November 4, 2013 § 16 Comments
I apologize for writing about writing again, but I’m having a moment. A moment of feeling crushed by Friday folders filled with requests – money for the art fundraiser, canned goods for the food drive, volunteer hours for the PTO, donations for the fall festival – and workload stresses for my professor husband, and soccer and swim tournaments, and party planning and gift triage (wish-list management, shopping, ordering, returning) for both kids’ upcoming birthdays smack in the middle of holiday season, and endless requests of “Mom, can I have a pear? Mom can I have a bandaid? Mom will you take me to Target? Mom, can you cut this tag? Mom, what’s for snack? For lunch? For dinner? Mom, can I have a piece of Halloween candy?” all piled on top of all the normal everyday demands of laundry and groceries and cooking and cleaning and ironing and play-date scheduling and initialing homework and driving to sports, and everyone wanting and needing and requesting, including me wanting for myself – I want to write – and I’ve got nothing left to give. To anyone. Anymore.
In the face of this, I’m having a moment. A moment of I can’t do it all. I can’t write and do everything else. I can’t fulfill my role of supporter with any kind of grace while also dedicating fully to my “writing career.” As I develop my skill set and hone my craft, I want to go deeper, but as CEO of the household, I have to pull back. And if I can’t go in all the way, I figure why go in at all.
I was thinking this way, thinking of giving up, thinking “I’m silly for even considering myself a writer, of saying I’m working towards a ‘writing career’ – it’s not a career if nobody’s paying me!” when I heard Angela Duckworth speak in a recent episode of the TED Radio Hour. The episode’s title? Success.
In her talk, Duckworth, who is a recent MacArthur Genius grant recipient, explained that IQ wasn’t a predictor for success in her seventh grade math students. This was curious to her. If IQ couldn’t be used to predict academic success, what could? She began studying other groups – military cadets, rookie teachers, salespeople – asking in every instance, “who is successful here and why?” Over and over again, she discovered “one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success and it wasn’t social intelligence, it wasn’t good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t IQ.”
What was it?
“It was grit.”
Grit. A favorite word. It’s in my lexicon.
As Duckworth explains:
Grit is the disposition to pursue very long-term goals with passion and perseverance. And I want to emphasize the stamina quality of grit. Grit is sticking with things over the long-term and then working very hard at it.
My husband and I have talked about this before, that it seems that talent and aptitude do not guarantee success. Though I feel he has both in spades, when everyone in our families made a big deal about his PhD, he downplayed his talents, claiming the degree was not an indicator of intellect. It merely indicated that he had endured. He had a career goal, and the PhD was required to achieve that goal, and so he just kept going until it was done. He didn’t give up, even when it was really, really hard.
The same was true for me with distance bike rides and triathlons. I’m no athlete. Phys Ed class brought down my GPA in high school. But as a young adult, when I committed to the AIDS Ride, to raising $2000 and riding my bicycle from North Carolina to Washington DC, I didn’t give up. I didn’t complete the 330 miles at the front of the pack, but athlete or not, I started, and I didn’t quit, and so I finished.
And when you start something, and you don’t quit? You finish. You succeed.
I have the same passion for writing as I did for those athletic events, only I don’t have as much time to dedicate as I’d like. I’m chomping at the bit. I want to take it to the next level. I want to write and write and write, I want to spend 3 or 4 hours a day writing, I want to pursue ideas that require concentration and focus, I want to run with it. But I also want to be Mom, and I can’t do them both and do them both well, and that makes it really, really hard. It makes me want to say I can’t run with this, what’s the use, this isn’t working, I am Mom, not writer, I quit.
Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint. – Angela Duckworth
I’ve completed an Olympic distance triathlon. I’ve birthed two babies without painkillers. I’ve been a stay at home mom for ten years and have not thrown a child or myself out a window. I can do slow and steady. I can endure.
When host Guy Raz asked about how we might build perseverance, Duckworth replied, “believing that change is possible inclined kids to be grittier.” By knowing that change is possible we can believe that persistence will pay, we can acquire grit, we will recognize that even when failure seems eminent, we can succeed on the other side because failure is not a permanent condition.
I know change is possible. I know that every situation is temporary, including these Mom years, when our kids are young, and they need me. My perceived failure as a writer is not a permanent condition. The moment I’m having? The one I mentioned in the lead of this post? It will pass. In fact, in the time since I began drafting this piece on Saturday morning, and now, as I finish it up on Sunday evening, it already has. Change has already occurred. I no longer feel like quitting. And as for the sprinting? I don’t need to race. I want out of the gate, but I can keep warming up for a while first.
I can do slow and steady. I can endure. One day, maybe ten years from now, maybe fifteen, I will get to the point where I no longer feel the need to put quotes around my “writing career.” I’m gritty, damn it. I will succeed.
How gritty are you? Take Duckworth’s test here to find your grit score.
October 9, 2013 § 15 Comments
“The only time I have anything interesting to write is when I go on vacation.” (“No way,” “That’s a bunch of crap,” from around the room). John, in my critique group, was talking about how he has a hard time coming up with new material in his regular life. “You know, on vacation everything is new and exciting,” he said. “It’s the only time I see things with fresh eyes.”
I knew what he was talking about. It’s a lot easier to write about something new and exciting than to write about something old and ordinary. Or maybe easier isn’t the right word. Obvious. The world is much more obvious when it’s novel, which then makes it more accessible. We are more apt to note it when it smells different, when the scenery changes, or when the people are unlike the ones we interact with in our daily lives.
“What do you do in your regular life?” someone asked John.
“I’m a contractor. I remodel kitchens and stuff like that. Nothing exciting,” he said.
“I think that sounds pretty cool,” I said. “I don’t know anything about remodelling. I’d love to read about the houses you renovate around here – what they looked like before, what they look like after, and how you transform them.” I pictured a sledgehammer to cabinets.
“And the people you remodel them for,” someone grinned. I saw a young, upper middle-class white couple, both Type A personalities, wearing pressed button-down shirts and polished pointy toed shoes, pointing and gesturing in the kitchen doorway as they give John his instructions.
John looked around the table at us. “Really? It seems boring to me. Like, who would care about this?” Then he chuckled and gave a different description of his customers than I had imagined. “Well, the clients are interesting,” he said. “I’ll give you that. Women have disrobed for me when I walk in the door.”
“That really happens?” I said.
“I would read about that!” someone else said.
“See?” Les said. “You could write a blog: The Handyman of Love,” and we all laughed. John looked thoughtful and scribbled a few notes on his notepad.
This is a constant struggle for bloggers and personal essayists, to consider their life experience interesting enough to write about. They live it every day. It is ordinary to them, and it is difficult to see what could be interesting about the minutia of their daily lives.
A few weeks after the Handyman of Love writer’s group, I drove by the corn fields where I had been certain on a recent run that the Children of the Corn were going to jump out and get me, and a tractor pulling what looked like a tiny red barn was – reaping? I watched from a stoplight, and my mind filled with questions. What is the machine called that’s cutting the corn? What is the action called that the tractor is doing? Reaping? Harvesting? Threshing? All of the above?
The traffic light turned green, and when I arrived at the school to pick up our kids for dental appointments, I said, “Hey guys, they’re cutting down the corn.”
We had watched the corn grow all summer, gauging its height with each passing week. “Do you think it’s as tall as you?” I said to the kids in early July. “I think it’s as tall as you, Mom,” they said to me in early August. “Look how tall it is now!” I pointed in September. “It’s even taller than Dad!”
Our son’s face lit up as he bundled into the car, “I want to see them cutting the corn!”
I explained what I had witnessed on my way to the school. “There was a green tractor pulling this, this,” I had no idea what the thing was called that the John Deere was pulling. “This red think that looked like a miniature barn.”
We crested a rolling hill and I could see the corn fields. “The tractor drove along the edge of the corn,” I said, “and it pushed the stalks forward, and cut them, then I saw stuff shooting backwards into the little barn.” I gestured with my right thumb, pointing it backwards over my shoulder to show how the stuff shot. I wished I knew what the barn thing was called. “Leaves and ears of corn it looked like,” I said, my thumb still pointing backwards. I wished I knew what the cutter thing was called. How to name the process I witnessed. “And after the tractor passed, the corn stalks were gone. Just broken stubs in the ground.”
I put both hands back on the wheel and looked out the window. I didn’t know the process well enough to describe it to our kids. I didn’t have the right words. This everyday ordinary event to the farmer was a complete mystery to me. Every step I tried to explain to our kids it was in my face that I had no ideas what words to use – “red barn thing” – or how to explain the process. The farmer, if he were a writer, might think his work, driving a tractor around the edges of a cornfield, making the square smaller with each turn, was too common sense, too mundane to bore or insult his readers by describing it.
But something I learned from both John (the handyman of love) and the farmer (with the red barn thing), is that one person’s plain old everyday life is new and unknown to another. As a writer, I must constantly remind myself of this. Every time I sit with words and think, this is obvious, everybody knows this, I remind myself that nobody else has lived my life, nobody else is inside my head (y’all should be thankful for that – it’s crazy in there), and that if I am to write well, it is my job to see my ordinary everyday life with fresh eyes, and to not discount it.
Last weekend, after we cleaned the dinner dishes and were getting ready for our Friday night ritual of watching Merlin together as a family, I said, “Let me take my makeup off and then I’ll be down.“ I started climbing the stairs.
“Can I come watch you?” our daughter asked. She’s seven.
I stopped on the staircase and sighed a huge sigh. I just wanted to get this done and be downstairs on the couch with the kids and a blanket. “Really sweetie? It’s not that exciting.”
She hung her head. “Okay.”
The mysteries of John’s life as a handyman, and my ignorance of the process of harvesting corn popped into my head, along with my own constant reminders when I’m in writing mode to not dismiss everyday details. It occurred to me that this end-of-the-day routine is totally mundane to me, but our daughter never seen makeup removed before. It is new and interesting to her.
“I’m sorry, baby,” I said. “Of course you can watch.”
We walked upstairs together and she leaned in the doorway to the vanity sink while I put my hair in a ponytail. I grabbed my blue Estée Lauder bottle and pumped cleanser into my left palm.
“What’s that?” our daughter asked. Until this point in her life, she had only used a bar of soap to wash her face, even when she played “makeup” and had to remove it.
I turned the bottle so I could read the label. “Take it Away Makeup Remover Lotion,” I said. “It’s not as harsh as using soap.”
I dabbed my right finger into the dollop of cleanser and explained, “You should always wash makeup off at the end of the day.” I dabbed cleanser on my forehead. “It’s not good for your skin or your eyes to leave it on.”
“What makeup do you have on?” she asked.
“Powder, blush,” I dabbed my nose, my cheeks. “Eye shadow, mascara,” and I dabbed my right eyelid, then my left.
“What about eyeliner?”
“Nope, no eyeliner today,” I said.
“What is eyeliner?” our daughter asked.
So many things I take for granted. “Eyeliner is the makeup you draw on at the base of your eyelashes,” I told her, “to line the shape of your eye.”
I rubbed the cleanser into my skin as she leaned in the doorway. Her hands were in her hoodie pockets and she rested her shoulder and head against the door frame. After I rinsed my face, I explained the cream for the puffy bags under my eyes. I read the labels from the tiny tubs of my Lancôme free samples – “Génifique youth activating concentrate,” I said in a fake French accent. “That means it’s supposed to make me not wrinkly,” I said, and we giggled.
I screwed the lid on the final moisturizer and I kneeled down to our daughter’s level. I felt closer to her after sharing this little everyday ritual that I take for granted, that before had seemed so ordinary it wasn’t worth explaining. There’s a certain intimacy in taking part in someone’s daily routines that I didn’t appreciate until that moment. “Why did you want to watch me take off my makeup?” I asked.
She shrugged. “I didn’t know how you did it,” she said. I hugged her, and as we walked downstairs together to watch Merlin, I realized that like contracting and farming are not obvious to me, my life is not obvious to our children. They do not already know all the things I know as a 39-year-old woman. As with writing, where I constantly remind myself to not dismiss everyday details, as a parent, if I am to parent well, it is my job to see my ordinary everyday life with fresh eyes, and to not discount it.
September 13, 2013 § 6 Comments
In my writing workshop last weekend, I had a bit of a freak out about respecting our kids’ right to privacy and not writing about them anymore. But those are my best pieces, I panicked. During a 10-minute free write, I wrote,
As a stay-at-home-mom whose life consists of my husband, my children, these walls, washing dishes… most of my stimulus, my interaction, my life experience that would be of any interest to the outside world are the funny things my kids say, the conversations we have about sex and bad words and God. My material comes from my husband and my children, because really, who wants to read about dusting picture frames and planning grocery trips? What do I write about as a stay-at-home-mom who won’t write about her husband and kids?
When I read this back to the workshop, the instructor’s mouth dropped open. She shook her head and I think she may have wagged a finger at me. “Oh no no no. Change of plans. We’re not doing the next exercise until we get something out of the way first. Andrea, you do a 10-minute free write about yourself without husband or children. Your prompt: ‘I’m not married and I don’t have kids.’”
I glared at her. “I don’t like this plan, Lesley.”
She smiled sweetly. “Good.”
I’m traveling. I’m in Ireland, in the green hills and pubs and stone walls. I’m at Stonehenge. Then I’m in Italy, eating pizza, sitting in the sun, riding on a bus.
But I’d be lonely. As I sat on a green hill on campus today, on my belly in the grass, with no husband, no children, just the sun and the blue sky and the buzz of insects and my miniature prompt book, I saw a little girl ride by on her purple sparkled bicycle. Her helmet was white and pink, and she looked to be maybe 7, and the sight of her made my heart ache for my daughter. It had only been four hours, and I missed her.
But I’m to write about what it would mean to me to be a woman not defined by my husband or my kids, as that is how I defined myself in the previous piece. “What can I write about if not my husband and kids?” My God, I’m going to have another identity crisis.
Needless to say, Lesley’s plan unmoored me. When I moved from the workplace into the home to raise our kids it was critical to me to maintain my identity, to not be defined solely by my roles as wife and mother, to not be lost, wandering in circles and wondering “Who am I?” when our children move away. I wasn’t one of these women I read about in Judith Warner’s piece, The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In, powerful executives who gave up success and high pay and a bright future to raise families, but that doesn’t make my identity any less important. My husband and I both wanted our children to see that I am not just Mom, a one-dimensional woman whose sole purpose is to serve them, and their school, and our family. I am Andrea, too.
So why, then, all the belittling self-talk? Why, when faced with the prohibition on writing about my family, did I feel so less than – less than the high-powered execs, less than my husband, less than my kids, as if their life experiences are so much more valuable than mine, their stories more worthy of telling? Why did I feel I have no stories to offer if I can’t offer theirs? Perhaps it is the memory of the neighbor who said, “Is that all you do?” when I told her I was a stay-at-home-mom. Or the glazed eyes of a grad student at a party after she asked, “What do you do?” (those dreaded four words) and I said, “I stay home with our kids,” and she sipped her drink through her straw and scanned the room for someone more interesting to talk to.
Or maybe it was analogous to when someone says, “Don’t think of black,” and of course all you can think of is black. When I thought “don’t write about husband or kids,” I zeroed in on their significance in my life. I don’t know who I would be if not for them now, I wrote.
But as Lesley instructed at the beginning of the exercise, I kept the pen moving. “Don’t lift your pen from the paper. Do not pause. Do not think. Just write.”
But if I am to follow my son’s advice, if I am to write what I like, I am a book lover. I love words. I love the way words can capture life, can articulate feeling, can bring us together and show us – yes! There is someone else like me! I get you, you get me, I am not alone.
I continued, I like place. I like the feel of fresh air on my skin, the smell that distinguishes a person’s home, the scent of a cliff over the Atlantic in Maine, the silk of my daughter’s hair spread over her pink pillow. I began to feel grounded. Less floaty. I like people. I like the refined drawl of my aristocratic Southern Grandma. I like boatsmen who wave. I like bakers who see their craft as a means to share celebrations. Felt my Andrea-self flowing down my arm and through the ink. When I am alone, and not doing chores, I choose to read, or I choose to write. Or I walk in nature. I watch a butter-white butterfly soar up and down over violet blooms, flapping its wings excitedly in sunlight, “ohmigod ohymigod, I found it guys! I found the purple flowers!”
When the timer dinged, I wasn’t satisfied that I’d gotten anywhere. That I’d have anything to write about, or any stories to tell. Lesley instructed us to read through our piece, pick three words or phrases, and for each of those we would do a three-minute word association exercise. Okay. Easy enough. I picked “what I like,” “life experience,” and “stay-at-home-mom.” She started the timer.
I wrote, What I like: thunderstorms, islands, sand, sea, salt, sky, white puffy clouds. As I wrote, I thought, huh. I’ve written pieces about all of these things. Baking bread, color, literature, trees, rocks, thinking, smells, coffee, a good pen. Good pieces, I thought. I wrote good pieces about some of these, and I could write better pieces about more. God, the universe, pastries.
We moved to our second phrase. Life experiences: Riding a bicycle from North Carolina to Washington, DC, SCUBA diving, toting carboys of water through the woods, happy hour in Annapolis. Those were good times. Riding in boats, making marsh shoes, fiddler crabs. I’ve written about those too. Maybe I don’t depend on the kids for material as much as I thought. Attending Quaker meeting, natural childbirth, living on an island. Damn, there’s a lot here.
I started feeling good, started thinking about whether my best pieces really are about the kids and realized, nope. They are not. My best pieces have been about my own experiences, sometimes from the perspective of mother, which is a large part (but not all) of who I am, and sometimes not. And so I came to my final phrase. I swallowed and began.
Stay-at-home-mom: Mother, nurturer, loving, kind, compassionate, baker, home maker, peace maker, yeller, boring, bland, creator of life. Supportive, alone, lucky, temporary, mother, mother, love, love, tender, caring, family, trying really hard to do the best thing for our kids, opportunity to write, good at my job, funny, different from what folks expect, full of ideas, educated, intelligent, warm, big-hearted. Not boring. Interesting.
The timer dinged and I stared at my list. My identity there on the page. Not boring. Interesting. Human. A woman who who has plenty of her own stories to tell.
This is part 2 of a two-part series. For the first installment, please see The right to be forgotten.
The ultimate reading experience: when your real life setting jibes with (or opposes) the one in your book
September 10, 2013 § 11 Comments
In general, my memory is pretty terrible. I remember books; I remember their stories, their characters, whether I enjoyed the work or not. But I rarely remember details of the circumstances under which I read them: where I was sitting, what was around me, the physical, sensory scene in my real life.
But sometimes the universe conspires to give you the ultimate reading experience, putting a book in your hands at the exact time and place you will be able to experience it to the fullest. Sometimes the words on the page interact with real life in a way that sets a scene you will remember for a lifetime, bringing literature to life so vividly that the story is impressed into your reality, forever:
‘Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King: I was a young teenager when I went through my Stephen King phase. My family lived in a large house on a small island off the coast of Georgia. At the time there were only a few houses on the island, and our road was dirt, not asphalt. We were a twenty minute drive from the mainland (ie a hospital), if there was an emergency. We were isolated. My room was on the second floor, and I had a white day bed with brass knobs on the corner posts. My bed was pushed up against the window, so that when I propped my head against the pillows to read, my body lay inches from the glass, my face in the center of the single four-foot pane. On the other side of the glass, a few feet from the house, swayed a cabbage palm, its moppy head at eye level with my bed.
One night, I stayed up late eating King’s pages. My blinds were closed (Duh! Of course I closed them. I was reading ‘Salem’s Lot), and I came to a scene where a vampire hovered outside a window, tapping, seeking entry into the home. My heart pounded, my eyes darted to the glass a foot from my face, and then there came a quiet screeching on my window, like fingernails on a chalkboard. Screeeeeech. Screeeech. I threw the book down and jumped out of bed, my chest heaving, until I rememberd, “The palm fronds” (pant pant), “It’s just the palm fronds.” With each skritchy squeak on the window, my heart thumped dangerously. I envisioned the vampire floating there, only inches away, his fingernails sharpened to better scratch the glass, his smile twitching because he could smell the vigor of my fresh, pulsing blood. I have never been more terrified while reading. I think I may have hidden the book, or removed it from my room, but the screeching continued all night. Even now, twenty-something years later, when I go home and hear the sound of palm fronds on glass, I think of ‘Salem’s Lot.
Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell: I was once traveling and got delayed in Atlanta for several hours – maybe six or eight? I had brought with me the 32-pound hardcover of Gone With the Wind, and with so much time on my hands, rather than sit in the loud and bustling Atlanta airport, I decided to take the Marta train downtown to Centennial Olympic park. I lugged Mitchell’s tome with me and found an outdoor table at a café where I could watch kids chase bursts of water shooting up from the ground in the Centennial park fountain. As I read with my huge book splayed flat on a black iron café table, the moist Georgia heat pressed down on me. Condensation from my icy Coke trickled down the cup and pooled, then dripped onto the sidewalk below. I didn’t understand Atlanta, this city that seemed to be both South and not-South, with its messy tangle of inelegant roads and its fast pace and its strange mixture of old and new that I rarely experienced in coastal or rural Georgia. For four hours I sat with my dripping cup and I turned pages. I read the city – it’s pre-Sherman heyday, its burning, its invasion by outsiders, the fierce pride and dignity of its natives, reconstruction’s disregard of the South’s ways, of gentility, and Atlanta’s in-your-face rise from the ashes – on the pages of Mitchell’s book as in real life I breathed its air, drank its Coke, and listened to the laughter of its children, finally, through a work of fiction, understanding the history of this proud city that rose and fell, and then rose to what it is today.
Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris: (There are, um, a few F-bombs in this piece. Consider yourself warned.) Though it wasn’t the first time I read Me Talk Pretty One Day, my most memorable reading took place in Minnesota where, in the Mom circles I ran in, I never heard a single swear word (much to my dismay). I sat in the bleachers at the ice skating rink where my daughter wobbled back and forth in her lessons, the paperback in my lap, and I read “The Rooster,” a story about David’s brother, Paul, who “politely ma’ams and sirs all strangers but refers to friends and family, his father included, as either ‘bitch’ or ‘motherfucker.” Paul’s response to his father’s various lectures was, “‘Fuck it,’ or on one of his more articulate days, ‘Fuck it, motherfucker. That shit don’t mean fuck to me.”
The story was absolutely inappropriate for the wholesome ice rink setting, which added to its hilarity, and I tried to stifle giggles while moms chased toddlers around me. Children ran laps on the metal benches to hear the tinny clank clank clank of their feet on aluminum just as I got to the line where Paul says, “Some motherfucker told me to get the fuck out of his motherfucking face, so I said, ‘Fuck off, fuckface,’” and I laughed the kind of laugh that when you try to keep it in, it builds until your face contorts, and your shoulders shake, and tears are streaming down your face and you can’t see because your vision is blurred and you have to close the book before some nice non-swearing mom asks you what you’re laughing at. (This is not the first time this unsuccessful laughter-containment has happened to me. See: Lost Balls). Once my eyes were dry again, and I felt I could go on (because this is possibly the most fun I have ever had reading a book), I finished the story, which ends with “an enormous Fuck-It Bucket – a plastic pail filled with jawbreakers and bite-size candy bars, [because] (‘When shit brings you down, just say ‘fuck it,’ and eat yourself some motherfucking candy.’)” and I was simultaneously pleased and horrified to have the laughing fit happen all over again when a small child fell and hurt his knee, and I felt bad for him, and I thought, that poor kid needs a Fuck-It Bucket.
What about you? Have you had an ultimate reading experience?
August 12, 2013 § 10 Comments
“I’m drinking coffee in bed.” That was going to be the first line of my blog post today, a line that I landed on at 3 o’clock AM and then continued with for hours as I lay awake, composing. And the line was going to be true. I was going to drink coffee in bed, which I have never done before, because my husband was going to work out in my writing space (the living room) this morning, because his mom and our nephew are in his workout space, sleeping.
So I lay awake, thinking about what I’d write, propped up in bed with my composition book in my lap, pillows behind my back and smooth sheets over my legs, and my white porcelain cup sitting on a makeshift nightstand of a large stack of books. I imagined the inspiration I’d draw from my new writing position, not just because it would be a novel space, but because it would be private. With a door.
As I wrote, in my head in the dark, without keyboard or pen or paper, I thought of a million other things as well, as people will do when they lay awake at 3AM. I thought of the beans I need to cook today, and wondered if I make a pot of coffee at 6, will it still be fresh when my mother-in-law wakes up? I remembered all the things I need to squeeze in, and attempted to manage everyone’s wishes for the day – the boys want to go to the turtle pond by themselves, our daughter wants to go bowling, I need to cut tags off and launder some back to school clothes, Grandma would like to return and exchange others. The kids want to go to the toy store. Interspersed with those exciting thoughts were regrets about my writing practice, and how far it has fallen these past few weeks. Words crawled through my head like spiders as I lay there, trapping me in their webs, keeping me awake. I haven’t been sweeping them out, and I felt like I was going a little mad, like an injured athlete who cannot train at the level she wants, who paces, restless, waiting for the time when she can get back to it already.
And then I’d come back to “I’m drinking coffee in bed,” and long for the privacy, and think how I’m looking forward to the first day of school like a kid looks forward to Christmas. I counted the days (23) and told myself I can make it.
I didn’t drink my first cup in the sheets this morning, propped against pillows and lifting my cup from a stack of books next to the bed. I’m on the couch instead, composition book in my lap, my legs tucked underneath me and my coffee cup on its regular perch on a small wooden stool. I’m in the living room because my insomnia kept my husband up, too, and now he is catching up on sleep instead of working out. Of the six people in our home, I am the only one awake, so though I am in an open space, without a door, I am still able to sneak a few minutes of privacy.
Soon, life will get back to normal. Soon the kids will be back in school and I will have quiet, and routine, and freedom to listen to my podcasts without worry of listening ears, or constantly drying my hands to hit pause for endless interruptions – “Mommy, can I have a snack? Will you play a game with me? Where are my shorts? Will you cut me a peach?”
Soon I’ll have privacy and the solitude my sanity depends on, without having to hide in my room, drinking coffee in bed. Soon I will be writing again. I’ll get back into my practice and sweep out the words. Soon. 23 days.