What I’ve Been Up To


“What have you been up to?” John, the father of the bride at the Asheville wedding asked.  We were sitting on his deck, shaded by tall trees, the wedding and morning-after brunch over, the boxes of flowers and food unloaded, a time to sit and visit for a bit before we left for the airport.

“I’ve been writing, spending time with family, doing some consulting work, training for a tri.”  I hesitated for a moment.   “And managing zucchini.”  John smiled at the zucchini comment.  I smiled because I liked my list.

It’s been a continuous struggle, since I left my job, to spend my time the way I’d imagined I would, or the way I felt I should.  But who makes up the shoulds?  I’d envisioned a life centered around my writing, with a lot of reading, and many breaks for being outdoors, gardening and kayaking and cross-country skiing, with time for traveling and unhurried visits with friends and family.  This summer, it’s finally feeling like that’s exactly what I’m doing. The activities may not be in the proportions I’d imagined, and since there’s no predicting what each day is going to bring, I’ve gotten better at not expecting a certain amount of time or attention for what I think I should be doing, and instead being grateful for the days I’m able to do largely what I want.

Maybe I’m feeling better about how this post-big-career-overwhelming-job-life is shaping up because I have been doing a lot of writing this summer.  I’m making progress on my memoir and I’ve got poems and essays out being considered for publication and at least two dozen poems in on-going revision and one poem that’s in my head as soon as I wake up, as I run or bike or swim, as I’m falling asleep, shifting a word here and there in my mind and eager to get to the page on my computer screen so I can see how it fits.

And yesterday, I cleaned the shoes out of my closet.  I had expected I would do this within a week of leaving my job over two years ago.  Seven pairs of old running shoes, three pairs of boots, black flats, slippers, walking shoes — almost twenty pairs in all, sorted and bagged and dropped off at Goodwill.  Progress.

And on the subject of gratitude, there is bounty to appreciate.  Now I’m managing cucumbers and tomatoes and green beans, as well as the zucchini.


About Grace Mattern

Grace Mattern is a poet, writer, mother, grandmother, partner, friend, family member, gardener, triathlete, hiker and for 30 years was the Executive Director of the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She resigned her position at the Coalition on June 15, 2011 in order to concentrate on her writing, while continuing to engage in the movement to end violence against women as a consultant and advisor. Her chapbook Fever of Unknown Origin was published in 2001 and her full-length poetry book The Truth About Death was published in 2012.
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