Kids…Yeah.

unicorn

Once upon a time, I was childless. I slept in on the weekends, could come and go as I pleased, and only had to be responsible for my own bathroom habits. Who was that innocent, carefree person of years past? I hardly know anymore, but old journals suggest she was terribly self-absorbed and actually whined about not having enough time to write. Now, I wonder what I actually did with all that free time floating around.

Since my daughter came into my life, I’ve learned to use my time more efficiently; and I’d like to think I’m a little bit wiser. There are some things I’ve learned about parenthood in the past ten years that “young me” had no inkling about. You guessed it–here’s a list:

  1. Tooth brushing is an agonizing, tortuous activity. Who knew?
  2. I am now responsible for another being’s pee/poo on an intimate level never dreamed of (especially with a spina bifida kid).
  3. Speaking of which, I’ll not only learn how to pronounce “spina bifida”, but way more than I ever wanted to know about it. Ask me about cone enemas, I dare you.
  4. Wow, I’m really not the center of the Universe. There’s a kind of relief in that knowledge.
  5. After years of absolutely no interest in other people’s children, suddenly, every child is my child, and I find them interesting and precious.
  6. At ten, my daughter is beginning to personally remind me how dumb I actually am. (Eye rolls and “Don’t you get it?” are common occurrences. Um, no?).
  7. Being a parent forces me to be social with other human beings. I guess that’s good?
  8. I’ve made the rather appalling realization that I’ll never stop worrying. Never.
  9. Having a child is truly a great way to see the world anew, with innocent, wondrous eyes. And that’s good for a writer, not to mention just about everyone else, too.
  10. I’ll never know a greater, deeper, more unconditional love. Never.

Having children is not for everyone, and there was a time I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a parent myself. But Lilly is the best thing that ever happened to me, pee/poo notwithstanding. And I am beginning to get those weekend sleep-ins back. Which makes me a little sad, since it means she’s growing up. But I’ll take it.

 

 

 

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Obsession

crossword

Recently, my daughter and I have been obsessed with crossword puzzles. We’ll sit at the kitchen table at the end of a day and tackle the daily crossword in the local newspaper. We love them so much I bought a booklet of crosswords from the racks at the store, and we tackle those, too. It doesn’t matter that they’re fairly easy. We don’t want to be too challenged; we just want to fill those little boxes.

It’s the latest obsession in my life, one of many over the years. Something tickles my imagination or interest, and I fall into it deeply. Here’s a list of the obsessions I’ve indulged in since I was a child, more or less in chronological order:

  1. Star Wars. I fell in love with Han Solo at ten.
  2. Tarot cards. I had several decks and many books. I loved the artwork, and the idea of self-awareness and improvement through their symbolic language.
  3. Goddess lore.  I desperately needed female empowerment in my twenties.
  4. Yoga. I wanted to be like those practitioners who could twist into pretzels. I never got there. Now I just like to eat pretzels.
  5. Anne Rice novels. Weepy, tortured vampires spanning the centuries. What’s not to love?
  6. Arthurian legends. It began with The Mists of Avalon, and fanned out to whatever book on Arthur and Camelot I could get my hands on.
  7. Lord of the Rings (movies, then books. Sorry, purists). Tolkien is wonderful, but Peter Jackson made it more digestible to me.
  8. Austen/Bronte novels. I don’t feel I have to choose between apples and oranges. Propriety and passion are equally entertaining in these ladies’ works.
  9. Writing in Dunkin Donuts coffee shops. I have three in my town, and I rotate which ones I write in. I can’t drink any other coffee.
  10. Writer’s journals/Journalling. It’s the only writing I do these days; I’m not reading novels, but writer’s journals (mostly women): Woolf, Plath, Nin, Sarton.

I’m sure there will be many more obsessions in my life in the years ahead; what we cling to, circle around, devote ourselves to says a lot about who we are.

What are your obsessions? Drop me a line, and we’ll talk about it!

 

The Roads Not Taken

If I weren’t living the glamorous life of a writer/cashier, here’s a list of occupations I might have gone into instead:

  1. Vet Tech/Veterinarian
  2. Voice Actor
  3. Librarian
  4. Bookstore Owner
  5. Barista
  6. Art Museum Tour Guide
  7. Classical Music DJ
  8. Audiobook Reader
  9. Literary Agent
  10. Zookeeper

As you can see, my life must involve any combination of animals/books/coffee. And if I ever get bored with groceries, at the very least I can head over to the nearest Starbucks for that backup dream job. But you can be sure I’ll have a notebook in my purse.

barista handbook
Coffee is serious business, people.

What roads have you not taken? Any regrets? Leave a comment and we’ll talk about it!

 

 

List Lover

journal

Lately, my writing has gone inward. All I want to do right now is to write in my journal, to reconnect to and renew my commitment to the first kind of writing I ever did. And that’s what I’ve been doing the past few months, with all thoughts of fiction-writing (or essays or memoir or blogging) seemingly out the window. And that’s okay. But I have to say, I have missed blogging. Blogging is a kind of digital diary, and I don’t want to let it go completely.

In keeping with the personal journalling theme of my life right now, and since I’m such a lover of lists, I decided to try to post a top ten list once a week or so. The lists could be just about anything, but I’ll try to make it interesting. Feel free to list your own answers in the comments; this could be fun!

Here’s my first list:

List ten reasons you write (or draw or paint or play music, or whatever art form you pursue).

  1. I love stories (fictional or personal) and love to tell my own in writing.
  2. It makes me feel like I have a voice (I often feel like no one listens to me).
  3. I was the quiet kid (and adult, too).
  4. I’m better at writing than speaking.
  5. It’s my form of immortality.
  6. I can live vicariously through my characters.
  7. It’s the shy person’s alternative to acting.
  8. I have a compulsion to fill blank lines.
  9. Whole worlds live inside me.
  10. It’s a good excuse to sit in cafes and sip coffee.

Why do you do the thing you love?

 

In the Room

who I am

 

I’ve experienced this phenomena that King talks about more than once. When the story I’m writing seems to write itself, when the words come fast and the characters seem to jump out of the paper, when they speak with each other and make decisions, when an important detail emerges from the pen when I never would have thought of it beforehand: with these stories, I look up from the page and think, where did all that come from? Who wrote that? These usually turn out to be my best stories.

Natalie Goldberg calls it “wild mind”. Julia Cameron calls it “the Creator” or a higher power, manifesting itself through us. Elizabeth Gilbert calls it “Big Magic”. Whatever it is, it’s this mysterious voice that, when I’m really in the zone, speaks through me and helps me to tell stories.

Lately, that voice has been silent. I can’t get her to talk to me at all. It’s like she took a trip to Tahiti or something, leaving me alone in an empty room. Okay, fine. Because I’ve been taught not to rely on “Inspiration” or the “Muse”, I sit my butt down in the chair and scribble words anyway. And I start a few things, but without her, things just aren’t coming together. I miss her.

Okay, fine, I tell her. I think I know what this is about. I’m too much in the room with you. I’ve been a little bossy, trying to tell you what to do. Okay, a lot bossy. No, no, I say. That’s stupid. Cross that out. Erase, delete, change, you can’t say that, you don’t know what you’re talking about, no one will like that, no one will listen, you don’t have the right to speak, let alone write.

Okay, I guess I understand why you’d rather be drinking margaritas on the beach.

Somewhere along the way I lost faith in you. Or did I just get scared of what you were saying? Either way, I pushed you out of the room and closed the door, because I wanted to be in control. There are reasons for this: other aspects of my life feel a little out of control right now, and I was feeling panicky. But I’m working on that, okay? Just come back, and I promise I’ll listen.

Heck, I’ll just get out of the way altogether. I’m going to open the door, and just humbly sit in the corner of the room, waiting for you to return. I’ll do the busy work until then, lining up the pens, jotting down ideas in the notebook, blogging books and movies, just showing up. I’ll keep the wheels greased; I just need you to turn them. I’ll go where you lead. Take your time, but, you know, hurry up. Sorry–bossy again.

In the meantime, have a drink for me, and don’t forget the sunscreen.

Compliment

It’s gratifying to hear compliments: “You look nice today,” or “I love your shoes.” A kind word can lift the spirits on days when you really need it. But if I had to pick the best compliment I’ve ever received, I’d have to refer to a conversation I had with one of my coworkers last year.

I work as a cashier at a grocery store, and this particular young man–he’s 17–had just started his job and was asking me some questions about me out of curiosity. I explained how I’d been married for 20 years, started working at that very store at 18 on the register, moved over to the deli, left and waitressed for a while, went back to the store, went to community college and worked for an accountant, met my husband and got married, worked in the beer & wine department, had our daughter and stayed home with her for two years, went back to work at a toy store, then eventually came back to the grocery store–to work on the register.

I’d come full circle, and, I thought, not gotten very far. It’s perhaps one of the nagging regrets of my approaching middle years: I look around me at my young coworkers with bright futures, and think–I didn’t do enough. I didn’t improve myself. I didn’t get far in life at all. I still live in the same town I was born in, never having left it, if that tells you anything.

But this young man, who plans on being a doctor (or a lawyer)–and I have no doubt that he will do just that–this young man, in all sincerity, said to me, “Wow, you’ve had an interesting life.”

I was struck dumb for a minute. No one had ever said that about my life before. I certainly hadn’t believed I’d lived anything but a normal (and slightly dull) existence. In fact, I’d been ashamed at what I hadn’t accomplished in my life. But this young man, with the fresh, undiscriminating eyes of the young, had proclaimed that my experiences had amounted to “an interesting life.” Huh.

That has to rank as one of the best compliments I’d ever received, mostly because it was so surprising, and made me look at my life in a new light. Perhaps it takes someone else’s perspective to achieve this.

Now that I think about it, maybe I do have a pretty interesting life, at least to me. There aren’t a lot of external bells and whistles, but there’s a stack of notebooks and journals suggesting that how I process this life is what makes it interesting.

Thank you, Peter.

be in love with your life
Still trying.

 

I’ll Never Do This

Don't walk

I’m a lover of lists. Whether it’s making a to-do list or grocery list for home, or listing my favorite (fill in the blank) for the blog, there’s something about numbering lines on a piece of paper and filling it that makes me weirdly happy. I feel organized and/or insightful, somehow in control of my world.

While poking around in a book of writing prompts (still not feeling it and needed some help), I came across this one: List 25 Things You Will Never Do. This one appealed to me; it turned the usual list-making idea onto its head. Not what you will do or want to do, but what you’ll never do. It examines the underbelly, the negative space in your life.

Well, here’s a least 10 Things I’ll Never Do:

  1. Jump out of an airplane.
  2. Eat Kale.
  3. Read Ulysses.
  4. Be able to keep a plant alive.
  5. Be fashionable.
  6. Give up chocolate.
  7. Learn to drive stick shift.
  8. Get an iPhone.
  9. Stop biting my fingernails.
  10. Stop writing.

It feels good to at least know what I won’t do.

What will you never do?