Susan's Blog

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Weighty Waiting

I have stated before that I am experiencing something akin to a mid-life crisis. I am 43, and some people think that is too young for this, but it is what it is. There are several reasons for this, having to do both with external and internal forces. I have reached a point in my life where my children are more self-sufficient than ever, and I believe that this has created a space in my days that I did not have before. Their lives have fallen into what is mostly a pleasant routine of school, homework, downtime, friends, meals, and — rarely — family togetherness time. I joke about how none of my boys talks to me, for one reason or another. But it is a truth that strikes deep. There is a lot of silence around me and I am grappling with that. I don’t do so well with silence.

All I really want to do is write. I want to have tons of assignments and things to write and crunched deadlines. I want my head to be swimming with ideas of what to write and where to send it. But that is not happening. I have written a bunch of poignant or funny essays but cannot sell them to my usual places. I have submitted a book proposal to my editor but cannot get her to meet with me. I have a regular column in the local paper, but they don’t want me to write every week because they already have so many columnists. I have this blog, and I always feel constrained about what I write here because I have been told by some readers/friends/my parents that they are a little afraid of what they might read.

You know what? That sucks. This is the Internet, for God’s sake. If you can’t write what you need to write on the Internet, where you are not subject to an editor’s whims or a newpaper’s style, where no contract or paycheck binds you, where can you write? Do I have to be concerned that my book won’t sell if I’m too honest in my blog? That’s stupid; the whole point of my book was to reveal an honest emotional process in dealing with something as difficult as a child with autism. If some have elevated me to some kind of hero status, they got me wrong. I’m just a woman trying to work it all out so I can be happy. Besides, I can’t live my life, or write my stuff, with one eye on marketing. That is so not me.

At 43, I’m happier than I’ve ever been — in some ways — and worse, in others. I suppose that’s life, where we can’t ever expect a complete, unsullied happiness. I feel that understanding the new empty spaces in my life are the key to greater happiness. I have sought to fill these spaces with various pursuits but remain emotionally unsatisfied, searching for more. What I am wondering now is:

What is the issue at the heart of things? The empty spaces that cause me to explore activities that are unfulfilling, or the unsatisfying pursuits that take my energy and leave me with gaping holes in my days?

Sometimes I think, “I should just get a job.” People think I’m crazy to want to work if I don’t have to. But I do want to be more occupied. I want to be paid to use my mind; isn’t that the ideal? Don’t we all want that? But that isn’t happening. I have been pursuing a university teaching job, more speaking engagements, a new book project, and freelance articles, but very little of this has panned out. Am I casting my net too wide, and not focusing my energy sharply enough on any one thing?

Or will something happen for me when the time is right? I also find that some things do fall in your lap, but sometimes even then you don’t recognize it as something important. I can look back and identify the turning point moments when things changed, the times in my life when I semi-consciously chose a new path and my life changed: the moment Ned caught my attention, by teasing me about something, and suddenly I saw him as a guy I wanted to get to know. The time I put together my first Nat book, propelled by the happy buzz of creativity and problem-solving; the time I wrote a byline in an article that read, “Susan Senator is working on a book about autism” before I had even started it, leading people to write me and ask about my book. The time I went to a gala that I almost blew off, and met an exciting flirtatious guy, making me aware that life could be more deliciously complicated than I had realized. The time I decided to give a signed copy of my book to someone I’d just seen on a panel at a conference — who would turn out, for better or worse, to be someone I call “INF.” The first time I read Autism Diva’s blog and learned about autism pride.

Until I figure it out, I remain in this strange limbo of half pleasure, half torture, surrounded by stillness and silence, yearning and waiting for something but not knowing what.

5 comments

Hi Susan,

I don’t know what to tell you for the most part, but teaching at a University sure sounds interesting.

I don’t think your writing should be constrained on your blog. It’s unfortunate if people think you need to only present a certain face all the time… but seems like “you can’t make all of the people happy all of the time.”

If you have a really good idea for a new book, seems like you could pursue that and always e-publish it or something. I wonder if you could do more speaking at conferences or something like that.

I have too many demands on my time. I wouldn’t want to go to work full time, though that’s coming, most likely in a few months, when I graduate. I wonder if doing some kind of structured volunteering would make you feel more fulfilled? Maybe it wouldn’t have to be autism related.

(I love that picture of you.)

— added by Camille on Saturday, April 15, 2006 at 9:29 am

Susan,

You should post a permanent picture of your book on your blog with a link to Amazon or somewhere else they can purchase it. I bought your book before I even knew you had a blog. However, my guess is that you get a lot of hits on your website so this would be an easy way to market the book.

— added by not my blg on Saturday, April 15, 2006 at 11:29 am

Hi Susan,

I work with some great kids who have autism and found your blog after reading your book and visiting your website. After your comment about “one eye on marketing” I felt compelled to finally leave a comment.

What I appreciated most about your book was that it painted a picture of life with autism for the kids after they walk out of the school doors, which is an invaluable perspective for educators and therapists. No matter how much we think we know what life is like at home on a daily basis, we really don’t.

The reason that I like your blog is for many of the same reasons. I like blogging in general because I think that we can find a connectedness in the seemingly mundane details of life; be it about kids or relationships or work or carbs or books or pop culture. I think it’s brave that you share your insecurities and discomforts and life’s imperfections, all within the structure of, as you’ve said, a mostly happy life. Some of the details may be too raw or leave uncomfortable question marks, and that puts some readers off. (If I shared my blog with everyone in my life, I’m sure I’d get the same responses; I fear my parents would not exactly be ready for the reality of being a single 20something these days!).

I could say something sappy about being yourself, but I truly think you seem to achieve this. Continue with writing the way that makes you feel most closely aligned with yourself, whatever the topic; it keeps you brave and honest. And it keeps your fans coming back for more.

— added by Anonymous on Saturday, April 15, 2006 at 1:29 pm

Great comments anonymous, if you blog you should let us know because I for one would like to read it.

— added by not my blg on Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 9:30 am

One thing some folks do on their blogs is they have files available to download. Wil Wheaton (whom some of your readers have heard of, possibly read) does podcasts. Gord Sellar (I’m probably the only one of your readers reading his stuff at gordsellar.com) makes stories available for dowload in pdf format. If I read their blogs but don’t want the additional material, it’s very easy for me to avoid. If you wanted to do more with the blog but still wanted to avoid making people uncomfortable, you could make the additional material available but harder to access, like Wil and Gord do.

Just a thought. (And if you need help implementing it, blog that need, and someone will either be able to help, or will know someone who can help.)

— added by Julia on Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 10:11 am

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