Woke up early to run this morning, and woke up my eldest girl too. She wasn’t going for a run. Nope: science project due today, with a few finishing touches to complete: framing text and photos and placing them on her backboard. “Herbal Medicine.” She even prepared her own Garlic Tincture for the project. She left for school looking proud and happy and DONE! That is a good feeling.
She didn’t get a nap, but I did. Thankfully. Doing dishes at 10 o’clock at night is not conducive to early morning exercise.
I drifted down into sleep thinking about this article that’s going around called “Creative People Say No.” According to the piece, a signficant proportion of creative people say no to things they consider distractions in order to get their work done. The article irritated me. Why? Do I disagree? Do I just dislike saying no?
I don’t disagree, in fact. I know the time it takes to complete a project. The quality of that time matters, too. If you’re going deep, you need to sink down slowly, stay under, and not be presumptively yanked out. (Being presumptively yanked out seems the very definition of parenting, frankly.) I fight for my time, and resent when it’s taken away. In fact, I probably do say no quite often. When I’m deep inside a project I believe it wise and wholesome and productive to say no to the following major distractions: Facebook, Twitter, email.
But there are many things I cannot say no to.
I can’t say no to the dishes, no to the science fair project, no to the sick child, no to the solo parenting weekend due to Kevin’s work, no to providing meals and clean clothes, no to walking the dogs, at least not all the time. And there are many things I don’t want to say no to, too. I want to see my kids play soccer and swim. I want to help them practice piano. I want to meet friends for lunch and early morning runs. I want to connect and be connected, and therefore I say yes.
Reading that article gave me a sense of panic, I suspect. Given all these things I can’t say no to, how can I possibly create? But I do! I do create. There is more than a smack of privilege to this whole “saying no” thing, an assumption that a creative person owes to his or her art an aloof and introverted life.
That actually doesn’t work very well for me.
That said … how different would my life look if I worked in a traditional full-time job, if my office were not in my home? What would I have the privilege of saying no to, under those circumstances? We might have a dishwasher that the kids could load and unload. Kevin might share sick kid duties. Our meals might be less from scratch, or more from the crockpot. Then again, I might not be able to meet friends for lunch quite so easily.
Kevin and I are thinking about these details quite a lot right now, imagining sharing the roles at home and at work more evenly, imagining our lives shifted slightly, again, to accommodate me stepping even more fully into work, and him stepping even more fully into home. I say yes a lot, but I’ll tell you, I would happily say no to the dishes.
“Hope is the thing with feathers …”
Can you see the crows perched in the branches of the trees, above, so thick they almost look like black leaves? Less hopeful, perhaps, than ominous, but extremely compelling. We stood and watched them for ages last night. (Click on the photo to see in full.)
Two things I needed, this morning:
1. I needed sleep. And sleep was received, sound and deep, all through the night. I chose not to set my alarm and wake early.
2. I also needed this (though I didn’t know it): a hand-delivered card from the book club I visited on Monday evening. “Fortune befriends the bold” – Emily Dickinson, is printed on the front of the card. I opened it and read the handwritten message inside and sat on the floor and almost cried. It’s the little things, isn’t it. The small gestures that go such a long way toward giving a person that necessary spark. I needed a little spark this morning, as I slog through the manuscript one last time, and hope for the best.
“We were grateful for the opportunity to hear you read; to hear how stories are born in the writer’s imagination; and then, the hard work needed to share that creation with the reader.
“We joked about becoming your fan club, but, in fact, a book club is a fan club of sorts. We celebrate words on the page and we appreciate the courageous few who choose writing as their life work.
“How fortunate we are for your willingness to share your gift with us.”
Thanks to all the book clubs who have bravely and warmly welcomed this writer in. You may not know it, but I consider it a gift, too, to be able to share what I’ve got.
Maybe my body is trying to tell me something.
Maybe my horoscope on Thursday was right (it said I was doing too much and needed to slow down).
Maybe one cannot hold a pose of strength all the time.
After a solid writing day on Thursday, and an evening of driving children around to swimming and soccer, I returned home realizing that I felt … not quite right. In fact, a good deal worse than not quite right. In fact, I felt quite terrible enough that I needed to climb into bed without bothering to eat supper.
A few hours later, the youngest woke up with the unmistakable symptoms of stomach flu. I will spare you the details. I realized that I, too, was so queasy I was having difficulty sleeping. By yesterday morning I was basically prone, laid out flat. I didn’t even resent missing a writing day due to looking after a sick kid because all I wanted to do was sleep. He watched movies, I slept, piled upon by concerned dogs.
By afternoon, when sick kid was feeling improved and I discovered myself lying under a blanket on my office floor (it’s very warm) unable to respond to his demands for his water bottle, I texted my mother an SOS. She arrived and stayed until Kevin was home with the soccer/skating children at around 8pm. I slept and slept and slept. And then I slept all night too.
I’m a little less prone today. In fact, I am sitting at my office desk. Yay! Yesterday I was pretty sure I was dying, but today I’m feeling more optimistic about survival. (Yes, I am a hypochondriac; no, I would not make a good invalid.)
Rest, rest, rest.
Can I manage it? Seems an easy demand to meet, especially given that it’s the weekend, Kevin’s home, today is quiet.
Rest, rest, rest.
I’ll try, body. I’ll try.
New words written yesterday: 1,293.
Words in book, total: 83,139.
New scenes written: 2.
New scenes written that I hadn’t planned on writing: 1.
Scene left painfully half-done due to the call of parenting (and piano lessons): 1.
A reader left a comment on yesterday’s post sending me joy, which had been her meditation word for the day. First let me say that I love the concept of a meditation word. I tried it out at yoga this morning. The instructor suggested “love,” (it is Valentine’s Day), but I kept coming back to joy.
When I lay down for my morning nap, I wanted to say thank you, though I don’t know exactly why, to my great-grandparents, only one of whom was still alive when I was born — my great-grandma Ida, from whom I inherited my red hair. She passed away in the month following my birth, but I’m told she held me in her arms and acknowledged the arrival of another red-headed relation.
So as I drifted into sleep, I thought of each of these eight blood ancestors by name, men and women who gave me the genetic code that is uniquely mine. I am older by five years than two of them got to be, though others were long-lived. I thought particularly of my namesake, Carrie Anne, who died in her early 30s. I thought of the difference between my life and hers. I thought of the freedoms that I have had in comparison to the strictures of her life. I wonder if by expressing joy in the life I am given, I am thanking my ancestors for the unknown gifts and sacrifices their own lives contained.
A friend and I were discussing sacrifice yesterday. I said that I don’t believe in sacrificing myself — martyring myself — although I know that circumstances don’t always allow us to choose. But if we have the choice, I think it does nobody any good to behave in ways that are sacrificial. I don’t mean that we should never give of ourselves, not at all. Looking in at those early years with my children, one could imagine a great deal of sacrifice going on — all that breastfeeding, those interrupted nights, those days spent walking blearily around the block. But that was no sacrifice. I chose it, and I loved it, and I received in return so much from it. I was not diminished or depleted by giving of myself.
And so I ask:
Are you doing things that you don’t enjoy?
Can you find ways to enjoy them?
If not, can you change what you are doing?
If not, can you ask for help? Can you find someone to talk to? Can you change one small habit and see what ripple effect it may have?
Goal for today: 1,000 words.
Finish half-done scene and explore changing location of final scene.
Smile … and GO!
Woke up yesterday to this: silvery wonderland, trees covered in what I remember being called hoar-frost. I walked the dogs, then came home for the camera. By noon, or sooner, the long white shards had melted off the branches.
I had the urge to slow down this weekend. It didn’t happen, but I wondered whether I might find a way to shift my habits and routines, even just a little bit, in order to allow myself to alight in the moment, and rest. I alight in many moments. It’s the rest part I can’t seem to locate. I parented alone all weekend and sprinted from task to task, from must-do to must-do. At one point yesterday, I realized that I was using precious adrenalin to whisk bread dough into greased pans before racing out the door to soccer — it struck me as oddly wrong. The slow preparation of bread, the two long rises, the “simplicity” and genuine goodness of homemade set against my relentless schedule — shoe-horned into my relentless schedule. What is the cost of operating at such high levels of intensity? Is it my health? I definitely feel like I’m aging more rapidly or visibly these days — rogue white hairs squiggling out of my scalp, facial wrinkles deepening.
I laid the bread into the pans and forced myself to breathe deeply.
But, oh, worth it. That’s why I can’t seem to stop. Homemade bread. And a really fun soccer game.
Last night, before bed, I applied a face-mask of yogurt and grains: maybe the sloughing of a little dead skin will help with the rapid/visible aging problem; maybe not. Still, I took the time.
My hair looks good this morning. So far, the only people aside from family to have seen it have been the school bus driver (who wears a knitted toque himself) and a man walking a dog (which sniffed me; dog, not man).
The school bus was late this morning.
I didn’t eat breakfast until after doing the dishes I should have done last night.
I was too tired to do dishes last night, or even to function as a responsible parent, and instead fell into a deep sleep on the couch while my children entertained themselves in the new Lego play area. Bits of their play drifted into my dreams. I swear they’ve got a game going on right now that involves taxation for the benefit of the greater good. CJ wasn’t keen to pay his taxes. This caused problems. (Meanwhile, Kevin took the dogs on a car-ride to pick up a child who’d been at a birthday party playing laser tag, much to the envy of her military-minded brothers, who bring me to grief regularly with their battle play. War is not a game! I feel this deeply! And yet my boys — yes, boys only — take great pleasure in imagining themselves blasting imaginary opponents with imaginary weaponry. Is this play harmless? Inexcusable? Inevitable? A necessary fantasy? Related to their genitalia? This aside is getting way too long, but I want to add an aside to my aside, and ask: Are humans hard-wired to desire conflict? Is conflict itself a kind of fantasy that helps us escape from the boredom of our adult responsibilities?)
Um. Where was I?
I did get hit on the head with a soccer ball yesterday. I meant to head the ball, which is not my favourite thing to do as I am a bit protective of my brain, and in my fraction-of-a-second hesitation was instead hit upon the head with the ball, which is not the same thing at all.
Also, we lost.
But my teammates have found out that I’m a writer, and one of them had actually heard of The Juliet Stories!!! Because someone at her book club had recommended it!! Which is really quite thrilling because it means the book is making noise enough to get through to new readers! And that is all an obscure CanLit writer can really hope for. (Maybe it helps that The Juliet Stories has been noted on end-of-year-best-of lists in The Globe & Mail, the National Post, and K-W’s own The Record? Do people shop off these lists? Do you? Do I?)
Driving home after my soccer game, I wondered, am I more fuzzy-headed than usual? But it was hard to tell whether it was ball-on-head-induced fuzziness or up-before-dawn-driving-all-day fuzziness. My big girl had a swim meet on the east side of Toronto, which required us to be poolside at 8 in the morning. She is not a morning person. She also gets carsick.
It was raining. The trip was by turns exciting (when we picked up coffee and bagels for breakfast from the sweet-smelling City Cafe Bakery on our way out of town), uneventful (safe driving), and tedious (nothing on the radio; aforementioned carsickness).
She won both of her heats.
I missed seeing the second one because I was chatting with a dad sitting next to me, whose daughter happened to be in the same heat, so we shared the parent-guilt equally. (Random fact: I enjoy chatting with people I will never see again.)
Anyway, AppleApple and I decided to skip her last race of the morning because it meant we could just make it to her soccer game in nearby Mississaugua. Her team won. I observed several girls heading the ball properly. We were then home in time for me to change and get back into the car to drive to my soccer game.
All of this activity involved way too much driving. I found myself making up the lyrics to a sunny little song: “I’m driving all day in my car / it’s really not that hard.” Sitting in the driveway, back home again, I felt this strange attachment to the car, as if it had become a cocoon world of slightly stale bagels and cold coffee and radio talk, temperature controlled, seat-adjustable. I didn’t want to go anywhere else. But I didn’t really want to get out.
Eventually I did. And then, it must be said, I really really didn’t want to get back in again.
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