I’m having urges for a new tattoo. My last one, on the palm of my right hand was four years ago. It was a celebration of sorts – a mark on my body to remind me how long I’ve lasted without a drink. I was five years sober at the time, now nine years.
Nine years and 24 days to be exact.
This time is different – I want something not to mark an accomplishment, but to create one. I want a string of words down the inside of my left arm, from elbow to wrist. I need a thought to focus on. So far I’ve come up with “Finish the damn book already” and “Stop Scrolling” and “Own your shit” and “Stop buying shit.” My favorite is “Don’t be scared” because really, that’s all anything ever is, right? Something to hide the fear. Procrastination, excuses, anger, tears, over-eating, over-exercising, over-shopping – drinking, smoking, getting high enough that you’ve numbed out everything else. All fun ways to keep whatever it is we’re scared to walk through at a safe, safe distance.
I’ve learned as of late that it doesn’t take 12-step-meeting-behavior to hide the fear of moving forward.
Recently I told a friend I was done wallowing in my joy. She’s a writer too, and during conversations in the past years, when we – mostly I – bemoaned how many words we hadn’t written that day or week or month, I would usually come to the conclusion that I was happy, still. I was wallowing in my joy.
For a number of years I had grown weary of my work. (Weary in my work like Virginia Wolfe was a bit melancholy about life.) There were days I cried going to and from work, and some I cried during – sitting at a desk and staring at screen while I wiped tears from my face, trying to read emails about nothing I can remember now.
But then, I found a way out. I was hired as full-time writer, working with a group of people who completely turned my career-life around – I’m not lying or exaggerating or using hyperbole when I say my job is a dream come true for me. Daily, I wallow in the joy of what I get to do for a living.
And still, I want more beyond my writing career. I want my own stories.
Last night, my seven year old – who knows mommy writes for her work – asked me if I get to make up stories for my job. I told him no, that all the things I write about have happened.
“…like news reports,” I tried to explain.
“But, making up stories is so much fun, I think you should make up stories too,” he told me.
He’s right – making up stories is fun. So is telling my story. Like how I got sober in the first place, or, how I found my dream job. I could write a 5,000-word think piece on how much I love my milk frother – or even an essay about what a rush it was to take my husband’s clippers to the back of my head and cut off all my hair last week.
I’m not sure when I’ll get that next tattoo (although, I did just add “Tell a story” to my list of possible inner-arm commentary). I do know I’m going to take my son’s advice and begin telling more stories, starting right now.