Quitting Time

I am not a quitter. Quitters are the worst. Everybody knows this. Quitters are weak, quitters are cowards. quitters are fair weather fans. Quitters never win, & winners never quit.

I’m starting to question that.

Actually, it’s my ankle. My ankle has the questions. My left ankle, to be precise.

In the interests of full transparency, let me say right up front that I (like a ridiculous percentage of other privileged white women) have a long & dysfunctional relationship with my body. When it tried to thicken up in my teens, I was like, “Oh, hell, no. If the fat’s not going to land in socially acceptable places (like my boobs), then it’s not going to land at all.” (Spoiler alert: my fat was socially unacceptable.) But I like to eat so I started running.

Once upon a time, I felt a run didn’t count unless it was at least an hour long. Mind you, I was cracking off 7.5 minute miles back in the day, so I was covering some ground.

I eventually settled into a more reasonable relationship with food, my body & exercise, but I still run. 5 days a week, 4 miles at a pop. But I’m old now. (Hello, 50. I see you up there.) When I get up in the morning, there’s a brief period of reacquainting my body with the idea of movement. You know, a series of snaps, crackles & pops, and a little hobbling before everything smooths out.

My runs start the same as my mornings these days. We start slowly, just kind of introducing the idea of doing this for the next 35 minutes or so. Then the tight places loosen up & we’re off to races. I get to think my thoughts to the beat of my feet & sort through all the weird shit in my head. It’s like meditation, & because I have such a sedentary job, I’ve always considered it a necessary balance.

But then my left ankle spoke up. It began voicing an opinion of our runs. And that opinion was, “Hey, this hurts.”

So I did what I’ve been taught to do.

I ignored it.

I ran anyway.

I just trusted what I’ve been taught, what we all know to be true: winners never quit & quitters never win.

I did that for…I don’t know…three weeks? Four?

But my ankle wouldn’t shut up. And then it wasn’t just complaining at the beginning of a run. It talked to me the whole time. It refused to let me fall into that easy white brain space that I needed. It was like, “HEY. HELLO. I HURT.”

And then it didn’t just hurt first thing in the morning, or when I ran. Soon it was twinging and whinging throughout the day. I’d get up from my desk & it was like, “HI REMEMBER ME? I STILL HURT. YOU ARE HURTING ME.”

So I did something Younger Susan couldn’t have contemplated.

I quit.

Well. Quit is so strong a word. I gave myself permission to take a break.

It was a Thursday. I said to myself, “Okay, we’re taking Friday off. And you know what? We’re taking next week off, too. We’re not going to run again until next Monday.” That’s, like, a week and a half? I haven’t gone that long between runs since that last time I was pregnant.

It’s been two days, and let me tell you something.

I am fucking terrified.

I am not used to letting my body call the shots. What kind of maniac does that? Like, sure, I’m a shortie. I max out at 5’2″ on a good day. But does that mean I have to be weak, too? Hell, no. I work hard & I’m strong. I’m as strong as a shortie can be.

And that goes for my head, too. Just because I feel something doesn’t mean I get to say it out loud. I’m an adult. I have self-control. Maybe I’m not perfect. Maybe I’m not even inherently good. Not on the inside. But I try. And that’s the point.

I try.

So what on earth is going to happen if I stop trying?

My ankle thinks it’s time to find out.

And I’m just old enough and just damaged enough and just brave enough to agree.

So let’s do this.

Or more accurately, let’s not.

Let’s not do anything for a while.

Let’s try that.

    Something Different

    This is not for you.

    For the first time in my writing career I am not writing for you.

    I am not writing to charm you, interest you, please you or entertain you.

    I tried that. God damn but I tried that. I tried so hard. I tried for 15 years.

    It didn’t work out. I didn’t catch on. I didn’t take.

    Bad luck? Bad timing? Bad ideas? Maybe.

    Or maybe I’m just not good enough. Good, but not quite good enough.

    My stomach twitches just seeing those words on the page. Because that’s what scares me. That’s what has always scared me. That I’ve bumped up against the limits of my talent, & the dreams that drove me, shaped me & scarred me, will be forever out of my reach by an excruciating inch.

    Because I’m not quite enough.

    Or maybe I’m too much. But not too much of any of the good things. Only the stupid things. The crass things. The angry things.

    But, dude, come on. How was I supposed to ever hide that shit? Writing is a primal scream. A barbaric yawp. Writing is the introverted control freak’s desperate attempt to connect with other humans. It’s our way of saying Look, here’s me. Here’s who I am & how I’m trying to be in this world. This is the space I’m taking up.

    My place is this world has gotten a shitload of 1 star reviews, people. But I prefer those to the collective meh that’s been the hallmark of my career. Because reviews, even the mean ones, prove I have a voice. I’ve been tapping the mic going hey is this thing on? for so long that it’s actually reassuring when the occasional asshole shouts yeah, so shut the fuck up.

    So. That’s where I am with my writing. That’s where I’ve been for a long time, honestly. I was just happy the mic was on. People could hear me. Sooner or later, if I just kept at it, something would click. All I had to do was never give up. Keep working. Keeping writing. Keep trying.

    This, of course, is catnip to the good, but never quite good enough crowd.

    Because our deepest fear is our deepest conviction, isn’t it? I’m not just afraid I’m not quite good enough, I know I’m not. Just like I know it’s all my fault. It’s the bitter pill you see silver medalists choking down on every podium around the world. You were so close. If only you’d tried harder. If you’d studied more. If you’d eaten less. If you’d trained harder. If you’d talked quieter. If you’d smiled more. If you’d dressed better. If you’d weighed less. If you’d wanted it more.

    Bottom line? Victory was right there. You just didn’t earn it.

    Fuck that.

    Just fuck it. Seriously.

    I quit. I went out & I got a job. My youngest went to middle school, so she’s old enough for a house key & an hour or two of alone time after school. And I dumped my bad boyfriend of a writing career & started seeing other people.

    I’m in a committed relationship with a very nice teaching job now. I work with adults, so I get to swear, which is key.

    Turns out I’m a sweary bitch. Who knew?

    And I have a boss who texts me every Friday to say how awesome I am, how lucky they feel to have me & what great work I’m doing. To thank me for the week I just gave them.

    And every goddamn week, it brings tears to my eyes. And I have to revise my reply like seven times before it comes out like thanks, I love my job, and not this text is like rain on the arid desert of my self-esteem, bless you and everybody in this organization for allowing somebody as damaged & unworthy as me to take up office space.

    Bad boyfriends will fuck you up. And I can’t even say that I’m done with mine. I very well might go back to writing someday. I keep waiting to feel the urge. I haven’t yet, but I will.

    For now, this is enough. This small, private corner of the internet that nobody visits. This will be my place to grieve & heal. This will be my place to be exactly who I am, sharp edges, foul mouth, tacky tendencies & all. I apologize for nothing. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. Don’t come back.

    This is not for you.

    This is for me.

      Filling the Well

      We writers live pretty solitary lives.

      The upside is that we rarely have to put on actual pants (as defined by zippers & buttons rather than elastic & drawstrings). We also get to spend a lot of time having imaginary conversations with fictional people, which is awesome, because *revisions*. I’ve heard there are people who can convey their thoughts to other humans in complete sentences in real time, but I am not one of them. I’m a word salad girl all the way, so there’s something deeply satisfying about polishing dialogue until it’s a witty, charming rat-a-tat-tat exchange that actually makes sense.

      The downside to all this luxurious alone time?

      It’s lonely. And (true story) you can get so good at lonely that you sometimes forget you *are* lonely, so you stay there until you get so weird that lonely is your only option.

      This sounds grim, I know, but stay with me. There’s a solution.

      Writer friends.

      Writer friends totally get it. They know where you are because they live there, too. They speak your language. They reach into the black hole of your alone time & drag you into the sun. Mostly they do it via the internet (nobody can text/tweet/instagram/FB/whathaveyou like writers) but sometimes…occasionally…they arrive IN PERSON.

      And then the world is good and perfect and light and you talk non-stop until your husbands retreat to some high-profile sporting event so they can sit silently side-by-side, grunting at the field, drinking beer & avoiding both eye contact and verbal interaction. Because they’ve had enough of us & the words. (So many words. ALL THE WORDS.)

      So as I look down the barrel of Thanksgiving (good gravy, people, it’s next week!), I’m pausing for a moment to give thanks for my squad. Particularly for the incomparable Inara Scott, who got on a plane & braved actual snow (!) because she loves me.

      And because I love her, I put on pants.

      And because our husbands love us, they went to a football game.

        Welcome to the Disaster Zone!


        wrecked-carFun Fact: My house & I are approximately the same age.

        Not-So-Fun fact: We seem to be falling apart in unison.

        Now I used to be a ridiculously healthy person. My dental hygenist cooed compliments about my well-flossed teeth.  I could have digested steel wool. (Probably.)  I didn’t even stock aspirin because I never used it. Why would I? Nothing ever hurt.

        Then my forties happened.

        Now I have a fake tooth and a chronic cross-stitch injury. (I’m not even kidding.  I hurt myself sewing.) Oh, and my digestive system has revolted against dairy, which is nothing short of a tragedy when you live half an hour from Wisconsin.

        But all of this pales in comparison to what my poor house has been through.

        rainyAbout a year ago, I was sitting in this very spot, cozily typing away while a thunderstorm raged outside. Rainy days are wonderful for writing and I was getting a lot done until I realized that it was not only raining outside but inside as well. Water was pouring into my living room via the ceiling.

        This is never a good thing. Nor is it cheap. By the time we were done, we had a new roof and gutters, a rebuilt sunporch and chimney, an exterior paint job, and oh, hey, a new furnace. Because go big or go home, am I right?

        Things were quiet for a while after that. We really enjoyed our water-tight roof, and the newly squirrel-proof sunporch was a hit. Then Mr. Sey and I walked into the house one recent Friday afternoon to the sound of running water.  Which is normally music to this Great Lakes lover’s ears, except…we hadn’t left any water running.

        By the time we got the main water valve shut off, the laundry room had two inches of water on the floor, and we learned that you’re supposed to replace those hoses on your washing machine from time to time. Who knew? Not us.

        dym_3dcover_transparentWe know now, of course. Life is an excellent teacher but it doesn’t have a pause button, and it doesn’t give you a heads up when things are about to get hairy. It just throws stuff at you, and you do your best to keep up.

        Which brings me to Willa and Eli, the couple featured in my new release DISCOVER ME & YOU. They strolled on stage in PICTURE ME & YOU, and while I knew Willa was going to be a big part of Devil’s Kettle’s history, I had no idea who Eli was.

        Turns out he was a lot like Willa.  Both had some big hurts and serious disappointments in their pasts, and both were dealing with it alone.  Like alone alone. Neither was looking for it, but love — like a leaky washer — doesn’t wait until you’re ready.  It happens when it happens and you just have to figure it out as you go.

        For Willa and Eli, falling in love was a huge discovery process.  Building a future together meant dealing with their pasts, and that’s never easy for anybody, let alone people with baggage like these two. But in the end, it was worth it.  Love always is.

        I hope you’ll tune in for their journey!


        DISCOVER ME & YOU is available now exclusively on Amazon!

        Catch up on the whole series!  PICTURE ME & YOU is also available now!

          Behind the Scenes

          Picture Me and You finalThey say there are two things you never want to see being made — laws and sausage. I would respectfully request that we add books to the list.  And why?  Because we writers are shameless thieves.  We’d rather you didn’t know that, though.  We’d rather you just believed in the magic of our imaginations.

          The sad truth is, we don’t make much up.  We don’t have to.  We’re inveterate eavesdroppers, ruthless carpetbaggers.  We snatch our stories from random strangers’ cell phone conversations, from the car next to ours at a stoplight, or from the neighboring table over lunch.  We find these exquisite little details just lying there on the ground like abandoned mittens.  So of course we put them on & pretend they were ours to begin with.  The owners are long gone — who’s going to mind?

          IMG_0083

          The WSoGR on the Devil’s Kettle Trail

          Normally, I limit myself to co-opting nothing bigger than the proverbial lost mitten but for my latest release (PICTURE ME & YOU) I stole an entire waterfall.  Well, half of one, anyway.

          Wait, I can explain.

          See, I took a vacation a while back with a few of my girlfriends (who, due to a sauna incident I won’t get into here, are now known as The Women Scouts of Grand Marais.)  We were supposed to go canoeing in the Boundary Waters but the weather turned on us & we ended up exploring the North Shore of Lake Superior from the comfort of a cabin with hot running water instead.  (It was a very good call.)

          Devil's kettle

          The real Devil’s Kettle

          Turns out, we were only a few miles from Judge C. R. Magney State Park which is rumored to have a disappearing waterfall. Who, I ask you, can resist a disappearing waterfall?  Not the Women Scouts of Grand Marais!

          One steep, slippery hike later & sure enough, there it was — an actual disappearing waterfall.  We stood at the top of a cliff & watched the Brule River split itself into two waterfalls, one of which dropped over the cliff & headed happily for Lake Superior. But the other half — and this is half of a fairly sizable river, mind you — dropped into a hole in the ground and disappeared.

          IMG_0150

          Not something you see every day

          Seriously, it just disappeared into this pothole they call Devil’s Kettle. And nobody knows where it went.  Smart, scientific people have studied this phenomenon & have not gotten to the bottom of it.  Fully half of a big old river is just GONE.

          There is no writer alive or dead who could resist.  I didn’t even try.  I stole the name & the waterfall (along with a giant papier mache fish from one nearby town & a pie shop from another) and created a new trilogy around them.

          So there you have it.  I’m a thief. You’re welcome.

          The WSofGR

          The WSofGR at Betty’s Pies.