I’ve Started Dating Someone New: Me

The boys just completed their last week of summer camp. I spent the week doing some writing, running errands, watching a few movies. And on the last day, I went on a date. With myself. 

The idea was taken from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s WayShe recommends, among many wonderful suggestions, taking your inner artist on a date once a week. It seemed somewhat hokey to me, but realizing I only get so much inspiration from my home office, I decided to give it a go. As the last quiet morning stretched in front of me, I packed up my journal, a couple of books and headed to the Botanical Gardens after dropping the oldest at baseball camp. 

The morning was beautiful, quiet, warm. The cicadas scratched a call and response promising a hot day to come. The cardinals chirped at the present coolness, sharing a greeting as they swooped from branch to branch overhead. The traffic hummed on Piedmont Avenue a few hundred yards away. The water cascaded over the stone lip of the water feature like silk, the roar in my ears enough to block the occasional footsteps and passing conversation. 

I took several deep breaths and felt the pleasing pull of my pen against paper. Little observations, moments, thoughts, running in black ink and bad hand writing. I didn’t move more than my hand against the page. It was then that I felt the stillness settle. And it felt familiar, warm and good. It had been a long time. 

In my day-to-day life it’s difficult for me to find peace, quiet, stillness. In the wake of no job to balance, I find it hard to be physically still, instead seeking tasks that keep me moving, busy, occupied. To find the stillness, to invite it in and remember the creative spark that lives within it was invigorating and calming at the same time. It was a moment to remember the honesty of me. 

The hubby and I are big Orange is the New Black fans and the opening credits run against the backdrop of a fantastic Regina Spektor song, “You’ve Got Time.” As I welcomed the stillness and wondered at its novelty, a line from that song bubbled to the surface: 

Taking steps is easy, standing still is hard.

So true. It’s so easy to move forward, to keep going, to try to fix it as you go. How many times in life have you found yourself on the wrong (or at least the less right path), but just kept going because it would have been harder to stop, to backtrack, to find a new map? It’s happened to me. The stereotype about the man who won’t stop to ask for directions didn’t become a stereotype for nothing. Stopping to find the right way is sometimes harder than just continuing down the wrong road convinced that eventually you’ll end up where you want to be. It’s practically an American mantra: “Keep on keepin’ on.” 

But the stillness I experienced was so fresh and exciting, I can’t wait to find it again. It’s not going to be easy. Just as it is important for the hubby and I to step outside of our couch and DVR evenings to connect for a regular date night, it is just as important for me to take time to connect with the inner self, the muse, the stillness.

In the coming months, I plan to aim for at least one artist date every two weeks. A stroll through Oakland Cemetery, a latte in a new coffee shop, a drive to a new town, a morning at the arrivals gate at the airport, a tour through an art gallery, browsing in an antique shop. I’m not bad company, come to find out.

I think this might be the start of a lovely long-term relationship. 

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Process

One of the most frustrating parts of this new writing life has been my lack of routine. Most of that is due to the fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants summer life with kids meaning outings and play dates and pool time are not always planned and always taking precedent over my need for writing time. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is moot since it’s a decision I’ve madeas to how I want to spend time with my kids this summer. It is what it is.

What, I realized today, is further complicating this lack of routine is my complete and utter lack of process. Or rather, my undeveloped process. All writers are different. Some outline their plot from start to finish before writing. Others start with the germ of an idea or character and see where it takes them. Others write detailed backstories before starting on page one. Others write the end first before working backwards to the beginning. Some write in a linear fashion. Others just write whatever hits them and stitch it together later. Some write with music. Others in silence. Some in the middle of the night, others first thing in the morning.

Me?

Dunno.

The only other time I took something large from beginning to end was for NANOWRIMO in 2010. I wrote that “book” linearly and it was torture. But it was mostly torture because I knew I had to keep slogging forward every day despite how bad it was or even when I knew it was taking a wrong turn simply so I could finish it. I’m glad I did it. It proved that I could. But is it a stellar work? Not even close. And I don’t feel bad about that. It was a learning experience and one I truly value.

The current rotation of journals that make their way into the world with me.

The current rotation of journals that make their way into the world with me.

That being said, I still am unsure of my process. I’m not sure what works best for me because I haven’t yet had the luxury of time to determine how I work best. I know in a few short weeks, we’ll be easing our way back into school routines and I’ll be faced with five mornings a week of solitude. I am hoping then I will develop a true schedule or routine to apply to my writing – something I’ve never had the luxury to do – and I think whatever process I have will come then.

In the meantime, I’m scribbling in notebooks, forgetting character’s names and completely losing my way when it comes to what it is I’m doing with them. But a house doesn’t look like much when you’re digging a hole for the foundation. So this mess I’m in right now, I’ll consider my hole. A hole that I know will eventually be filled with something solid that I can build a framework on and then make pretty with a few cans of paint and detailed finishes.

Or at least I hope so.

The Third Wheel

This summer the boys are finally playing with each other.  Legos, made-up games in their bedroom, race track building, watching TV. Unless I’m breaking up a fight, I’m starting to feel like a third wheel.

photo (28)

I have been looking forward to this moment – the moment when I’m not forced to play every round of Candy Land or assemble every train track creation, but now that it’s here, I’m a little sad. Sometimes I’m even bored. I don’t know how much is still my adjusting to not having work to sneak into my at home time or how much of it is the lazy days of summer or how much of it is just my need to constantly be in motion. Last summer, if the boys were preoccupied, I had emails to check or releases to write or media reports to update. Those moments of peace were filled with tasks being completed so that even if I found myself with no work and no boys to entertain, it was a relief to take a moment to myself and scan a magazine or simply sit and enjoy the quiet.

This summer, I find myself with an apparent abundance of time. And yet no time at all. Because the fact is, I can’t focus on any task of my own for too long before I need to interfere in an escalating altercation over whose Legos are whose or a pillow fight gone too far or the rare invitation to come and play, too. And then there is the unpredictability – some days, I need to be involved every 10-15 minutes. Other days, they might be content with each other for two hours. I never know when the play time starts what I’m in for.

I had a moment this weekend where I lamented to the hubby that I was bored. He chastised me that hadn’t I wanted this? This free time? This time to explore who I am and what I want to do? I agreed, but felt like I finally have the time and no idea how to fill it. After going back and forth, I realized what was really bothering me. It wasn’t that I had an hour to myself and chose to catch up on last week’s So You Think You Can Dance? It wasn’t that I was struggling with the writing (although I tried to blame it on that, too. I tried really hard.). The truth of the matter is that, at 7 and 4, the boys already don’t need me as much. And I don’t always like how that feels.

When they were toddlers, all I could focus on was the light at the end of the clingy tunnel of neediness. Now that I’m closer to the opening, it’s too bright out there. It’s scary and breathtaking and vast and a little lonely. I’m having to readjust my mothering to how they need me now. Now, they need me to be supportive, reassuring, a safe haven when they are scared, embarrassed or angry. They need me to laugh at their jokes and ask questions about their creations. They need me to point them in a direction and then let them take it from there.

These are hard lessons for this mama to learn.

I take comfort in the fact that I’m raising these two independent spirits who are creating together and building a brother relationship that is beautiful, loving, humorous, honest and oftentimes frustrating, angry and aggressive. But it’s hard to realize, sometimes, that I’m not always a part of it. I love seeing it and watching them navigate a day together, but sometimes I’m jealous that they don’t need me in it.

Until they do. Because someone got hurt, or is hungry or just wants to snuggle and read the next Harry Potter.

These moments are becoming more precious because in those moments the boys are choosing me. And while it’s hard to sit on the sidelines sometimes waiting to see when I’m needed or wanted, I am taking comfort in the fact that they know I’m there. There to help. There to laugh. There to play. There to hug.

It makes the now occasional round of Candy Land that much sweeter.

Of Bikes and Books

T, my seven year old, has a hang up about his bike. We bought him a new bike for his birthday two years ago. He’s barely ridden it once we took the training wheels off. He’s strong, pretty phsyically aware. I think he’d have no trouble if he’d just try it. If we so much as suggest taking the bike out to the school track to practice, he shuts down, refuses, doesn’t want anything to do with it. He’s always been a kid who wants to be able to do things perfectly from the get go and the idea of falling down, of not succeeding on his first try, is downright terrifying to him. Despite all our support. Despite our examples of other things he’s mastered with practice, like reading.

And I get it.

Because this one’s on me.

I see a lot of that bike in myself lately. I committed myself this summer to really focusing on writing. And I’ve done that here in this space. I’ve had some great successes already and have enjoyed feeling myself back in that groove. But I also committed to really developing this book project I started. This thing I keep telling myself I’m working on that, guess what? I’m totally not really working on. Not on paper, anyway. I do lots of thinking about it. Lots of posturing about it. Lots of complaining I don’t have time to work on it. Then, when faced with available time, there is something else to do (did someone say Target?), I don’t feel great (ugh, this hangnail is killer!), I should really write a blog post instead (see, I may be doing it now!), or any number of other excuses (it’s too sunny, it’s too cloudy, when was the last time I vacuumed?) to justify why I’m not working on it.

The sad fact is, I’m so afraid I’ll do it and it will suck so completely that I’ll be forced to face the truth that this dream I’ve held onto since the second grade is foolish and silly. That I’ll realize I’m a fraud. A gal who can write some pretty decent blog posts for four to five paragraphs then get out quick before anyone figures out that’s all I got. That maybe I can’t sustain a plot, character development, dialogue for 300 pages. That maybe I’ll get hurt. That maybe I just plain can’t. And so I avoid it as much as T avoids that bike, and instead we choose the scooter or blog that we feel safe with.

But maybe, instead, this blog can be my training wheels. My safety net that allows me to practice conquering the fear for the longer bike ride of a book project in my future. The place that keeps me writing without the fear of failure.

Of course I want to be able to write this book and have it be perfect the first time out. But I’m not naive. I know it’s a longer process than that. I know it’s much harder work than that. But I won’t get anywhere by not getting on the bike. And I need to fall off that bike a few times, scrape a few knees, learn from my mistakes in order to find my balance.

So T and I are going to learn a little patience this summer. Maybe take a few risks when we’re feeling brave. Be there for each other when we fall down. And at some point, he’ll ride down the street to a friend’s house on his two wheels and I’ll finish a few chapters.

And what an exhilarating ride that will be for the both of us.