This is the strangest blank page I’ve seen in a decade. This is, without question, the strangest year of the decade. I sat down to write this and wondered if I’d remember how. I haven’t written a creative word in more than six months.

Let’s see how I do.

Most of my “gap year” revolves around our move from New England to New Jersey. At the end of 2018, Matt was asked to transition a small company the larger one he works for purchased. As it turned out, their specialty happened to be his, and before we knew it came an offer he couldn’t refuse.

A decade earlier, the man stayed quiet and encouraging, letting me do exactly what I wanted—write a book. Something that came with no offer and incredible odds. How could I say no to his opportunity?

Moving from my adopted New England home and ghost-infested house has been hard. As a family, we are a close-knit bunch. Leaving behind three grown kids remains surreal. Physically, the distance is not too far, and they have visited steadily, diligently. That said, I believe we’re all still adjusting.

Fiction vs Non Fiction.

I was working on a new novel when moving morphed from a conversation to a life-altering event. The writing had been slow; I was wrestling with a point of view that was decidedly uphill. Still, I had a Ghost Gifts/Unstrung gut feel about the premise. As the For Sale sign went up, I received editorial feedback on my new book project. My sixth-sense developmental editor seemed intrigued by the rough pages she’d read. Her encouragement would have been enough to keep me writing. Who knows? Had we stayed put, I might be looking at a flawed but finished draft.

Instead, I had to pack.

Well, that’s a lie. The movers packed. I purged, watched, vacillated, and sighed tentatively—very tentatively. We bought what is inarguably a lovely house in the horse-hills of the Garden State. Still, I languished as settlement day arrived and a fresh-faced young couple, new stewards, took possession of my 130-year old, cast iron plumbed, character-filled house. We won’t dwell. What’s done is done and realistically, it was time to go. While the house was huge on character, it was big on maintenance. It was also time for those adult children, who were perhaps too comfortable, to be cast overboard in hopes that they would float, if not swim.

So how’s it going in New Jersey?

That’s the question I’m asked most these days. Truthfully? Not fantastic. I’d no idea New Jersey was such a lonely state. I mean, you think “lonely state,” you think Iowa Plains, the… well, whatever vacuity they have in South Dakota, right? Of course, it’s the plunge into unfamiliarity, the peculiarity of not knowing a soul, needing a GSP to find the Target, library… liquor store, that is accentuating emptiness. It’s getting up every morning and reminding yourself, “Yep. I live here.”

I’ve steered clear of social media and most humans with these thoughts. I know there are far worse things, greater challenges. A close friend’s validating words, “You’re entitled to how you feel no matter what…” finally melted away some of the sadness. And I think that’s the thing I’ve been wrestling with most—just as complex as that uphill point of view—sadness. If we’re to move forward in 2020 it has to be defused.

Accentuating the Positives

In that effort, here’s an exit poll of 2019 positives: Those kids seem to be flourishing. New jobs, new significant others (a favorite we’ve kept!), new lead roles, new apartments, new travels. Independence. Do they miss “Mommy & Daddy?” I sure hope so. But apparently, they can swim. That was the goal, right?

As January looms and the bustle of holiday slips to a rearview mirror, I know I’ve reached a personal precipice. Curiously, despite the books I’ve been reading, it’s Morgan Freeman I hear in my head. His classic line from Shawshank Redemption: “Get busy living or get busy dying.” But if I’m going to take that road—the living one—let me aim for Andy Dufresne’s impossible Zihuatanejo. That’s the map I hope to use as I turn toward a fresh blank page.

Toasting Zihuatanejo in 2020!

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

3 Comments

  1. Susan Peterson on December 31, 2019 at 2:13 pm

    Laura, this is such an honest, poignant piece, and I appreciate you sharing this with us. I hope New Jersey will get less lonely and more familiar, and that this next chapter will be one of fulfillment and peace—no matter what you do. Of course I’m anxious to read what you write next—it’s been several years since I didn’t have one of your books to lose myself in. But it will happen when it happens. Happy 2020!

  2. Karin p Gillespie on December 31, 2019 at 3:00 pm

    Lovely piece and I’m sorry it’s been such a difficult year. I, too, have been taking stock of last year. Let’s hope that 2020 brings many great things and some writing that I will be happy to read.

  3. Melisa on December 31, 2019 at 4:04 pm

    I think you’re brave as hell. This has been a huge leap, and I love how you’re already showing your efforts to get busy living. The time you’ve spent looking around, taking inventory, and digesting what just happened has been important and productive in different ways. Xoxo.

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