I guzzle my first (and never last) cup of coffee. I don’t mean to, it’s just that it’s one of my last vices. I want to be a person who sips a fantastic cup of coffee, just one, and then goes on with a day drenched in 8 glasses of water and only whole foods.
I drink a lot of water and I work hard to eat well, but I also love sugar as much as I love coffee. We addicts are far too aware of our compulsive behavior, at least in sobriety, so I bend and tip forward, pulling my eyes to my navel to dissect this behavior. Then I remember, I’m a human being. Flawed and a work in progress and imperfect and all that.
One day I will sit and sip tea, decaf of course, maybe by the ocean and I’ll be wearing something white and flowy and the breeze will smell like sugar but I will not try to eat it.
But if this picture of a better me does not actually come to be and instead I travel with my husband and children and I get too little sleep and stand in front of the hotel coffee maker disheveled and grumpy, begging it to hurry up, well then, it is what it is.
Lately, I also feel addicted to the healthy act of writing. I am being pulled by words and I can’t stop them. As a woman, a mother, in recovery, it feels a little scary while it’s also terribly exciting and maybe even exhilarating. Words are everywhere and I can’t read a book without throwing it to the side to make my own words line up in rows. I’ve been in the most random places, digging through my bag for a pen thinking where is it where is it, I need it now.
I used to dig like that for a lighter, for cigarettes. I used to rush home like that in the late afternoon with my boys in tow, thinking of nothing but the red wine on the counter.
I’ve been waiting for this creative pull toward story. I’ve maybe even believed it would never come. I don’t know what it is or where it’s going or where it’s been, I’m just simply riding it. I don’t care, really, what the end is. I just want to keep feeling this way.
Writing is addiction.
So I walk this tight rope, back to a place where I shush my children while I dig in my bag for a pen.
I’m not talking about the act of writing a blog, even though any blogger who has become a part of this community, engaging in something beyond a quiet weblog of one’s own, knows that the stages of blogging addiction are varied and sometimes all-consuming. At first we are terribly defined by comments and retweets and then sooner or later, we (hopefully) learn to let go and move on, a little more detached and (hopefully) enjoying this way of sharing words as an aside to life, not a life of its own.
Although I’m terribly familiar with all of that, what I’m talking about is more of a creative shift in the writing soul, the kind that authors and journalists and all types of writers talk about. I’ve experienced it as a blogger, suddenly knowing just what I want to say about this or that and needing to sit down and say it, right then, gulp gulp gulp. But this is a writing sort of thing that isn’t ending with a neatly packaged post. It doesn’t have a beginning, then middle, then end, with a few (hopefully) good points in few words.
This time, it just keeps going and going and therefore, so do I.
I started to tip over, bending toward my navel as I’m prone to do. I started to question if I need to somehow squelch this because I’m in a season of parenting in which, truth be told, I cannot do both. Maybe you can, but I’m terribly scattered and gulp-ish and I have enough trouble managing a day without constantly digging around for a pen and paper and never engaging in the world around me because I’m too busy wishing I were behind a locked door. I’m unable to shut off the creative flow pull and that leaves me easily anxious about the grind and too impatient with my kids. That is, if I don’t just let go.
Letting go is far too wide open of a way to explain. It is best defined by a beautiful piece I read about motherhood and writing in a new parenting lit magazine called Stealing Time that I picked up at BlogHer. It’s written by Sarah Gilbert, the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine:
“I think of my life as a mother as filled with spiritual yoga, that which teachers speak of when they tell you, “open your heart;” when they tell you, “get your strength from the earth beneath you.” In this practice, as I translate the tensions of my life into the physical world, the limits and anxieties are not barriers but resistance against which to pull the muscles of my intellect and emotions.
I read and hear other mothers, other luminous women-writers advocating the ideas of careful schedules and rooms of one’s own, but my practice is outside of this. I have no room of my own; my house is in constant state of possibility–a fixer-upper, always a-fixing–and I have few doors, let alone doors that shut out my children’s boisterous slapstick love and tumble. When I find time to write I do not parcel neatly, I rip, I yank, I steal. It comes in the dark of the night or in the mid-day, like a thief, like a guilty lover.”
Gilbert goes on to say that she is filled to over-flowing with this season of motherhood, peaceful that she’s in it, really in it, and doesn’t want to deny its groping demands in exchange for her own words. I hope she doesn’t mind me saying that what I heard in her writing was that she wants to be both a writer and a mother and just accept that it’s going to be quite messy, all of it. About motherhood, she writes:
“Love them so much that it pours you out and fills you back up. Do it again.”
Those words pulled me to a standing position and had me looking out at them, my family. I know I do this, what Sarah said. I know I pour myself out for them and with them and they fill me back up and then we do it again. I used to resist this in ways. I used to more consistently stomp and sigh. Martyr. But there is so much peace in the moment by moment letting go of me.
It hit me, this is the same as anything else. We get up and we say, “I’m going to do the next right thing” and that doesn’t cover our whole day or even the next five minutes. It covers just that very second. If that means that it’s 5 o’clock in the morning and no one is up and the words are tapping me on the shoulder, then I will write. And if that means that Miles is standing next to me, whispering that he’s up, I will roll over and stand up, frumpy and grumpy and trudge to the coffee maker and answering his many many questions. I will take a deep breath and look at him, really look and listen. Because that is what I want to do and it always fills me up, even when I have no idea it’s going to because I’m gulping.
Yesterday I sat outside in the morning with words. Asher came to stand next to me and I took a deep breath so I wouldn’t get frustrated that the words were cutting off mid-sentence, my train of though crashing. He asked me to color in a face he had drawn on a piece of paper and I did. He looked like I’d just told him I was about to stand up, put on my shoes and buy him a new Lego set. His grin was the magic that he is and I don’t care if those words I was writing ever come back. If they are exchanged for that face, they were (hopefully) not meant to be in the first place.
I will not do this right all the time. But I have to bite off moments and try not to develop a big overall plan that I cannot possibly abide by in my flighty and anxious ways. Many days will come to a close and I’ll never have gone from a moment to another to find myself with time for words. The next right thing will be scripted before me with the needs of my small children. I’ll get tired and stomp and sigh and then I’ll start to bend and (hopefully) stop. I’ll just start over, and over and over.
I’m a mother. I’m a writer. I gulp.