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April Showers Bring....
Not flowers, apparently?
It has been a tough month.
Here is something that I am getting better at, now that I am a little over 4 years into parenthood and almost 40 years into humanhood— flexibility. Not by leaps and bounds. I am a girl who likes a schedule and I like that schedule to not change and I find the unpredictable exhausting and difficult and overwhelming and at times frightening. I’ve been this way forever, or maybe since some unpredictability early on made me desperate to create a structure I could live within. Whatever the reason, I am not a flexible person and parents and writers need to be flexible.
My daughter was exposed to COVID at school at the beginning of April and had to stay home for five days. Unfortunately at the end of the week she tested positive for COVID herself (asymptomatic the whole time, no one else got it) and had to stay home another 11 days, bringing our quarantine period to 15 days. Half the month. At the end of those 15 days, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and asked to go on a “diet” (diet culture makes me not want to use this word, but any other word feels too formal or too pretend-positive for what extremely restrictive eating at 7 months pregnant actually feels like) that requires not just some frustrating and honestly depressing lifestyle changes but also a lot of thinking and work and doctors appointments. The combination of quarantine and carb and blood math has not given me a great deal of access to the part of myself that I have the easiest relationship with— my creative process.
A month or two ago, I was singing the praises of the early morning wake-ups, writing before my daughter and husband woke up, and the unbelievable joy of having those hours to myself. The part of me that loves a schedule thought this would last forever. Thought of it as a perfect solution that I could rely on— at the very least until the new baby comes, and then maybe after that too, eventually. I built a life and a schedule and a positive attitude based on this beloved ritual.
But. Quarantine meant my daughter got up earlier and earlier every boring day, and also meant I didn’t have any afternoon recovery time to rest after the early morning wake up. And gestational diabetes means I am generally more tired. I can’t jumpstart my system with an early morning snack the way I was doing before, and even if I did, I’d have to test my blood at the exact perfect time after eating it and that, too, would interrupt the perfect flow of the 5am writing session. It wasn’t working.
But here is where I have surprised myself: I gave it up. I surrendered the thing that was working because it wasn’t working anymore, and I am trying, now, to find the new thing that works. I can’t have my daily latte and my eating schedule is rigid and it’s been a lousy spring, weather wise, and there is a lot outside of my control, but I am trying to map out the new thing that will work. What worked during quarantine was mostly my choosing not to write at all. What is working now is a mid-morning work session and an occasional late in the day second session that is aided by the much less fulfilling plain coffee with a splash of milk. It isn’t joyful, the way the morning was. I am trying to adjust to that too.
Tomorrow morning, my writing desk gets taken away, and a new, tiny one that will fit in a corner of my bedroom will arrive. My office is turning into the baby’s room, and there is total excitement and absolute heartbreak in that. We have wallpapered the wall of the bedroom that will have my desk in it with floral wallpaper that makes me feel like a fairy in a forest (also the instructions I gave the women at the bridal shop back in my wedding dress shopping days, for what I wanted to look like), and the desk is a pretty shade of blue called antique blue, and the corner has a window, and I have always been a person partial to tiny cramped spaces, so maybe, maybe, it will work in its own, new way. Maybe I will wake at different hours, ready to write. Maybe I’ll do some 10pm session before bed that has heretofore been unknown to me (or at least known since my days living alone, when I used to write sometimes at night in my little office space with a glass of wine, feeling like a person who was pretending to be both an adult and a real writer.) I am open to the change. I am willing to believe that there is magic in the unexpected, or at the very least that there is possibility in the adjustment to the circumstance.
I am, actually, letting the panic at the change morph into hope for some side of it all that I might like. This is my life’s work, really. It is my core self, and when everything else changes, there I still am, looking for the hope of a silver lining.
We are also, tomorrow, saying goodbye to our large kitchen table— big and rectangular and made of distressed wood, as we have welcomed a new, small, smooth round table to the kitchen. We have always loved our big table. It’s beautiful. Special. But it isn’t necessarily conducive to eating dinner together, and it’s too bumpy for my kid to do her sticker books or coloring books on, and it is often just a dumping ground for mail and boxes and artwork and things we haven’t yet decided what to do with. It takes up a lot of space, and we are short on space. So we are letting it go, to make room for something that is more practical for the life we actually live. It’s not as whimsical. It won’t make people stop and ask where we got it. But it makes more sense. Is that boring? I mean, sort of, but nowhere near is boring as calculating every meal and giving up maple scones.
And anyway, it might be better for writing, too. In the new little table is the possibility of some family dinner where we can all see each other, sure. But there is also the possibility of the baby in the bouncy seat and me at the computer at the kitchen table, eking out words, enjoying the way the kitchen feels more like a kitchen, somehow, feeling like a different kind of writer-parent/parent-writer, and embracing that newness. I am hoping I will be allowed to have a latte by then. And a scone. And a healthy baby. And a little bit of space in my busy busy brain for the stories and the words and the place that is mine. My daughter needs me. The daughter I’m carrying needs me. My elderly dog needs me.
But I need the writing.
So I will— against all odds, against every impulse of who I am as a person, and after years of promising that no I would not— adjust.
I don’t really have any! That said, with the terrible news about Roe v Wade, I am thinking about my book, LAWLESS SPACES, and how it felt to write about the ways society aims to trap us in our bodies and to do things with our reproductive health that we don’t want. This isn’t so much a book plug— I’d MUCH rather you spend your time and money researching and donating to help people who need care and can’t get it. But if you are wanting to spend time thinking about the ways reproductive health and bodily autonomy or lack thereof effect generations and families and all kinds of people, and especially young people, my book does do that, and I’m glad I have said so much of what I wanted to say in that space. I don’t have more to add to the conversation, then just rage and the words I wrote from that rage and heartbreak when I wrote the book.
If you are pregnant or know someone pregnant, this is the maternity dress I suggest, that is comfortable and is letting me believe I will wear it after pregnancy as well, an idea that is as ludicrous as the bridesmaid dress you’ll wear all the time, but I am enjoying the fantasy and it is nothing small to feel good at this moment in my body.
It is time to wallpaper a wall of your home. I promise you it is. Here’s the website I used and I am obsessed with every piece of wallpaper on it.
I just started reading this book of short stories by Lily King. And it is worth mentioning that once upon a time I did take high school creative writing from this literary sensation, so if she makes any mention in these stories about a petite blonde high school student in MA who seemed really sad and really lost and totally nailed her performance of Ophelia in Hamlet because of that sad, lost, quality, please know it is a story about me.