to start with intuition as that is truly my creative side. If I feel that something is out of whack, I may, and I said MAY, head out to research it. I may also let intuition run with it and see if something better shows up. I think it depends on whether I’m dealing with something real or something imagined. I hope that made sense.

  12. Melissa says:

    I’ve read this a couple of times and wanted to leave you some bit of witty wisdom from the been there, done that category….and of course nothing came. I think we all want to leave our mark on this world in some way. But sometimes it’s the small ways that make more of a difference than the big Statue of Liberty moments. We just have to remember to not get mired down in what we didn’t do and focus on what we did do. So I haven’t written “The Great American Novel” and I may never do it, but there are days when I’ve made someone smile or spew their drink because they laughed out loud at some silly blog post and that works for me…..You have more determination in this area than I do, so the only advice I’ll give you is never stop writing and you’ll succeed…And I expect an autographed copy of your novel when it’s published 😉 By the way, 40 was pretty good. It beat the hell out of 30!

    • annewoodman says:

      Good. I’m glad 40 isn’t the edge of the world, where I’ll drop off, never to be seen again.

      I agree–life is made up of small moments that change our lives in small ways. I’m very fortunate to have lots of wonderful small moments. ; )

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