- Moving to Minnesota. While the state is really, really hard on its outsiders, it was still far better than being surrounded by people who were so eager to get control of me that they were plotting to take away every possible adult choice and right I had, while telling people it was “my choice” and explaining how I felt about things that they a)had either never asked me how I felt about or b)had asked me about, and then declared I felt a way about it that I most certainly didn’t. For example, there is no circumstance in which I could possibly be jealous of my sister – her life is exactly what I strive to avoid – it’s not just quiet desperation, it’s “be silent and lead by example” meaning of course “be silent and don’t lead,” while dressing like crap, eating crap, and being unable to manage the finances necessary to keep basic cable on. Living here and learning from the local feminists gave me the courage to tell my mother I’d call the police if she ever hit me again – and that was the only thing that stopped her. Minnesota has been very, very hard on me over the years – but it is still far preferable to what would have happened if I’d stayed within a day’s drive of my family.
- Every time I share a poem or fictional story I’ve written, it’s a risk. I was left feeling like a talentless hack thanks to a)my sister choosing the most cutting thing she could say about anything I wrote when she managed to grab it out of my hands (now explained by her never trying to actually publish ever, while still talking about it like it has meaning to her) and b)the rather rough-trod approach of an MFA program where most of the students kept to a really pretentious aesthetic. In my sister’s case, her greatest fear was that I would surpass her – she was the sexy ingenue, and even teachers would comment about how they expected her to be whatever it is Diablo Cody has become but that I might be a good editor for her. That I have the writing practice probably doesn’t parse with those people, and when I commit, I get the recognition on a national scale that my sister got locally without even really writing. As to the MFA program, it didn’t help that my background wasn’t literature, it was journalism, and while I enjoy reading I fucking HATE lit programs and what they do to the personalities of lit students. I’d like those programs more if they insisted that for every book read, the lit student had to go out and teach inner city school kids how to read as a program requirement – SOMETHING to get them grounded and to understand that being literate as they are taught in the program is an aspect of deep, deep privilege that actually separates them from society and seriously reduces their ability to connect to those outside their socioeconomic class of birth. I suspect most of the authors read in those programs feel the same way I do about it.
- Choosing to trust Mike and commit to writing full time. It was so much of a risk that I didn’t genuinely commit to full time writing until after I started the artist’s way – the perfume business was a way I came up with of preventing that full-time writing. (I love perfume, but it’s best contained to my personal religious practice.) It’s still a scary commitment to me, and I chafe at the dependent situation I’m in – clearly that’s not Mike’s fault, that’s my family’s. Dependence to my mind still equals a situation where someone will abuse me or one where I am guaranteed to be let down in the moments I genuinely need help, and while Mike and I have had some issues with the male entitlement he was raised with (not consciously, for the most part, thank the Gods and that Jesus fellow,) I’m still safer here. I’m also on the long game, and I’m a very, very patient woman. I will have independence again – but I have to earn it the way I’m earning it now, and it has to take time because clearly I needed to at least express and address the wounds left by decades of mistreatment.