Thursday, October 20, 2016

pause

Today is deadline day and I need to finish this short story and my cover letter and send off this packet to be critiqued. But I read something that made me pause. And I thought, I should put this on my blog. Because once upon a time I planned on this blog being a place to pause: a place for me to put the things that made me think, a place to write out what I was thinking about. Life goes on and on and on, but what I write about stays, like a program from a play that never gets tossed out. I need to pause more because if I don't, I won't be so changed as I could have been.

So today, here is what made me pause and nod and smile:

I ONCE DATED A WRITER AND
Writers are forgetful,
but they remember everything. 
They forget appointments and anniversaries, 
but remember what you wore,
how you smelled, 
on your first date...
They remember every story you've ever told them
like ever,
but forget what you've just said.
They don't remember to water the plants
or take out the trash,
but they don't forget how
to make you laugh. 

Writers are forgetful
because 
they're busy
remembering
the important things.

So maybe some of what I wrote about being anxious is just a part of being a writer. And the rest of it is because I'm neurotic, no doubt.

And also, while I'm writing about pauses and writing as a pause, a preservation, I'm going to add something I read from Kelly Corrigan, one of my favorite writers:

I heard once that the average person barely knows ten stories from childhood and those are based more on photographs and retellings than memory. So even with all the videos we take, the two boxes of snapshots under my desk, and the 1,276 photos in folders on the computer, you'll be lucky to end up with a dozen stories. You won't remember how it started with us, the things that I know about you that you don't even know about yourselves. We won't come back here. 

You'll remember middle school and high school, but you'll have changed by then. You changing will make me change. That means you won't ever know me as I am right now--the mother I am tonight and tomorrow, the mother I've been for the last eight years, every bath and book and birthday party, gone. It won't hit you that you're missing this chapter of our story until you see me push your child on a swing or untangle his jump rope or wave a bee away from his head and think, is this what she was like with me? (from her book, "Lift")

So pause. That's what I'll do. And then, like now, I'll resume what I was doing, where I was going, my to do list, my reading list, my chores. I will gather and gather and then I will sit down and pause again, to write about what I've picked up along my way.

Friday, October 14, 2016

distance

One day, I hope to write a memoir about being a birth mother. One day, when I have enough narrative distance and perspective, if that day ever comes for me. In the mean time though, I blog occasionally about it, when I can find a way to shape words into something like what I feel.

I heard once that an artist is a person who can translate what is in her brain into something tangible. A person who can take what she feels or imagines and share it for other people to feel and see too. That is the hard part: the creating. That is the part that differentiates the artist: the ability to do thatthe very hard work of getting thoughts onto a canvas or paper. The artist who sketches and the writer who writes are determined, dedicated people. It takes so much practice and work to get it right, or close enough to right that people will understand it. So for now, I am practicing.

Five years ago, I wrote about Mother's DayA few weeks ago, I went to a baby shower for my college roommate. I hadn't seen her in quite some time and she was one of the few people who didn't make the situation awkward; she asked me how I felt. It was the first time I said the words out loud, because it was the first time anyone had honestly asked; I said, "each year it hurts a little less." And once I said it, I knew that's how I had been feeling. 

Then today, I read this by Tobias Wolff: ...how do you forgive yourself? You don't, really. Yet one day the weight is lighter, and the next lighter still, and then you barely know it's there, if it's there at all (from his short story "Deep Kiss"). I thought, damn, that's good. Here is an artist. Here is a man who can write what other people feel. Because he wrote about something completely unrelated to being a birth mother, but I felt what he meant from my own experience.

I'm aiming for narrative distance and perspective. But in the meantime, I'll write, even without it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

anxiety

A lot of people talk about "anxiety" now - it seems like everyone has it and/or takes pills for it. It means nothing now, or close to it. But to me, it means something. Because everyone talking about it gives me a word for something I feel all.the.time.

I joke that Steve is my "Office Manager" because he takes care of the mundane but necessary details of getting through adult life. He pays bills, calls customer service, schedules repairmen, fills out forms. The thought of doing just one of these things makes me freeze in my tracks. I have had "schedule DDS appointments" on my to do list for two weeks. Getting three of us appointments next to each other between two dentists overwhelms me, even though it's the receptionist who does most of the work.

I have weekly "to do" lists not because I'm organized, but because I'm disorganized. Deadlines come and go without a thought from me if it isn't on my list. I was weeks late submitting my workshop materials for grad school, though thankfully, no one pointed it out or shamed me for it. We missed Brandon's preschool orientation. I am good at sending apology emails, but bad at preventing them. I don't think I would have entered grad school without Steve. Not because I didn't want to, but because logistically, I didn't know how. I could probably figure it out, but even the thought of figuring it out makes me sweat. Little details scare the shit out of me. Managing myself is hard.

It is getting harder now, with Brandon in preschool. There are early out days and no school days and permission slips and snack days and order forms and god knows what else. It boggles my mind. And this is just two and a half hours, three days a week. I guess this is to prepare me for real school one day, when it gets worse. I can't imagine baseball practice or swimming lessons on top of everything else. I would always be freaking out about being late or forgetting essentials.

I am a good worker but a bad employee. I mean, I have good work ethic and try my best, but all of it overwhelms me and I quit easily. I started a new job two weeks ago. This required filling out an application and going to an interview and then buying a uniform and now showing up per a schedule on time. On nights I work now, I don't take the boys anywhere. I focus on making dinner, taking a shower, and ironing my shirt. That is enough.

When I drop off Brandon at preschool, I see the other moms. I wonder how they are having normal conversations with each other and are wearing different clothes than yesterday and how their hair is washed and combed. I wonder how no one else seems to forget forms or coats or homework. Does everyone else have it figured out, or are they just better actors than I am?

There are very few people in my life who have made me feel comfortable. Most of them make me feel uncomfortable. I am shifty and nervous and even carrying on a polite conversation feels like an exhausting chore. My kids have made me feel better, because I am comfortable with them as I am. I love to be around them and do things with them. In that way motherhood has made me happier, calmer. But the rest of my life doesn't come so easy. It's harder for some of us, that's what anxiety means.

Monday, October 3, 2016

10 picture books we love

It's become something of an annual tradition for me to blog the children's books we've been into. It reminds me of this book I had as a kid, called "School Days" where I was supposed to log my best friends and favorite books and shows and all that in every different grade. I wish I would have, because being home schooled, all the grades really run together and memories have no dates. But instead, it had an entry in fifth grade (best friend: Sarah Gilbert) and the rest of it was blank. So I'm doing for them what I didn't for me. I guess that is parenting, in a nutshell: improving the future off what you know from the past.
 
The first is a new book. Most of the books we read are older, because I am nostalgic and I pick. But this one we got for a present and it is great. Fun for kids and adults alike. Bruce the Bear likes to eat eggs and he was cooking up these gosling eggs when they hatched and he became their mother. He tries to get rid of them. Adults identify with grouchy Bruce and his sarcasm. Kids root for the goslings.
Finally we are reaching an age where Brandon can sit through a Bill Peet book. They are classics and they are fantastic. But they are loooooong. But if you're going to pack a lunch and read a kids' book, you might pick this one. Eli is an old lion who has lost his mojo. Again, adults identify.
For Holden, my train lover. I remember as a kid this book being really long so we must have an abridged version because we have a board book that is short and to the point. The theme of little creatures/things/people doing big things runs pretty rampant in picture books, but this one does it among the best. You feel the struggle and the triumph. And for days afterward you'll be chanting, "I think I can, I think I can..."
Again, a throwback from my own childhood. I love love love this book. It was confusing as a kid, this Arthur (monkey) and the more popular Arthur (aardvark) each having a book series. I would vacillate between them, but found this Arthur more mature, and thus I liked him better. In this book, he is saving up money and creates his own business. It is a fantastic book to teach the young about money: spending and saving. And about entrepreneurship. I think some college-level business courses could teach this book.
I stayed away from this cult classic because it also is long. Well, it has a lot of pages, but it's really not that long. Once I finally read it, I agreed that yes, it is worth the hype. Every child should own it.
William Steig has so many children's books. We own a few, but this one Brandon likes the best. It's playful and silly. And I like Steig's illustrations. I'm not sure why, exactly, as they're not traditionally pleasing, but I do.
A newish book Brandon stumbled upon at the library. He loves it and Steve and I always agree to read it because it is just the right length (length is very important in life). I do get tripped up each time I read the ice cream flavor, however. Also, after reading this many times, Steve saw on Kourtney Kardashian's Instagram that she reads this book to Penelope. So there's that, whatever that is.
The illustrations in this book! Oh I love them so much. No wonder it won the Caldecott award. Very deserved. The story is also good. Amos McGee goes to the zoo each day and completes his routines with animals. Then one day, he is sick so the animals board the bus and do for him what he usually does for them. It's sweet. And there should be more children's books with elderly people in them.
Holden loves this one. It's OK. I actually like the story just fine. But I have a real problem with the illustrations. It certainly didn't win any Caldecott award, let's just say. Whenever I read it, I picture better illustrations turning this into one hell of a book. But alas, the publisher missed the boat on that one.
I love books that have new ideas. This one is just that. Animals live in civilized towns full of apartments and cars. They walk upright and wear clothes. Then one day Mr. Tiger decides to change shit up. He walks on all fours, takes off his clothes. He finds himself ostracized from civilization so he goes to live in the wild. One day, civilization and him meet in the middle and they all learn to live among each other. It's poetic and political all at once.


Previous children's books blog posts:
2014
2015