Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Get a taste in my mouth as desperation takes hold
Half this post was composed in my head as I held a Magic Eraser in my hand. This does not bode well.
Last night MathMan and I took a quick drive to the library to drop off an almost overdue Midsomer Murder DVD. I actively listened to him talk about his first day back to school with students and tried to respond appropriately. Sometimes my ability to contribute to his work-related conversations is limited to nodding and exclamations of "That's true." or "I see." or "Well, I think these kids are lucky to have you as their teacher because you care so much."
These words may sound shallow and hollow, but I do mean them. It's just that sometimes it's as though he's speaking a foreign language and I'm struggling to keep up. Slope? Derivatives? Calculus? Short of knowing that it's some form of mathematics, I can't even tell you how Calculus differs from Trigonometry.
But I can spell both words without using spellcheck.
As that conversation dwindled, he turned the topic to my favorite subject: me. "So did you get any work done today?" Now, work is code for writing. You guys know that, right?
I fiddled with the DVD box that I held on my lap. "Well."
The truth was I didn't write yesterday. I ran some errands, did some tidying up, goofed around with Chloe before she left for school, surfed the internet, read some blogs. But I didn't write or revise as I'd said I'd do.
"I don't know. I think when I'm panicked about money and other things, it's hard to write," I finally got around to saying. I'd been thinking this quite a bit during the day as the minutes, then hours slipped by without my nose coming in contact with the grindstone.
"It's hard to be creative when you're stressed," he answered as I handed him the DVD to drop into the overnight box.
I looked at the profile of this man with whom I've spent over half my life and considered how lucky I am. The highs have been high and the lows have been miseries the likes of which I hope we never experience again, but in that moment I felt confused. Did I want him to be this wonderful, caring, understanding man or did I want him to kick my undisciplined ass?
"Thank you for that, honey." I chose grace. For the moment. "But how long can that be my excuse for not getting these pieces finished so I can find an agent?"
"You're going to do it. But I understand. You can't force it." He knows, of course. An artist in his own right, he understands the need to concentrate, to clear the mind of the clutter.
The reality is, I am a stress junkie on some level so this idea that I have to have a clear mind? Nonsense. I do some of my best writing while I'm in blind furies or the throes of some low-grade fever of depression and self-pity.
This morning we woke early so MathMan and Nate could get to school for early basketball practice. As they prepared to leave at 5:30, I had big ideas about how my writing day would go. By 5:50, the litter boxes had been scooped, the kitchen floor swept, recycling organized and put in the bin, the dishwasher emptied, water bottles had been washed and refilled, the microwave washed out, cleaning supplies were ready to go in the bathroom and I was standing on a chair scrubbing the cabinets over the stove with the Magic Eraser.
I looked at my reflection in the black glass of the microwave and shook my head. "Please don't let yourself down again."
Finishing these two works in progress has to be my number one priority. A clean house is not the legacy I want to leave behind. It's that simple. And whether these manuscripts ever make it into the hands of readers, having finished them will be one of the biggest accomplishments of my life.
And while I can depend on MathMan to be understanding, I know there's a shelf life to it, just as there has always been a limit to his patience with my antics large and small.
At some point he's going to come home to a house smelling of bleach with hints of Comet and undertones of Lemon Pledge. He's going to shield his eyes from the glare coming off sparkling table tops and mirrors. A laminated cat will saunter by and toss a doleful look his way. He'll come looking for me and bang a shin on some piece of furniture that's been moved yet again. He'll find me in the laundry room color coding the clothes hangers while the upright vacuum stands sentry, its motor still running from when I'd interrupted myself in the middle of sucking the lint out of the dryer's lint trap.
He'll give me that look and switch off the vacuum. And then the hard, but necessary words will come.
"It's time for you to get serious and write."
When do you know it's time? Time for what, you ask? You tell me.
I'm going to need my soundtrack to get going...