by Christina Lay
Like Persephone, five days out of every week, I descend into darkness, into a cold, lifeless world where the bright shining flowers of my creative life seem but a distant dream.
The darkness has a name and it is called “the day job”.
The thought came to me as I was toiling (I rarely get thoughts while on the dark side of my journey) that when I go to work, I leave my authentic self behind. Immersed in a world of numbers, inventory, and hushed retail panic, hidden away in the dim corner that I’ve come to know as “the bunker”, the playful, bizarre rantings of my writer’s mind vanish, repressed by the thoroughly uncreative reality of bookkeeping.
For one blessed month this summer, I roamed a twilight in-between realm called “unemployment”. Despite being required to appease the grim guardians of the weekly dole, I found this place to be heavenly, for in it I discovered the magical element of Time. Sweet, wondrous, delectable Time.
In that month I completed and submitted a novella, which I sold last month.
In a suspicious twist I found that I could sit and write for ten hours without blinking an eye, relaxed, happy, hell bent on productivity. This is in contrast to my self in the underworld, where I develop an expression much like a mole sucking on a lemon, with my shoulders raised to my ears, my back rounded, my vision blurred, succumbing more completely to pain and severe annoyance with every passing minute.
None of my co-workers have any idea that I am anything other than a mole sucking on a lemon. For in their world I move as a shadow, completely separate from the true self lest the authentic me becomes trapped in the mire along with the poor soul who owes part of her life to the day job, the other who partook of the persimmon seeds named Buying a House and Running Up Credit Card Debt.
There are some benefits to this separation of self from wage slave. When I’m not frolicking in the realm of unlimited fiction, Bloggish Thoughts return. I think about process. I think about how addicted I am to writing. I feel compelled to bitch about things publicly.
Also, when I am able to revel in the hard won reward of Time, I take to the page like someone crawling out of the desert takes to water. There’s no hemming and hawing about what to do with Time. Unfortunately this has made me somewhat unbalanced, somewhat desperate. There is a lack of balance in this type of existence, because I’m loath to let a moment go by without attending to the story. Play falls away as well as chores. The hundred year briar thorns devour my house while I spin at the keyboard.
There are certain dubious allies in my life who laugh at me when I whine about working in the “real” world. What they don’t understand is this loss of self, this shutting down and turning off of the spigot required in order for the writer to function in the bookkeeper’s world, or the dread that without constant tending the dream will die. I leave my treasure, my story, behind, unguarded, like a babe in the woods, ready to be devoured by indifference, exhaustion and the compelling urge to zone out in front of the TV.
Weighed down by darkness, I play a game with myself where I wonder what it would be like not to be obsessed with a dream and then I laugh, sometimes cry, because that would mean living underground full time, away from the sunlight of imagination. The trick, the answer to the riddle, is to never forget where to find the light. To never think that the filthy lucre for which I toil is the end goal or the ultimate reward. The elixir is the dream and the ability to keep walking toward it without ever looking back.