in my office
Picture me here. That’s my eldest daughter, working on a project this weekend, with the dogs in attendance. The dogs are generally in attendance when I’m in my office. If the kids are around, too, I often discover that the greater population of the house is lounging in my office while I’m trying to work. The floor is warm. It’s cozy. It’s a great place to nap, and to read.
And to write.
Which is what I’m doing today, on a shortened work day, after a sick weekend (I’ve returned to health!), and so I will say little else, even though multiple blog topics are bubbling in my head. I’m afroth with things I’d like to opine about! But work calls. I’m tightening the draft. It’s tedious.
I’m glad the dogs are here too.
So much on my mind today. I couldn’t shut it down, not even in yoga class this morning. The word I used to meditate as I held poses was “strength.” I want to be strong. I think I am strong. But sometimes I wonder, at what point does “strength” become “unwillingness to appear weak”? Is it better to grit through a difficult pose, or to give in to the desire to rest? Maybe sometimes it’s one, sometimes the other. I heavily favour the former, of course.
I do believe, however, that our greatest strengths are also our points of greatest frailty. So I have to be careful.
Let me tell you about yesterday. It was a pretty crappy day, if I may be frank. Writing time vanished as I had to take one daughter to a doctor’s appointment. Vanished some more due to errands and piano lessons. And then the truck slowly but surely started breaking down. Right in the middle of the fairly complicated back-and-forthing between school, piano lessons, school, birthday party. Three kids were directly counting on me to be in specific locations at specific times.
The truck refused to shift into reverse.
I was lucky. I realized what was happening. I’d parked on an incline and was able to roll out of the parking lot. I was able to call Kevin right away. He was able to book a carshare car right away. I was able to park at the next location in such a way that would prevent me from needing to reverse. And the next. And the next. And we were able to make it to the repair shop before the entire transmission shut down.
I never realized how frequently I use reverse, when driving. Maybe this is a life metaphor. We’re not meant to be stuck going forward at all times. We need to be able to back up, too.
The situation was stressful. I was worried the whole time and couldn’t find my “happy place,” shall we say. But I recognized, too, that the day was not nearly so crappy as it could have been. Kevin and I worked together as a team. We were only about ten minutes late for the second piano lesson. The truck did not need to be towed. The children adapted to the changing plans. We belong to a carshare!
Home at last, I felt so tired — not physically, but mentally. Fooey wanted to play an imagination game while I was hanging laundry. It was all I could do to manage the most banal responses.
It also happened that I was due to Skype in to a book club in Toronto at 9pm. Well. I made a pot of peppermint tea, brushed my hair, and sat down in my office. We made contact. But we couldn’t work the video. In the end, we decided just to chat. I looked at my own video smiling back at me (not sure whether they did the same), and we spoke for about forty-five minutes. My tiredness evaporated. Their questions were thoughtful, respectful, insightful. We talked about how daughters view their mothers. We talked about being mothers. We wondered, will mothers ever get cut some slack?
I hung up feeling so much better.
I don’t know what’s going to happen with the truck. The two eldest kids wonder: would this be a good time to become a car-free family? “I’ve been thinking about it, Mom, and it would make us be more eco-friendly and more organized….” I’m proud of the values we’ve instilled in them, but, oh, I like having that truck waiting for me on freezing dark mornings when I’m headed for a spin class.
I don’t know what’s going to happen with the book. The editing is so slow. One foot in front of the other. One small step and another and another. Many, if not most, of my writing days are shortened by other necessities that take priority.
I don’t know what’s going to happen with my applications for writing grants and midwifery and The Amazing Race (thanks for watching the video: we’ve had tons of excellent feedback already!).
I feel as if so much of my life is up in the air right now. Strength. I’m calling on strength as I hold this pose.
Achievement yesterday: wrote all planned scenes in new book.
(Child: “Did you write THE END?” Me: “No, I don’t usually put that in.” Child: “You should!”)
Word total: 83,759.
I note this high water mark only to forget it.
Reality check today: back to the beginning, baby.
From here on in, word count is expected to reverse as I tighten, slash and burn, and sacrifice all of my favourite (aka: indulgent) sentences, paragraphs, and yes, even entire scenes.
Now it gets gritty.
When the kids arrived home from school yesterday, I said, “I finished my book!”
Cool. What’s for snack?
“Now I need to polish it. Then I’ll send it to my agent. She might want me to make some changes. I’ll make those changes. Then I’ll send it back to my agent. Maybe she’ll think it’s ready to go to the publisher. Maybe the publisher will like it. Or maybe they’ll want me to make some changes before offering me a contract. Then I’ll make more changes. Then maybe they’ll want me to sign a contract. Then I’ll start working with an editor. Then I’ll make a bunch more changes …” [note: children no longer listening]
Well. That kind of takes the fun out of celebrating a milestone, doesn’t it!
I should have poured myself a glass of wine instead.
But I had a lot of driving to do last night: older girl to swim practice followed by younger girl to soccer skills (sudden snow squall + commuter traffic = extra-long drive and extra-special driving swear words); home to shovel down supper; back to pick up swim girl, feed her en route, drop her at soccer practice; pick up younger girl and a friend, listen to amusing conversations between daughter and friend (“Watch out — my mom says bad words sometimes when she’s driving! Today she said, mm-hmm mm-hmmm!” [no translation, thankfully] “That’s okay. My mom and dad do that sometimes too.”); send Kevin out for final pickup while putting little kids to bed.
So I didn’t celebrate with a glass of wine.
Instead, after all was said and done, I left the dishes, and sipped a cup of tea, made with mint leaves harvested from our own backyard, and sat on the couch with Kevin and the dogs. It was Kevin’s Valentine’s wish for us. Isn’t he the best?
Today, I renew my commitment to this book.
The Girl Runner!
Long may she run. And may I have the grit, energy, and determination to bring her story into book-shaped form.
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!
my office: picture me behind that window
Words written yesterday: 2,421.
(includes 674 words written last night after I should have been in bed)
Word total for book: 81,861.
Happy dances: 0.
High fives: 0.
Early morning run with friend: 1.
Scenes left to write: 3.
Scenes left to rewrite: 3.
Piano lessons to ferry children to: 2.
Swim practice to ferry child to: 1.
Soccer practice involving husband and son: 1.
Supper plan: ?
a) noodle soup
b) hummus with ?
c) pasta with red sauce
Because: I’ve been here before, on the precipice of done.
Because: I know that done does not equal done.
And yet: I’ve brought this book this far.
I honour the effort.
Word goal for today: 1000.
And … GO!
science presentation, in progress
News to report: I have an essay in the just-announced anthology, Truth, Dare, Doubledare: Stories of Motherhood, a book conceived, curated, and edited by Kerry Clare of Pickle Me This, one of my favourite Canadian book blogs. Read more about the deal here. Other contributers include Heather Birrell, Alison Pick, Zoe Whittall, Marita Dachsel, and my friend Deanna McFadden, whom I first met at the University of Toronto in a grad class called Restoration Women Writing. (Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure we took another class together called Victorian Women Reading, which seems oddly symmetrical).
This anthology is going to be an excellent collection of work, guaranteed. I just can’t wait to read it myself. I also suspect the launch party will be memorable.
Now the bad news: The pub date is Spring, 2014, so we’ll all have to be patient until then.
Somehow I lost an hour off of my work day, and I’m not sure where it went. Vanished. I was supposed to be sitting down at my desk at 10am, and it’s very nearly 11. I did drive a large posterboard (pictured above) up to the school for the boy who has a science presentation today (yes, I drove the posterboard, not the child). That took up about 14 minutes. There was a load of laundry. The dogs kept wanting to go in and out of the back yard. But I’m pretty sure the time-sucker was email.
Messages replied to this morning: 12.
Book clubs I will be visiting in the next two weeks: 3.
Social outings I attended yesterday: 2.
involving coffee: 1
involving beer: 1
Words written in new book yesterday: 388.
goal for today: 1000.
which would bring the total word count to: 80,000.
And …. GO!