Signs

Today my son G said, “Wouldn’t it be great if you were a writer like you wanted to be.” I didn’t answer at first and he and C discussed amongst themselves for the millionth time how I could work from home and spend more time with them and C went off on his favorite tangent about how I should be a teacher and work at their school and I listened and struggled to find my voice.

Finally, I said, “I am a writer. I just don’t make a living from it.”

“Yeah, that’s what I meant.”

The truth is if I wanted to be a writer I’d be working on it. Saying the words “I am a writer” doesn’t make it so.  I haven’t written a damn thing that was not work related in about six months. Real writers make time for their craft. Real writers are compelled to get the words on the page. Real writers stay up late and wake up early to tell their stories. Real writers can’t stop writing. Right?

Maybe it’s just the winter blues (again). Or maybe I just don’t have it in me. Maybe I’ve lost my voice in a more significant way than I thought.

I’ve been looking for signs for a while now. Signs to point me toward what I should be doing next. Signs that the work I do every day is meaningful. Signs that my work as a mother has been successful. Signs that I’m on the right path. I see or hear things that make me stop and think and wonder if they are the sign I’ve been looking for, but they are fleeting and ultimately insignificant.

My friend posted this on Facebook:

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I’m already haunted.

There is no great time to have an existential crisis, but as a single mom of tween-aged twin boys with a full-time job (which is fraught with its own tangles and ties to my perceived self-worth) and a house to run and a mortgage to pay, this just doesn’t seem like the optimal moment to start questioning my true life’s purpose. But then I remember that this is a road I have frequently traveled. There are no signs to be found and the path seems like a giant spiral; I go around a little longer and a little wider each time, but I still end up basically where I started off.

My boys are getting ready to wrap up their elementary school education and move on to the next level. Middle school. When everything starts to matter and each step builds upon the last. I so desperately want them to apply themselves and make sure they are giving themselves their best chance at whatever comes next. I give them all sorts of great motherly advice and then follow none of it myself.

Try. Do your best. Take your time. Be thorough. Be confident. Use your brain. Find what you love. Work hard. Make good choices.

Get your shit together.

I guess I’ve got some writing to do.

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One-liner Wednesday– Writing

This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word down after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.  – Neil Gaiman


This post is brought to you as an attempt to keep up with this blog despite the many squirrels and sickness and life things which keep popping up and distracting me from doing the very thing this quote suggests. AND as a part of Linda G. Hill’s One-Liner Wednesdays. Check it out!

One-liner Wednesday– On thinking things through

The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ones. – Alfred Whitney Griswold


In preparation for my upcoming post on the SERIOUSLY WORST idea I have heard in a long time, I offer up this lovely thought as part of Linda G Hill’s One-liner Wednesday. Join in…you know you want to.

Not quite a one-liner Wednesday–Squirrel!

A friend of mine told me a story about how he went to the park to run and ended up just sitting in the car watching squirrels. The story was a lot funnier the way he told it, and it reminded me of the dogs in the movie UP. Squirrels became our code word for anything distracting, any threat to our train of thought, any obstacle that might get between us and completing a goal, a task, a sentence, or even a thought. The other day at a department store, the boys and I became very engrossed in picking out Halloween decor even though I had gone into the store to buy new dress pants for work. Suddenly, G is wearing a Santa hat with Yoda ears and they are talking about picking out their annual Christmas ornaments and I’m all, “whoa, whoa…we are getting off track here.” G said very seriously, “there are a LOT of squirrels in this store.”

My big problem is there seem to be a growing number of squirrels in my life. Are squirrels like rabbits in that they multiply rapidly? I should look that up. SEE?! This is how my brain works lately. I’ll sit down to do one thing and then before I know it my train of thought has thoroughly derailed and there are many, many casualties.

Amongst the casualties has been my writing. I cannot focus long enough to take a thought, flesh it out, and complete a series of meaningful sentences to convey whatever it is that I want to communicate. It’s common for me to have many different ideas for blog posts or character development or stories, but it is unusual for me not to at least write something about any one of those things. But these days, I am just left with a swirling mass of noise in my head and nothing to show for it.

My dreams have been super vivid and complex, no doubt as a result of all of these unresolved thoughts trying to make sense of themselves in my subconscious. But do I wake up and write them down? Nooooooo. I immediately allow myself to become bombarded with squirrel after squirrel. The other day I found myself fully dressed for work, cleaning the bathroom after the boys had left for school, about 20 minutes after I should have left for my own commute.

Today I spent an hour at work just following up on emails and tasks I should have completed weeks ago. There is a joke at work about certain people who become distracted by shiny objects. Except I’m not laughing about it any more. I have become that person.

I have at least ten browser windows open on my computer at any given time for any given browser. Working in the digital space means I often have several browsers open at any given time and different applications too. It’s a wonder I can find anything. Ever.

I’m sure it’s the society we live in. The information age. So many distractions arising from being über connected all the time. I always prided myself on not falling victim to it and yet, here I am. I called bullshit on multi-tasking a while back. And I meant it. We aren’t meant to do more than one thing at a time. Without mindfulness, everything is half-assed. I want to do everything with my full ass. My problem is I can’t get my whole ass to just sit and complete the task at hand. I can’t even decide on which task to complete!

I’ve got two main things I think about a LOT of the time.

  1. My son’s health. He had a CAT scan on his belly today and did amazing. Still waiting for the results. This in and of itself, his health and this mystery condition he has which rears its ugly head only when I’ve finally let my guard down and believe maybe he has “grown out of it” trigger at least a dozen thoughts, if not more, a day.
  2. The boys’ schooling. Here’s a typical train of thought: Did they do their homework? Oh shit, I didn’t do the fundraiser. Well, I paid my PTA dues. Should I go to the PTA meeting? When is that? When is the next fundraiser? Oh my goodness, I have to do the fundraiser for church too. And cub scouts. And baseball. Baseball tryouts are coming up. I need to sign C up for karate. Wish I had been able to find a place for him to go to tennis. Geez, no wonder they can’t concentrate on their homework there is too much other stuff going on. G really needs to practice his violin. When do their after school activities start? How are they going to do it all? How am I going to do it all?

The rest of the time my brain is like: Did you do that work thing? Maybe you should bring up that great idea you had in the shower (I have all my best ideas in the shower. By the time my hair is dry, I’ve forgotten most of them). Don’t forget to get the car to the airport for your business trip. Yikes, I hope my mom can handle the boys when I’m gone. When am I ever going to find time to see my friends.  When will I finally join a gym? How will I get there? How can I pay for it? I should be spending that money fixing up the house. I need to find a waterproof cover for the couch so the cat won’t ruin another piece of furniture with his pee. I should write a story about that damn cat. Should I do NaNoWriMo this year? Can I actually finish my novel? When am I going to work on my new business plan? Changes are happening at work, this would be a good time. But I’m so tired. I don’t even write on my blog. Oh geez, I really need to go write on my blog. I’m going to lose readers. No one reads this anyway. I should just go relax and catch up on my reading. Although I did that free trial of HBONow. I should really be watching more TV to get the most out of it. Dammit I never called Verizon to get a new remote after I washed mine in the laundry. Now I can’t watch any shows with parental controls on them….

And on and on and on.

I need to turn it off.

My vacation at the end of the summer was great. I stayed away from the computer and TV and phone and everything else. I spent every day in nature with the boys and then sat by the fire reading and listening to music every night. It was heaven. There were a lot of geese. But no squirrels.

It’s time to set up some squirrel baffles and figure out how to get back to a one-track mind. At least for a few hours at a time. I’d love to hear what other people do to keep those squirrels at bay.

Unfortunately, they can be so damn engaging.

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Ch-Ch-Changes

Time may change me. But I can’t trace time.

– David Bowie


I’ve been spending a lot of time writing off my blog and participating in Write Yourself Alive. In retrospect, I should have just used the blog as a forum for some of these exercises, but I was hesitant because I was writing about many themes that had nothing to do with me as a mother or my adventures as a single mom raising the twin tornadoes. This particular prompt really threw me for a loop, however, and in the end I decided this was the perfect place to explore it.

Question/Dig Deeper: Dissect change. What scares you or makes you uncomfortable about it? What helps you deal with it best?

Prompt: Write a short autobiographical story (1st or 3rd person) in which you reflect change. There must be an obvious before and after in the character/s.

At first, I thought this was easy. I’d always had an uncomfortable relationship with change so I thought I would write about my first awareness of it and how I’d grown and matured. I began writing about how my mother and her friend and I had sat on the beach when I was about fifteen and read my Tarot cards. They were studying Tarot at the time and I was a bit of a guinea pig. My future card was The Moon. Change.

I was resistant. I read something else in the cards. But they insisted that the card represented a massive change in my life up ahead. I should have embraced it. There was nothing in my life which warranted a comfort in staying where I was or whom I was. And yet…

As I explored this and started telling the story of me, I became extremely frustrated. Every time I thought I was writing something about how I embraced change and learned from it, it seemed the story started betraying me.

I haven’t changed at all! Not even since I was fifteen fucking years old! How can that be???

I was tempted to cheat and just write a story about becoming a mom. That sure as hell changed me. But there was this nagging at the back of my mind, something I needed to hash out and make sense of, something that would make the following a little less hard to swallow:

You are the same scared, insecure, gratification seeking, angry, loving, selfish, kind, passionate, opinionated, defiant, compliant, dichotomous person you have always been. Any grand transformation you feel has taken place is a total sham. If anything, you have been going forward in a dizzying spiral which only faintly resembles progress, but is, in reality, a series of pirouettes.

Then a friend who knows me inside and out suggested that I had indeed changed during these post-children, mommy years he had known me.

More confident. Less dependent. More trusting. Hopeful. Peaceful.

Still, I abandoned any further dissection of this tricky subject. And then I had the chance to examine both of my boys independently while we were at the ocean this past weekend. I was amazed at the simple, subtle ways they had changed (and not changed) and were becoming evermore themselves. Individuals. Growing. Almost tweens.

Gone were my babies. Gone was the need to hover over them every second. I still waded out into the ocean with them, as they grabbed their boogie boards with varying degrees of daring. I spent time with each of them alone; testing the ocean and our limits. I watched as their approaches were both the same as they were when they were younger, and yet, different; progressed.

C, cautious as ever, but wanting to embrace the surf. G, almost careless, getting reprimanded by the sea. And mama, letting them go, keeping a watchful eye as they discovered their limits and their limitlessness in the rough waves.

My boys are growing up in the time between when I close my eyes at night and wake to them making their breakfasts in the morning. I’m quickly losing sight of the babies, toddlers, little boys they used to be. They are the big kids now, not quite tweens and thank God, not teenagers, but they are well on their way. And they have changed with time and not changed at all, simultaneously. It is hard for me sometimes to see the difference between the changes time is bringing and the difference which they are having on themselves.

It’s all change though, right?

I realized while watching the boys and contemplating my changes as a mother that time does indeed change us, even though we may not think we are changing at all. Maybe there are certain core characteristics that will never change and that is alright. But maybe, with experience, we can enhance or abandon those patterns or traits which set us back. We may approach life with all of our baggage, with all that we have been or done before, but the outcomes may be wildly different according to our wisdom, and self-awareness, and discipline.

Maybe it is OK that I am pirouetting through life, as long as those circles are projecting me forward.

Maybe if a circle is destructive enough and I stumble, I will embrace a new choreography. I want to believe I have already done that. Certainly, as a mother, I have.

We cannot stay static for long. We cannot trace time’s immeasurable effect. We can only breathe in and out each day and attempt to learn from what has come before.

all that lies ahead

all that lies ahead–seven years ago…