At What Cost?

Pneumonia is a rotten illness. I’ve never had it before, and I hope not to repeat this experience anytime soon. I had a few good days just before Christmas, and really thought I had turned the corner, only to be knocked out flat again on Christmas eve. I do very much appreciate the kind thoughts of my cyber friends. I’m surprised by how often I think of you as long-time acquaintances.
So what is it about us writers that puts us in such predicaments as this? I know how I got here, but I really didn’t think that I’d wind up in this situation. A good portion of my writer friends share a trait in common with me: we can’t sit still. I seriously cannot remember the last time the words “I’m bored,” left my mouth. There is so much to do; so much I want to do. Some of the things that I have to do are not choices. I have to be a mom, I have to be a wife. If that sounds like I’m complaining, you’ve misread. I love both jobs, but if you’ve managed to be in a relationship longer than a few years, you know that they are work. And any parent knows that the job of parenting has no time limit attached. My 83-year-old mother-in-law is still taking care of my 44-year-old sister-in-law though those roles should have been reversed long ago.
My teaching job at the Art Institute provides insurance for my family, and so it has to rank as a priority. My teaching job with the Institute of Children’s Literature is there to provide additional income, though let me assure you I’m not getting wealthy doing it. I love both jobs, and they both serve a purpose.
Writing, however, is my heart. This is what I do for me. It isn’t the one and only thing in my life, but it is as important to me as anything else I’ve listed thus far. Writing is my creative and spiritual outlet; it is what connects me to my creator and it is what I do that satisfies my soul in a way that nothing else can. My monthly critique group gathering is much anticipated, and it rewards me in ways beyond measure. The professional connection with like-minded people, and the opportunity to grow through analysis of my own and others’ work is time well spent on something meaningful to me.
Then there is my Eastern Star chapter. The Masonic heritage in my family goes back to my grandfather and my grandmother. My grandfather became a mason in the 1940s, and my grandmother joined Eastern Star in the early 1950s. I joined Job’s Daughters, an organization for girls who are related to Master Masons. I spent more than 20 years as a member or advisor, and I credit that organization with encouraging both my writing and my singing, as well as with teaching me to speak in public without fear.
But all of this raises the question: At what cost?
The push in November to finish the revisions on my novel to make the deadline meant many late nights, followed by early mornings of teaching class, and afternoons of grading papers or reviewing ICL student work. My commitments keep me running at full-tilt, and it takes something like pneumonia to slow me down.
And I have been slowed, believe me. Two weeks in bed, begging out of meetings and parties, bribing the kids or the neighbor’s kids to shovel the snow from my walk because I am too ill to do it myself – all of this is the penalty for having run myself into the ground.
What is it about us that makes us think we are indestructible? Why do we believe that we need to run in three directions at once, and we need to do it well? Even when I am told to lay low and spend my day on the sofa, I have knitting or crocheting with me because my hands need to be busy, I need to feel productive in some way.
Many of my writer friends have expressed the same compulsion to me – though certainly not all of them would claim this particular dysfunction. I’m hoping to better understand this aspect of my life to see if I can – once again – find the lesson in it. What is it I need to figure out (and don’t tell me that I need to “slow down” because I don’t think that’s the extent of it) what am I supposed to take away from this?
Be certain – you’ll hear more as I figure this out. Since I’ll be spending another week or two on the sofa, I’ll have plenty of time to think about it.

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One thought on “At What Cost?

  1. drtombibey says:

    Ms. Kim,

    First of all, I hate you have been so sick, and I wish you a speedy recovery. Pneumonia is a bad actor, but you are young and things should get better.

    I have the same disease you do as far as not sitting still. I find writers are on a constant search for the truth. When they find small slices of it, they are compelled to show others what they have learned. Just as Docs learn early on, we have a keen sense of mortality, and know we only have so much time on earth.

    I have told my people many times once I got to sleep it will be forever, so while I am here, I will be restless.

    All that said, you rest up and get well.

    One last thing. If you know of bookstores in your area that woud host a book signing bluegrass picking doctor in a year or two, let me know. I just posted on this subject and have started to make plans. I finished my MS revision, so here goes.

    Dr. B

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