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I can’t remember the last time I had a lengthy span of time with nothing to do. Maybe last year, before I was diagnosed with cancer. Or maybe it was farther back, some time in my childhood, when Sundays would stretch before me, so oppressively boring that I couldn’t see the potential.
Going back, month after month, it’s one busy day after another. I have stacks of things: writing, blog posts, catching up on Facebook, calling my friends, exercising, classes, appointments, etc, all good things but they fill up all my time, like shapes in the Tetris game, filling up the screen.
My mind too, is always working. If I have a free moment I have several books I am trying to read. I also have stacks of non-fiction that I read as research for my novel and, literally, hundreds of websites.
It is all a balancing act, a Tetris game that has gotten to a harder level, and it is taking all my attention to make the pieces fit, the pieces of this awesome life I am creating. A life filled with friends, and creativity, and learning.
Maybe I need to slow down, but, instead I’ll have a beer. Just one, but it is strong. And all the shoulds and oughts, responsibilities and wishes are washed away and I can just Be. I lounge on the couch and watch a show with my husband and laugh and enjoy myself. The Tetris game is off, and forgotten.
Is this the miracle of hops and barley? Is this the meaning we all recognize in the words often misquoted to Benjamin Franklin, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”?
I don’t want anyone to worry. This isn’t a cry for help. This is just something I am pondering about my life, a development that I am considering, which has been exacerbated by trying to do NaNoWriMo. Why do I make myself so busy? Are idle hands the devil’s play things? And, is it okay to use beer for it’s “medicinal” qualities?
You probably wont see my writing here next month. I am participating, for the second time, in NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. It is a crazy challenge, for masochistic writers, to write a 50,000+ word novel during the month of November.
I completed my first NaNoWriMo challenge five years ago when I wrote a crappy sci-fi novel, Nine Lives. It was crappy because averaging 2500 words a day is not how I do my best writing. When I was finished I was glad. I celebrated. But I never wanted to look at Nine Lives again. It was just too much of a
good crappy thing.
I never thought I would do NaNoWriMo again. But I have hardly worked on my novel Dream Girl since being diagnosed with breast cancer last November. I feel like NaNoWriMo will fulfill a twofold purpose of getting me writing again and claiming time to write.
I have wanted to be a writer pretty much my whole life. (I also wanted to be a librarian and criminologist for the FBI, but writing is my first and longest love.) When I was 11 my mother got me a voice recorder so I could keep track of the stories I was constantly coming up with. Not that she thought I was going to be a writer. No, she thought I was probably going to die young, hit by a car while trying to cross the street, because I never paid attention and lived “with my head in a fantasy world.”
In my twenties I came up with lots of novel ideas, mostly supernatural themes. One, about three girls with magical powers, would eventually morph into Dream Girl. Back then I was hanging out with some comic book writers and illustrators and I even started collaborating with a comic book artist on Dream Girl. She drew some pictures of what she thought my characters looked like. That was when I realized that I am not so good at collaborating.
When my daughter was 2-ish I spent 10 days working on our friend’s ship ranch, it was there that I came up with the “Dream” part of Dream Girl. I knew I was on to something. Years and years went by while I raised my daughter and started homeschooling her. I thought about Dream Girl all the time but I didn’t feel like I could really write it.
A few years ago I started doing some collaborative writing with some friends I was playing role-playing games with. Starting writing again really energized me. I was so excited and looked forward to it everyday. My co-writers gave me good feedback, which got me past some of my insecurities. That was when I realized I could collaborate, as long as nobody draws my characters totally wrong.
All that time, since before my daughter was born, I have been thinking about my book. In that time it has grown into a huge complicated tome, chock full of things that excite and scare me. When I finally sat down to start writing it, in 2009, I realized that I had made it so complicated that I now had to do a ton of research to write it realistically. Luckily, I think researching is awesome. (Researcher is another job I think I would be suited for.)
Also, I kind of love myself a well-crafted sentence. My daughter and I sometimes stop what we are reading just to share a particularly excellent sentence with one another. We collect them. When I am writing I am sometimes inspired to craft a beautiful sentence or phrase. When I do it just makes my day. This might come from spending a lot of time away from my computer thinking about my book, basically writing it in my head, looking at it from all sides and listening for the music or poetry in it.
All of this is to say that I am not a very fast novel writer. My style is thoughtful and, at times, deliberate. NaNoWriMo is a shock to my writing system. Once November starts there is no time for research, no time to sit and ponder a beautiful sentence, possibly no time to make dinner and, most likely, no time to blog. If I do come up for air, I will probably only have something short. Like a pronoun.
I wont be working on Dream Girl for NaNoWriMo but a ghost story instead, which tells the back story of a character that inhabits my Dream Girl World.
I never had a lot of female friends. I tended to hang out with guys when I was growing up, and when I was a grown up. It was pretty normal for me to be the one girl in a group of guys. But, recently, I have befriended several women, and many of them were the “one girl in a group guys” girl. Now I am part of a close group of female friends. This is definitely new territory.
Every so often, something comes up with a friend, or in the group dynamic, that pushes me in new and uncomfortable ways. I don’t know if it is the “femaleness” of the friends or my age but I find myself needing to both grow more and more clearly define who I am, to develop/maintain my friendships. Sometimes it is challenging. But I think it is a good thing. When I didn’t have female friends I didn’t know what I was missing.
Now I feel like I am part of a circle, and, wherever I go, they are with me.
I get a daily “meditation” from Aish.com, a Jewish website. I often find them uncannily relevant, so, even though my religion/spirituality is in an amorphous place right now, I still read my daily thought. Today I got:
“In thinking about serenity and realizing its great value, we would love to be serene all the time. But this is not possible in the world in which we live. In the totality of our lives we will experience a wide range of human emotions, not all of them the ones we would choose for ourselves if we could have total control over our feelings.
So now we have a choice. We can acknowledge our emotional reality at any given moment and from there work our way to true serenity. Or we can deny our true feelings. We may deny our insecurities, anxieties, worries, frustrations, disappointments, etc., and think that because we want to be serene, these feelings do not exist. Let us state clearly: Only by being in touch with your feelings will you be able to truly experience serenity.”
It is not easy for me to acknowledge my emotions. I spent most of my childhood denying them, focusing on other people’s emotional needs, and trying to “overcome” my own. When I did have emotions they would come bursting out of me, and crash around like a bull in a china shop. And I was left feeling like I was the broken china.
Sometimes I try to wait to feel my emotions for a time that is more convenient, like when I am alone. Or I push then away, thinking they will likely dissipate if I have distance from whatever is causing the emotion. Sometimes I berate myself for having them, “emotions are for little girls, I’m stronger than that.” I definitely don’t trust them, because feelings are not facts, and only facts can’t be denied.
I do a lot of things with my emotions, but acknowledging them is rare. It would seem that the stars have to align just right for me to listen and then respect my feelings. Or I could make friends with my emotions, just friends, no strings attached, just stop for a bit and check in and see how I am feeling, and acknowledge it, without committing to anything. I have a “feeling” that if I did that for awhile I would become a wiser person, a more well rounded person and kinder too.
What kind of relationship do you have with your emotions? Are you close? frenemies? estranged?
We were driving to Lowes, for the second time today, and I was just exhausted. I started to fall asleep in the passenger seat when suddenly I smelled something, and you know how strong smell memory can be. It brought me back to my childhood and I experienced that safe, comfortable feeling of freedom that was once common place in childhood but rare as a white unicorn in adulthood.
I need a vacation from being an adult. I know I supposedly just got back from a vacation, fifteen days in the Mediterranean, but that trip was ridiculously busy. We had to get up early, catch buses, stand in lines and in crowds in 95+ degrees, and walk, walk, walk. Don’t get me wrong, it was an amazing trip, but I would never describe it as relaxing and I certainly didn’t have freedom to follow my own star, in my own time, along my own path.
I also recognize that I am unusually busy these days. The moving vans will arrive and start packing us up in T-minus eleven days. And for every chore I mark off our list two more that I hadn’t thought of get added. Not only are we moving to a new state, but we are trying to sell our house and our truck. And dealing with property and finances in the aftermath of my father-in-laws death. I feel like I have a hundred and one things to think about. There is just so much that needs to get done, and I have to organize it all. My brain is like an overstuffed filing cabinet, and the drawers won’t shut.
I just want to breathe deeply of that childhood memory of freedom, where there was nothing to think about other than what was right in front of me. To tell the truth I lived in my head a lot as a child, in my head or in a book. But I also spent a lot of time outside, wandering in woods, through the neighborhood, into empty houses or construction sites. I climbed trees and lay in the grass. The hours after school and before dinner were mine. I had no responsibility, except to my own whims. There was no credit card debt, no car to fix, no home to sell. Just my hands getting dirty and my shoes getting worn.
I still love to walk outside. Nature renews me. It is the most likely place I could catch a glimpse of that white unicorn. But for now, all I can do is hope that there is still freedom to be had, that life does slow down sometimes, and that even grown-ups, mothers and wives can catch the elusive magic of freedom.
Just how many shoes does one woman need? Apparently 19 fewer than were taking up my precious closet space yesterday. That still leaves me 29 pairs, including classic black pumps, Dansko wedges, Vibram barefoot running shoes, plaid Rocketdogs, and, of course, my Doc Martens.
For some people (men) shoes are just utilitarian. They have one pair for work and one for play. Some people are classy and just have a few really expensive pairs. But I buy shoes like I buy t-shirts, funky bracelets, or winter caps, that is, if it gives me that special happy feeling then it is welcome to join the family.
You know what else gives me a happy feeling? Getting rid of clutter. And since we are moving in two weeks I have been getting rid of lots of junk. Hence the 19 pairs of shoes stepping out to join some Goodwill shopper’s happy family.
As I am bagging things up to give away or throw out I am wondering why I have so much clutter. I blame it on having a big house. We have TWO rooms in the basement just for storage. They are like a giant version of those dumping ground drawers we all have in the kitchen. When we lived in a small apartment, space was at a premium and we couldn’t afford the clutter. But, over the last four years, it has been all too easy just to relocate rarely used kitchen utensils, old video game systems, and VHS tapes into the “coal room” in the basement. The coal room: a mausoleum for useless and obsolete items.
And speaking of useless, why do I still have bras in my underwear drawer? I mean, I have a few mastectomy bras, but I really don’t need to be hanging on to old push-up bras or demi-cups. I haven’t needed those since last December. Oh yeah, and those extra panties that I only wore once a month, you know, our grungerwear? I tossed those too, since I am officially in menopause. While I was at it I got rid of the jeans that were 3 sizes too small, because this is my body now and when I do lose weight I can reward myself by buying some new jeans. (And maybe some new shoes too.)
Hopefully I will have the energy to keep this purging up and not find myself, the day before the movers arrive, emptying whole drawers of mystery keys, broken rubber bands, and single batteries into boxes labeled “Kitchen Items.”