Rolling, Rolling, Rolling… Keep Them Dogies Rolling…

By Cornelia Read

I am a bad, bad ‘Rati again this week. I’m sitting here late on Saturday morning (well, okay, technically ten minutes into Saturday afternoon…) and just getting around to posting. I’m on the edge of my bed, which needs to be stripped and all the sheets and stuff laundered, looking at five open duffle bags with crap spilling out of them, two laundry buckets, a pile of about thirty framed photographs, my daughter’s guitar and foot locker and two large suitcases from school back east, all of my china, and an eight-foot by ten-foot rug with a map of Centre Island, New York, on it which my grandparents needlepointed together in about 1970. I’m trying to decide what goes into my new storage space, and still have to go back to my old house to get the two-drawer file cabinet filled with my writing and collected letters from the last thirty years or so, and go to my friend Sharon’s son’s middle-school graduation barbecue party this afternoon, then meet my mom tomorrow to move down to her house for the rest of the summer. And I’m wondering if the work on my old house will get done on time, and whether anyone will buy it, and whether I’ll be able to make the rent on my new apartment in New Hampshire until the next time I get paid, and meanwhile wondering what the hell happened to my life, in general. Oh, and what I’m going to be doing for my fourth novel.

Basically, I’m forty six years old and starting over. Completely. Which will probably turn out to be a good thing, but at the moment it’s kind of scary–like I’m standing at the edge of a cliff with my toes curled over into the abyss below, and all my pals are telling me that it’s going to be totally fine to jump, because the wind is strong and they’ve got my back. And I kind of believe them, but still, it’s A CLIFF, you know?

Which for some reason makes me think of the following scene from Apocalypse Now. “Someday… this war’s gonna end….”

What would really help right now is to hear some stories about times when you guys had to start over, and how it all turned out okay. I’d be deeply grateful to anybody willing to share one of those, just about now.

32 thoughts on “Rolling, Rolling, Rolling… Keep Them Dogies Rolling…

  1. R.J. Mangahas

    Starting Over huh? Okay here’s my starting over story. In 2001, I moved with my fianceé to Boston. She had a couple of health issues that she wanted to take care of before we got married. To make a long story short, so to speak, she died three years later and I had to move back home for awhile. However, since that time, I have picked up the pieces of what had happened and am now with a wonderful woman who happens to be a writer and artist (oh boy, two writers, one relationship).

  2. Cornelia Read

    R.J., Thank you. And my fears right now don’t include any loved ones dealing with major health issues, so I’m tremendously lucky. I needed to remember that this morning very much.

  3. toni mcgee causey

    Oh, Cornelia, I empathize. There was a point in time where our economy fell apart here, there were no jobs, my career in screenwriting would’ve required moving to L.A., and there was no way I could do it, and everything I’d worked for, for about ten years, seemed to come to a screeching halt.

    I couldn’t look at the big picture. The abyss was just too big. I just put one foot in front of the other for about a year. Decided I was going to go back to my first love (fiction) and just write. Write something I enjoyed, because the hell of it was, if I was going to spend my time not selling, I might as well spend it enjoying what I was doing. Everything that year was tiny little freaking baby steps.

    Family was great, but it was the friends who got me through.

    You’ll get there, C. You’re talented and amazing and you’ll get there. We’ll build a glider. 😉

  4. Chris Hamilton

    I got laid off in May 2001. I found some consulting work as a tech writer to pay the bills and had an interview about to be lined up at Disney and some other possibilities, then September 11 happened. I had search agents on every possible job board and sometimes got nothing back on any of them for weeks at a time. My faith in myself, my ability, my worth, and even God dwindled to nothing. Long story short, I finally got another real job in March 2003.

    Six years later, there’s an even chance I’ll get laid off again this year. Part of me can’t wait, if that happens. Because I am bigger than the challenge this time. I already told my wife that if that happens, I will at least match my income now. I said it, so I guess I’ll have to do it, if it comes to that. I’m not going to fail. It’s not going to beat me. If I have a say in nothing else, I have the final say in that.

    Stuff is really hard sometimes. Sometimes it pushes you to the breaking point. But I believe we are tough. I’ve seen it in people over and over again. Good times will come again.

    I’m a firm believer that nothing is wasted. The crap that falls into your life today will either be the gold you reap tomorrow, or it will be something you can use to help someone else struggling.

    Whatever the issues are driving you to start over, I hope things work out for you. I’m betting they will.

  5. Cornelia Read

    Chris, thank you. My soon-to-be ex and I both lost our jobs in early 2001, and I did the same thing with the job boards. That’s when I started the first novel which ultimately got published. Out of that dire year many wonderful things happened, and I’m trying to remember that loss can beget growth, and happiness. And if nothing else, you sure find out who your friends are, and your true family. But I’d give my right kidney for things to be just plain boring for a while, all the same.

    Dusty, email is sent. Hugs to you.

  6. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Cornelia

    You have such talent, such a gift with words. Don’t give up. This too will pass. I’ll email you, because I owe you more than you know.

    You have so many friends who care about what’s happening in your life. Share the burden ;-]

  7. Catherine Shipton

    About four years ago I had a car crash on the way home from my work at a financial planning software company. Both myself and the other driver walked away from it. Actually she had no injuries, I had severe whiplash and a fractured vertrabrae. I was 5 and half months into the probation period of my job. I ended up unable to sit at a computer for longer than 10 minutes for long time. Long enough to lose my job, long enough to have to take a leave of absence from university for a year or so. I was in that weird state where I looked ok, I felt lucky, but had to as the specialist said, give myself the time to heal…with no end date applicable. I’ve not had low grade pain my constant companion before, and used to feel like a whiner because there were/are so many other people going through bigger things than me. Except having to do very little physically, and dealing with work insurance issues (not knowing what was happening month to month) dealing with all sorts of crap from the uninsured other driver…I just felt in a fog. The thing I could depend on before (my quick thinking and ability to plan) alternated between fog and amber. It’s like the accident was a cliff and then there was the tundra, a vast plain of uncertainty with very little seeming to happen. I felt like my life got hit.Oh and I turned 40 within a couple of months of everything derailing. The car accident did give me a chance to realise that I’d been heading in the wrong direction. Yet this was also a time where I had an absence of hope(tundra time). This shook me more than my marriage breaking up a few years earlier, with the former teenage sweetheart ( one reaction at the time was to go buy a 10 kg bag of rice because that could keep us from starving, rice got weevils as we didn’t need it but I was prepared to stave off my children starving one grain at a time). So on one level I knew I could get through change, but the pace and foggy thinking was driving me nuts.

    So my point in this retelling of personal woe, was that sometimes it doesn’t look like too much from outside, but on the inside entire plates are moving. Sometimes they move at a pace slow, so freaking slow that you think you’ll go mad because it feels like you’re living your own personal groundhog day. I agree with Chris, nothing is wasted.I’ve got so much more self knowledge now, the good and the bad. I had to rebuild, and really look at the foundations I’d had versus the ones that I wanted to build. My natural inclination is to do the big dramatic change, so that slow incremental change really did my head in. I know the mental habits that hold me back now, and the ones that help drive me. I’m outta neutral, and building up speed daily for graduating next year. I have a much firmer base to launch from. At this point I’m not 100% sure what I’m doing when I graduate, but I do have options…pretty good options…cliff walking scary arse options, but it’s so much better than the trapped in amber feeling I had only a couple of years ago. Oh and my back has healed, and or I manage it better. So from then till now, yeah it’s all ok. I’m still finding cliffs, but I come equipped with the knowledge that I can do the fierce jump and the slow change too now. I had to adjust my attitude a bit to that period of my life not being one more thing piled onto my particular heap and dig a bit deeper to look at what fuels me…and use this to set me climbing again.

    Best of luck Cornelia.

  8. Catherine Shipton

    Crap that is a long long tale. The succinct version would be shit happened, I used it to make good strong bricks.

  9. Pammy D


    I don’t know what’s going on with your life.

    Years ago my I moved X country, left my successful biz, my family, friends, fab condo to marry a guy.

    Yay! Exciting! The princess finds her prince dream, fulfilled.

    No new business and I was now living in drive-by gunshot land. Nine months later my Dad died unexpectedly from a combo of medical mal and heart problems. Nine months after that my ex walks out. Unexpectedly. He then gave the house back to the bank. I had to find a place to live that would take 3 animals.

    I crashed, hard.

    I slept on the floor cause the couch was too high. I spent way too much money on therapy and way too much time trying to figure out why this ‘dish’ of a guy would do a 180 on me.

    My best friend, my Dad was dead. Couldn’t talk to him.

    In hindsight I wish I had exercised my ass off, gone to yoga twice a day, walked on the beach and prayed to the God of my choice.

    Hang in. Prayers in your direction.

    Feel free to e-mail me.

  10. Cornelia Read

    Zoe, you are so kind, and thank you.

    Catherine, I am totally in amber world right now. And tundra. I guess I’m over the cliff already. Tundra is the perfect image for what everything feels like at the moment. And good on you for making it through all that–whoa, HUGE stuff!

    Pammy, I’m with you on the whole "the couch is too high" front, except I’m minus a couch right not. But I feel damn lucky to have a metaphoric floor to crash on. Furniture will show up when it needs to, or not. I’m okay with either contingency.

    You guys are wonderful!

  11. Lisa Hendrix

    Cornelia, I’ve started over so many times I can barely recall them all. Big restarts include after a divorce, after leaving a cult, moving to Alaska to be with a man, moving deeper into Alaska to get away from him and start back to college, leaving Alaska for a stint in Japan, coming home to the States afterward with no job waiting…you get the picture. It worked out for the better each and every time, and gave me many experiences I draw on to write, and made me stronger than I would have been if I’d stayed in the safe situation(s).

    You’ll be fine. In fact, one day you’ll wonder why you thought this time was so scary. Until then, just remember to breathe.

  12. Pari

    Cornelia, Dear,
    Take heart.

    I’ve had to start over in so many ways; there were the moves to college, from college, after college, to this city and that, this boyfriend and that. There was the miscarriage. There were the babies. There were the deaths — stepfather, father, mother and godfather. The moves across country again and again.

    I felt lost. Then, little by little, my tiptoes would feel the hint of ground. Slowly, I’d make a landing and start anew.

    Each time brought me closer to where I am today. And today, at this moment in my life, I am very very grateful.

  13. Louise Ure

    Ms. C, that’s not a cliff in front of you, it’s an M.C. Escher drawing and that means there are stairs. Some go up, some go down, but they are stair steps nonetheless.

    Call out. I’m only a bridge away.

  14. Cornelia Read

    Lisa, I keep thinking back on the times everything seemed so bleak in 2001, and saying to myself "and if it hadn’t been so awful, you never would’ve finished a book, and look how many glorious people doing that brought into your life." So I’m hoping I’ll look back on this time as the beginning of something equally fine.

    Pari, right on, and thank you!

    Louise, you are so fabulous, and I’m so glad I know you…

  15. Catherine Shipton

    Cornelia, there was a lot of little interwoven discoveries that helped move me from where I was to where I am now.

    I do find that sometimes taking the time out to go for a walk in a wild place helps. My feet striking the earth, the air green and crisp in the rainforest, sometimes the sea breeze gusting relieves the tundra with amber pits feeling. Also it’s free. Me moving in nature was also sometimes the only thing I felt I had control of…so that would be my suggestion to you to not only take the hands of friends but immerse yourself in nature if at all possible.

  16. Dana King

    You’ll be fine. In 1993 I had my mid-life crisis early, at age 37. I got divorced, quit my job (with nothing lined up to replace it), and moved from Washington DC to Chicago. Now I’m back in the DC area, my daughter just graduated high school and is thriving, her mother and I get along as well as two divorced people can expect to, I have a good, steady job and a wonderful relationship.

    Once you make the jump, there can be no second guessing. Right decision or wrong, your energy has to be devoted to making this work. You can’t go back.

    As Willie Nelson said,
    I’ve got a long list of real good reasons
    For all the things I’ve done.
    I got a picture in the back of my mind
    Of what I’ve lost and what I’ve won.
    I’ve survived every situation
    Knowing when to freeze and when to run.
    And regret is just a memory
    Written on my brow
    And there’s nothing I can do about it now.

  17. karen from Mentor

    Good Choice to ask am I alone in this? Now you can tap into the power of the hundreds of people with their hearts open and aimed in your direction right now.

    Strong people make strong choices. Or survive with grace when a less than perfect choice is thrust upon them.
    Being clear enough to ask for help, at least for the kind of help that comes with a hug (virtual or otherwise) is a good first step in the starting over process.
    Hugs from someone who’s been there more than once… and god, the best part is only just beginning for me, I hope the same goes for you.
    Karen from Mentor 🙂

  18. Rae

    Hi Miss C,

    I’ve had to start over twice in my life. Once was in 1984. Bad Things Happened – most of which were my own stupid fault, but the results were still painful. Pain is pain, no matter how it’s caused. Anyway, I had zero money and a boyfriend who hated me but I couldn’t leave because I had zero money. So, I worked four or five jobs, got my act together, and ended up with a job I really loved, and the rest of life was OK, too.

    Then came 1992. I was just thinking I’d managed to get through some more Bad Things (this time not my fault, thank goodness.) when wham! My little mom-and-pop company was bought by a Big Conglomerate, and they chose the Family Man over the Single Gal, and I was out of a job in the middle of a huge recession in California. I remember very clearly writing December’s rent check and having no earthly idea where January’s rent was going to come from. I got a job on December 15.

    And that was the beginning of Mostly Good Stuff. There have been some exciting detours into Lousy Land over the past years, but when I think about it, I’m proud that I survived, and grateful for every minute of suckiness, because it all led to where I am now, which is pretty cool most of the time, in large part because it includes knowing you.

    So there.


  19. Tom

    Oy, Cornelia. In truth, your situation has had me aggrafretted since you first mentioned it here. Dunno why such crap should come your way.

    The week we got married, I got laid off from my alleged Job For Life. My bride had a great fear, based on experience, of husbands who stay home watching tv while their wives go out and work. And come home and work. My mother was dying. Our city was gripped in a local recessions. No new jobs. We were off to a flying start. Then things got really wretched for about 12 years.

    And we held on. We kept improvising. Yes, there was a time when I was working five jobs at once, no insurance, and she was terribly ill. We kept improvising. We held on. And so we do now, in somewhat better times with a different faceload of challenges.

    So: take heart. You have talent, friends and admirers. We’ll all cheer as you press on regardless.

  20. karen from mentor

    " I’m on the edge of my bed, which needs to be stripped and all the sheets and stuff laundered, looking at five open duffle bags with crap spilling out of them………. an eight-foot by ten-foot rug with……"

    Cornelia, It’s hours later, filling the dishwasher a thought occurred to me, there’s this saying….a friend will help you move, a best friend will help you move a body…….

    What exactly is on the sheets, in the duffels and maybe wrapped in the rug????

    this is murderati after all….. Just making sure this wasn’t code for best friend get over here quick!

    hope the rest of the day went well and that all of the folks thinking about you helps.(and that you take this in the spirit intended and it gives you a little chuckle to finish out the day)
    Karen 🙂

  21. JT Ellison

    Cornelia, darling, I think this is going to be a great thing for you.

    The last time I started over, it was in Tennessee, and I ended up writing, which was my dream all along. So contentious situation quickly turned into second biggest blessing (of course, Randy is number one.)

    It’ the chance of a lifetime. And you’re seizing it. Good girl.

  22. Cornelia Read

    I am so blessed to have you guys in my life, virtually or otherwise. And now I’m thinking it would be a mighty fine thing to hide a body in that rug. I mean, I’m already paying for the storage space, right?

  23. Fran

    You don’t want to put the body in the rug. It will stink up your storage space.

    I gave up my teaching job and moved from the desert southwest to Minnesota, away from everyone and everything I’d ever known, to marry someone I didn’t really know.

    Yep, it was a recipe for disaster. Skipping the details, it turned out better than I expected, and I was miserable.

    You should never make life-changing decisions, so they say, when you’re in a crisis situation, but a couple years after that move, my best friend of 36 years was dying of breast cancer, and I left Minnesota to be with her.

    Long, tumultuous, hurt-filled story short, the only time I went back to Minnesota was with Lillian, to pick up my stuff. Best decision ever.

    Sometimes you take detours, Sweetie. But frequently those detours are a resting period while you put yourself back together again, and honestly, you can’t do that if you stay in the same locale. A change of scenery really will clear out the funk of the past, and you can then move on, becoming the woman we all know you are, even if you don’t see her yet.

    I’m sorry I didn’t get to give you the biker jacket, though. You could’ve wrapped it around you when you needed a hug, and it would’ve been from me. Another time, perhaps.

  24. Cornelia Read

    Fran, I am so sorry I didn’t get back to the store, and thank you for bringing the jacket in. And thank you so much for the shoulder rub, that was awesome and much needed. You are just terrific!

  25. Keith Legg

    At first starting over was all about getting rid of stuff, being upset because I felt lost, and wondering what the hell I was suppose to do. Then came the moment, after plodding along and putting one foot in front of the other, when it became all about the adventure of life. New thoughts, bold actions, and most of all just living and being who I am. Starting over can be the best thing because it opens new doors, scary and exciting doors, that you and step through and find out life is about being alive.

  26. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Cornelia –
    I’m starting over, too, even as I’m starting to enjoy the wonderful new life as a published author. I’m balancing the joy of that with the frustration of going into foreclosure on the house that I bought a few years ago, the house that I basically rebuilt from the ground up. It’s very yin/yang. I hate the idea of having to uproot my family and put everyone in an apartment at the same time that I’ll be on tour for my first novel. But life is crazy that way. I’m fortunate that I have a loving, supportive, understanding family.
    Take care – I hope everything works out for you. This is just one step in a long, exciting journey, you know.

  27. M.J.

    In 96 I divorced my husband, quit my job, moved three times (out of where we lived, into a new place for three months then out of that place and to a new city, lost most of my friends – half who picked the husband and the others to the move . A year later my Mom (who I was really really close to) died. About 12 months after that my boyfriend of less than 2 years almost died/was in ICU for two weeks only to survive and be on dialysis and need a kidney. 6 months later my beloved 12 year old dog died… And during all that time I got about 30 rejections for my novels. It just didn’t seem there was any chance anything would ever work again. It was then at the bottom that I chose to publish a book online in a crazy experiment so I could show my agent that even though publishers said there was no way to market what I wrote there was… I just had nothing left to loose… Hang in there – you’re a terrific writer and as my Mom always said… this too shall pass.

  28. Christine

    I’ve started over completely twice. The first time, I moved from California to Pennsylvania. The second time, I moved to the DC area. Both times worked out just fine, each better than the last. It took me about a year to get into my groove here in DC. Then, for some lucky reason that still baffles me, I went to a party that a coworker was throwing, and met the man that I married last year. Also through that coworker, I met an amazing group of people, one of which had a book club that meets monthly. Through the book club, I found a singing group. I didn’t come here looking for these wonderful people, but they were all here, and I have a feeling that any place that you move to, you’ll find people that will help you find your groove. It will be scary and it might take a while, but once you get to know the people around you, it will start to feel like home.


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