Caught In a Net

Colored butterfly in the green grid

Shortly after I began writing a weekly column for the local newspaper, I was pondering a head of lettuce at the local supermarket when an elderly gentleman with gray bushy eyebrows, a battered cowboy hat, and a painful-looking limp wheeled his cart my way.

“Hey, you! Yes, you.”

Startled, I looked around, but saw no other shoppers. Was he talking to himself or me? Finding either alternative alarming, I clutched my lettuce and prepared to flee.

“You’re Janet Sheridan, right?”

I nodded. In my hurry, did I cut him off in the parking lot? Or, heaven help me, had I run over his foot?

Without altering his stern expression, he limped on by, tipping his hat as he said, “I like your columns, young lady. They read real good.”

No words could have pleased a fledgling columnist more. When someone finds something of worth in my words, I feel my writing has served a purpose beyond my own enjoyment and self-fulfillment — which is why I started a blog.

Unlike my columns, Aunt Beulah invites readers to communicate with me and makes it easy for them to do so. In addition, the potential audience includes bloggers: writers of all ages and nationalities who amaze me with their insights, skilled use of words, and insistence on quality. Some have become friends.

Much as I enjoy these interactions, however, a state of critical self-examination about my writing has pursued me for some time, like a collector stalking a butterfly. Most of the time, I manage to ignore the hovering net. Caught up in the ease and comfort of producing writing I’ve learned how to do — newspaper columns and the mini-columns I write for my blog — I flutter happily about, enjoying the attention my efforts earn.

But I’m not totally oblivious. Occasionally, the net descends and unbidden thoughts intrude, give me pause, make me question.

Have I become lazy, a one-trick pony? What has happened to my desire to create poetry, to write fiction, to tackle darker topics? Do I busy myself with columns and blog posts and comments in order to avoid stretching my wings? Does the writing I do interfere with the writing I could do?

And, if so, is that a problem? Is it OK to ride the currents in the mountain meadow where I am without thinking I should be making my way up higher peaks?

When, in life, is it permissible to drift in place for the pleasure of doing so without seeking growth or improvement?

I sometimes wonder if others question themselves as I do in terms of developing and improving their talents, hobbies, or passions;but  usually I decide that whether to linger in a comfort zone or take on a challenge depends on where we each are in our individual lives.

So I’ve decided to put my debate aside, to explore the meadows where I find myself, and to enjoy the reader interaction I relish —at least for a while.

And I tell myself that my mental agitation means I’m still interested in nurturing my mind, exercising my talent, and increasing my chances of aging well. Aunt Beulah would be proud.