Tina L Porter

40 Days In

Grace 2 Comments

I bought a desk calendar, the big kind you can either use as a desk pad or put on the wall. This morning I downloaded all the appointments and commitments on my phone/computer calendar, and ones I’d scribbled in notebooks to my desk calendar with a nice gel pen.

I forgot how these calendars count the days for you. As I was writing a commitment for a day in March, I saw the number next to the date and when I flipped back to February, I noticed that today is the 40th day of 2018 (according to this calendar).

Forty days, I thought. Forty days.

Despite the trying and temptation of some to make me so, I am not a person who has read the Bible. But I know enough, heard enough, listened enough to know that 40 days is significant, and, yet, I wasn’t sure why. So I googled it. Short hand for those like me: scholars seem to think the number represents trial, testing, or judgment.

Today is the first day this calendar year that I have sent myself downstairs to my office with the intention of writing something, anything, to restart myself, to understand myself again as a writer. To “reboot” myself, as it were. And today is the fortieth day of the year.

Coincidence, I know, but I am one who likes to make meaning of coincidence. I am one who likes to make meaning of a crack in the cement, so, there’s that.

I have scribbled some things while sitting on the couch upstairs, a blanket or a cat covering my legs as I typed. But when I come downstairs to write a thing, I find myself being led astray by this unfinished project or that one.

Some friends are joining together to relaunch their blogs and I eagerly said, yes, yes I can do that. And I keep opening up the blog, telling it I’m going to add a new post, and then wander off to some other tarnished thing that nudges my attention.

Today, though, snowed-in and warm, I brought myself down here, cleared a space for the computer and set to my intention.

Just before New Year’s day, my husband tried to encourage me forward. “2018 is going to be the year of Tina! Right?” He put his thumbs up near his smiling face. “Right?”

Sure, I said in my head.

The year of Tina.

I hate these posts, these struggling writer posts. I’ve probably written at least three dozen of them. But I have to own up to it today. I have been wandering, for far longer than 40 days. I started this particular blog when I was going to start a new chapter of my life, but I didn’t have any real understanding of what that new chapter would be, what it would look like, or what the center of it would be. It’s been creeping up on me slowly and with certainty over these last forty days that the reason my blog has no center is because I have lost my own.

I was reading a blog post by a friend of mine who has endured two years of pain that separated her from her core, her faith foundation, and then brought her back to it with new understanding, new commitment. (At least that’s my nickel’s worth of telling the story.) And in reading her post, where she claimed herself again, I said to myself, “I wish I had her faith.”

Have you ever heard yourself say something to yourself and then stopped, having heard it, and wondered what made you say that?

I thought long and hard on that one. It may have looked like I was shoveling snow or making a stew, but I was thinking long and hard on what would make me say that. When I wrote each week for the Post-Tribune, I wrote about being the mother of three young daughters. That was my schtick. When I stopped writing there, I started my first blog, UUMomma, that continued the theme of raising my daughters but within a conversation I was having with other Unitarian Universalist bloggers (moms, dads, seminarians, lay leaders, and ministers). I was attending church regularly then and working in a UU institution and my experiences were all easily framed within the struggle of claiming to be a Unitarian Universalist and living as one.

And then some things happened. The first was Facebook. Most of the bloggers I followed started migrating to Facebook and away from their blogs. My father became ill and died. There was a controversy at my home church in which I made myself a central figure. This caused many people pain and drove a wedge between me and parts of that community to the point where my husband and I withdrew from a place that had been home to us. And then everything started to fall apart. Depression, anxiety, leaving my job which created a void I hadn’t anticipated filling and so I did not.

And that story is old. Which doesn’t mean it doesn’t need telling, but as I shoveled and stewed, I realized I have been telling parts of that story as if they didn’t connect, or redacting parts necessary to a full understanding. As I’ve wandered in the desert of my living room these past three years, I’ve told myself so many stories that were half-truths or blatant lies–some to make me feel better and some because I didn’t have the emotional strength to see from a perspective wider than my own pain.

My father used to say that all memory is fiction. I understood it one way when I was younger–that we all remember things from our singular vantage point. Now I understand it another way, too: that memory will fuck with you. It will tell you stories that aren’t exactly true, neither as magnificent nor as tragic as the memory will try to paint itself. I love stories. Romantic stories, tragic stories, funny stories. I just have to remember that the stories I love and those I run from are not necessarily the truth and they shouldn’t haunt me into exile.

Maybe this is the year of Tina.

Maybe these first forty days have not been idle wandering, but, finally, a reckoning of what is and what is not, allowing me to unearth the core I thought I lost, but, in reality, I had sent ahead so I could, at last, catch up.

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  • Christine on February 16, 2018

    I share your… dislike… of struggling writer posts, but I must confess I very much enjoyed this one. Thank you for taking the time to send your thoughts into the world. 🙂

    • Author
      Tina L Porter on February 16, 2018

      Thank you!

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