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Some days it’s more difficult than others to be the proverbial fish out of water. I actually don’t like that saying very much, but there’s no denying it does the job: You’re not where you belong..check. You can’t breathe, figuratively and, sometimes, literally…check. You’re filled with fear and anxiety…check. You will die, figuratively and, often, literally, if you don’t get where you do belong soon…check.

Don’t get me wrong…despite the gray cubicle walls, putty cabinets, and fluorescent lighting, I’m grateful for my job and truly adore my immediate team. But there’s a lot of dissatisfaction…that I bring (because my heart would rather be writing)…and that the job brings (because in health care, unless you’re at the patient’s bedside seeing the difference your work makes, there is very little gratification and appreciation). So, why don’t I quit? The people and the paycheck. I can’t imagine going anywhere else and working with women whom I love like sisters. It’s also much easier, I believe, to feel relaxed and creative with a home and money to pay for doctors’ bills, food, car repairs, etc. But…all that said…some days I quite literally feel like it’s killing my creative soul. Today was one of those days.

So leaving on my lunch hour to do my planned writerly act of the day was quite easy; in fact, I almost didn’t go back. Where did I go? To a thrift shop. Why? I’ll explain.

Tomorrow night a group of us are getting together. We all went through the same Graduate program, and early on, when the program didn’t offer a writing workshop one semester, we formed a writing group that met outside of school…and usually included lots to drink, amazing desserts, and laughter. We’ve been meeting ever since, going on three years now. We used to meet almost monthly, but since some of us have graduated it’s become more sporadic. Still, we’re a loyal group of five, sometimes seven, and affectionately call ourselves the Keys (this came about due to my affinity for actual keys…which I will get into another day).

A few weeks ago, in anticipation of our getting together for an autumn meeting, to include pozole and a bonfire, I suggested a little writing “assignment.” (I love tormenting them this way, and they always jump at the bait…for example, last year we wrote ghost stories to read to each other Halloween weekend…Halloween being my favorite holiday.) A recent trip to an antique shop had inspired me, and I suggested that we should all go to an antique shop, or a thrift store, or even into our own garages, and find three or four random objects, put them in a bag, and bring them to the party. There we’d each take a bag (not the one we brought), only to be opened once we were back home. Then we’d have until our next get together, which I’m hosting Halloween weekend, to write a story of 1,000 words using the objects in our bags. At that next get together, along with too much wine, champagne, beer and food, we’ll have five stories to share! Can you tell I love this kind of stuff?

I found my objects today. The thrift shop had that unique, unnameable smell of old, unwanted things, and I looked through family photographs, postcards, vinyl records, games, shoes, scarves. This particular store is down in Railroad Square, which is quaint, red-bricked, and popular with the tourists. The sun was slanting through the trees in that way it does when fall arrives, and the sky was a brilliant blue with clouds made for daydreaming. For one metered hour, I was back in the water, alive and well…