The past twenty years of my life have amounted to an ongoing quest to figure out how I want to spend my days. For the entire span of my twenties, I didn't know what I was moving toward, but I took next steps in logical directions and listened to the internal feedback, even when I didn't like it. Even when it terrified me and crushed me.
That's why I went to grad school for literature. Why I sought out a class in calligraphy when grad school was not--for me--the whole package. Why I canceled a campus interview after finishing my doctorate, reapplying to grad school in book arts instead. Why I opened this shop. Why in the nearly five years the shop has been open, I've gravitated back, with plenty of trepidation, toward literature and my own writing.
It's a process that reminds me of trying to tune into a radio station with a dial. It's all just noise and nonsense until you catch--wasn't it?--the hint of a voice. But you shot way past it. So you go the other way, a little slower this time. But it's still garbled with static, and you pass it again. So you slow down even more, listen so carefully. Move that dial as painstakingly as you can. And fine tune, little by little, this way and that, until--choir of angels! From the blizzard of noise emerges a voice, clear and lucid. And for that brief moment, you are perfectly attuned to your inner frequency. You are fulfilled! You've never been happier! You've nailed it, and you're set for life! But weeks later later, you turn on the same radio, having deliberately not nudged that damn dial one iota and suddenly: static. Some minute shift has happened. The conditions have changed. The voice is gone. And now you have to do it all over again. Fine tuning is a process delicate as surgery and always ongoing.
I am so wildly fortunate to be doing what I love. To be able to fashion for myself a life out of a vocational calling. It is something, like I said, I've been working toward for twenty years. And because I've been so focused on the fine tuning these past few years rather than the wide-ranging search, I don't regularly stop to appreciate what a miracle it is that I landed on this station in the first place. This imposed break from life as usual in which I suddenly try to become a stay-at-home-schooling mama has thrown into relief how much I adore my day job. I love my kids dearly and fiercely, and I would give up anything for them--and health trumps all, in the end. But man, I miss spending my days in this space that, to me, is not just beautiful but life-giving.
For the keenly fortunate majority of us: this suspension of life is temporary. My shop will reopen. The kids will return to school. Life as usual will eventually resume. But the palpable presence of death can and should remind us: our time is limited and deeply precious. Best not to spend it in a sea of static but to tune into that pitch-perfect voice inside, a voice that speaks, sacredly and privately, to each of us alone. We simply have to be patient enough to locate it and brave enough to listen to what it says.
Images by Heather Hall Photography.