Category: motherhood

Drive

Lately, I’ve been restless. Swamped with this need to be doing something.
A fellow Midwesterner and writer friend would say that this is our region’s neurosis showing itself—that Old Church need to account for every second of your day and turn aside the implied guilt of idleness. I don’t think she’s wrong. Every time my dad calls, he asks me what I’m doing. When I say, “Nothing,” he says, “Why the heck not?”
In eight months I wrote a book, revised, revised, revised, wrote queries, got rejections, wrote better queries and mediocre synopses, got rejections, wrote stellar queries and improved synopses. Now I’m waiting. None of the stories, books, or ideas that I’ve played with in the meantime have really felt like something I could work on in that frantic, obsessive way that comes with a project you know you are going to finish. I haven’t really worked on anything in a month and that thing inside of me that swears not moving forward is the same as sliding backward keeps asking me, “Why the heck not?”
I understand the importance of time. When I lay my boys down for a nap, I know I have one hour or less to focus entirely on writing. That’s why I spend most of the rest of my day only half-here. My mind writes while I wash the dishes, works over sentences while I sing with the boys, figures out wording while I change diapers, all so I’ll be ready. Put the boys down, get to a computer, type until your keys smoke and your brain hurts. There’s never going to be enough time to get everything done that you wanted to, but go, go, go until the clock runs out. Maybe that’s why when I hit a dead period, all that forward inertia rolls right over me.
“Go, go, go,” my brain screams.
“Where?” I wonder.
This feeling isn’t unfamiliar.* When I finish working on a story, I usually have a night of uninterrupted sleep and a day of victory. The boys and Josh and I play, go for walks, talk, listen to music, watch shows, read books, live life completely in the present tense. My mind stays with me instead of wandering off to write so that moment when everyone is asleep and I can get to a computer is not wasted. For a little while after I finish working on something, I enjoy the relaxation that comes with being directionless.
But that sort of floating can only last for so long. I have another writing friend who insists that there are “inherent problems” with the present tense. In my case, I think he’s right.** Living in the present tense means facing summer when it’s summer and winter when it’s winter. Staying in for supper when there’s no money to go out. Not having shoot-outs or crazy sex or turning into a crow and flying away. To live in the present tense means to live in the real world and the real world, to me, is not that appealing.
Or, this need to accomplish something can be looked at from a spiritual standpoint. We were listening to a Mountain Goat’s song once when Josh asked me, “Why does everyone think it’s so hard to live?” My answer was that if you really think about your purpose in life, what you are supposed to be doing compared to what you’ve actually been doing, it’s hard to go on living with yourself. “I know it is for me,” I said, not meaning to needlessly worry Josh about suicide. If you do think about it, though, God gives us each a purpose and a certain amount of time. From there it’s up to us. Any failure is on our shoulders and any wasted time is our fault.
Feeling bummed out yet? Josh would say that’s a really depressing way to look at things and I guess I can see his point, but for me it’s the opposite. If I have a purpose, I know I’ll find my way back to it. Another story will come along and I’ll work on it in a dead sprint and lay awake for hours in bed trying to get a paragraph just right so that I can type it tomorrow. Time keeps moving forward, whether you use it or waste it, and that’s comforting to me. Besides, if I get really desperate, I can always write a blog post.
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*I’ll take a moment here to preemptive strike back at the accusations that I’m committing a capital offense by writing that something is “not unfamiliar.” This is not the same thing as saying “irregardless.” I recognize this sensation and that I’ve had it before, but I honestly don’t have it often enough to call it a familiar feeling. It’s not unfamiliar, though, either.

**But to be clear: In writing’s case, I think anything is possible if it’s done right and I will never, ever change my mind about that.

A Brief Treatise on Rules in a Developing Country

When you’re living in a house that is currently under construction by your husband and you have two small children, you end up having to make rules you would never have considered otherwise like “No eating drywall pieces, carpet fibers or nails” or “The crowbar stays in the living room.”

Making the rules isn’t that big of a deal. We’re parents and parents make ridiculously conditional rules all the time. (Just yesterday I told Oak there was no feeding Bear cell phones while I’m trying to make supper.) It’s the fact that you can’t make these rules up ahead of time that makes them such a problem. You have to wait until someone eats (or poops) a piece of drywall/carpet fibers/nails or chops through a newly painted wall with a crowbar before you even think to say it’s against the rules.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that They (the kids) have the advantage in this game. All you can do is yell loud, run fast, and hope the renovations get done soon.

Playing Catch-Up

The past week was a busy and, at times, unproductive one. That’s the way it goes, right? You decide to do something and suddenly nothing and no one want you to do it.

Where there’s adversity there’s also opportunity. Last week was full of chances for me to reconnect with both sides of my family.

  1. On my Grandpa Smith’s Fourth of July (which happened on the third), I got to spend time with the whole right side of my extended family tree (to clarify, I consider the right side of a family to be the maternal side, so this was my family, not Josh’s), including my aunts and uncle who I almost never see.
  2. Josh’s brother and his girlfriend flew up from Texas for the holiday.
  3. Josh’s uncle and cousins drove up from Texas and arrived the day Matt left. We were able to spend some time on Friday talking to his uncle about what we should know before buying a houseboat.
  4. On Saturday, Josh took care of Bear and Mom and Dad took Oak, so Emily and I got to hang out at the lake sunburning (mostly me) and talking.
  5. Saturday night, Josh and I went to his sister’s house and played cards for the first time in at least a month.
  6. Sunday, Josh’s boss and wife invited us to go out on the (other) lake with them on their pontoon boat. That one was mostly a getaway for me and Josh. It was great.
There was all kinds of trouble with my experiment last week, of course, but there’s no need to focus on the bad unless we learned something from it. For example: I learned that kids are germ sacks who will make you sick and then get better while you feel like you’re dying. I learned that I can take three two+ hour naps in one day and still be tired. I learned that little boys don’t throw as many fits when you pay a reasonable amount of attention to them. I learned that most of mine and Joshua’s fights rise out of misunderstandings and unfounded assumptions. And that I miss God–miss him like I’d miss Joshua–when I don’t spend time with Him. Also that I don’t like watching church over the internet but that’s no reason to take it out on someone else. I don’t know when any of these new-found facts will come in handy, but I figure knowing them might be the important half of the battle.
Those of you with jobs probably realize that a new week has begun. That means it’s time to start over again and apply the things I learned from last week. Just this morning Oak and Bear and I danced and climbed ladders in the living room while singing along with some great praise songs. I had to give up time I could’ve been writing, but you know what’s weird? I feel great. Really, really great.