Fires raged on the West Coast, from Washington all the way down to the bottom of California. With the drought, forests were a tinderbox. As I write, there are still fires raging too close to the Giant Sequoias. The Big Cats sanctuary had to truck the lions, tigers and bobcats to a safer haven. Smoke has traveled as far away as Salt Lake City. Ashes dust the cars in Fresno. The air quality has been so bad, the Central Valley stinks like a fireplace that needs cleaning. We're all suffering from allergies and sinus infections. My eyes and nose won't stop running.
I ventured outdoors to go to lunch with my friend Lorie at our favorite Chinese restaurant. As we fed on fried rice and chow fun, we talked about mounting obligations to our time and energy. A local bookstore owner wanted us to pull together a series of 90 minute writing workshops, no pay but plenty of chances to promote and sell our books.
“I just don't know where I'm going to find the time,” Lorie said. She puts out the online magazine called Kings River Life and I'm one of her writers. Her plate is full. So is mine.
“Yeah, but think of the opportunity,” I answered. A bookstore that supports writers. A chance to organize events. Being a major player in our local writing community. But, Lorie was right. We both had too many people pulling at us to contribute our talents. We were exhausted.
Plain and simple: we were burned out. Juggling career and family for her, dialysis and writing for me. Every time we looked around there was a deadline chasing us. Very flattering to be wanted but very exhausting trying to meet obligations. Life was less complicated years ago when we were starting out. We were younger, we had more energy, more drive and embraced opportunities.
When the local library called asking if I would give a speech on a Saturday afternoon, I tried to say no. I've supported the library in the past and they have supported me. Dealing with yet another session with few in attendance and nobody buying books seemed too much to handle. Plus, this was short notice. My friend Sherman, the librarian, bribed me with a Chinese dinner afterward. He knows my weakness.
I had to stop and put the brakes on. Isn't this what I'd hoped for at the start of my career? When nobody knew me, didn't I work hard to get my name and reputation out there? Why was I sniveling? I knew authors who would kill for the opportunities that fell in my lap. When did I become so ungrateful?
I went ahead and publicized the meeting. I copied a short story I'd written based on a local murder case from the 60's that many locals were familiar with. It was a freebie to demonstrate my writing. To my surprise, there was a packed house. Turns out the class of 1965 was having their 50th reunion and my classmates had notified their older siblings. Friends I hadn't seen in awhile were there, despite the extreme heat and bad air. I sold out of all the books I had and wished I'd ordered more. And yes, I got well-fed afterward.
This morning we got a sprinkle of rain. Winds came in like a big fan, whisking the air clean. The weather finally dipped below the hundred mark. The sky is brighter, and so is my mood. I feel energized and realize that I was just suffering from temporary doldrums. Hopefully, the fires will subside soon and the flame in me for my career will become stronger.