Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Learning How To Swim

No, this is not me. 

I never learned to swim. I took lessons at the Missouri Valley, Iowa pool when I was 6 or 7, and grew just proficient enough (on a boogie board) to earn a Snap-Tite model kit of a 1979 Mazda RX-7 from my proud mother, courtesy of the local pharmacy's toy department. It was molded in color, in an odd shade of greenish-gold (not unlike the 6's "Pebble Ash Metallic" hue.) With each awkward paddle, I knew I was one step closer to that kit.

That was the extent of my formal swim training. My parents -- mostly Mom -- talked about the need for me to learn how to swim, but practical considerations always got in the way. Nineteen years later, the pool at Pacific Grove apartments in Clovis, CA offered one of the few shared happy memories for me and my soon-to-be-ex at the time, who taught me a little more about how to paddle around the pool. Near the end of it all, at least I could roughly equal the aquatic prowess of her six-year-old son. 

By that time, I was unafraid of wading into the deep end... probably because I was already so in over my head, I didn't fear drowning. 

I haven't been in a pool since; bobbing in Lake Grapevine over Labor Day 2004 -- just after moving to Dallas -- is the last time I can remember being in the water, apart from wading ankle-deep into the Pacific in Oregon, the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston and the Atlantic in St. Augustine, FL. 

I've been thinking of swimming lately... more accurately, I've been thinking of drowning. I don't think that's ominous, or even metaphorical. The feeling isn't one of fear; just of being overwhelmed. I miss writing... not for a living, though, at least not right now. 

Many have asked me about my reasons for leaving my last job; I won't expound on them here, except to say my decision wasn't nearly as personal or pointed as others have suggested (or seem hell-bent to think.) In the end, it really came down to sheer economics... and, more than a little burnout too. But that's in the past, and that's where it will stay.

I admit, though, there have been times I've missed writing. (I hesitate to call what I did "reporting" -- features aside, the nuts-and-bolts of the daily gig involved gathering news items from a number of outlets, and regurgitating key facts aimed to an aviation audience. I refer to it then and now as "news aggregation," with a dash of personal flair incorporated whenever possible.) 

When I left my former job, I reassured myself the combination of a relatively-structured, 40-hours-per-week office schedule with weekends off would allow me time to sit at my computer, and organize the many story ideas floating around in my head into words on the pixilated page. That was two months and 11 days ago... so far, nada. Hell, I haven't even posted anything meaningful on the blog I spend $4.50 a month to maintain! 

I fear I've forgotten how to "write," the way I used to. And, as a result, I feel like I'm "drowning" in ideas... good ideas I think... that I can't for the life of me put into printed prose. 

I know I'll "get it" eventually; at least I hope so. For the moment, I'll allow myself some comfort in these words, given to me by a wonderful friend and the first person I shared these concerns with. She "gets me" the way few do... and if this doesn't say it all, nothing does:

"I just got done reading your blog, and I've got to say, I LOVED it. Don't tell me you can't write comedy again. You've just got to have one of those "breaking out of the gates" moments again - and that will take one simple thing. Actually being able to write for yourself, about a subject of your choosing. It's going to take some time to retrain your brain that sitting down at a computer is a fun release... So don't be discouraged if that wit and that fast-paced writing isn't coming to you yet. Hell, you can't even walk in your door without thinking you have to check the computer! It's going to be a little while longer before you can re-train your brain to think, "Hey, that's a fun toy for which I should express myself." 

Point taken. So, for now... I think I'll try paddling towards earning that toy once again. And we'll see what happens.