Friday, October 27, 2006

Sunday Scribblings--Bedtime story--Geese and the girl


Another long story--a fairy tale about a girl who makes friends with some unruly geese, on a journey that takes them all far from where they started. This is, as always, a rushed first draft, so forgive the areas where it makes less sense. Luckily, fairy tales come with their own sense.
Once upon a time there lived a girl, who spent most of her time in a perch overlooking a high walled garden. Branches from tall trees spilled out from the top, over laden with heavy, lush fruit, which seemed forever ripe, regardless of the season. The air that wafted from above the wall carried hints of luscious scents, perfumes that beckoned and beguiled her. Is it any wonder that she spent most of her day just sitting in her perch, ignoring the workaday cares that surrounded her—the clanging of rusty pots, the scratches and yawlings of the neighborhood cats, the sharp-edged voices which always seemed raised in anger and frustration. She recognized these voices, unwillingly. She knew one of them was hers.

One day the Master of the house gave her an errand—she was to walk over to the garden with three obstinate geese from the pond and deliver them to whoever first answered the door. Only that person would know the way to make the geese more docile, and thus tastier. Everyone knew that angry geese made a bitter, tough meal.

"Why have you chosen me?" she asked, a little afraid. On occasion this Master would amuse himself by creating impossible tasks for the members of his household—watching in satisfaction when they failed and were turned out of the house. The girl did not want to lose her place, her perch, her home. She liked being near the garden, knowing it was there. What if she walked in and was disappointed? Better to continue to visit it in imagination, where all things could remain perfect, and perfectly still.

"The geese asked for you." He said. His smooth face was implacable, unreadable. "And we must do what the geese say.”

Unable to argue with his logic, the girl went up to her perch one last time and wept, knowing that this was goodbye. The golden hue of the garden, which had always spilled generously over her, seemed to retreat back behind the wall, leaving her quite bereft. And for the first time, she looked down. The garden which had seemed to be next door, a mere thought away, was actually miles and miles away from her, and between them was a gray, dismal forest. But there seemed no way out, so with a heavy heart she packed her meager belongings in a small rucksack—a tattered notebook left to her by her mother, a pair of ripped black stockings, and a cracked flowering can.

The next morning, she walked through the house, saying goodbye to her favorite things. Goodbye silver teapot, goodbye fireplace, goodbye library. But among the people, she remained silent. They had never cared for this odd girl with the gray dreamy eyes, and she had always been afraid of their sharp demeanor, even as it ignited her own occasionally fierce one.

"Are you sure?" she asked the Master one last time. "I will miss my perch and my home." The appeal was there in her soft voice, but the Master chose to ignore it. He was very busy this morning, with no time to indulge the fears of household girls. "Yes," he said. "We must do as the geese say.”

So she walked to the pond, wintry and stark, where the geese lived with their gooseherd, a sour faced, frightened little boy who longed for things he could not name.

"Oh, so its you, then." He said. "I heard the geese asking for you. But I could not be sure, for I don’t always speak their language.”

"I have never been here before. How do the geese know of me?" This was a reasonable question, she thought. It was important to understand the logic of the thing.

"The geese know." The gooseherd did not like to remember that they had also chosen him for this task, which had as yet brought him no happiness. "All we can do is listen.”

The three obstinate geese flapped forward, eyeing the girl with their beady eyes, before they nodded their approval.

She was afraid, but knew she needed to appear brave, so she said in a loud voice, "Well, then let’s go on to the garden. I believe they are expecting us.”

Could that have been a gleam of respect in the geese’s eyes? Perhaps, or perhaps not. But they certainly trudged alongside her easily enough, as the gooseherd watched, in bittersweet envy.

They all walked until the looming house became a speck in their vision, but still the garden was out of reach. They had only the fragrance of the flowers, and the molten glow of the sun, to let them know they were on the right track. Meanwhile, the geese amused themselves by picking fights with the tree frogs, who harrumphed at their progress, and by teaching the girl the intricracies of their language. At night, while the geese slept by the crackling firelight, the girl wrote their words in the blank pages of her notebook. She turned the pages back and read her mother’s messages to her.

What you have may not look like much, her mother had written. But used wisely, it will bring you whatever you need. The girl couldn’t see the sense of that, but her mother had been a noted wise woman, and so the girl put her trust in the words, believing that, like the geese, they would teach her in their good time.

They continued their journey, the geese now beginning to lag behind her, walking more and more slowly. "We should be making more progress." She rebuked them. She really wanted to try and return to her perch. "Would you want to go so quickly to your death?" They asked her in return. "We know we shall be eaten once we are tamed. And we don’t want to die.”

The girl considered this, acknowledged that it made sense to her. "So don’t allow yourself to be tamed, then. Just remain your angry selves.”

"It’s too late for that." They replied. "In teaching you to understand, we have given away our anger.”

"So why did you do that?" The girl asked, puzzled. "It wasn’t necessary for our journey, was it?”

"No," they admitted. "But we get lonely too.”

And with that, they saw that they were almost at the gate of the garden. The girl grew faint with excitement, while the geese trembled with dread.

In spite of her violent longing to see the garden up close, finally, she said, "We don’t have to go in, you know. You geese are very wise, and I am sure we could all make a living somehow, even if we never went in and never went home. We could live in the Inbetween Forest.”

"We cannot hide so from our destinies," the geese replied, stoically, even as they patted her arm with their great white wings.

Somewhere, a trumpet revellie began to sound and the gate opened with a stately flourish. But no one was to be seen, except a kindly looking old woman.

"My supper is here! And look, they are tender again—all their unruly nature gone!"she said with genuine satisfaction, and proceded to swallow the geese whole, one by one. When she finished she said to the girl, "Can you sing?"Again, not unkindly. Like all fairy tale maidens, the girl could sing very well indeed, and sang a song to the old lady to show her. "Oh, this will never do at all, my child. See, it is my song that keeps the garden flourishing, that keeps the sun glowing, that keeps it spring forever. If you also sang, you might confuse things. So…I give you a choice. Allow me to cut off your tongue, and remain here with me, or be swallowed with your geese friends.”

The girl remembered her mother’s words—she was sure that she didn’t have much, but she wanted to keep what she had. And faced with a life without her simple songs, she knew she would not want to live.

"I grew fond of them. I should like to live with the geese, even if it means I'll live inside you forever.”

"Very well," the old lady replied, and swallowed her down, but she was a clever old lady, and so she took a sizable bite of the girl’s tongue on the way down.

Down the girl tumbled, until she landed with a thump inside a barren field. The geese honked their indignation at her treatment.

"You have been our friend. You have learned our language. We will be your voice until you heal.”

And they rubbed feathers on her tongue and hissed rhymes to her, and time passed over them and under them.

One day, the old lady opened her mouth to sing her song, but what came out was a melody unlike any other, a passionate tune that merged the hissing of the geese with the pent up fury of the girl, with a poignant note of longing for the spring which lived outside of her, and for her home with the Master. The flowers bloomed riotously, leaning towards the old lady as if she were the sun. The sun itself lagged in the sky, and listened. And the song grew stronger, and the old lady began to melt from the inside—even her barren innards were flourishing. And finally her mouth opened wider and wider, until the girl and the geese were able to pull themselves out, using the girl’s ripped stockings as a sturdy rope.

The old lady sighed, and said, "Thank you for giving my mouth one final song, and one so beautiful at that! But you can sing your own songs now." And with that, she turned, one last glance at the wonders she had helped create, maybe one last sigh, and vanished.

The geese and the girl stared at each other, blinking in the sudden light, confused. The garden door creaked open once again, and the Master entered, with two large vines, one wilting and the other flourishing.

"I knew my faith in you was not misplaced," he said, smiling. "But there is one more task I need for you to undertake." And he held out his two vines. "If I water one, the other languishes with need. If I water the other one, the first one withers and dies. And I need them both.”

The girl was puzzled. After the old lady left, she had assumed she would live in the garden with her geese friends, and never see the Master again. So why was he here, requiring still more work of her?

But then she remembered her old flowering can. Pulling it out of her rucksack, she filled it with cool water from the stream and ran over to the vines—the crack meant that it could water both vines at the same time, and as they flourished, they wove themselves around the Master and the girl, dressing them both in gorgeous bridal clothes.

"But wait…you never asked me!" said the girl, even as she looked at herself in all of her wedding finery.

"Well, we must observe the customs," she replied. "I would have married you as a simple girl in my household, but I could not keep you from your destiny and your garden and your song. Now, you are ready for me, as I have always been for you. Will you marry me?”

Joyfully, she said yes, and married him underneath a rainbow’s arch. Through magic, the garden and the Master’s house became one, and the ever flourishing vines continued to shower them with riches and blessings. The geese lived a long, happy life, no longer bitter, no longer angry. They played with the Mistress and Master’s many children, and finally taught the gooseherd their secret language.

But that is a story for another night.
For more sleepytime stories, go here.


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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sunday Scribbling--when Good goes Bad


You remember Resistance, don’t you? Some days I fool myself that she’s gone; for whole weeks I can get through without seeing her smirking face. But for some reason, this prompt has brought her back into the foreground of my life.

She looks over my shoulder. "No ideas, huh?"

"Well, there are these three girls in a playground...and uh..."

She rolls her eyes dramatically. "Cliche! Ugh! Quick...better erase it before anyone sees it!"

I sigh...she's right. Their voices aren't flowing for me--there is no story there, alas. Reluctantly, I say goodbye to the girls, now grown sullen and silent, as they fade away from my mind and I am left with nothing with a blinking cursor and an empty screen, which I try to hide, to no avail.

"It’s been what, one, two weeks since you wrote fiction, or anything you really liked?"

She sounds sympathetic, but I know it’s a trap. I stay silent.

"Maybe it’s just know? Whatever impulse you had for those weeks (and wasn’t I nice to take that vacation and let you have those?)...maybe you used up all of your creative juice?"

I frown. She knows just where the soft underbelly is. "I don’t think that’s possible. I mean...I think it’s just that I haven’t been getting enough sleep, enough reading time..."

"God, aren’t you tired of those excuses?"

Ouch. But she’s right. de Sade wrote in blood, in feces, while in jail. I can’t manage to create something during a generous nap time?

"Ok, yeah, I am...but I am just dry...this prompt...nothing is coming up. No voices anymore. None but yours."

Good is just a loaded word around here. I catch myself calling Madam a "good girl" and then correcting myself, because it sounds like I am praising her just for being docile, for being easy for me to handle. And I know what it’s like to grow up thinking that being accommodating is your greatest accomplishment. Just be quiet, do what everyone around you says, and get by. Don’t be difficult. Don’t be loud. Don’t make too many waves.

Whenever I see the word "good" I wonder what it is hiding underneath it. Pain? Fear? Rigidity? A fixation with being right? I think of all of the categories—good mother, good wife, good daughter, good sister, good friend, good writer—and how often I feel left out of those narrow passageways. Bad seems ever-present, sprawled all over your house, taking a drag from a beer bottle. Bad moves in, never pays the rent, never buys the groceries. But bad seems alive, immediate. Good is that china doll balanced precariously at the top of the TV, the one with the white angel wings that must never get dirty. The one you always want to touch, but your mother smacks your little pudgy hands away. It’s unachievable, because it’s outside of you.

So whenever I see "good," I think "bad"—I think about all of the ways that the very idea of "good" makes me feel worse about myself. Once people put that mantle on my shoulders, I sway, unsteady. I can’t handle it for long. Hearing that my writing is "good" makes me afraid to write at all, for fear of sliding back down to my natural state, "bad." Hearing that I am a good mother makes me want to confess my many failures—Madam still nurses many times a night; Madam refuses to get into the carseat; Madam throws tantrums and sometimes I give in because I don’t know what else to do. Remembering those days that I was a good wife only brings my many failures in that area into stark relief.

But I can’t ignore Good...I can’t ignore the seductive promise of it. The promise that the china doll ignite my dreams and star in creative fancies. The dream that I’ll figure it all out somehow, that I’ll earn that label. That I’ll make everyone happy. That I’ll live up to something that I sense inside, in quiet moments. That I won’t fail anymore. And the thing is...I know Good exists. I see it all the time--in other people, in other pieces of writing. But usually not in myself...well, not for very long. Good is a blink of a moment, over before you finish your breath. Bad is to the left and the right--it fills my eyes like night. It's my Shadow Twin. I can't seem to escape it.

Why can’t Good provide a road map, instead of giant stop sign? Why can’t it inspire me to try, and learn, to get behind the wheel and drive off to parts unknown? Why can’t Good be lots of little road stops along the path, or even the path itself, instead the Celestial City Beautiful far off in the distance, glittering because it’s never sullied by human presence?

"So...basically. You are stuck." Resi confirmed it. "No inspiration. No voices. No characters. Nothing. Just whistling voids where imagination used to live."

"Hey, I like that!" I grin weakly at her.

"Why? It’s just a few words. It’s nothing special." She said, alarmed. She hates the idea that she could ever really help.

"I know...but lately, I’ll settle for a nicely turned phrase."

"Is that good enough?" She leaned over my screen, now full of words—not the words I wanted. Not the story I wish I could have written. Not the character I wish I could have brought to life.

"No...but right now, it's better than a blank screen. I think I need to put Good back on top of the TV, and concentrate on Better."

To see truly Good writing, go here.


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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A cup of coffee

I know most of my writing is fueled by a way of communing with all of those people whose words have made me leap out of my own head a little—who have brought me to another shore with the shock of recognition.

I feel very alone right now, but then I read something like The Mother Knot and I know myself again, outside of myself, created and narrated through someone else’s words.

The book itself, solid and smooth in my hand, pages gently flapping in the breeze—the book is a testament to the possibilities of my nascent dreams. The book was also stolen from hours of intermittent infant sleep, one ear trained on the half opened door that seemed to breathe with the charge inside. The fingers flew over the typewriter, racing each one of those breaths until the inevitable wail of wakefulness brought an end to creation for that one day. I’m sure it dragged on, pulled out and pushed into corners of the closet, out of the baby’s toddling reach. I’m sure it was patted, growing heavy with symbolism, carrying the author’s entire sense of self in its disheveled papers.

But she finished it, and she published it, the book that curled around granted minutes and chanted nursery rhymes, and came together through the author’s stubborn determination to write herself into existence even as everyone around her waited for her to surrender, one lone drop into the sea of motherhood. And she finished it, and she published it, and thirty years later, I take it as a hand pulling me forward into the life I know I can create, the self I know I can express.

And so I write, and add my humble "thank you" to the Fates that placed a pearl of encouragement in my path.

It might be insanity, it might be some serious windmill tilting, but I have decided to attempt National Novel Writing Month this year. I love the grand celebration of it all, and the sheer force of all of those novels being born at the same time has already managed to pull one (very, very, very rough and unformed) first baby draft out of me.

Last time, I chose to finish the story in the allotted words, something that lead to some very skimpy scenes and plotlines, and since then I’ve discovered it’s easier to take things out then go back later and add them. So...I probably won’t be finishing my story in the 50K, but I hope to have a strong foundation for continuing.

Any pointers on developing and outlining a long form plot? I have a very vague idea of my character’s history and various conflicts right now, but I’m having trouble coming up with scenes. Any authors that you can recommend that do this especially well?

Anyone else doing this?

From freewillastrology:

"When East Timor gained its independence from Indonesia after a long, bloody struggle, the United Nations temporarily took control of the new nation, inundating it with aid and support. But the international agency's work was short-lived, lasting just three years, and ultimately became known as Quickfixville. The errors resulting from its hurried efforts have been hard to undo. Don't make a similar gaffe in the coming weeks, Gemini. It's not enough merely to have good intentions. Be deliberate and thorough as you undertake your corrective actions."

I’ve lived in Quickfixville for most of my life. I adore beginning new projects, the more comprehensive, the better. Perhaps that’s why I enjoyed my pregnancy so much—so much ritual, so much preparation! And I could still get some sleep.

I love looking at my bulging bookshelves, love pulling down my psychology books and my writing books and my creativity books. I have a sizable collection. And yet...even when I do the exercises, for the most part, I fail to follow through and take the necessary actions that will bring about ACTUAL change. Why is that? Am I in love with the idea of change, but not the change itself? Am I just lazy? Is long term change just not sexy enough for me, and I give up because it’s all just taking too damn long?
This was a somewhat disjointed post—today my desire just to write anything at all was not wed with anything resembling a deep thought.

I send you all delicious coffee (or tea, if you prefer).

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Sunday Scribblings--If I could stop time...

How I feel after an average day, lately. This is Dali's Persistence of Memory
I love using Sunday Scribblings as prompts for stories, as it's the only fiction I usually write these days. But this prompt felt so personal, I couldn't seem to do anything but write my own story.
It would easy to look around here and think that time has stopped. The same endless rolling clouds, the same wind blustering over the ravaged trees. The same four walls, painted in tasteful variations of off white and beige. The rumble of traffic that never quite settles down. And so you try to see the passage of time in your completed tasks...except that nothing ever quite gets finished. New dishes sit in the sink almost as soon as you finish washing the old ones. The day is full of the eternal sameness of breakfast, snack, lunch, nap, snack, dinner, bath, bedtime battles.

It’s a mother’s life during winter—forcing yourself to be indoors when everything in you screams louder than your toddler to be OUTSIDE! But you stay in, rationalizing about weather, and wind, and cold on an exposed little toddler nose.

But it’s not the truth. Not really. In fact, admit it, you’re staying home because you have not been able to stop time. Your sweet amenable baby, the one who cooed in her stroller at the passersby, the one who was perfectly willing to go to coffeehouses and spend time just gazing at the barista while you scribbled notes for a project...that baby is G O N E. In her place, there’s an uncertain, moody little person, anxious to put her stamp on the universe, to make her own decisions, toddle her own way.

And you thought you were prepared, you did. You spoke, loftily, the way all pregnant women speak, about "being open to her personality; looking forward to meeting her." And you believed that, then. But then she arrived, so pliant and small, and something tender crumbled inside of you. You experienced a merger you never would have thought possible; you never would have even imagined that you wanted it. After a lifetime of compromise, you reveled in having a total say over your outings, your schedule. And the baby cooed and grinned and acted as your perfect mirror as you poured out your life stories to her—trying to ground yourself and stop time in a world where everything had changed, where your teenaged, earnestly romantic boyfriend had become your responsible, aloof husband, where your parents had grown complex, spilling out of their assigned roles in your life. Where you had veered so drastically from the long wide highway of your life that you feared you had lost some essential treasures along the way.

And the baby cooed and smiled, and reflected perfect understanding and love back into your eyes, and the boundaries between you burned away like dawn’s mist.

You thought that you had finally gotten a handle on it all, the sleepless nights, the time that never ceased to rush past you. You devised tricks—to spend a little more time in bed, to rush through a few extra pages of a book, to stretch naps like warm taffy through eager fingers. You felt confident, admit it...even motherly.

But the baby wouldn’t be pinned down, wouldn’t stay small until you were fully confident. She refused to be your perfect little mirror, and the coos started to become plaintive wails and imperious demands. And all of the little rituals you thought you could count on forever, the ones designed to stop time and give you back the self you were afraid had been left by the side of the road? All pretty useless now.

Surprisingly, that wasn’t the worst part. You gritted your teeth, reminded yourself "You will have your time" and vowed to take fewer books out of the library. You congratulated yourself on your good sense and maturity.

Until you found yourself unexpectedly sobbing after an altercation with your daughter, after she stared at you with fury in her eyes. She didn’t want to go for a walk in the stroller; in fact, she’d rather not spend any time with you at all. She’s very much her OWN person, now, and she has her likes and dislikes which often clash with yours.

And it hits you—you miss those long aimless walks more than you ever thought you would. You miss those monologues, which helped stitch your sanity back together. You miss the fusion of her little body in your arms, as your hearts beat slowly in time. Together. You miss her looking into your eyes and you looking into her eyes until you couldn't see beyond those endless echoes. Even as she grins in glee at her newfound independence, even as you applaud the self that is being born, you wish you had the way to stop time.

Of course, you know these thoughts are irrational, immature; you try to squelch them, to be the perfectly nurturing and supportive mother you imagine is all around you at the playground. She still loves me, you tell yourself defensively. Nothing has changed. You blame hormones, either hers or yours. You try to stay patient. You feel guilty for wanting to deny her the chance to develop and change. You try to breathe through the anger, the blaming, the hurt.

Of course, nature has its way. Inexorably, she grows and learns, eludes your best attempts to clutch her tight, breaks free from your desperate grasp. You are faced the fear at the core of your frantic attempts to stand still. It’s the fear that you won’t be able to handle her anymore; that you’ll fail her. It’s the fear that this newfound loneliness that sits like a vulture on your chest will break you, leaving a hollow shell to mother your child. It’s the fear that she’ll look at you and not like what she sees.

Meanwhile, Time hurtles past you, on plump, unsteady legs that grow stronger every day.
More ways to put time in a bottle here.


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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Don't trust yourself over thirty (three)

I realized something today, as I sat slumped on the carpet, Madam walking all around me, both of us still in our pajamas. I started to hear that incredulous voice again, the one that says “I cannot believe this is your life!” and I started to feel that sense of separateness, as though something essential inside of me needed to divorce itself from the realities of my life. But then something shifted, and I saw that it’s all just a role I can put on or take off. I realized that nothing essential changes just because I am rolling around on the floor, or working in an office, or writing in a café. These are just clothes I can wear, personas, and I can put them on lightly, with a sense of humor, or I can clutch them with nails digging into my palms, convinced that when I change from one outfit to the other, I am losing something immensely valuable that I might not be able to get back.

I’m someone who puts great stock in labels, who believes that the only way to justify calling yourself something, like “writer” or “mother” or “student”, is to embody every aspect of the role, from your appearance to your activities to your every thought. Any deviation from the role and you lose your right to the name—then you are just an imposter.

But this experience of becoming a mother is beginning to crumble those rigid boundaries. I make mistake after mistake after mistake…but I am still a mother. I go days without writing, but then once I start typing I am, once again, a writer (not a very fluid one, but still able to put one word after another). I am not a student at the moment (not in school, anyway), but if I apply and get into a program, then that is what I’ll be. From moment to moment, the roles we step into change. The only common thread is…ourselves. I’ve heard it a million times, “we are so much more than our status or our jobs” but I don’t think I really understood that or believed it until now. Because there are times when I don’t recognize myself anymore if I try and use any of my old markers—I can’t do so many of the things I used to do—activities that I thought defined me. I’ve gained weight. I don’t wear the kinds of clothes that I like. I don’t sit in cafes talking about books and writing for hours. And yet…I am still me. I can miss those things (and believe me, I do) without the sense that I have to say goodbye to my longest life companion, myself. And I can return to them, when I am able, and enjoy them once again.

After writing my last post, I sat down and tried hard to just BE with the feelings of desperation and futility that prompted them—with the FEELINGS, not the storylines of “I am a bad mother; if only I hadn’t wasted all of the free time I had once; I should be able to make it all work…” etc. And what came up for me was a driving fear of growing older without having met some self-created benchmarks. Like writing a book by the time I turned forty, or having an advanced degree by thirty-five. Why is it so important to get it done by a certain age? I am not sure. Perhaps I am afraid that as I grow older, I’ll become less interested in the things that I love so much now. I don’t trust myself to remain ME. It looks foolish outside of my brain, in black and white, but there it is. What if I hit forty and I don’t love books anymore, or don’t dream of writing one?

It’s all about wanting things to stay the same, even our dreams—because (again) I’m so identified with my dream-personas that I don’t see that I am me even if I don’t want to ever write another word.

I want to learn to like myself even if I never truly get a chance to call myself “writer” again. I want to be someone who writes without being all caught up in the label of “writer.”

Why am I so afraid that if I relax for one moment, I’ll lose all of the desires that give my life shape and meaning?


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Friday, October 06, 2006

On the shelf

Today I learned that I feel guilty—Madam is moving well into toddlerhood, i.e. thoroughly out of control—and I feel myself split into two, with both selves pulled inexorably towards words and writing and my beloved books. Meanwhile, the maintenance of the house gets far beyond me—the carpet gritty with pebbles that crunch under Madam’s tender bare feet, the kitchen floor sandy with crumbs and scatterings that she’ll gleefully put in her mouth. I spend every moment I can (and many I can’t, technically) reading, or planning what I am going to write, or feeling despair as I watch a barely gelled new idea sink back into formlessness, growing indistinct, weary, fluttering dead before I can get to paper or the keyboard. And many times lately, no ideas come at all—I sit, staring at nothing, trying to swivel my pupils back towards an inner life, but concentration and ideas never come.

Writing always needs to come after; after bedtime, after the house, after dinner, after, after, after. And when I get to after, there's nothing there--no energy, no imaginative power, nothing. And yet, trying to ignore all of the things, to lose myself in my writer's mind...well, that's not working either. I'm always acutely aware of my sink of dirty dishes and my tottering baskets of laundry, and they loom larger than anything I can concoct in my imagination. So I try everything, and end up with nothing but a howling toddler, a room that should be condemned, ideas that flutter away, and a constriction of resentment at my throat, choking utterance.

I feel jealous of other writers who can accomplish so much more that I can lately; feel rebellious at the piecings of my time. I want to gobble my books, not nibble with constant half-starts and half-stops and crash, bang, keep the baby’s finger out of the drawer. I want to pound away at a longer, more ambitious story instead of my little wisps. I want to see my writing form under my hands, get better. And I can’t, right now. That's not my life right now, regardless of how much I wish it could be.

She’s napping so little and night sleep is a topic best left unexplored. I want so much to take courage from the past—those women who have somehow managed to create beauty and meaning even as they chase toddlers around and around a small room. But it’s difficult when all I can see are the impossible summits being scaled by the nimble childfree.

I’m just tired of it—tired of feeling tension before I write, so sure I’ll be interrupted just when it starts to loosen and flow. Tired of feeling resentful of my Madam, who can’t help needing me, after all. Feeling vaguely disgusted by my unkempt house, overwhelmed by tasks which are constantly shunted aside to gain me five more minutes of writing time. Writing which comes with a stifled scream of haste and an aftertaste of guilt, writing which feels so very important and yet emerges with only a whimper of mediocrity.

I wish I could treat it lightly, an amusing hobby, perhaps like building elaborate train sets. But that’s a lie—I am full of unseemly ambition—I want to be not only a good writer (which I think I do manage on occasion) but a great one, famous, acknowledged. And that feels impossible right now, because I can’t seem to produce anything while in this life situation.

This sneaking and stealing time doesn’t satisfy—I’m endlessly frustrated, hungry, gulping at air. It only reinforces my feeling of being on the outside, looking in. I feel breathless before my day even begins, knowing that I'm behind before even leaving the bed.

I need to choose, but there is no choice, is there. I need to be a good mother. I need to take better care of my house. We can’t afford help right now, or rather I can’t quite justify it. I'm a stay at home mother, after all, why should I need housekeeping? TEG is very busy with building his company, working long hours into the night himself. We have no family around to share the burden. I say this not to arouse your pity (although I have a sizable amount of self-pity already) but to try to really SHOW you where I’m at. I know that other mothers manage; I don’t know why I cannot, except to admit that I am no great planner, no organizer. And thus everything teeters until it falls down.

Like the fox from the old story, I rationalize—what is the great loss, anyway? I do like certain, isolated sentences; certain skeletons of stories I’ve written—I do see possibilities for growth. But there is just no time.

So I have to lay it aside for a bit, hope that this silent time adds layers and richness to my imagination until I have time to concentrate on it more fully. But I just can’t keep up this half-life, everything scattered in pieces around me. I need to concentrate on Madam now, and not so much on my writing or myself. This is not the time to be selfish. I wish I could say that the mother role is a light cloak, a second skin, but it’s not. I’m struggling to raise another over myself. It’s not easy for me. I’m still absorbed with me, with my own zealous literary dreams. And that’s not fair to Madam—I can’t do it all, I’m barely holding one of my roles together with outstretched arms.

So I’m putting it on the shelf for a time, and hoping that I'll soon have the means and the desire will still burn when I get back to it.


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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Bad poetry, aka where I'm at--the part-time, part-self

Neither this thing
Nor that


Start and stop
Once washing then rewashing
First thought, second thought, third thought
Only inferior
Interior fragments

Childish things around me
As I bend low to remake them
Into order
And fail

Brilliant literature
A distant galaxy of stars
The light filters
Low and late
But I'm looking down

Trapped by a shiny plastic immediacy
My mind grows mute, weary
And finally
Stunned into sudden wisdom

I am ridiculous

Selves thrown careless in every room
Under unmade beds
Not wholly mother
Nor writer after all
Insignificant and shamed

I trace smaller and smaller circles
No one will ever see


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