Yesterday, a reader commented on my Green Dreams post, which was written about a year and a half ago. This morning, I read that post again and found these words, which feel like a wise reminder from my (slightly) younger self:
I would like to offer my time–because I have it, and I’m grateful for that gift–to living creatively. Anyone who’s ever made anything knows that there is a great deal of invisible work behind what’s created. There is the original vision, changed and altered and made deeper by reflection and time, there is work, there is error and recognition of error, and incorporation of error, too, and there is luck, happenstance, improvisation. There are bursts of production and activity, and lulls of wondering, daydreaming, even doubt. There is sacrifice. You have to figure out if it’s worth it to you–figure out what you’re sacrificing, and why you want to.
Mostly, though, you just do it: you do the work you’ve chosen to do.
Living creatively, improvising, digging in, committing, taking risks, messing up, pausing to reflect, continuing, trying new things and rediscovering the tried and true: that pretty much sums up my life at present–or at least, the life I’m aiming for, every day. Yours, too?
On that note, I’d like to tell you about a few projects I’m currently digging into.
* increasing subscribers to my blog: If you look on the right-hand side of the blog, I’ve got links to a variety of extras, including a new feature that allows you to type in your email address and receive blog posts in your inbox. We’re still tinkering with this (and by “we” I mean my techie friend Nath is troubleshooting for me), but I’d be happy if you signed up. And then please let me know if it’s working for you.
* Storywell: My friend Susan has launched a business aimed at helping people tell their stories: “Whether you are writing for your own family and community, aiming at publication, or needing help in telling your company or organization’s tale, we can help you tell your story well. We offer you a team of professional writers, editors and proofreaders whose goal is to help you develop as a writer.” And guess what? I’m one of the professional writers on her team. Interested, or know someone who might be? Get in touch.
* a new challenge: “Make Carrie’s Book a Bestseller.” Okay it’s a crazy challenge over which I have no real sway. Even publishers don’t know how books make it onto bestseller lists, the compilers of which seem to collect data from a variety of unpredictable sources. But I think it will be fun. Kevin is the brains behind the idea. He created and hosts a flexible web site for his business that can be used by personal trainers as a forum to run challenges. We’re using that forum to create a challenge called: “Help Make Carrie’s Book a Bestseller.” The site is still under construction, but I plan to have it ready to launch in the new year, and you will be invited to join. I only have one hope for my book, and that’s that it will get read. Then it can speak for itself.
* early to rise: This isn’t really a project, it’s just something I want to continue whether or not I’m working toward a particular race (my next one is in March, which still seems too far off to be highly motivating). I like the ethic involved in getting up early. I like that it’s not easy. It’s not easy, but it’s ALWAYS rewarding. This morning, my internal alarm woke me up for yoga. I’d planned to sleep instead, but when my eyes saw 5:48 on the clock, I recognized that it was a little gift, and I accepted it. Few of my evenings are free. My only guaranteed alone time is in the early morning hours. I’ve never been a morning person and even now do not consider myself one; but that doesn’t mean I can’t rise early and move my body and stride confidently into the day.
(Just realized that this looks like an early New Year’s resolution list. It’s not meant to be. I’m very ho-hum on resolutions. I prefer big picture overviews of the past year combined with swooping excitement and energy beamed at the year ahead. Every year on the eve of my birthday–which is Dec. 29th–I write just such an overview in my journal, by hand. Very old-school. Very satisfying.)
There is no snow. This is a photo from last week, when ever so briefly snow fell and stayed. Now it has rained for days. The wishful thinker in me imagines the piles of snow that would have accumulated between then and now had the temperature been lower, the possiblities for snow forts and snowmen and seasonal festiveness. The practical thinker in me says: Remember shovelling? And scraping the windshield? Remember bad drivers?
Ah, but remember the sound of the snow, the muffling effect, the crunch underfoot, remember crispy eyelashes after a long run.
This morning was one of those mornings when I spent about ten chaotic minutes wishing things could go more smoothly. The obvious every day things like: getting all of the children out the door, along with all of their possessions, and their homework completed. But maybe that last-minute flurry is just the way that it is and ever will be. Maybe I should apprciate all that we managed to accomplish this morning, despite the last-minute scramble.
– I swam 2.5km
– Kevin and Albus swam for half an hour (AppleApple was too exhausted from her multifaceted weekend to get up early)
– supper was started in the crockpot
– six people ate a healthy breakfast
– a load of laundry went into the machine
– Albus completed homework that was due last Wednesday and only discovered at 9pm last night (well, at least he did it; I hope there’s a lesson in there somewhere)
– Fooey practiced piano
– the after-school walk home was arranged
– everyone took their vitamins
– Fooey took her medicine (she’s on antibiotics for strep)
– I talked to FedEx to arrange couriering the page proofs to my publisher
– everyone except Fooey got out the door; most were even wearing appropriate footwear
– I remembered to call the school re Fooey’s absence today
– no one was late
And it wasn’t even 9am.
Is there a better way? It’s so tempting to think that there must be, that life can always be improved upon (and I’m not advocating staying in a rut of obviously wrong behavior). But maybe sometimes there actually isn’t a better way. Maybe sometimes I need to take a deep breath and gut through those ten minutes of chaos, and appreciate everything that is working.
What to do, what to do?
What do you do when you’re feeling less than inspired?
This morning was my “sleeping-in” morning; naturally Kevin decided he’d get up early and spend about five minutes rustling around in the dark looking for his clothes. I stayed in bed until 7:15 but shouldn’t have bothered. It’s not like it made me happier. Downstairs, AppleApple greeted me with beautifully brushed hair and a packed schoolbag: “You’re always grumpy in the morning, Mom, so I decided to try to have everything ready to go, so you wouldn’t be so grumpy.”
Gee, thanks, kid. A hint: don’t tell your mother she’s grumpy if you’re trying to lift her from her grumpiness.
Truth is, it’s probably more anxiety than grumpiness. Is it the lack of light? General Novemberishness? The sudden onset of Christmas? Whatever it is, this is not my best time of year; never is. As the light recedes, I’m dark with indecision.
**What thoughtful and possibly homemade gifts can I devise to spread cheer and joy this season? Can I find stress-free ways to fulfill our family’s seasonal rituals and traditions and meet everyone’s expectations?
**Should I skip supper and try out that running club tonight? How can I fit a club’s schedule into my own? Maybe that’s why there are no women my age at running club — maybe we’re all at home eating supper with our families and trying to keep a finger on the pulse of each kid’s well-being.
**What the heck book am I writing right now? I keep finding characters and abandoning them: sorry, don’t want to spend the next six years with you.
I’m thinking in massive chunks rather than manageable morsels. I’m thinking an entire book rather than a page or two.
Know what I mean?
As if every tiny individual choice has to fit into a larger whole, has to be a stone in this solid structure I’m building, this thing called Life. And if I go off piling stones in the wrong place, the whole thing is going to be ruined. Hm. Office as metaphor: Remember how the windows were the wrong size? How upset I felt? And how unexpectedly easy they were to change? It took some work, for sure, but it wasn’t impossible or disastrous, and ultimately only cost a day’s labour.
So what to do?
Today, I’ve set myself a small task. I am writing a song for a character in The Juliet Stories. She’d probably write a much better song herself, but that’s okay. My brother Karl has a new recording studio and when the song is ready, I can go and record it, which is pretty cool. It doesn’t add up to anything particular. It doesn’t fit anywhere else. It doesn’t answer a single question. It’s just something I want to do.
It’s just a little pile of stones I’m making in the middle of a field I happen to be passing through.
Yesterday, after running errands and going to the library, CJ fell asleep on the couch listening to a CD he brought home from his grandma’s house when we visited over Thanksgiving. He picked it out based on its cover art: two shaggy Scottish cows. An artist I’ve never heard of. A bunch of cover songs. Grandma didn’t seem sad to see it go. I was upstairs hanging laundry while he was listening, and I heard him chiming in with the first song on the words “Just like a rhinestone cowboy!” Except he was singing “Just like a rockstar cowboy!”
Another funny misheard lyric: on Monday evening I was driving four girls to their theatre rehearsal — there is always singing from the back seat. One girl had just seen The Sound of Music, and at least one other girl knew all the words to all the songs too. So I was treated to “I am sixteen, going on seventeen.” The funny part was when one girl sang the line: “Fellows will fall in line,” as “Pillows will fall in line.”
I can just picture it.
What was I going to blog about today?
Somehow, I think there was another topic in mind when I began.
Oh yes. One boy sleeping on the couch yesterday afternoon = one mildly sick boy at home this morning — my rockstar cowboy. I pictured us spending the day doing fun activities together — crafts, puzzles, baking, reliving the days of yore. But instead he just wants to watch movies and lie on the couch, and I’ve had a nap and read the newspaper. And now I’m blogging. And it’s a beautiful day. My plan is to coax him off the coach (he’s really not that sick) and get the two of us outside to walk around the block … or something … outside.
I’m amazed at how uninspired I am to do anything. How did I ever get anything done when I was home with kids full-time? Well, I never let them watch movies like this, that’s for sure. I should be filled with guilt except I’m uninspired even to do that.
This morning, after breakfast, Albus practiced piano. He always checks with me before getting a sticker, to make sure he’s earned it. Which is awfully sweet. He’s a good kid. Except this morning I really didn’t think he’d earned it. He kept rushing the half-note, always the same mistake in the same place. So I asked him to play the song again, with that in mind. I suggested playing the difficult spot several times over, with the correct notes and timing. But all he wanted was to hack his way through the song and be done with it, regardless of notes and timing.
Then we looked over his dictee results. In French, his teacher had written: “You need to study.” Things is, he’d studied. A fair bit. He’d sat down several evenings last week and worked on his homework, including studying for this dictee. He’d shown me his worksheet. I knew it was true. But the proof wasn’t there in the final test results.
As we were having this conversation, and I was offering more advice re efficient piano practice, Fooey happened by with a question. Albus was extremely rude to her. I reprimanded him. He pushed her. ie. things went from bad to worse, and quickly. I sent him upstairs on a time-out.
Why does he need to act like this? the thought half formed as I raced around the kitchen and cleared the breakfast dishes and wrote a cheque for AppleApple’s sub order and helped Fooey ready her bag for school and tried to remember all the details that needed to get done in the next eight minutes before everyone would leave and the house would go suddenly quiet, and I would eat breakfast and pour a cup of coffee and greet this computer.
Why is he so angry?
And I found myself looking at this morning from his perspective, not mine. From his perspective, he got up and got dressed and ate breakfast and then he practiced piano. And even though he practiced, it wasn’t good enough, and he couldn’t make it better, and he felt frustrated. And then his mother had to sign his dictee and he knew it wasn’t a great mark, and his teacher thought he hadn’t even studied. But he had studied. And he couldn’t make it better, and he felt frustrated.
I called him downstairs, and I said the above, an abbreviated version. He was quiet. Is that kind of how you feel? I asked, and he nodded.
I’m not sure how to make life better for him. Or easier. (Why do parents so often want to make life easier for their kids? But I do. Or not easier, exactly, just gentler.) What is the lesson, if hard work does not pay off in success? You know, it doesn’t always. Some people have to work much harder than others to achieve the very same level of success. I don’t want him to get frustrated, to give up, to not care.
I do want him to take responsibility for the choices he makes. I don’t particularly want to lower the bar.
But what if he’s trying, and it’s not working? Is the answer always: work harder? I’d feel frustrated, too.