Category: Writing

Why Have I Not Felt Like Blogging?

Why have I not felt like blogging, this past week? I’ve had a moment, here or there, that could have been turned into time to blog. But I chose not to.

Because …

1. My head is full. Too full. Which makes it hard to zero in on a subject. I’ll be honest with you. My head is full of Life, good and bad, dark and light, hope and despair, grief and excitement. Sometimes I just want to sit and let myself feel what I’m feeling, quietly. Without trying to put it into words.

2. This hasn’t been conscious, but I’m finding some balance in my days and hours. In a sense, I’m making compartments for different tasks, different identities. This morning is quiet and interior: I am writing. The house is empty. My mind homes in on this other world I’m making. There’s some of the source of excitement: making something, gathering up the disparate pieces and sensing that it’s coming together, even if it’s not quite there yet. (I abandoned the memoir awhile ago–did I ever write about that? I am working on the story collection, the Juliet stories.)
After school, I’ll enter into the noisy chaotic compartment of motherhood. I’m trying harder to check email less frequently, sit down with a kid in my lap more frequently; that also means not squeezing in a blog post while a child stands at my knee and screams for attention.
Whatever it is, it seems to be working. The full-on mothering days feel sweeter because I have these other days and opportunities to express other parts of myself. I am luxuriating in the freedom I have within every day. I just have to accept its seasoning and flavour. Say, freedom to go out for lunch with a friend. Freedom to bake sweet treats for/with my kids. Freedom to walk rather than drive. Freedom to volunteer at the school fun fair.
It is amazing to discover that commitment to an activity offers up space for real relaxation and enjoyment.
Example … I volunteered at the school fun fair. Yes, I left clothes hanging on the line and it poured rain and I couldn’t run home to rescue them; guess what–they stayed on the line overnight and dried the next day, having enjoyed a lovely soft water rinse. Yes, I had to bring along all four kids; guess what–they had a blast helping out. Yes, Kevin was stuck in Toronto; guess what–AppleApple missed her soccer practice and the world did not end; plus, everybody rose to the occasion, and the big kids were able to do activities with the little kids. Yes, I applied fake tattoos for several hours; guess what–it was a blast chatting with the kids who streamed through, and their parents. I didn’t waste a minute worrying that the evening wasn’t going precisely as planned, or that we were staying longer than anticipated, or that the kids were going to be grumpy the next day.
I am a naturally impatient person, and I’m just beginning to grasp that conceptualizing any time as a waste is itself the biggest waste of all. I don’t have a lot of spare time, so it can be easy to resent time spent doing something that isn’t my first or second or even third choice; I am finding myself more relaxed about that. Inside every moment is a potential discovery.
What comes at me so strongly this week, as I sit inside quiet and some sadness, is that this is my life. I am alive. I am breathing, in and out, and I am living this present moment whether or not it is the moment I want to be living. Can I embrace each moment? Probably not. But the more moments I embrace–chosen and otherwise, going according to plan or going hay-wire–the more moments will embrace me.
You know it when you find it. You likely won’t recognize it till afterward. But you’ll know–an hour, an afternoon, longer, those moments when you are out of time and inside the experience, just being within it. Often, you have a sense of not wanting this–whatever this is–to pass. Or even no sense at all of time passing. You blink, and hours are gone. You wonder where you’ve been. You’ve been inhabiting yourself, that’s all. For me, these moments seem to come more easily when connected to something physical, walking, running, kneading, drinking, laughing, sometimes with company, sometimes alone.
:::
Guess I was ready to blog …
This is what happens when I get up early and exercise. I didn’t even set my internal alarm this morning, it just decided to go off.

She Took Notes

I keep finding scraps of paper around the house with paragraphs in tiny printing: AppleApple recording and making up stories about our daily lives. This overwhelms me with happiness. A child who loves words! I do hope she’ll finish her newspaper; however, she’s currently sidetracked by a school project on orcas, which she is typing up on my computer.
Here are excerpts from the writing I’ve found; I’ve corrected some eccentric spelling and grammar.

This one is from a school assignment, asking, If your mom told you the three most important things to remember, what do you think she would say? Why? “Keep earth clean. Stay safe, and have fun. I think she would say this because she wants to be environmentally friendly she doesn’t want to worry about us and she likes us to have fun.”
{side note: YAY! Talk about affirmation. I think she’s bang on.}

Here’s an advertisement she wrote for a school assignment, selling a candy of her own invention: “Have you ever tasted a yummy healthy morsel that will last forever? Would you like to try one? Is your wish to fly? Well you will get it if you eat this. Is your wish to talk to animals? Well you will get your wish if you eat this. You know how mom says don’t play with your food? Well you can with this and it won’t get dirty. Do you get bored of going over and over in the same swimming class? If you eat this it will make you swim better. Are you worried that you will waste your money? That’s not a problem because my special candy comes with ten and multiplies twenty. So amazing saving 20 dollars! Now you must try this now. Come on kids. Don’t sit there. Come and buy it now.”
{side note: re doing the same swim class forever: She passed, FINALLY! Unfortunately, her brother did not. And somehow, Fooey managed not to pass after having already passed the level three times previously (which likely says more about her instructor’s standards, than Fooey’s accomplishments).
Also, it would appear that AppleApple has her mother’s head for math …}

“Things I like to say at lunch. Can I fill my water bottle? Can I have your autograph? Can I go to the bathroom? Can I get a drink of water? Can I get an apple?”

And this might risk scooping her newspaper, but here’s an excerpt from the notes she’s taking toward that project: “Dad’s crazy about the world cup. Right now he’s watching the world cup. It’s the main subject at home today and yesterday.”
{Totally and completely true. He’s “cleaning up the living-room” right now.}

I Took Notes

Thoughts come to me while I’m hanging laundry. Do yours strike during particular activities?
On an evening out with friends, recently, we came around to talking about chores (we’re all moms or moms-to-be), and one friend mentioned that she genuinely enjoys hanging laundry on the clothesline–she didn’t mean that she finds it a chore she can tolerate, or doesn’t mind doing, but that she genuinely takes pleasure from it. She described hanging the napkins together so they flapped in the wind like a prayer flag. And those of us who regularly hang laundry realized we often do something similar: making patterns, following interior rules about what goes where; in essence, creating something that pleases us aesthetically. Do you have rituals you follow, or patterns you make; or does another chore bring you a similar kind of aesthetic pleasure? I think it points toward the artistic impulse.
:::
Lately, I’ve been thinking about a particular philosophical dilemma, which is related both to parenting styles and parenthood generally: I think all parents are occupied, whether consciously or otherwise, with finding a balance between individual pursuits and collective responsibility. (This is a societal question, too, and where you land on the scale is probably indicative of your political beliefs).
This balance comes into play in virtually everything I do. Do I push my son to practice piano, or do I hope he will come to develop his own talents? Probably a bit of both, right?
Maybe I need to explain this idea in more concrete terms. I’m thinking about how families work. How very much I would like my children to walk to school together, and to take responsibility not only for themselves, but for each other. However, my eldest wants to walk with his friends: they have made a thoughtful plan for meeting and walking together. I am proud of his initiative, and glad that he has strong connections with friends. But I want him to be a helpful big brother, and I’d planned to have the three kids walk to school together next year. What’s the balance? This one is easy, because we’ve already worked it out. Albus will walk with friends. We have other options for getting his two sisters to school. In this case, we went with the individual, because it did not harm the collective.
:::
I don’t think the balance between individual and collective is ever perfected. It’s an ongoing challenge. For example, I’ve also been thinking a great deal about how spiritual and artistic practice requires uninterrupted time. There’s no short-cut for this. In order to go deep, you need to enter into yourself while letting yourself go. This isn’t necessarily selfish, but it might appear to be, and certainly can feel selfish, when one is a mother (or father) to small children. Children are notoriously good at pulling you out of wherever you’ve gone–if they need you. And mine seem to need me a lot.
But there’s another issue: If I’ve arranged childcare and freed up time to work, what guilt I feel if the work that ends up getting done is invisible, even to me. If it makes next to nothing. If I sit and stare out the window. Writing a story sometimes appears to be a quick process, but I believe there is a great deal of invisible unknown work going on beneath the surface that makes the story possible.
:::
One final thought from my laundry-hanging philosophy session. Practice, and consistently doing something, makes that thing easy to do, so that that what appeared impossible or even merely inconvenient proves otherwise. I am thinking of the snack-making. Nothing in the cupboards to pull out, so I whip together cheese and apple slices and raisins, in individual containers, and the kids love it. Nothing in the cupboards, so I pull out the popcorn popper and everyone watches the process, and devours the results.
Yes, it takes more time and effort, but not that much more. The difference is actually inside my own head. Does it feel difficult and hard, or possible and simple?
(I did not get up early most of this week, and I missed it a great deal. So, this morning, I did again, and went to yoga, and appreciated both the effort and the ease).

Solitary, Hermetic, Self-Taught

Just read this longish piece by American poet Kay Ryan (it’s a few years old; thanks to Karl for pointing me to it). She is attending a poetry conference after a lifetime of preferring not to. She describes herself like this: “I love the solitary, the hermetic, the self-taught.”

As someone currently mulling the prospect of greater artistic collaboration, who has almost always avoided working with others–at least, when it comes to writing fiction and poetry–her witty words were delicious food for thought. Such as …
“I wanted my poems to fight their way … Fight and fight again. No networking, no friends in high places, no internships. I think that’s how poems finally have to live, alone without your help, so they should get used to it.”
“I think poets should take the lesson of the great aromatic eucalyptus tree and poison the soil beneath us.”
“I think it’s good to admit what a wolfish thing art is; I trust writers who know they aren’t nice.”
And finally … “Everything truly attended to is a spiritual practice, isn’t it?”
:::
Now, read my previous post if you haven’t already, because this post is an aside, a footnote to my day. Can you tell it’s writing day? I’m catching while catch-can.
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