esmeself-portrait

 

Whether or not you live with a mental illness, or are an entrepreneur — if you are a human being, this series is important to you, because you will face challenges in your life, whether that’s illness or not; you do have responsibilities, regardless of whether or not you’re at the helm of an empire. And you need to read this because your fellow humans live with mental illness. You need to hear these stories.

Listen to me read this piece here:


 

I took the self-portrait above twenty minutes ago, with a pile of to-dos — feeling frazzled, receiving frustrating emails, wrestling with WordPress. Oh, the drama! But I dashed into my bedroom and pulled my favorite dress off of my clothes rack. It’s a georgette, blush-pink dress that I bought from one of my dearest friends, and I rarely wear it because it’s old and delicate. I put it on. I pulled a grey sweater on top of it. I grabbed my camera, propped it up on my wedding album (because I don’t have a tripod, naturally), and took a series of self-portraits. I wanted to document this feeling: a combination of anger and strength and vulnerability and fear. My chin is lifted slightly. You can see that I have one slightly lazy eye — it’s very lazy in some photos, including my first driver’s license — because it drifts in certain circumstances, such as when I’m daydreaming. I imported the photos into Lightroom, did some editing, and here we go.

This is how I am on the day before I leave for Hedgebrook.

To recap: Hedgebrook is a writers’ residency on Whidbey Island, Washington, and five writers are chosen at a time to live in their separate little cottages in the woods to do intensive work on a book. Orangette wrote about it here, which I refer to occasionally to get a sense of what life might be like for me there. There is no wireless. There is one computer in the office, and we will be allowed to check email and do brief research. They strongly discourage cell phone usage.

And so I’ve been preparing, though I’m not quite packed. Mentally, I’m preparing. I’m entering the zone of work again, in which I begin to interpret everything as something to make note of, in which I create a stockpile of books to reference and mark up. I have the title of the book, code-named TCS; I have what I think may be the basic structure of the book. I have a box full of notecards, collected over the past few months, that will help me figure out the rest.

In the meantime, I’ll be off the grid. I won’t be on Twitter. I won’t be on Instagram or Facebook or Pinterest. I won’t be answering email — setting up a vacation autoresponder is one of the final things that I need to do today. I will likely be answering phone calls at times, for those of you who have my number.

 

What of this space, in the meantime.

One of the final things that I’ve been putting together this week is a series called Off We Go: Entrepreneurs & Mental Illness.

A series of guest writers, including Nicole Antoinette of Life Less Bullshit, and Beth Kirby of the award-winning Local Milk and Sweet Gum Co., will be appearing here every Tuesday for the rest of April, with a piece about the intersections between entrepreneurship and mental illness.

I’ve been saying this to my friends, and I’ll say it now: this series astounds me. There are different tones. There are wildly different experiences. There are calls to action, and there are pieces that border on heated rants. There are lyrical, lengthy wanderings. They’re all so beautiful, and so necessary.

Whether or not you live with a mental illness, or are an entrepreneur — if you are a human being, this series is important to you, because you will face challenges in your life, whether that’s illness or not; you do have responsibilities, regardless of whether or not you’re at the helm of an empire. And you need to read this because your fellow humans live with mental illness. You need to hear these stories.

I’m trying my best to schedule my social media alerts for when I’m gone; but honestly, I’m throwing this to the wind, a bit. I’m trusting that people will find Off We Go important enough to help me spread the word. And while I’m sitting in my cottage in the woods, yelping or writing or reading or puddling through the rain, a part of me will be here, too, with the Chronicles — with this space — with the Off We Go participants, and the Off We Go readers.

So, if you please, read. Comment, and let these writers know that their voices are important, because they are. Share on your social media feeds. Use the #offwego hashtag, if it so pleases you.

I’m off to finish my errands and deeds. Be well. I’ll be thinking of you.