June 11, 2015 § Leave a comment
I have told you many stories. Persuasive black ravens on razor sharp roofs, creeping tarantulas in my psychotic peripheral vision, the contents of my pill box, the numbers on my scale — stories you’d think would stay secrets, you’d think would make me nervous. I know there was a day when I was on the silent side of fear and I kept these stories to myself, but it is so long past, I don’t remember its sting. I wish I could. It would help me now.
There is one story that I work hard not to tell, one I skim over in a way that I always hope sounds breezy and confident. Each time I dance past it I am certain I will trip, tumble head first and be exposed, stripped down to my bright white skin.
I am a writer.
There. That’s it. That’s my bare ass in the breeze.
You are not as scandalized as I am. You are reading these words and have a pretty good idea of how they got here, but I am still in denial. All this time I have chosen to believe that I was fooling you into thinking that the stork dropped them off. Surely none of you imagined me actually doing the deed?
I am a writer. I write this blog, I write poetry, sometimes I write thinly veiled autobiographical fiction about a woman named Stella who cleans motel rooms in New Mexico. When I was in the third grade, my story about intrepid pioneers living in a dugout won first prize in a contest and was displayed in a bank lobby. I was the poetry editor of my high school literary magazine and have never really moved on. I am also the author of more than 120 successfully unpublished notebooks, composition books, and journals.
I am a writer and that means my life is secretly organized around writing. Honestly, my daily priorities are to keep my children alive and to write, the rest is kind of bonus. If you have ever had plans with me or expected me to show up to a meeting and I have backed out, it probably wasn’t my kids, it was writing. If I have a babysitter, writing. If there’s time for a shower, can I write instead? When required by love, duty, or hygiene to do something else, how much longer until I can write about this?
I am a writer as much as I am anything else.
My life, my whole story, is shaped by writing as significantly as it is by manic depression, obesity, motherhood, and marriage. But while I so generously spread those stories out as though I am the boldest, bravest teller of true tales, I do not write about writing. If this blog were a simple account of our homeschooling days or a handy resource for low carb recipes, my identity as a writer would be irrelevant, I could continue gallivanting with my pens and paper behind closed doors indefinitely and no one would get hurt. But that is not the work we are doing here. That is not the agreement we have made.
To say that I am telling you a true story about my life while omitting the details of my writing life is a bald-faced lie.
I’ve lied out of habit and I’ve lied out fear. I’ve lied out of certainty that upon discovery of my secret identity, it will be taken from me. “Rachel Elizabeth!” the world will gasp, disgusted and alarmed, snatching it from my naughty hands, cramming it up on to the highest, darkest shelf before shoving my nose in a corner to think about what I’ve done. I’ve lied out of fear of being put in my place.
In just a few days I will be 35 years old. A grown woman. Old enough to take my own place, to take responsibility for my creative choices and capable of engaging in adult conversation about them without cheeks flushing beet red and disintegrating into a fit of giggles and deflection. Old enough to admit, brazen and shameless, that I write, I write a lot, and I like it.
In honor of my undeniable adulthood, my coming of age, I am going to write about writing. I am giving you fair warning because it is guaranteed to be awkward and intimate and not at all like it is in the movies. It will be terrible for a while, unless you are also a secret writer or maybe a much younger, much better writer. In that case, it will be really encouraging and make you feel very good about yourself. Regardless, it will be a true story told, out loud, in love, which is the work we do here.
May 14, 2015 § Leave a comment
It has been raining all month.
I have been collecting sleep in buckets and pouring them wildly over my head whenever the opportunity has presented itself. Trapping my big kids in their room with audio books and napping with the baby, going to bed at 8pm and waking up well past dawn. I have some kind of otherwise symptomless sleeping disease that is eating away all of my writing time, and you know it’s real because I am just going with it. And I am not one to go with things.
My mother arrives today for a long overdue visit, so I am taking the opportunity to perch the baby on her most welcoming head, and in between the tea parties and fashion shows, to sleep the deep, heavy sleep only children know when their mother is in the house.
May 11, 2015 § 5 Comments
On a day you cannot move forward, you do not feel in love, you do not feel proud, you do not feel inspired, you do not want to find the energy, the effort to press, press, push. On a day when the shores are too far gone and you have no choice but to float, to glide, to wait until one or the other becomes an option. On a day that comes right in a string of days that lack reward, that do not fool you into believing you are doing it. When you are not thriving, winning, moving with the current to carve the landscape. On a day when you have not changed.
What do you do?
Do you draw circles on the page in your favorite ink just to feel your hand move on the page like a child rocking themselves to sleep? Like a smoker chewing gum? Not real, but better than nothing.
Better than nothing days. I know better than to think they won’t come, and thankfully I am wise enough to know they will go. They grate on me, the minutes scraping by, every one of them trying to convince me that I am standing still, waiting. Not working. Not blowing anyones mind. Not feeling the electric current of inspiration coursing through my being. Not living up to my expectations.
Yes, that is my expectation. The electric current of the universe coursing through my being.
What do I do on the days that aren’t like that?
First, I throw a fit and panic. I get myself so worked up in the doom of it all that I cannot possibly be a pleasant member of the Saturday morning breakfast table conversation with the tacos and the coloring books and the family I am clearly failing. I sit at my desk, face down in my notebook, begging it to please swallow my head. I very dramatically sob because the universe has very dramatically abandoned me. My husband leaves me to it because after ten years of marriage there is grace and there is wisdom. And because what I do next, often enough that I am still here, still writing these words, still moving this body, still married to this man — I get up.
With no electricity or enthusiasm, I climb onto the rails of the day. I set the table, I chew the food, I admire the exquisite Crayola masterpieces. I clear the table, I find the leotards, I braid the hair. We gymnastic. And the day goes on like this, with me on the train that is moving despite the empty sack of inspiration I’m dragging along behind it. Without fail I make it to bedtime grateful that my doing did not match my feeling.
As a person who regularly lists ZEAL (always all caps) in her top three core values, accepting that my own boredom is not a symptom of failure and irrelevant to others, continues to be one of my most formidable adulthood challenges.
My family does not require zealously scrambled eggs. My daughters do not require zealously applauded cartwheels. The milk flows freely from my breast regardless of how excited I am about it, and when I sit my body down on the couch, my family gathers around its automatically warmed 98.6 degrees and is mostly content just to have me there. Just to have me there.
So I offer this to you today, creator who found no inspiration waiting for them this morning, mother who woke up to mess, noise, and no help, anyone on psychiatric medication, and every other already tired human being who got up anyway: today, your boring, uninspired presence is doing work. You are on the train and the train is moving. You are in the river and the river is flowing. You are all the wonderful mixed metaphors that say breathing today is better than nothing.
May 4, 2015 § Leave a comment
Do not stay down.
Drink your coffee and tell me a story. Tell me how you won’t be so anxious today, how you will wrap your arms around the morning like a baby, fresh born. Tell me how you will hold it and feed it at your breast, love it though you don’t know who it will be quite yet. You don’t know what it will do or say or take or give. Tell me how you will love it just for dawning.
I love this day just for dawning,
for climbing up in the thick morning,
for moving the clouds and the pages,
for bringing mercy, fresh white, well fitting.