Guest Post~Tyranny of Freedom by Catherine Marshall-Smith

The Tyranny of Freedom

            When my children were small, I told myself that I would write more if I didn’t have children.  As they got older, I said I’d write more if I didn’t have them in the parent participatory school I had chosen for them.  When my youngest was seven, I went back to teaching and paid someone to replace me at his school.  Last year I said I could write more if I just didn’t have to teach.

I am off for the summer.  My two sons are on a fishing trip and my daughter is at work as is my husband.  I am so alone I feel naked.  I have done a record amount of laundry and gotten that mammogram I’ve been meaning to get all summer.  I’ve posted on Face Book and responded to my email.  And now I’m here staring at the cursor, which seems to be laughing at me.

Summer gives me freedom to write but I can’t.  I feel guilty because I am not using my time wisely.  I am not using it at all.  Writing is a pleasure, similar to meditation and when I hit my flow state I bounce back into life refreshed as though I just pushed up from the bottom of a swimming pool.  Grace settles over me, making me feel that everyone is my best friend.  My stories come from that sense of grace but it is difficult to find.  Like a G spot.  Or the peace that comes from being understood by a close friend.

During the school year I come home exhausted, have to contend with dinner and then somehow turn to my keyboard and let the ideas flow.  And they do.  Now I have a long, languid afternoon with absolute freedom to do whatever I want.  It’s quiet, there’s a breeze at my window.  The only noise is the PBS News Hour which I chose to turn on.  I have this panicky feeling that time is racing while I’m sorting socks.

What this also means is that I can never relax.  The school year is a steady stream of reasons to cope.  It is fast paced and fluid.  And it has a certain rhythmic satisfaction to it because every problem solved earns me gratification.  During the summer, I am becalmed by no deadlines and the belief that it is my God-given right to relax.  The only problem being that I can not relax either.  I waste irreplaceable time castigating myself for not writing while attempting to unwind.  I assign myself relaxation time during which I lie rigidly on the couch with a book in my hand, and my eyes on the clock.

So I’m stuck in limbo, feeling compelled to relax but unable to, needing to write, while powerless to think.  I worry about starting school without having written a word.  The Reality Police will come and tell everyone that I am not a writer.  But they’ll be wrong.   I did write this.


Once again, I’d like to thank Catherine for allowing her words to appear on my blog. Please feel free to say hello in the comment section below.

Thanks for stopping by!

juliet 🙂


Catherine Marshall-Smith
Has a written a novel, RICHARD AND MICHAEL: AN AMERICAN FAMILY, which is so far unpublished.  It is the story of two gay men, Richard and Michael, who met and fell in love in a Twelve Step program and their attempts to gain custody of Richard’s daughter from his fundamentalist Christian in-laws.  She was a nominee for the James Kirkwood Award for Fiction in 2011 and has recently received her Creative Writing Certificate from UCLA’s on-line writing program.  She is a middle school English teacher and lives in northern California with her family.