Don’t worry. I’m not going to write a blog post on the subject of not making prize lists every time my book doesn’t make a prize list. (Whew, that was a close one, says the good reader.) Nope. Today my nap told me to blog about all the really good things going on in this crammed old life. So here are some of the things I’m glad for right now.
* Killing two birds with one stone: Oldest son is supposed to read out loud for 15 minutes a day. Youngest son adores books featuring Star Wars characters which mother refuses, on principle, and for the sake of her sanity, to read. Ergo, oldest son reads Star Wars books out loud to youngest son.
* Freelance gigs arriving at exactly the right moment. Exciting freelance gigs — even better.
* Surprise messages in my inbox from readers who have loved The Juliet Stories. Still working out the best response to these, since they tend to make me feel a) self-conscious, b) teary-eyed, and c) weirdly unqualified to reply. (Like: did I actually write the book this person is referring to?) Funny thing: when I say thanks for telling me you liked it, people often say, no, thank you for writing it, at which point I get stuck because saying you’re welcome seems weird. Or maybe it doesn’t? Let me try this out: “Thank you for writing a book.” “You’re welcome.” Now I’m not sure. Maybe that’s exactly all I should be saying. Though it’s tempting, also, to add: That’s awesome, now, please tell all your friends to go buy copies too!
* This message in my inbox from a friend: “I have to tell you, half an hour ago I saw a great picture unfolding as I drove by [your daughter’s school] … Up on the level ground, I saw a girl with long red hair dribbling a soccer ball through a large pack of boys.”
* Festival season. Wow! Is it ever festival season! I’m reading at Word on the Street at Kitchener City Hall (inside) at 4:30 on Sunday afternoon. And then I’m up and flying to Winnipeg for the Thin Air Writers’ Festival where I’m reading on the Mainstage with a crowd of other writers, starting at 7:30pm on Monday. On Tuesday at 2:30pm I’ll be back, along with Cordelia Strube, for an on-stage chat with Charlene Diehl. Charlene is the director of Thin Air, and she just happens to have been one of my favourite professors way back when. I’m really really looking forward to this.
* Happy, improbable fantasies: such as, why not train to do an Ironman this year? A friend posted on my Facebook wall that she thought I could do it — her husband just completed his second, and managed the feat despite training only over his lunch hour (!!). So now I’m thinking, yeah, I’ll bet I could do it! Except I have no spare time for Ironman-level training just now. Maybe come winter??
* Texting. Seriously, I love the medium. Has anyone else noticed that there is something poetical about the form? Sometimes it’s nothing but pure comic poetry.
* And, finally, a shout out of congratulations to everyone on the Writers’ Trust short list, especially to Tamas Dobozy, whose kid was on my kid’s soccer team a few years back, so we swapped stories on the sidelines about agents, editors, and trying to get published. I love the smallness of the CanLit world.
(Now, in traditional blog call-and-response style: want to tell me what you’re glad for right now?)
Every September we measure the kids on a wall in the basement. We started the annual ritual not long after moving into this house, which was nine years ago this summer. It’s entertaining to compare, say, AppleApple, who has always been my biggest child, from birth onwards, to Fooey, who has always been my smallest. We discovered this year that Fooey measures almost a year and a half behind AppleApple in height! AppleApple, meantime, would be taller than Albus, if they were exactly the same age. And so far, Albus and CJ measure identically at the same ages.
Trivia. The stuff of life.
This year we measured Kevin and me too. It was the kids’ idea. I’d rather not repeat it every year, because really, all we can hope for is that we haven’t shrunk: that’s our only direction at this stage. Amusingly (for me), I proved taller than expected, and Kevin proved shorter. We’re only separated by about 2.5 inches. So we gave everyone a low five: guess what kids, you’ve been gifted with short genes.
Reflecting on measuring changes, here’s another one. I’m realizing that there may not be quite as much blog-time this fall as I’ve been accustomed to. Please accept in advance my apologies for the absences that may occur.
So much I want to tell you about: work, play, exercise, new activites, a family meeting, canning, running, writing, suppers. So much I want to record and preserve.
But the truth is that I’m not keeping up. I’m not used to not keeping up. Professionally, I’m swamped through October, and on the domestic front, well, it’s back-to-school time, and you all know what that means. So I’m hoping to tread water. That’s all.
Actually, come to think of it, I’m hoping not to shrink …
This morning I biked uphill with CJ “pedalling” on the trail-a-bike behind me. Why is our entire route to school uphill? Then again, the entire route home is the opposite. CJ chattered the whole way. He kept calling out questions, and I kept puffing out abbreviated replies, along the lines of, “Can’t talk! Trying to breathe! Keep pedalling!”
I saw some tears in the kindergarten drop-off zone, but they weren’t his, and they weren’t mine. On the whole, he was excited, although one of the last things he told me before we parked at the school was, “I’m feeling nervous, Mommy!”
That’s okay, kiddo. It’s okay to feel nervous. It’s a big change.
We grabbed some photos on my phone, the bell rang, he got in line, he went inside. A quick kiss was squeezed in there.
Very different from my very first kindergarten drop-off seven years ago.
Seven years ago, my baby, my firstborn, was that kid in the kindergarten line-up who was having hysterics and clinging to his mother’s leg. That mother had a two-year-old by the hand, and a newborn strapped across her chest in a sling. It was a really hot day. The pitying, sympathetic glances were numerous. I could almost hear parents thinking, Thank God that’s not me, poor woman.
I left the school in tears, my kindergartner wailing loudly and kicking the carpet in his new kindergarten classroom, his classmates observing him with vague curiosity.
“Don’t worry, we’ll call you if we need you,” the secretary told me, as she tried to get me to go home. I didn’t want to go home. I wanted to break into the kindergarten room and hug my screaming boy. But I went home.
This is such a different experience. I felt so much more sadness over that first leaving, more grief about the passage of time. Maybe it’s having four children, and having gone through this ritual repeatedly over the years. Maybe it’s just about being ready.
But he didn’t look back as he walked into the school, and I didn’t wish that he would.
I’m back to napping! And I’m remembering why I love it. All the best thoughts arrive upon waking from a good (short) nap. During the summer, I got by with no naps, partly by lowering my weekly early morning workouts to twice/week, but mostly by nipping back to bed upon arriving home. With no one rushing off to school, our family got in the habit sleeping in. But it didn’t feel like napping, it felt like going back to bed. Like the work-out had been another dream-state.
We’re back to the school routine, and we’re suffering just a little bit, collectively. Trying to adjust bedtimes and wake times. Accepting that there will be after-school meltdowns. Everyone’s tired. Evenings are squeezed. Kevin and I were still doing lunches and dishes last night at 9pm.
There was no moment for a nap yesterday to balance out my early morning run.
So I’ll admit that rising at 5am this morning, in order to go exert myself whilst clad in spandex, was not exactly what I wanted to do. I’m making spin/weights sound way less fun than it is. By the end of the work-out, it felt completely worth it (as it always does), and after breakfast and the getting-ready whirl, everyone departed, and the house was quiet by 8:30. Quiet by 8:30!!! Empty! Just me and the dogs.
So I napped.
I drifted off. And woke with a clear mind, feeling at peace, filled with ideas, thoughts, answers, calm. Call me crazy (or lazy), but I consider napping to be an important spiritual process. Somehow, while gently drifting toward sleep, my mind becomes more open, more at ease. To be creative, one needs to be at ease, not panicking. Many a time, a nap has set me right simply by allowing my body and mind to relax.
This is a long preamble. What I want to write about is the announcement of the Giller longlist earlier this week; should I write about it? Still not sure. But I’m an obscure CanLit mama who had an eligible book out this year (among 226 others), and this brief moment in time is wound into the rest of my life. I knew it would be a long shot to find Juliet on the list, but hope springs eternal, and every Canadian writer understands what a career boost it is to have any association with the Giller attached to one’s book.
In the days and hours leading up to the announcement, I couldn’t get away from thinking about it. It dogged me, no matter how I tried to redirect my thoughts. Such is the power of a prize. So here’s the strange thing: notwithstanding my immediate gut response of plain old crushing disappointment not to see Juliet on the list, I’ve been experiencing an unexpected lightness of heart since the announcement came and went.
I’m grateful to everyone who told me they were sure it would be there, especially those wonderful booksellers who’ve had Juliet’s back all along.
But I didn’t know how heavy the weight of expectation/hope had been pressing on me until after my nap this morning. I got up, voted, hung laundry, planned my attack on today’s scheduling adventures, and realized that I was feeling … really good.
I’m not waiting for anything. The worst outcome has happened. The sadness is over. And in its place is a feeling of gratitude for the sweet minutiae that I’m often too cluttered and harried and anxious to see. Maybe it’s an after-the-storm effect. (And it rained torrentially here on Tuesday.) It sounds trite to say it: gratitude for my kids, for our house, for our neighbourhood, for health, for friends, for kindness, for running errands with two four-year-old boys in tow. For everything, I guess.
I wonder how other obscure CanLit writers are feeling this week.
And I wonder, I’ll admit, how those who made the list are feeling (with special shout-outs to not-so-obscure CanLit mamas, Annabel Lyon, who kindly helped my daughter with her project on ancient Greece this past year, and Katrina Onstad, with whom I shared a seminar table while we were both doing our Master’s at U of Toronto.)
If I could change one thing about myself, it would be the anxiety I feel when outcomes are out of my control. What was I worrying about, all along? What was I hoping for, really? Was it external affirmation, some kind of proof? And if so, why?
Okay, another thing I would change: I would live, always, without fear of failure.