I finally got around to watching folklore: the long pond studio sessions, a low-key, intimate concert of Taylor Swift’s folklore album. As is always the case, I am perpetually behind. The concert is from three years ago, recorded in pandemic year one. It’s Swift and her collaborators, Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff, not only playing all 17 songs off of the album, which I love, but also talking with her about each of the songs, the inspiration behind them, and what went into making them.
There’s a moment that stuck with me. When discussing “Mirrorball” with Antonoff, Swift wondered, “Is it too true?” Was she giving too much away? Did she let something slip without meaning to? Was she telling too much of the truth about herself with this one song?
“Is it too true?” she asked, but she wrote the song anyway and performed the hell out of it. She’s the mirrorball. She’ll show you every version of yourself. She’ll still break into a million pieces. It’s a beautifully painful song, and It’s the honesty of the truth that gets me every time I listen to it. She doesn’t avoid it. It’s there for all of us to hear.
Listening to Swift has me wondering if the honesty of the truth is what I have been avoiding.
Several months ago, I was at the doctor’s office for a routine check-up, an annual one. It’s not pleasant. It’s not unpleasant. It just is.
We go over the list of medicines I take. We go over whether the medicines that particular doctor prescribed are still working. So far they are. We go over the questions that try to suss out whether I am, or any patient, is depressed or not. I answered them honestly because I’m fine. Buckets of fine. So fine. We also go over the basic information of my life. My insurance information. My address. My job.
I stumbled over job. They had my job listed as “homemaker,” even though I know I never told them that is what I do or that homemaker is who I am. I have no idea how “homemaker” got there. I have no idea why they have such an old-fashioned term in their database. I have no idea why they listed “homemaker” as my job because I always list “writer.” Always. Because writing is my job, even if it is only part-time.
I stared at “homemaker” on the nurse’s computer screen and wondered again how it even happened to be there.
What’s strange is what happened next. I didn’t correct the nurse. I vaguely nodded in her direction when she asked if things looked okay and continued my visit. I didn’t change my job status. I didn’t make a sound. I let “homemaker” stand. I didn’t understand why. I just couldn’t bring myself to act.
Or could I? Is that the truth of the thing? Am I being honest? I’m not sure.
What is the truth of thing? Do I want to say?
Because I’ve been mostly quiet lately. Kept to myself on social media and IRL. I mentioned something here or there, but mostly, I have remained contained. Because I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do with myself. I don’t know how to be myself either. I’m coming undone, but it’s an unraveling. A slow one. And it’s the piecing back together that makes me nervous. Who will I be once the pieces come together mismatched and different than before? It’s fucking terrifying.
Is that too true? Is that not enough? I’m not sure.
After the doctor’s appointment, I had the great idea to redecorate my office. So, I bought a new cover for my loveseat, a new lamp, new pillow covers, an assortment of skull and flower-themed wall hangings, and new curtains. It’s all a sort of romantic Goth look with pink and purple flowers, skulls, and black and gold accents. I thought if I redecorated the office, I might spend more time in there working. I would spend more time writing. I thought I would make it into something more like a writer’s retreat. I thought it would make me into inspired to be a writer again.
For months, the wall hangings remain stacked against the wall ready to be hung. The curtains and covers are still neatly packaged and resting on the loveseat. The lamp is still in the box.
Until my partner finally hanged everything to my exact instructions, and now, I have a Goth gallery wall. It’s perfect. I hung the curtains. I unpacked the lamp. My partner and I tackled that loveseat cover together. The office was finally ready. It was my ideal retreat.
I haven’t spent any more time in the office. That’s the truth.
I didn’t change my job status from “homemaker” to “writer” at my doctor’s office because at that moment, homemaker felt more true. There, I said it. I really said it.
Here’s some more truth. I haven’t been writing. I haven’t written in months. I can’t write on the project that I need to. It’s languishing, if not dead. I even tried to start a novel as a fun project. I spent a couple of weeks brainstorming a YA vampire novel, and yet I couldn’t get any words on the page.
My therapist claims that my brain needed a break from writing. Burnout, it seems, finally caught up with me and took hold. I’m not writing the things I need to. I can’t write the things I need to. I’m a writer, who isn’t writing right now, which makes me feel like not much of a writer at all. And oh boy, does my brain like to remind me of this any time it has the chance.
So, when I saw “homemaker” listed as my job, that felt more apt that day. I let it stand. Because the truth is I’m also a stay-at-home mom and a writer. I’m both. And the demands of each ebb and flow. But lately, the demands of writing are nil because I’m not doing it, so of course, momming and making the home take up most of my time. They feel more true. The “homemaker” label felt too true. Too accurate. Too painfully honest in that moment that I couldn’t do anything but let it be. In my mind, it erased my status as a writer, even though it didn’t really. I can be both. As I already noted, I am both. But as we can tell, I am sensitive about writing right now. I am sensitive about being a writer because I haven’t found my way back to writing in the way I used to.
A conversation with a friend today, however, helped me realize something important. I might not find my way back to writing the way I used to. That burnout might have taken away the way I used to write and is making it hard to write right now.1 But, but, that doesn’t mean I am done writing. It just means I have to learn to approach writing in a new way. Just because I can’t write in the ways I want to write right now doesn’t mean I’m not a writer. It just means there is more for me to figure out. That’s a new truth. And it’s one I can’t wait to learn.
1 Yes, I know I just wrote a whole blog post. Yes, that is writing. But, it took me multiple months to finish the draft of this one post. And I haven’t written a newsletter or blog post since July of 2023, so writing and I haven’t entirely been friends lately.