new glarus, wisconsin is about three hours away from our house in chicago. i think i spent two-thirds of that time freaking out.
you always do this, matt said.
and he’s right, i do.
i sign up for something because it sounds great! and then right beforehand…i get nervous.
maybe this was a bad idea, i said.
it’s going to be so cold! what if i’m not okay. if i’m not okay, will you take me to a hotel? what if there are serial killers in the outhouse!
you always do this, matt said.
but, do you know? i wore long-johns and wool sweaters and threw hand warmers in my sleeping bag and it was fine. i used an outhouse and did not die, via serial killer or otherwise. it was really fun, actually! well, the outhouse wasn’t fun. but you get the picture.
we went with our friends the toonens, who are wonderful and originally from minnesota, currently from pilsen. they like cold weather. they also know how to make breakfast hash with bacon and yams over a campfire. and they brought a box of wine. so.
after the breakfast hash we went for a hike, and then we went to the brewery. strawberry rhubarb beer, people! have you tried it? TRY IT. we walked through all seven of the shops in new glarus, including the cheese and chocolate haus, and ended up admiring the wood paneling at the glarner stube over dinner.
…not sure there’s a better place eat a reuben and drink a pitcher of spotted cow.
i think we really were stinky at that point, too, because the waitress asked us if we’d been at a campfire. whoops. but it turns out there is a strange freedom in being a stinky camper and not caring.
very soon after all of that, monday happened.
so we’re back to reality and running water and five-year-olds hopped up on halloween candy. i hope it’s a happy, sugary one for you, too!
a little while ago school started.
actually, we’re on our sixth week, come to think of it.
already i can feel the tension building in my muscles. i wake up and before i know it the sun is fading and it’s time for bed again. all those good hours meant for life-living are getting away from me.
over the summer i read a book for the second time. it’s called “a million miles in a thousand years” and it’s by donald miller. i like donald miller. the way he writes, it’s like we’re having coffee and he’s thinking out loud.
in the book he says living life is a lot like writing a story, and that we are each a character of sorts. some of us live good stories, a lot of us live boring stories, but we’re all living a story, like it or not.
i wonder a lot if i am living a good story.
somewhere in the middle of july i realized i’d become a character who listened to news radio and rode her bike to yoga class. that probably doesn’t sound out of the ordinary, and it isn’t, but i felt proud of it. on my bike i felt like i was interacting with the city instead of just passing through it, and i liked that.
one day i rode my bike 75 miles with some friends, and suddenly my story felt exciting.
it probably sounds silly, but i felt like tectonic shifting happened in my mind that day. before we left i was pretty sure i would be the brick around my friends’ ankles, slowing them down. i’d never biked that far before. but it didn’t turn out that way at all, and i wondered if i hadn’t been operating inside a bunch of limits that weren’t even real. like, maybe the character in my story was capable of a lot more than i gave her credit for…or something like that.
afterwards i spent a lot of time thinking about what else i could write into my story. maybe i could hike machu picchu like donald miller. maybe i could be a real writer again. a lot of things felt possible.
but that season was punctuated by a very big sadness, followed by the first day of school, and suddenly my to-do lists had grown into multi-page documents.
i was making a lot of promises, because i wanted to do a lot of things, but i was finding it harder and harder to follow through.
so, in light of all that, i’ve been thinking a lot about balance. how does anyone manage it? how does anyone figure out when to promise and when to pass? how does anyone write a good story without keeling over, exhausted? or is that what makes a story good?
anyhow. i’m not sure about any of it. i wish i was - i like to feel like i’ve wrapped up my thoughts before i post them here. but i doubt this will resolve anytime soon, so consider it a mental work in progress.
in case you’d like to mull all of this over with me, here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:
"people love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. but joy costs pain."
"the character has to jump into the story, into the discomfort and the fear, otherwise the story will never happen."
"perhaps one of the reasons i’ve avoided having a clear ambition is that the second you stand up and point toward a horizon, you realize how much there is to lose."
"and once you live a good story, you can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time."
"the reward you get from your story is always less than you thought it would be, and the work is harder than you’d imagined. the point of the story is never about the ending, remember."