I felt the transformation on the way out, just as I did on the way back home from the writing conference.
On the way to Albany Airport, to Chicago and then to Vancouver and finally to Surrey, I felt the change from the all-encompassing wrapped-my-soul role of mom, Mrs Gaboury and the woman my husband rolls his eyes at to...me. To Veronica Steiger Gaboury, the writer from New York, the States, with an almost visible parenthesis around my location that apologizes for the horrible election everyone else is watching.
While I was gone, I didn't miss my roles like I thought I would. That surprised me, and probably anyone who knows me. I had said my goodbye's, wrote letters, left behind 3 pages of notes after trying to show for the last few weeks, "this is how I do it." And now it was someone else's turn to take over and I was on my way. For at least a couple of days.
Almost like a symbolic dip into a transformative pool, I stood at security and took off my shawl wrap, my scarf, my bags, my boots and immediately set off alarms, needing further clearance to leave.
For months since I pushed the registration button to the Surrey International Writer's Conference, I second guessed whether I should back out, get a refund, go another year. Despite the fact that I knew so many people who were attending this, so many from so far. Who knew when we would all reconvene again?
I was worried though because a couple of years ago I was asked to present at a National Conference for the National Writing Project in DC. It was a round table discussion with my fellow writers from my local Capital District writing group. At the last minute I let my group down, though they were gracious, and I bailed on them, feeling unable to leave the family behind to fend for themselves.
Because of Kath's disability she can sometimes be a handful for her dad or for others who may not understand her triggers and her rebalancing needs. Right before that trip things flared up and I couldn't imagine how many steps backward Kath's progress would take and how hard seeing the chaos would be on Alex. I bailed.
So here I was planning on going away again, not to present this time, but to attend, meet friends, to learn. The cost was much more. There would be much more traveling. I would be going with strangers I only knew from online. What was I thinking?
All summer I tried to prep everyone, including myself, and in-between I was cloaking myself in fear and doubt, thinking maybe I should cancel. I didn't allow myself to get excited or fully commit to the anticipation of this experience. I didn't think I could handle another huge disappointment if it didn't work out. School began and the girls and my schedules are pretty packed, how could I leave so much on their father's shoulders when he didn't know the lay of the daily land?
I think I may make it look easy. (Alex told me when I returned and she was giving me the play-by-plays of each day, that Roger had said, 'It's hard being mommy and daddy,' but she said, "He was just being daddy." Yet he did keep everyone alive and that counts!)
Finally, I decided to cancel my trip. I hadn't made flight arrangements yet, the hotel was sold out, and I had just hired a math tutor for Kath and signed her up for a science and an acro class. Alex had a comp workshop weekend coming up right after, Kath's birthday party needed to be planned. I went online to the conference's website to cancel and found out the deadline was the day before. I actually considered still canceling (just not going), losing my money and saving myself airfare and hotel, as well as, stress and incidentals.
But a friend of mine, who also has a chaotic home life like mine, told me I had to go. Had to. The family would be ok for 4 days without me, but that I needed this. I listened. (Not about going to the Halloween party this weekend, but to this I did.)
I committed. Then everything started to click, like puzzle pieces when you finally understand what the picture is supposed to look like. I suddenly had two sets of roommate options. Flight plans seemed to work out without too much jiggling. A shared cab from airport to hotel and a ride back to the airport at the end of the conference all worked easily into place.
I made plans for the house (did I mention I wrote 3 pages, many drafts), cancelled some things so my husband wouldn't be overwhelmed by my daily routine, made lesson plans for my 6 classes, discussed at length what the girls should do, how they should handle things, and packed my bags. (The only major thing I ended up forgetting was my inhaler...I didn't actually forget it, I packed one that didn't have enough puffs left to it, but after a day of panic, my breathing relaxed and I actually forgot I needed it, though I did meet someone who lent me her emergency inhaler just in case.)
Once things started to fit, the transformation began. I began to let myself get excited.
I have dreamed of going to this conference for at least ten years. I have followed the stories of online friends who went and how energizing this conference is for writers who do most of their work alone, but grow most by interactions with others.
I arrived at the hotel, checked into the conference and ran with my bags to the first Master Class. It was with Diana Gabaldon one of my favorite authors. The class was on How to Write a Sex Scene. Hmmm. I don't really need to write any scenes like this due to the genres I usually write in (young adult and non-fiction), but I just wanted to be in this class with the woman who helped me to survive some pretty intense times in my life: a divorce, a diagnosis for my daughter, my mom's death, my diagnosis, etc. I tried to absorb the 'what-would-Claire-do' factor (Claire is the main character in Ms Gabaldon's books and one of my role models) and I looked around and found some of my writing friends who always accept me to the online writing world despite how long I am missing.
Meeting up with these people I know through my writing was like a reunion; a coming home.
This experience was one of transformations, one which was the bud of a feeling and thought that perhaps my own words could become strong enough and perhaps I could write my Tabitha/Traveling Trees story and others.
For every person I met, as This-Me, it was like some archaeologically dust was brushed off and I became more uncovered and I loved what I saw. It was in my eyes, my walk, my heart, my head, my energy. I felt like I hummed at a different frequency.
I worried though that not enough dust was uncovered to complete the transformation, or to allow me to continue. It was only 4 day,s after all.
I was partially correct because once I came back it was hard to assimilate this new me with my many other roles. I returned to my old roles+plus, as though I was expected to make up time for daring to step out. Many friends asked me supportive questions about my journey. Many followed my trip on social media. My girls clung to me asking specific questions and wanting to see my pictures and hear my stories. My students were excited for me. My sons contacted me asking me about the journey. Not everyone asked or was excited, but I buzzed for days.
On the way home, after one hour of sleep, I wrote. Ten pages, handwritten. It was a rough draft for this blog, it was letters to my girls, it was a journal, so, not my story, but it was more than I have written in probably a year. I have a lot to do to make sure the dust doesn't gunk the cogs of my brain feeding the fear and self-doubt. Writing is the frequency I need to hum with. That much is evident after this trip.
More to follow....