Thursday, November 17, 2011


Lately, I’ve been feeling a lack of drive. I don’t want to write anything new. I don’t want to pull out the beads and make a necklace or bracelet. And beyond that… well, I sure as hell don’t want to clean the dust that’s gathered between the curtain folds.

I also don’t want to organize the mess inside those drawers in the desk.

…or those drawers in the kitchen.

…or that drawer in the bedside table.

I don’t want to! I just don't!

Were I thirty years younger, this situation would probably throw me into an existential crisis.

Were I thirty years younger, I’d think that I had no motivation whatsoever.

I’d view myself a loser with no future.

I’d see myself as lazy and useless.

I might even crawl into a hole for a while.

… Actually, crawling into a hole for a while doesn’t seem like such a bad idea, and maybe that’s what I’ve been doing. And maybe that’s okay. And maybe it’s okay because I know: I do have motivation. I am not a loser. … Nor am I lazy or useless.

Maybe I just need some downtime.

I am so glad I’m not in my 20’s anymore. I’ve had three decades since then to learn of my capacity to produce and create. I’ve had three decades to learn that life is a series of personal phases. I’ve learned that we should never judge ourselves by any one individual phase.

I’ve also learned that this perspective holds true for the world around us…

When my sister and her husband made the decision, in late 2008, to move from Scotland to Virginia and so to be closer to our mom, there were lures for them (or at least, for my sister) at the Virginia end. Primarily, there was the theatre community with which we had been raised. That community – The Oak Grove – was founded by an amazing couple named Fletcher and Margaret Collins. And “the Grove” – a summer theatre under the stars – had been a hub of creative and intellectual talent for decades.

When Martha and I were kids, we accompanied Mom and Dad to rehearsals and performances. One of our parents' earliest ventures as actors in the company was in Shaw’s You Never Can Tell. While watching rehearsals, Martha and I both developed instance crushes on Francis Collins, one of their fellow castmates. Then a goofy late teen with amazing musical talent, Francis – who is one of Fletch and Margaret’s sons – is now the head of the NIH.

And a decade later, the musical accompaniment at Grove cast parties was regularly provided by Robin and Linda Williams, who had recently settled into the Valley. If you listen regularly to A Prairie Home Companion, then you will have heard of them. Robin and Linda are old friends of Garrison Keillor and regularly perform with him.

So that was the Grove back in the day, and then there is the Grove now…

When Martha returned to Virginia in 2008, she’d no doubt sung the praises of the Grove to her British husband. And so, they anxiously approached the theatre’s upcoming summer season.

A few months later, Martha shared with me her extreme disappointment.

“It’s just not the same anymore!” she said, despondent.

My capacity to relate was remarkably fresh.

“I know,” I replied, answering from my quiet apartment.

Because of what I had been through in my L.A. building – because I had experienced the ultimate in love-between-neighbors and then had been left with a more typical renter’s scenario – I could empathize with her response to the Grove.

“It was an era,” I told her, thinking of both the Grove and my building. “What we experienced? Just an era. And it’s over.”

… Were I thirty years younger, I might not have seen it for that.

Were I thirty years younger, I might have seen the change as something that was wrong with me.

Were I thirty years younger, I might have felt that I needed to fix it in some way, and I would have wasted my time trying.

… We can’t change eras. They are environmental phenomena, and they happen whether we are there or not. As to phases (such as the one I am going through now), they are absolutely personal. But, like eras, they are also absolutely temporary.

Nothing lasts forever.

Neither the good nor the bad.

Neither the productive nor the non-.

Neither the group activity nor the solitude.

is temporary.


Anonymous said...

Yes, I can relate to this post Katie. For years now, I've recognised 'phases' that send me flying between writing/drawing/reading/making and just being. The need of each phase is normally marked by a 'do nothing, settle to nothing' period in which I am content to sit back and wait. Love this post :-)

Holly L'Oiseau said...

"I’ve had three decades to learn that life is a series of personal phases. I’ve learned that we should never judge ourselves by any one individual phase."

I'm in my twenties right now, and you don't know who much this post, and the above two sentences, means to me. I'm going through, what I thought, was the worst time ever. I'll never be an author, I'm not the perfect mom, I'll never get to travel. All these things have been pushing on me. But after reading this I realize that it won't last forever. Thank you for that.

BECKY said...

Katie, you always manage to write the kinds of things that are rattling around in my brain, but I could never word them the wonderful way you do! Our lives are lived so backwards sometimes...As in the old phrase, "If I knew then what I know now..."

Martha Mawson said...

Wonderful post, Katie. I love it and I love your ability to verbalise thoughts and feelings so that I and everyone can read them and go "Yup, that's how it is," or "Oh, now I see." Your writing has taken me to corners of my mind and allowed me to see things from a different perspective...thank you.

Linda O'Connell said...

Katie, I too am in a lull, but this time around, I know it is a temporary settling in, nesting for winter, slowing down, a cycle and nothing more. I am so glad you had the Grove. It sounds wonderful.

Pearl said...

Everything IS temporary! Exactly!

I know what you mean about being young -- I could never do it again. Way too much time thinking I was doing everything wrong, too much passion/angst.

Thank heavens there's no danger of my flying off the handle again. :-)



cj Schlottman said...


It took me decades to realize that I could not change things, to recognize what you have so elegantly phrased. There is a certain safety and freedom that comes with age, along with permission to just let things go. I have a friend whose favorite phrase is, "It is what it is." And I agree.

Once more, you have tackled a subject that speaks to my very heart. Thanks.


Sarah Pearson said...

One of the wisdoms of age is finally learning to go with the flow, and knowing that everything passes :-)

Green Monkey said...

I fall backwards sometimes (still) thinking I can change things/people... but thats just a waste of energy. I would go back to 20 if I could - only if I could take my wisdom with me. I have 5 weeks of dirty laundry. It's gotten so bad that I'm wearing a thong that hasn't fit me since 1985. I DO NOT WANT TO DO LAUNDRY. I blame the lack of sunlight here on the East coast - maybe this weekend I'll tackle the laundry...or maybe, I'll go commando..

Anonymous said...

I cheered all the way through that, Katie!

Aging and experience brings so many positive things, just as you point out so eloquently. It's something we need to celebrate more often.

I'm glad to know it's not just me looking at the dust and the grubby bits and thinking the mature woman's - whatever: there's far more important things in life. I have a joke with my closest friends that we are closest friends because we are allowed into each others dwelling places without dusting and hoovering. That's true friendship!

Thank you for the lovely comment on my blog. Saying goodbye to your characters is the hardest thing. I'm now just starting to think about welcoming in the new tribe. And the Eden's Garden ones are still with me .....

Keep writing and growing in wisdom,


Deb Shucka said...

It sure sounds like you're on the cusp of a huge transition - at the end of an era. I look forward to reading where the journey takes you next.

Jayne Martin said...

What an interesting time for you. Just write your way through it and see where it leads. It's a bitch that we get wisdom with age. Why couldn't we just have it all along? ;)