Write Me Home
The young woman’s face on my laptop screen smiled encouragement. Look at the sky if you’re near a window, she said, or remember the sky if you are not. Write about what’s happening.
I picked up my pen and spiral notebook, and wrote about the palest of blues beyond the trees outside my window. I described brown, orange and green leaves clinging to branches. I wrote that I felt as if I were in a bowl of blue, the sunlight to my left a warm beacon.
I did not write about this: My breath was shallow, my body cold and tense. Alone on a solo writing retreat in the Pocono Mountains, I struggled for calm.
I’ve been anxious all my life. What made me think this was a good idea? The friend who stayed three days in a cabin where her food – and beer – were delivered to her door. A famous writer who checks into a hotel room for days at a time to work on her novel. A friend who drives to her second home in the wilderness to write and canoe alone.
Me, I write at home. I’ve seen a successful writer at my local Starbucks, laptop keys clicking madly, intent gaze on the screen, coffee cup to one side. I wished I was him, but I just can’t focus with people coming and going all around. The only thing I could write about would be the people, their appearance, their manner. I could make up a story, but they’d be gone and new people would walk in and…my keystrokes would stop. My pen and notebook would lay idly by.
When a weeklong stay at a mountain resort came up at our church auction, I made a tentative bid, not sure I wanted to win. It was the only bid. I imagined myself writing and reading all day, stopping only for meals or a walk outside. Maybe even hiking on the nearby trails. But it was gray and cold and miserable the first full day. I walked the hilly roads alone; there was no sidewalk or walking path. Cars passed at low speed but I felt unsafe and vulnerable.
At home, I have the same distractions all writers do: laundry, email, Facebook. Cooking, shopping, the need to exercise. The phone. Anything and everything. I’ve been trying to complete my second novel for a year. My romantic soul imagined me alone in the mountains with pen or laptop, a cup of tea, and long empty days to pour words onto the page.
Blue, blue, I wrote to the live prompt, inside the bowl of sky. See the blue beauty now, the dancing pink leaves on shrubs near the ground. There is beauty here for me to see, above and below. My frantic attempts to follow instructions yielded trite phrases.
I had the time I said I wanted. And I couldn’t breathe. Okay, I could, but I had to concentrate. Deep breath, Linda. In and out.
The online instructor asked us to respond to a quote from Audre Lorde and another from a Whitman poem, with 29 people on a Zoom call. But then they were gone. And the rooms around me were empty.
The crashing loneliness was like a thick blanket threatening to smother me. Where were my inner resources? I’ve lived seventy years and must have some by now. But I couldn’t settle. Journaling about my fear made it worse.
I remembered the cold winter night when I hurried down a crowded Manhattan sidewalk toward Penn Station. I felt scared and anxious, like a speck in a windstorm, a little fish in a big wide stream. Buffeted by people, and the wind, and tired. Wishing I was home, knowing it would be a couple of hours. I remembered the peace of a sudden thought: “I’m always home.”
I like being home alone, my favorite things all around me, my trees outside the window, the white noise of traffic on the highway. My cat snoring on the floor beside my desk. But alone on this self-made writer’s retreat, I watched the windows and doors.
I tried to make sense of my panicky feelings, researched them on the web, and read about fear of abandonment. I tried hard to work through my anxiety. I told myself I shouldn’t feel this way. And then I cut myself a break and went home.
Linda C. Wisniewski lives in Bucks County, PA, where she volunteers at the historic home of author Pearl S Buck. Her memoir, Off Kilter, was published by Pearlsong Press. Linda blogs at www.lindawis.com.