My dog likes to tear apart the throw rug we keep in our front hallway, right in front of the door. I’ve replaced this rug three different times. Each time, she chews it up within a matter of months. She starts at one corner, grabs hold of a thread, and starts pulling. We never see her do this–we’ll just walk down the stairs in the morning to find plastic threads and twisted yarn scattered all over the place, little pieces of fabric thrown around like unwanted confetti. Oftentimes, it happens right after we’ve just vacuumed and mopped and everything looks so calm and perfect, and, well, intact. This dog does not enjoy a clean floor.The rug matches a longer one I have in the hallway leading to the living room. You see one, you see both. So each time Riley does her damage, I dig through the internet until I find it, the exact replica, though it’s getting more and more difficult to do so, but still better than replacing both. I really like the pattern, too. I don’t want to find a new one entirely.
And yet, Riley will eventually tear it apart.I came back from a writing retreat a few weeks ago re-energized and with focus. I set about to tackle this strange career of mine with a new discipline: treating it like a proper part-time job, juggling emails and social media and all that circles around it within a set daily time frame, instead of trying to fit it around the corners of my life like before. I’ve always struggled because writing is no guarantee of income–you work, then hope to be paid for it, which makes it easier for other, more immediate priorities (the ones with discernible outcomes, like that clean floor) to take precedence. Because at this stage, my writing feels an awful lot like throwing a football through the air right before a fog rolls in: I can’t see where it’s going to land. I’ve been considering picking up freelance or teaching work to have that guaranteed paycheck, but David and I had made a deal to stick with the novel-writing and see where that takes me. So while my second book is being shopped to publishers, I work on the third. I structure my time, and settle into the work, and try not to overthink all the other priorities slipping away. I watch the ball disappear into the fog.But then David leaves town to travel for work. The kids’ schedules or appointments or needs bubble over that tidy structure and break it up from the inside. Life slides in, and the threads unravel, unravel, unravel, until I’m back in the front hallway, staring at the mess on the floor and wondering why we ever adopted a dog in the first place.But I really like that rug (and the dog). So I go online, and I find another one, and I place it in front of the door. I do this over and over again, because even though the repetition feels futile, I can’t imagine any other one in its place. And even when the fog rolls in outside the windows, that rug is still there, every day, sometimes whole and sometimes ragged, but always there. I walk past it before I sit down in front of my computer, open up the laptop, and get back to the writing.