My writing has been irregular since December of last year. I’ve been down with some sort of virus that knocked me on my tuchus for four days. Followed by The Snow of the Year. Plus it’s been cold for our neck of the woods, and the kids either weren’t in school at all or their school start time was delayed for all of January. By February I began to feel itchy, like, mmm, I need to take a couple of hours away from the house. Like, my children, I love them but could they please leave me the heck alone. (I’m here to testify: that thing kids do when they’re toddlers, of knocking on the bathroom door the EXACT SECOND your butt hits the seat? IT HAPPENS WHEN THEY ARE TEENAGERS, TOO. I fully expect this will continue no matter their age. When they leave home, I will go into the bathroom and the phone will ring with their call.)
After The Snow of the Year, the 13 y.o. got sick. Then the hubby got sick. The night before hubby left town, one of our dogs tried to show a skunk who really owns the yard. Hubby left town and the 16 y.o. got sick. You get the picture. And then I opened my calendar and began calculating the percentage of days I’d scheduled for writing work that had been nibbled to oblivion by circumstances beyond my control.
When a Howard starts figuring percentages, it is a matter of hours before there is an Explosion. Before the carefully shellacked veneer of civilized behavior shatters and lethally-sharp shards spray in an alarmingly wide circle.
The detonation occurred this morning, in part because of the story I told myself about how I would, finally, be writing: BOTH kids were going to be in school! My husband was going to work! PLUS hubby promised to dispose of the skunk carcass that I spied from the back deck (the skunk does not, it turns out, own the yard. Only how the yard smells). I could return from morning carpool and have three entire hours to myself, a spacious expanse of time: I could walk the dogs, play Domestic Goddess, journal and review the latest short story draft, and have an extremely luxurious 30 minutes in which to shower and dress for my meeting. Fantastic.
Except on the way to school our neighbor’s dogs were running loose so we stopped and corralled them, putting us a precious five minutes behind schedule. And on the now-congested drive to school the 13 y.o. asked, “weren’t we going to get my allergy shots this morning?” Yes, we were, and we really needed to since we were already two weeks overdue and I would never forgive myself if he got a sting and due to my desire to write he had a fatal reaction (yes, that’s really how I think).
We arrived at the shot clinic 10 minutes early and were the only non-employee car in the lot. We went for a fortifying cuppa coffee and a snack. We returned 10 minutes later and there were SIX other could-die-by-beesting patients who’d arrived in the interim. I got him to school an hour later. He’d left his hoodie at the shot clinic. I said, in what I hoped was a mostly-calm voice: “I’ll call them to put it in the lost and found but I can’t get out there again today.”
“I don’t get to go outside, anyway, mom, that’s fine,” he said. Reminding me that I really should be trying to improve our educational system so that our children come in regular contact with the environment.
I returned home. Two texts from the engineer hubby. Who couldn’t find his keys and thus drove the car that I left my headphones in, so my effort to listen to books whilst walking the dogs was a goner. That’s ok, I soothed to myself. You’ll be in touch with the environment. Listen to the birds, feel the fresh air. Which was gusting mightily, making the phone call with hubby less-than-audible. We needed to get some papers notarized.
I lost it. “I canNOT have another day nibbled away,” I wept between post-virus-out-of-shape puffs on my way up the hill, dragging the poor dog who really wanted to stop and sniff the wonderful environment. “It has been three months since I had a regular week of writing. I cannot do it!”
“OK. We don’t have to do it today.”
I am both embarrassed by and relieved by my explosion (which, to be honest, in my lexicon of explosions was more a loud bang than an explosion). Embarrassed because I am, after all, a grown woman with every first world convenience at her fingertips. Relieved because now that I have, yet again, exploded over my edge of frustration, I will find it easier to honor the hours I’ve carved out for myself to write. I will let the dust bunnies breed like the rabbits they are, and the laundry form a new land mass in the upper hall.
Why do I continue this dance? Why not just always stick with my plans, knowing that a little bit is always better than none? What the heck?
The heck is: I perpetually cajole myself with self-talk like, it’ll only take five minutes. I have five minutes to load the dishwasher/throw in the laundry/stop at the post office.
My cajoling isn’t inaccurate: I do have those five minutes. But those moments are also the ones I could edit a page of a draft, start a blog post, type up my story ideas, eavesdrop on a conversation, describe the day in my journal. Why do I make other choices? Am I afraid of success? Inherently unmotivated? Middle-aged and complacent? All of the above?
I’m not that interested in discovering why, precisely, I fail to honor my commitments. I am more interested in acknowledging that I’ve stopped honoring them, and then getting back to ’em ASAP.
Our “endless numbered days” are dwindling. The world is spinning too damn fast. If we want to write, we better sit down and do it.
Outside my window the gusting wind has increased; the disease-thinned hemlocks, and the 100+ year old boxwoods are buffeted into a riotous evergreen dance. Move!, the wind insists. Gracefully if possible, but mostly: move!