Should I be writing these blog posts? I asked my husband this week. Or, should I be writing these blog posts but choosing not to publish them, perhaps? It is a real concern, voiced not only by me, but by others, who worry about me.
How honest to be, in the moment?
Is it possible to convey that a moment is transitory and fleeting, that it comes and is felt intensely and perhaps irrationally, and then it is gone, and all is well?
All is well.
Here are the past seven days, summed up in brief.
Saturday, ran half-marathon, went to street party.
Sunday, all day at Eden Mills Writers Festival, read, met lots of people.
Monday, early morning spin & weights, no nap, caught up on emails, field hockey practice, made ratatouille for supper, on my own with kids, Kevin gone most of the day and evening.
Tuesday, early morning run, biked to campus, dreadful funk, writing, reading, prepping for class, field hockey practice, gymnastics.
Wednesday, early morning yoga, cloud lifted, music lessons, teaching, supper at 10PM.
Thursday, early morning run, class work, updating web site, driving to Burlington, three and a half hour interview for magazine story I’m writing, road construction, home before midnight.
Friday, slept til 7, PD day, children home, chaos, biting (not me), tears (not me), friends (not me), lost child (panic!), found child (thank God!), jotting notes on interview, story needs editing, ear plugs insufficient, no lunch, friend drops off chocolate croissants instead (is this heaven?!).
I’ve spent the last two days in a state of heightened gratitude, noticing every little every thing that I love and am able to do because of Girl Runner, because of choosing to stick with writing. I’m getting to teach. I’m getting to pursue subjects in-depth that fascinate and pull me—to talk to people who have accomplished extraordinary things. I’m getting forums to say what I think, to write about what I love and care about. That last one is hard, in truth. It’s hard because there’s no hiding, especially here. Obscure CanLit Mama is not a persona, or a character, it’s me, a patchwork version of me, but me nevertheless.
It isn’t always pretty. I’m not always pretty.
About a year and a half ago, I experienced an odd moment at the end of a yoga class, lying in that clear-headed state of savasana. I heard the words “Goodbye Obscure CanLit Mama” loud and clear. I did not know what it meant. Was it something, or nothing, how could I know? I still don’t know. Some day I will say goodbye to Obscure CanLit Mama, but when or how or why? I don’t know.
This is true: I’m not quite so obscure anymore–but want to think of myself as obscure because it makes me feel safe; I don’t know what I’m doing; if there is an awkward moment, somewhere, somehow, I will find it; a little part of me is still in grade ten, lonely, baffled, tongue-tied, naive; I try to be kind and sometimes I’m clumsy.
Do we ever grow up? Do we ever get smart about the things we were stupid about as kids?
It’s Friday, 3:25PM, and one of the dogs has just decided to jump onto the treadmill and join me. I think it’s time to get off.
Here’s what’s immediately ahead: vacuum (like, immediately immediately); supper (argh, supper?); folding three days’ laundry; longish training run (tomorrow morning); readings at Word on the Street Kitchener (tomorrow, noon, at Entertaining Elements with accompanying appetizers) and at Word on the Street Toronto (Sunday, 1PM, Vibrant Voices Tent).
Ear plugs out.
Have I reached peak busyness? I’m not sure. After all, I start teaching next week. But with the book officially launching in Canada on Saturday, I feel sure that I’ve reached peak anticipatory activity in advance of launching book. I’ve also got a headache. And I could barely keep up with my running partner this morning. It felt like I was running on empty, thank you running metaphor. (There are so many running metaphors. Very popular with headline writers. How could they resist?)
To avoid spamming you with perhaps an unsavoury amount of self-promotion, let me direct you to the “News” page on this web site, where I’m trying to keep track of such things: there’s been an excellent profile in the National Post newspaper this week, for example.
It’s time to meet kids coming home from school. I shall therefore sign off abruptly.
I’ve got work to do. It’s quiet work, the kind that doesn’t produce anything that can be seen, or displayed, held or sold. It’s the work of a mind that is continually rehearsing the immediate future, at the expense of settling into presence.
You’ve probably noticed that our family’s schedule leaves little breathing room; this is not a complaint, merely an observation, because it is also absolutely of our own doing. It’s a choice — to live at a pace that tries to accommodate four children’s varied interests and our own, to do the jobs we’ve chosen, to be and to express who we are. But it would be disingenuous not to be brutally honest about the consequences: it can wear a person down. There was a moment, last week, when I was pretty sure I’d reached my limits.
The weather was gorgeous. I was wearing a “business casual” sundress. I’d been up since 4:50AM. I’d taken the bus to Toronto and back for meetings at my Canadian publisher’s offices. It was now 5:15PM, and I was standing beside a carshare car, and it would not open. The keyless entry system appeared to be broken. The carshare company wasn’t answering their help hotline. Kevin and Albus were on their way to a soccer game in Stratford. I had children waiting for me at home, to take them to the school’s fun fair and to soccer practice. And the car would not open.
All my advance planning seemed suddenly fragile. One error could cause a cascading series of tumbles. It could all fall apart, just like this, and my stomach was in knots of anxiety.
This could be my breaking point, I thought.
But then it wasn’t.
I ran home, used the land line to get through the carshare company, rented a different car to which I sprinted in my business casual-wear, a full kilometre, thinking, okay, this is what I’ve trained for. We were late for soccer practice, very late for the fun fair, but that was all. And being late, well, it’s not the end of the world. It’s not the end of anything. Fooey even won a cake at the cakewalk. Perfect bedtime snack.
I could take several different lessons from this.
I could stop trying to squeeze so much in. Or I could stop worrying in advance about things going wrong. I can’t seem to do the former; so how would the latter work?
Lay out the plot, make the plan, write it down, then let it go. Stop rehearsing. Be late sometimes. The stakes aren’t really that high, in the grand scheme of things. None of these items on my to-do list are as important as I’m making them out to be, in my own mind. Do we have food to eat? Yes. Do we have a roof over our heads? Yes. Do we have each other? Yes!
Privilege can warp perspective. I’m so privileged that I don’t even notice all that I’m able to do, without a second thought: let my kids participate in multiple sports, rent carshare cars, own a pretty sundress, buy tickets to the fun fair. I’m inventing needless anxieties. Maybe it’s a way of distracting myself from settling into the work that I need to do. I’m beginning to suspect that distraction is the easy way out. It’s the enemy of presence.
A few years back I wrote a song with lyrics that went like this, in part:
Say it simple, say it best
If you’ve loved then you’ve been blessed
If you’re loved then you’ve been found
Fall to earth
And have no fear
So much on the go that I can hardly catch my breath.
Glad, this morning, for this perfectly pitched weather, for leaves overhead, for fruit trees in bloom (we want one in our front yard — a project for this year).
Glad for dog walks, impromptu conversations, and a freshly made latte on a friend’s front porch.
Glad for kids who look after themselves.
Glad for homemade pizza.
Friday was a day of visuals: I was looking at covers for both the US and Canadian editions of GIRL RUNNER, and rough illustrations for my picture book-to-be, THE CANDY CONSPIRACY, which had me grinning with glee at the humour shining through.
I went through page proofs. I had a meeting about revamping this blog / my web site. Kevin and I met for takeout, carrying home Korean fried rice balls and pork lettuce wraps and a steamed bun from the West of Seoul food truck, parked in uptown.
I did not run this weekend at all. But I’ve been running in spirit all weekend, racing time.
I’ve driven some distance and will again today, taking swim girl to a meet in London. Yesterday, she qualified for the provincials in the 100 breast, a huge accomplishment. Her time in that race puts her among the top fifty 11-year-olds in Canada. That’s bragging, I know, but she works so hard, how can I not sing her praises? She strategizes, looks up times, plans her splits, works hard at training, and gets this gleam in her eye when she talks about racing; I’m just the chauffeur.
Today, my eldest becomes a teenager. I will try to stop reminiscing about the day of his birth, for his sake. Okay, I won’t try that hard.
Today, he gets to stay home from school and do whatever his heart desires. Apparently that is to stay in pajamas and play video games.
Today, my dad and stepmother are at the hospital waiting to find out what the protocol for her treatment will be.
Today, I am dressed up and awaiting a morning photo shoot for a magazine. Therefore, I am worrying about my hair. And have applied lipstick.
Today, the sun is shining, but there is the risk of a thunderstorm; also, we have two soccer games in two different cities this evening.
Today is underway. Thirteen years.