I TURNED 60 week before last and suddenly my multi-tasking skills have deteriorated. Only kidding – they’ve been going downhill for a while.
If I look a little closer at why, I realize it may have less to do with brain function and more to do with heart function – I don’t really want to multitask anymore.
It’s been a long and restless 60 years. I think I started setting goals as a toddler; I certainly started moving around frenetically as a young child (you’ve heard the Romper Room story), and this past year I caught myself doing it all over again – still pushing, looking for the next bright thing. I thought I wanted to write another book – that I finally had an idea worth fleshing out. I started down that path and the path widened, lost definition, and finally disappeared into the horizon. Pouf!
I thought I might like to set a goal of returning to farming (flower farming this time) once I could financially afford to decamp from an office job again. (Twice I’ve left the office world to freelance, twice I’ve come back.) I plotted how to turn our field into a bigger garden. I still may do that, even if it is just to grow more food for us. But it’s not a very practical financial move, and I’m not even sure I want to physically maintain a huge garden. Maybe I do? I’m certainly more fit and healthier when I spend more time outside.
At various times I’ve thought about taking flower courses online or even horticulture or botany courses. What kind of work I would do with that I have no idea.
I’ve actively pursued getting an MFA with a program I could do mostly remotely.
I’ve thought of going to a photography program (there’s one in Maine I have my eye on) so that I could perhaps finally become a professional photographer with a specialty in nature and gardens.
But many days now I think I just want to spend time with my husband, read, walk, garden a bit, and generally enjoy life. That is sort of a radical goal for me. It does not involve achievements or list-checking. Last night we actually went to the beach with our beach chairs, books, take-out and a cooler and enjoyed a spectacular cloud-and-light show, a quick dip, and a bout of stillness. This particular beach is a 10-minute car ride away. Both of us wondered why in the world we don’t do this more.
I don’t really know if this attraction to stillness and rejection of busyness is simply what happens 16 years into sobriety, when one has more stability – less moving around, less financial insecurity – or whether there truly is some kind of physical change that’s decreased my motivation and increased my irritation at trying to do too many things at one time!
I can’t say that there’s been any significant change in the way my brain richochets from one thing to the other, and the voices are still chattering in my head. I also can’t predict whether or when one creative pursuit will pull out ahead of another and lock me into focus. But for now I’m not sure what my next step is and I’m feeling fine about that.
You probably know where I am going with this.
Last year (February, 2021), I reactiviated the Sixburnersue blog for a few reasons. Honestly, it was designed to be an essay writing exercise for me (and an excuse to take more pretty photos). I thought if I couldn’t get at a long-form memoir, I could try writing in short bits. (I do a lot of short writing for my day job, but it’s a different kind of writing.)
Of course the biggest impediment to this has been finding the time to do it. First my goal was weekly, then biweekly, but all of that was asking a lot of myself, since my day job extends through the weekend and often into the night.
Yet this summer I gained a sliver of time and found myself with another problem. I couldn’t settle on what to write about. I started and stopped several blogs. Some interested me enough to stick with them, but none felt like they would be the right thing to share with you. As an editor, I feel like an editorial product (even a blog) should have a consistency to it so that readers get what they are looking for. (Is she writing about sobriety? Gardening? Nature? Cooking? What gives?) And I have felt like I am all over the map with what direction I want to go.
The simple (sober) life I have today is good for a few messages: Do what you love, listen to your gut, say no to things that don’t feel right to you, seek peace and beauty in nature, use creative pursuits to turn off the voices – that sort of thing. You’ve “heard” me write these things in a zillion ways, and I’m not sure I have much more wisdom to offer with that kind of writing.
For most of my professional life, I’ve been writing “how-to” copy (service journalism, some call it) — how to cook mostly. I’m proud of the four cookbooks and hundreds of magazine food stories I’ve written and the recipes I’ve developed (and still do on cookthevineyard.com as part of my day job). But I’m not interested in doing that kind of writing in a personal blog — at least not now. If I ever get to the point where I can (or I want to) devote a lot of energy to learning more about plants, and experience being more of a full-time gardener or full-time farmer again, that might change.
What I am still interested in, always will be, is telling stories. An essay can also be a story, and I’d like to work on doing that better. But it’s not the kind of writing I can do quickly and extremely regularly when I have a full-time job. I’ve been working on an essay about how our house has become a home, and it feels more narrative to me. I’m enjoying coming back to it and working on it a little bit at a time without feeling pressed to finish it prematurely. And when I finish that (or something like that!), I’ll share it with you by posting it here on sixburnersue.com – and will do my best to let you know it’s up via social media.
But I will no longer be sending a regular blog out in newsletter form via Constant Contact. (Less mail in your inbox!) Constant Contact charges fees that don’t make it practical for me to pay without making good use of their service. I considered moving the “newsletter” to Substack, a popular platform for writers who are freelancing and looking to eventually monetize their newsletter content.
But producing a true newsletter on a regular basis would be more work than I have time for now (I know because I produce two newsletters for my job every week). The newsletter idea – to my mind it’s like creating a mini-magazine – is very appealing to me because I could curate different kinds of content, including plenty of visuals. But it’s not doable now. Maybe in a couple years…
So if you are a Sixburnersue subscriber (and reading this in your email), I want to let you know that this is the last missive you’ll receive from me for a while. As I mentioned, I will still post here on sixburnersue.com from time to time, and following me on Instagram @sixburnersue is probably the best way to keep up with me. (And of course you can find recipes from me @cookthevineyard and cookthevineyard.com.)
I appreciate all of you so much – some of you have been through many iterations of this blog with me — and I am grateful. I will see you around, and I wish you lots of joy always.
- the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.
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