Losing the Edge

The edges of my life are fraying. I like edges. They look clean and crisp and clearly mark where one thing ends and the next begins. I never was a color outside the lines kid and didn’t appreciate it when others played fast and loose with the boundaries in my coloring book.

But life apparently prefers watercolors and things are bleeding into each other at an alarming rate. By things I mean work and life because clearly work isn’t life; it’s some alternate universe we enter at eight and leave at five. Through the door in the toadstool after eating the mysterious cake.

The idea that a little less than 5/7 of my time doesn’t count as my life is a little absurd to begin with. It’s even stranger if you consider that people from work become good friends and are invited into the other realm. And of course no membrane prevents work experiences from infiltrating the way I think about the world or vice versa. To switch metaphors, the peas got mixed up with the mashed potatoes long before now.

Yet I’ve always considered work as other, probably because then it can be contained in a neat, little package and dropped at the side of the road when my real life comes along. If work doesn’t count, then I haven’t, for example, irrevocably not published a book because I’m not truly committed to anything else.

Maintaining this level of self-delusion requires serious talent. Let’s examine some evidence. If the amount of time I spend thinking about work while cooking dinner or taking a shower is any indication, I do value my work, thank goodness. Who wants to spend all that time doing something that feels like a waste? And believing that holding work as unimportant will help me accomplish other goals is like training for a marathon by not swimming.

It’s scary, though. If I give work official life status, what’s to keep it from smearing purple crayon all over the coloring book? This concern is probably as relevant to my life as the fear that I may become a couch potato, which, when discussed with a friend, elicited the response, “As if.”

Come in! Come in!

My own bad behavior recently reminded me how important it is to support each other in whatever we dream to do.

A friend on the van knows someone who is thinking about writing a book and so asked me for publishing advice. My internal reaction was, “Write the blankety-blank book and then worry about it.”

My external reaction might have been slightly more gracious, but it wasn’t exactly welcoming. I didn’t say, “Wow, that’s great. What a fabulous project to undertake. What does she want to write about?” I didn’t pour out a list of helpful resources.

Trying to get published is often discouraging. I recently read an article in Poets and Writers Magazine that said, without connections, a writer has a one in 11,111 chance of getting an offer of representation from a typical literary agent.

That means you can be in the top .0001% of writers and still not get signed by a particular agent. My math is not good enough to figure out the odds if you considered all agents, but certainly not good enough to make me dance a jig.

Which is all the more reason to be encouraging to others entering the game. Nobody enjoys being one in 11,111. It is better to be two and even better to be five or ten, exponentially better, in ways that defy mathematics.

I don’t know why we need the support of others who share similar experiences, but anyone who’s ever felt really lousy and then talked to a friend or family member and felt better knows it’s true. We are social beings, and I think it’s hard wired into us to thrive more completely in community.

So, henceforward, I will take as my motto Shel Silverstein’s poem “Invitation,” which begins, “If you are a dreamer, come in.”