January 2, 2009, five years and one day ago, I went to blogger.com and started to write. For the second time. I tried it in 2008, but I'd failed at blogging while my marriage failed, too. I was writing smiles and positivity while my marriage was unbearable. By January of 2009, I was living alone. I only had the kids during the week, and on the weekends they were with E. My weekends were long, quiet, and sad. I was trying to figure out how to live by myself for the first time in my adult life. But for the first time, ever, I was writing honestly.
In 2009 I was also coming to terms with another loss. I'd quit dance for the second time in my life. While I'd packed away bags full of dirty pointe shoes in 2001 just as I got a teaching credential, quitting Contemporary dance in 2008 was much more painful. I'd discovered Contemporary later in life (late 20s is late in life for a dancer), and found a company accepting of older dancers with day jobs, families, husbands. Having to admit to myself that even so, I couldn't maintain a schedule of 8PM-11PM weeknight rehearsals and all day Sunday training meant accepting that I had to close the chapter on dance, fully. Giving it up didn't just mean giving up those hours. It meant accepting a different body shape and level of fitness. It meant losing the freedom of artistic expression, and the chance to be physically close to other people. But the hardest thing about it was that it meant changing my definition of myself. From age four to almost thirty, I'd been Heather, the dancer.
It makes sense that I spent the next five years writing almost daily. I couldn't not train. I couldn't not express myself. I was used to putting on my leotard when I didn't want to, dragging myself to the studio and pushing through the stiffness of the first four or five barre exercises. Because I knew how good it felt when I got to fly across the floor with abandon. It didn't happen in every class, but even the chance that I might get to go a grande allegro or improv that day made me try, and put up with the hurt and the grief of training. Even if I couldn't be the dancer, I was chasing that artistic high.
My life is different now. In many ways, it's circled back to the picture of what I wanted my family to be in 2009, but wasn't able to force. Whenever I talk to people about our marital separation, I say that it needed to happen. We couldn't have met at fifteen, married at twenty one and stayed together. And we're not the vision of what I imagined. We're not the story that I had in my head. I'm still glad we got married. And glad we married again, difficulties and all. I think I'm just difficult. Probably, we both are.
Around my writer friends, sometimes I'm embarrassed to admit how new I am to writing. Or that I became a writer with a blog. (A blog! How pedestrian. How self-publishy.) Five years doesn't seem like much, when I'm with people who've been working for newspapers or in film. And many of them have been writing since they were tots. This post from my friend JA got me thinking. Was I a writer as a kid? I'm not sure.
It will surprise nobody that as a child, I did ask for a file cabinet for about three Christmases, straight. (I didn't get one, to my great disappointment. Oh, the things I would have filed...) But I'm not sure I was the writer. I was, as I said, the dancer. Always. I was the crazy, crazy reader. And the collector of words, sure. One who wrote letters. One who loved writing the essays and linking together ideas. One who wrote letters and journals and loved organizing concepts. I wrote a few stories. But they didn't have dragons. Or fairies. Or time traveling cyborgs. The were painfully ordinary. As, I suppose, my stories are now.
I don't think I have to know if this matters that I didn't come out of the womb, quill pen in hand, but thinking about this the last few days has led me to this conclusion: maybe in me, the muse was split. Or maybe interpretation was my thing, channeled first through my body in dance and then through my hands in writing when my body could no longer leap. Maybe reading, music, connection to other humans: those are the constants.