FROM A WRITER’S NOTEBOOK: It’s all about the journey

I have a limited tolerance for generic questions about where I see myself in the future. Life can be less conventional than people know it to be.

I’VE LEARNED TO be wary of women who walk up to me with a frown that is not mean, necessarily, but it’s not generous either.

And while the downward curve of her mouth would seem perfectly normal had I just addressed, say, terrorism, my talk was about how we can better accept and support each other.

Here she comes, I think, arms locked, question loaded.

I’ve triggered something.

She wants to take me down a notch. There is contempt in her eyes.

“That was cute,” she said.

I just stared at her.

And if my mind could have abandoned my feelings, it would have.

I could feel a slow hiss seeping out of my pride, like when my bicycle tire rolls over a thorn.

I’d just given a talk at the state capital for a group of visiting writers.

Cute was not what I was going for.

I thank God my skin has grown thick.

“So where do you see yourself going with all this?” she said.

“All this?” I said.

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

I have a limited tolerance for this generic question.

I never know if it’s a need to instruct or to compete, but the two always seem joined in people like this.

They can’t seem to fathom that life can be less conventional and more entrepreneurial than they know it to be.

I wanted to say, “This is my soul you are talking about, not an investment portfolio.

“What you are asking is beside the point.”

What I did say was, “It hardly matters,” and, after a pause, “because if I’ve learned anything, it’s that there is no brass ring five years from now, because there is no brass ring. ”

It was one of the rare times when the words came to me without my having to wait until 3 in the morning.

Mostly because of good advice I received from a colleague: “If you think everyone in the audience is going to be kind, you really need to consider doing something else.

“But if you stick with it, it’s good to have a few good comebacks up your sleeve.

“There is nothing more difficult than being clear and honest when you are taken aback.”

Now, I wish I’d also said: “You know what? When I’m putting myself out there, I’m not the least bit concerned with five years from now, or even tomorrow.

“I have to be wholly in the present to be effective.”

Today, I’m lucky to know people who’ve been at this business of writing and speaking much longer than I have, who get paid far more than I ever will. (I can still hope!)

And I’m always surprised when, in the green room, they seem just as worried as I am that they will, to quote one, “flounder like a fish and sink like a stone.”

I once had so much to prove — to others, to myself — but not anymore.

Now, I just want to be around people who find meaningful work reward enough, who have carved out careers with everything they have, raked their insides raw with the effort, who know what it takes to create a creative life, who understand that having work we love is “all this.”

And much more.

Because the moment is all we have.

And it’s everything, all at once.

But there will always be the naysayer who wants to snatch it from us because, I suspect, they haven’t had one of their own to celebrate in far too long.

_________

Mary Lou Sanelli, a writer, poet and performer, divides her time between Port Townsend and Seattle.

Her column normally appears in the PDN the first Wednesday of the month.

Email her via www.marylou sanelli.com.

Her next column will be Nov. 2.

More in Opinion

PAT NEAL: Who’s the fishing?

HOW’S THE FISHING? If I had a buck for every time I… Continue reading

WEST END NEIGHBOR: Warm music brightens up long-term care facility

ONE DOESN’T REALLY have to tune a washtub bass, so Larry Baysinger… Continue reading

DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Port Angeles nurse can ‘go anywhere’

“I’LL GO ANYWHERE,” she told me. Marilyn Perkins is a recovery nurse,… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: A special time of year

IT’S A SPECIAL time of year when friends and relations get together… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Most wonderful time of the year

IT’S THE MOST wonderful time of the year. There are so many… Continue reading

WEST END NEIGHBOR: Making the trek east

TO A SMOKER with a sizable habit, running out of cigarettes is… Continue reading

DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Kate’s arts, sweet and savory

MAKING MUSIC WITH people, emphasis on with: That’s what Kate liked to… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Thanksgiving: Knowing when you got it good

THERE’S A LOT of talk these days about holiday stress. It makes… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Salmon’s gift to the future

MAYBE YOU’VE HAD one of those days. You wake up on an… Continue reading

WEST END NEIGHBOR: Mushroom season is fading out

IN THE FALL, there is gold out in the forests of the… Continue reading

Richard B. Anderson
A tribute to four Peninsula residents who have received Medal of Honor

EDITOR’S NOTE: This column by PDN Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb first… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: My crazy uncle

I’VE GOT THIS crazy uncle. He’s got some bad problems. Maybe you… Continue reading