She was, I AM

I’ve been really busy. Like, crazy busy. It’s that kind of busy where I feel like people are calling my name from several different places, and I can see them, but I don’t know to whom I should respond first. My days find me turning my head in all directions, trying to see what is coming next. It’s disorienting and dizzying but also very, very good. I have not been busy like this in a long time. I welcome the chaos and the challenge.

It’s easy for me to slip under the warm blankets of complacency when I get busy like this. So I have finally trained myself not to turn the TV on as soon as the house gets quiet. I also have begun avoiding eye contact when I go out. I loathe creating small talk with people – It’s simply exhausting the whole ritual of, “Hi! How are you? I’m good, thanks! Yes, it is a beautiful day. Weekend plans? Not sure yet. I may drink several bottles of cheap wine and pass out while crawling up the stairs to go hurl in the toilet. You?

Why is that so wrong? It’s sarcasm…good-natured, jovial sarcasm. I mean, really…cheap wine? Never. Those who know me will see right through that one. And I have become almost expert at hurling in the sink when I know I won’t make it up the stairs to the toilet.

But I digress. And upset my mother, I’m sure.

Back to the business of being busy.

Many people have told me that they get tired just reading about my days. But to me an average day in my life leaves me feeling like I accomplished so little. For example, yesterday I washed, dried, folded and put away three loads of laundry. Not too shabby. But there are three more waiting to be washed, dried, folded and put away. Then I logged on to my part-time editing job and spend a three hours editing the HTML of the online courses that are set to launch in 6 weeks. I also re-read the issue of Harper’s magazine I have to analyze for my graduate program. Sounds nice, yes? Reading a magazine. Yeah. Not so much. Harper’s is like War and Peace in magazine format – it is dense, political, intelligent, confusing and pretty damn boring. Thus the second reading. I also walked my puppy. Twice. Our route is almost two miles. Then I checked email, replied to emails, read more emails, replied to those (working in an online environment brings many daily emails). Then I picked up the kids from their respective places of care and education. I cheated on dinner…Subway. I had a yen for a turkey and provolone sub, and little desire to go grocery shopping. Then homework with Ethan, then play time with Laura. Then one washed, teeth brushed, pajama-ed, read to, tucked in and kissed goodnight. Then the Thursday Wii battle ensued. Then I ate crow and supervised the washing, teeth brushing, pajama-ing and reading of the other one. After tucking and kissing, it was time to go back to work. It was time to write.

And here is where the last of my energy is allocated. For my MFA program, I am writing a memoir. It is a collection of essays about events and people in my life, and what I have learned from these events and people, and how they have both hurt me and helped me grow. It’s difficult because I have to take a harsh look at who I was and the dumb-ass mistakes I made. Memories are one thing, but to relive those mistakes, to put myself back in those moments is brutal.  But I do it. Everyday I sink myself back in time and be who I was.  Such masochistic tendencies are the bane of so many memoirists I know. We pick the scabs, poke the bruises and flex the sore muscles in order to feel the pain that must be committed to paper. We do this because we believe, deeply believe that our stories will let someone know that it’s okay to make dumb-ass mistakes.  And that they will show someone else that she isn’t the only frightened little girl, depressed teenager, cocky twenty-something, confused thirty-something.  We hurt so we may reach out to others with the hopes of soothing their pain, easing their confusion.

I write all day long…my head constantly churning and turning words and sentences. So as I am doing laundry, walking the puppy, editing courses, driving, helping with homework, playing, tucking, reading, I am also writing. At night, when it comes time to quiet my self as my house has quieted, I am ready to work.

Night turns into early morning, midnight having long passed. I have purged and edited and revised as many of the events from my past that I can handle, so I return to the confident forty-year-old that I have become, comfortable in my Real home, and thank who I was for being her so that I may be here.

Advertisements

Promise

I can only promise myself that I will focus on what is…not what will be or what was. I have this moment, and it is a moment in which I choose to be fully present.

My son is sleeping a few feet from me. His allergy-labored breathing is the soothing metronome of my evening. I must remember to tell the tooth fairy that he is crashing in my bed tonight, so it knows where to find his tooth. A flash of lightening brings thunder that brings my daughter padding into my room. Son, daughter, puppy, and cats pile on and under sheets in my bed. I turn off my desk lamp and type by the LED of my Mighty Bright book light. Just because I don’t sleep, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t.

I spent most of my day crying from exhaustion after pushing through two weeks of 10-hour days in a writer’s residency at Goucher College. The residency ended Friday. Saturday I was still buzzing with the heady intoxication of new friends, inspiration and motivation. The hangover set in close to midnight.

My two weeks at Goucher gave me a solace I so desperately needed. I was surrounded by my “people” – fellow writers who ‘got’ each other easily. Writers who existed in a space where competition did not exist. It was a nurturing environment. I drank deep. My writing life had been shelved for nine years prior to this residency. The man I divorced was given his pink slip for many reasons – the most salient, his refusal to allow me time to write. Lance – as he shall be referred from here on – harbored resentment towards my writing life. He distrusted it as though he suspected an affair. Because I thought it my place, I demurred and resumed my position as faithful wife. Those were empty years.

My children were with my parents for the two weeks I was in residency. The house was quiet and clean. After the first week, I missed them terribly, so much that the phone calls became frustrating. I wanted them to talk and talk and talk like they do when they are home. But the beach and TV and dinner and pool were distracting. Meanwhile, happiness and loneliness fought for my own attention. With each day, loneliness won. Come Sunday morning, I was distraught. I crawled from my bed at 11:00 a.m., weeped through two hours of traffic on 95 North and ambled through the rest area food court in a stupor looking for my children. I sobbed when they saw me, jumped up, and tackled me with hugs. My parents were concerned for me, seeing my sadness so palpable. We said hasty goodbyes – band-aids are best ripped off. The car ride home was difficult for me. I was emotionally wasted and anxiety about maintaining my new life patterns were looming large. I focused on the chatter of the children to make the miles slide along.

Once we arrived home and began to unpack, make dinner decisions, clean up, mess up, and even argue a little, I came back into my own. My hinges have begun to come together. And now, late at night, during a thunderstorm, glass of wine almost drank, cats relocated from bed to my desk, kids curled around the puppy, I take the first tentative steps to recreating a writing life for myself.

“My insecurities are in all the right places. Have a look.” ~B. Wakefield

xo,
~AJC

%d bloggers like this: