Why I’m Here
It’s New Years Eve, and we’re at the family lake house. The house is a cacophony of voices as a half a dozen cousins rampage about, playing hide and seek, nerf war, and dance party in alternating (sometimes overlapping) waves. The adults cluster around the TV, hanging on each play as it unfolds in the bowl game of the hour. Me, I’m outside.
The lake is quiet this time of year. The water — normally a washing machine in the summer — is an unbroken pane of glass. It’s also overcast and unseasonably warm, and a fog clings to the water like a veil. I stand on the dock, drinking in the brief respite of silence.
Quiet is rare in my life. My wife and I are in the thick of child rearing with three boys, all full of piss and vinegar. They’ve got more intelligence and spunk than both their parents put together, and we are incredibly blessed to have them and each other. All told, it’s a charmed life. A full life.
Sometimes too full.
It was May of last year when I realized something needed to change—that something was missing. I just wasn’t happy, and my family knew it. While they bore the brunt of the dissatisfaction (grumpy dad always in a bad mood, never enough sleep, etc.), even I knew they weren’t the root of my dissatisfaction. It was work.
I’d achieved a modicum of success in my career. I was a department leader, had built it up from scratch, hired team members, and built a leading practice for the size of our institution. I had a great relationship with my peers and the respect of management. As a professional in my late thirties, I was as set up for future success as I could be.
But I was fucking miserable. It was the same thing every day. It wasn’t challenging. It didn’t touch off any creativity. To make matters worse, I had killed myself for almost three years building the department and establishing it with the rest of the business. I was burnt out.
I decided I needed a different job. It was an odyssey, one that deserves its own storytime post. But long story short, I found that job. Work from home, less responsibility, same money—it was perfect. But after a couple of months of that, I still felt that disinterested malaise wrapped around me like a leaded blanket. I didn’t know what was wrong. Was I depressed? Something was still missing.
And then I got an email. It was from Amazon—a royalty payment notification. The amount was a pittance, but it got me to thinking.
I had published my book, The Money Shot, almost seven years ago. I had no online presence, no ongoing marketing. It was this memory hanging out there that occasionally pinged me with a few dollars and memories of a long-lost labor of love. But at some point in the prior month, someone had bought a copy of my book.
I originally published in 2015 with plans to do more books, to build a catalogue of erotic noir titles and carve out my niche in the self-publishing industry. But almost as soon as the book launched, my personal life came crashing down and I pulled back from everything non-essential (more on that in a separate post, I promise). I hadn’t written since.
And all of the sudden, I knew what had been missing. I knew why I felt so stifled in my day-to-day existence. I had abandoned my writing, and my — I don’t know, soul? Sense of self? — had atrophied.
I’ve been writing in one form or another since I was nine or ten. First fan fiction, then academic writing, then my own original fiction. It had always been a part of who I was, my way of exercising that divine spark in all of us, the need to create something where nothing had been before. And I’d let it die.
It was nobody’s fault, really. When you’re in the thick of work and kids and life, things tend to fall by the wayside. You can only keep so many balls in the air at one time, and you have to figure out which balls are glass and which ones are rubber (and can afford to be dropped). I had dropped one of the glass ones and hadn’t even noticed.
It took me a little while to make the jump back in, but I did, and I was rusty as hell. But fuck, it felt good. I met some like-minded people, spun up my website, and threw myself back into the mix of writing and self-publishing. That was three months ago, and they’ve been the most contented months I’ve known in several years.
As I look out at the water, letting the silence wash over me, I am struck with just how much my outlook on life has changed since I got back in the saddle with my writing. It’s not to say that writing is a cure-all for depression. More accurately, depression tends to follow when you don’t reserve space for the things that resonate in your heart. There will be down times in the future. Life is cyclical, and no high lasts forever. But I feel as though I’ve found the cornerstone from which I can continue to build on. I’ve been happier, which has translated into more patience with the kids, better time spent with my wife, and a rekindled appreciation for the simple magic hiding all around us.
Simple magic like this blessed silence that envelopes me on the end of the dock, the water a pristine mirror stretching off in either direction.
I turn to see my oldest son coming down the dock. He’s twelve, all long limbs and sharp elbows and awkward like a fawn still growing into its legs. But he has his mother’s heart and passion, and so I know without a doubt he will get his feet under himself eventually.
I smile. “Yeah buddy?”
“What are you doing out here?”
“Just…” I gesture at the water. “Taking it all in.”
“It’s kind of creepy. But in a pretty way. Is the fog lifting?”
It is, the mist thinning as it glides along the water in little whorls and eddies.
“Yeah, bud. I was thinking of going kayaking to soak in the last of it. You want to come along?”
“Isn’t the water cold?”
I grin at him. “Only if you fall in.”
If he’d smiled any bigger, he would have run out of face to hold it all. “OK, Dad. Let’s do it.”