The Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts" speaks to this necessity to pause right where we are: "Till by turning, turning we come round right." That's exactly what I've done these past few months: whirling and twirling and now fortunate to have landed on my feet again, but glad for having had the journey.
- 'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
- 'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
- And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
- 'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
- When true simplicity is gain'd,
- To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
- To turn, turn will be our delight,
- Till by turning, turning we come round right.
- 'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
My point is that well-educated little old me, who had worked hard at developing her career in historic preservation, public relations and freelance writing, felt it was important to be at home with her children. I had been reared in the "you can have everything you want" school: career, husband, children. But I knew better and I knew myself better than that: I have believed, for some time, that you can have everything you want, within reason, but certainly not all at the same time. If someone tells you otherwise, they are fooling themselves: their house-of-cards has to give somewhere (or they have a lot of hired help).
So I was able to be a stay-at-home mother and I hope it has served my children well (although perfectly organized, crafty and polished mother, I am not). Then we moved here several years ago, over the span of a year, and life has been busy and hectic and still not quite settled. We still have things in boxes and our real estate situation has more settling out to do yet. As my husband stretches out into the farm that we are creating, I'm often running around like some of my hens, cackling and scratching and generally in a twirl. He is project-based and linear where I am circular: he moves from A. to B. with great finesse, while I am dabbling in G., thinking about finishing A. and pondering X., Y. and Z. Occasionally I screech or peck at those around me, but I've been able to keep that to a dull roar. And, I've kept writing in some form, still selling the occasional magazine or newspaper article or copy of The Pantry from my home coffers (thank you all, for that!).
With each potential job opportunity there has been this expectation: what would the job bring in terms of challenges and income and benefits? How would it change our lives? But each job, as great it has been on paper, and as polished as I've been on paper, has not even led to an interview. This has been a bit discouraging, and also quite humbling. It has also been illuminating because I realize, finally, that I am meant to remain at home for the foreseeable future, perhaps consulting or working away from the ridge when the right opportunity may present itself, but not now. A few weeks ago when I realized this, I received a hearty check for a forthcoming article and some press-related queries on The Pantry. Around the same time I found some amazing writings from my grandmother, in an old college trunk of mine, some of which seemed to speak right to me [she was also a farm wife and a published magazine writer––and we share a focus issue, too]. The Universe was speaking to me and with a big, LOUD BANG!
So what am I going to do with all of this newly allowed "free" time, you may be asking? Well, I've given myself permission to write the stuff I want to write, to try to sell more articles and books. To blog more. To can food for winter and organize our house while we transition some more on the ridge. To be a more organized wife and mother. To start tackling a family archives project at last: for myself, for my extended family, for posterity. To walk again now that the hot summer is behind us and glorious warm fall days are here. To be more present with my family and have no regrets about what I'm not doing in the world, but to better focus on what I am doing. To be right where I am, "where I ought to be."
I've felt a bit like Dorothy in the past few months: looking for a different scenario than the one in my own back yard. Not only did I try so hard to get the right job that sometimes things backfired on me, despite my own efforts: like the time I was a "strong contender" last spring for a publications manager position, but they never received several key emails from me that would have weaned out the group to be interviewed. [I found this out two months after I first applied, when I had the guts to inquire as to what was going on: I have never had "dropped" emails before in my life, at least for something so significant!] There are other stories, some humorous, some pathetic: like when I virtually begged a headhunter (excuse me, a "Culture Catalyst"–don't ask) to convince the ad agency to let me write them some sample copy. I think that guy went running, and fast, leaving me a mere quip: "The agency is no longer in a particular urgency to hire at this time."
Finally, my own personal catalyst for this recent epiphany was this email response, when I inquired as to my status, after spending eight hours about a month ago crafting the pitch-perfect college development letter as another test of my writing abilities: "Thank you for your inquiry. We are in the interviewing stage for the position now but will bring in additional candidates as necessary. We hope to have some resolution to this search soon and will be informing all candidates of our decision." Perhaps I am reading too much into this but my gut says that, in other words: "You are way overqualified for this position (you nitwit), you will probably want a lot of money, and, most of all, you are old. And remember, don't call us, we'll call you for an interview, but only if our other younger, less qualified candidates don't pan out. As a lovely parting gift, you will eventually receive our generic 'We've filled this position but thank you and we wish you the very best in your job search' email. Now, thank you and go away."
"Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Sally O'Malley. I'm proud to say I'm fifty years old and I like to kick, stretch, and KICK! I'm FIFTY! Fifty years old..."
I've been out of the workforce for some time. I'm graying naturally and I kind of like that. I'm definitely middle-aged but my eyes can still laugh and twinkle or be tinged with melancholy. In my heart and my head I am still that idealistic, passionate twenty-five year old young woman. So, that woman is going to be my driving force now to accomplish the things at home and with my family, and in the world via my writing, that I want to do. Let's face it: writing is an ageless profession. Many women novelists, especially those who raised a family, got their start later in life. One of my favorite books on farm life, Little Heathens, was written and published by a woman in her 80s!
Now that this midlife crisis is effectively over (unless it is just beginning), I'm going to finish my canning this weekend: salsa today, peach jam and bread & butter pickles tomorrow. Then I'm going to tackle projects: both writing and otherwise. Little bites, one life at a time. Most of all, I'm going to "write and KICK!" as my now twenty-two year old daughter has so wisely advised. Because I'm (almost) fifty: fifty years old! And time waits for no one.