Learning to Live

My senior year of college I wrote a novel: one draft fall semester, and two more during the spring. When I had a deadline approaching for honors seminar I would be crouched on my desk chair till two in the morning, whispering and backspacing words on to the page, hardly noticing when my roommate came in and out. I’d be up at nine the next morning writing again: in t-shirt and sweatpants, curled in a snarl of sheets on my bed, dirty tea-mugs mounting on the stacked crates beside me. Late in the morning, I would get dressed hurriedly and head to class with a hot hole burning in my chest, because I had left my heart lying on top of my closed laptop back on my desk, still fast-beating a story. It was terrible and glorious.

The summer after I graduated, I very purposely took the summer off from any serious writing. I travelled and saw people I loved. I read a good deal. I made nervous stabs towards planning for teaching.

Then I taught.

And now there’s this summer: what with travelling and moving, this has been my first real week of it, of having the days all to myself, to dispose of however I choose. I have meant to get back to that serious writing, that state where I produce, produce, produce and walk around a little lopsided, because I have one foot on the ground and one foot stuck in the air. I meant to write for hours each day. But instead this week has confirmed for me something which I have to quietly admit to myself I already knew: I am not a creature of routine. I never will be.

I like to plan, but then I live on a whim: now I want to make myself some eggs, now I want to read a new book, now I want to take a bath, now I will do dishes, now (though it’s five-thirty) I will make my bed!

This leaves the short story that I’m working on moving slowly, painfully, in twenty-minutes-a-day starts and backfires. But college is college and this, for now, is real life. My mom and I are making a deal to keep each other accountable for writing this month, and I think that this will help.

Part of real life (if not most of it) is making do with what you have: your hands, your feet, your mind, your time, your lack, your abundance. Making all these things work for the glory of Him who loves us. Even when we submit to having all the parts of us brought together, the days we do this right, the unexpected and complex amalgamation of gifts and understandings in each of us combines to make strange little people, creatures who limp and plod along on odd numbers of legs, looking laughably like misfits. (The cloven in The Wingfeather Saga made me cry because I know that they are true.)

But what matters is not whether we look funny, but whether we are moving, and moving in the right direction, even if it goes in fits and starts and circles that don’t seem to make sense. What matters is that we walk alongside one another and that we laugh because we know the great secret. We know that we are not misfits after all’s said and done. We are “kept in grace.”

Oh, I like living. I like making do.

One thought on “Learning to Live

  1. Alice, this is so beautiful. Thanks for being such an inspiration. It’s really the best thing all day. I’ve been thinking of you the past few days and Lord willing I oughta start praying for you! 🙂 I’m up for novel reading. Anytime. You’re beautiful, inside and out. I love you, k

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