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How did you (I) get here?

Dear Cherie,

I’ve been thinking of you lately and wondering how that new life of yours is going. I certainly hope you made the break you were thinking about (or had planned), and that the new routines, rhythms, and practices have been showing you the wisdom of your decision(s).

I have lived my entire life based on spontaneous motion. I think I told you I likened it to a pinball in a pinball machine. The ball has purpose. It has direction. But we never really know where it’s going when it hits that bumper.

For a long time I tried to control or have some sense of control over the direction I was going. The uncertainty of simple things, like where I would sleep at night, had me in a state of constant anxiety. But in the end, I would act intuitively. That is, regardless of the fears that I would cook up for myself, I would act in a way to lead me to have to face those fears head on.

I have yet to learn to trust that spontaneous decision-making, but I’m trying. I am still wracked with that anxiety from time to time. I still have moments when I want to control the motion of life. But then I get interested in something that becomes a mindless, joyful obsession. Things take off that direction. I get scared. I hesitate when I discover what’s happened. But, then, I have found, despite the sense or nonsense of it, that when I fear something, I have to admit I have that fear, then I walk right in and face it. Yikes.

But I think you have done well for yourself. I can’t imagine taking the responsibility of running my own company, or even a branch office. The uncertainty! The pressure! Then to give it all off for pursuit of something new and different!

From what I remember—and my memory for conversation is selective—you were going to Honduras with your kids and then retiring to the mountains for a while when you returned. I am envious of you. You are one, I think, for more cabin than that outfitted with an oil lamp and wood stove. Most of us are ready for the quiet of a house in the woods with a fine view and expansive porch or deck. If that is what you were after, and you found it, then good for you.

I hope, too, that you an easy time of the transition from hair-on-fire to absolute calm. I am no good at it. I am far better in chaos than in routine tedium. When disorder and anarchy suddenly become absent in my life, I find that it produces a kind of crisis that makes me want to do something to make the cops come.

I’ve devoted this summer to finishing my second book and getting at least two dissertation chapters completed—that is, approved by my advisor and ready for the rest of the Ph.D. committee. To put off ironwork for a time was a tough, tough decision. I need that kind of work. Already I miss it and have taken up too much exercise. I’m also hacking through the clay and stone in the backyard, building something. I suppose we will find out what it is later. It may just be a hole I fill up again. (See Alfred Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry.)

The book is only at the start of a lengthy process. I just finished a draft and have the chapters off to the editor. She will comment on it, giving me ideas for revisions, most of which will have to do with continuity of voice and theme. Then, when I get those revisions completed, I will formally submit the book to the press and it will go out for peer review. Then more revisions. Then resubmission, approval, proofreading and editing, proofs, etc.

And rejection can come at any minute. But I have a chip on my shoulder the size of Manitoba that comes from being told all the time I would amount to little or nothing. It’s a working-class thing that says, “I’ll show those bastards.” Certainly, that’s not enough to sustain creative endeavor, but it’s always a good start.

The dissertation chapters are even more of an ordeal. I already gave my adviser one, which he gave back red, red, red. But this is good. Fewer comments and corrections mean that you are at the beginning of the process where the adviser doesn’t know what to say, or you are at the end when you are close to having a good, solid draft for the committee. I know, with all that red, that we are just in the middle—a fine place to be.

So, on and on and on. I’ve talked far too much of myself. Please let me know what you are up to and how things are going. I hope you are well, cheerful, and happy.

Yours,
Patrick

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