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Starting Point

Moving on again, hoping life will flow in the joy stream


We just put a For Sale sign in front of our house. My husband and I came to Nevada five years ago as newlyweds after I found work as a middle school English teacher. Now we are leaving, temporarily relocating to Salt Lake City, so that I can go back to school to become a certified massage therapist.

We both hope that massage therapy will be a vocation that carries me further down the joy stream, that path of following my heart that I lost when I became a middle school teacher. I’m not sure what possessed me to become a teacher. Maybe it was a job that seemed respectable after my years of wandering, a career appropriate for a newly married woman. I couldn’t be a cocktail waitress forever, could I?

I think that’s where I made my mistake. It’s never wise to get too serious about this strange journey called life. Far better to be a happy waitress than an unhappy teacher. It took me three years of teaching to realize that. It was a relief to don a waitress uniform again.

Of course, if you asked me at the time, I would have minimized the waitress part of my life. I really wasn’t a waitress, I’d say, if you asked me what I was doing. I was a writer. I didn’t leave teaching to waitress, after all. This was a temporary gig, one that allowed me to make money while I worked on my word craft.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I haven’t met my writing goals. I had planned to have a rough draft of my novel done by now. Articles in eight or nine national publications. Multiple rejection notices, at the very least. I had scheduled four hours a day at the computer. I would prove to myself, my family, my former students and colleagues that I was serious about my writing.

In retrospect, I see how silly that was. It’s foolish to force the heart into a schedule, to channel the joy stream into a straight, safe river, when what is needed is to let it pour over us, raging out of control. Even writing, which I love, grows stagnant when I call on it to redeem and justify me. It is not that important. It is not that powerful.

So if you ask me now what I do, I’m not sure what to say. I’m not a Writer, capital W, though I do like to write. An hour a day is my benchmark, time enough for words to become play, prayer, song. I’m no longer struggling to make it the center of life but accept that it’s just part of it. I would no longer tell you about my novel. It’s really just a story. Novel sounds important, wise and serious. It makes me nervous and stressed. Story is fun, like the tales I wrote in third grade, where there was no pressure, but only love, as the characters came to life.

The main character in my story is a massage therapist, and I realized, as I researched her craft, that it was something I wanted to learn myself. That it seems like good work, healing work, certainly better than waiting tables. I’d tell you that it’s the next step down that rough road, the one that moves through strange mountains under purple skies, the one Jesus walks. I thought for a time that Jesus was calling me to be a Writer, that this was the way I’d justify my presence on this planet. Now, I sense that he’s been sitting on the side of the road these past years, waiting for me to get up and follow him again, shaking his head as I run around in circles, trying to get to a place I was never meant to go.

A long time ago, Jesus told Martha that only one thing was necessary. She was worried and stressed about the meal she was preparing. I worry, too, about my writing portfolio, time management, reputation. Jesus tells us to forget all that. It doesn’t matter, he says. Only one thing does. To be with him. What a relief. Together, Martha and I dry our hands and sit with him. In the end, that’s where our joy is. Not in success. But in running the other way from it. Right into the arms of Jesus, where the joy stream starts.

Robin Taylor writes, for the moment, from Salt Lake City.

National Catholic Reporter, October 22, 1999