Two days ago, I arrived home to find two missives stuck in my front door. The first was a lovely message from neighbors inviting me for drinks before a bookstore reading that night. The second was not so lovely: I’d been served with a 30-day Notice to Quit, the first stage of eviction proceedings.
The legal notice wasn’t altogether unexpected – for various (good) reasons, I’ve been unwilling to sign a lease for the upcoming year, and I knew that the owners weren’t happy that I’d opted to go month-to-month.
But “not unexpected” isn’t the same as “totally fine.” I could feel my whole body clenching as I thought about what came next.
By the time we got to the bookstore, I’d calmed down a bit, bolstered by my neighbors’ warmth and concern, as well as their canapés. Still, I was feeling no small distress when I bumped into my writer friend Cathi (on break from her own author tour for her terrific new novel Gone).
“That’s great for your blog!” was her wry response, after my story spilled out.
The words caught me by surprise — and the surprise itself surprised me. She’d reminded me of something I already knew. Why hadn’t I thought of that?
If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the power of writing to transform painful experiences. I’ve written about it here and also here and here. It’s not a goal I set out to achieve but something I’ve simply watched happen. A wonderful and mysterious creative alchemy.
But this time, that go-to strategy had totally eluded me. I couldn’t help being curious about why that was.
We grow through stretch-not-break challenges. That was one of the first thoughts that came to mind, an idea gleaned some years back in an adult psychology class. Too few challenges? We stagnate. Too many? We get overwhelmed.
Legal proceedings are stressful in the best of circumstances, and for me the push to move tops off a number of other stressors. A sick cat. Sick me. An ongoing search for work. The more I thought about this, the more things fell into place. That I’d stall out when confronted with another big challenge makes total sense.
Accepting – making peace with – this fact feels like a first step forward. Stress is hard. Stress takes a toll. That’s a fact of life. Feeling unmoored and being slow on the uptake, is simply cause and effect. So that’s what I’m sitting with, this sense of how things are. I have no idea what comes next, but this is where it starts.
© 2012, amy gutman. All rights reserved.