Crossing the Finish Line

I’d intended to get fresh thoughts down this morning for my final post in this 365-consecutive-day series, but I dodged it. I dragged my feet. Procrastination, I’ve learned, is part of the process. The whole time you’re writing in your head–that’s part of the work too.

A few things I can say with certainty on the last day: I have found my way back to me. I pushed aside that paralyzing and imaginary concept of perfection. I walked through my fear back to myself.

I learned, or rather I taught myself, that the main thing is showing up. The action is everything.

I found my voice again. And my strength.

In light of all that lies ahead, for us and for our country, I can think of no better way to leave off. Strong in my sense of self. Strong voice. Ready to show up and do the work.

On Saturday, I’ll take an early train into NYC for the Women’s March.

And in a week, I’ll be back with a new post. Imagine, a whole week between posts?

(Post 365 of 365 ~ I did it!!!)

New Year (Let’s Try This Again)

Here I am on my second-to-last day, about to cross the finish line. Just one more post to go!

I’m afraid I’ve made it sound like the blog itself is ending–it’s not! I’ll be posting here weekly, and I hope you’ll keeping reading. The last two weeks my posts have been thin, and it felt like I was fizzling out. Between the post-holiday blues and a long stretch of sickness, it was all I could do to come up with a few words each day. That’s just how some days go. But that biopsy I had was benign. I’m on day 3 of no sugar/no starch, my brain fog has cleared, and I have more energy. It feels like my new year is finally beginning.

I’ve been thinking a lot about organizing (one of my biggest challenges) and housekeeping aspects of the blog. I should probably create some sections and perhaps house this 365-project under one of those sections, as novelist Cynthia Newberry Martin at Catching Days did with hers. For anyone who’s joined me later in this project, Catching Days is one of my favorite places on the internet, a beautifully curated literary site that offers endless inspiration to writers. I happened upon Catching Days as Cynthia was finishing her own 365 project, and it was the exact inspiration and guidance I needed at that moment. I was surprised and delighted when Cynthia followed me through those first days and months offering feedback and encouragement, a gift from a professional writer to an aspiring one.

Catching Days hosts a series called How We Spend Our Days that features a different writer each month and an essay about how they spend a typical writing day. I’ve finally had a chance to read the January’s writer, the poet Sawnie Morris. It’s a meditative start to the new year that’s returned me to a place of noticing. After having been away from my writing practice (evenings at the library, etc) for the last month or so, these words really resonated.

“The next day and the next, I force myself to get up and go directly to my studio, to the desk. I’ve been away for months now and the only way back is to ruthlessly dedicate myself. The effort is awkward, but I am starting to catch the faint scent of liberation, which is to say, I will disappear and only the writing will be left.”

I also loved Morris’s description of her husband thinking through the process of painting, assessing where the work was in that moment and the blind, gut-level path every artist has to follow toward completion.

“For several seconds, his mind is in the painting’s landscape and I can see that he is worried and alone in the snowfall of its forest, at the same time that he is fully awake and betting on his instincts to find the way out.”

 

(Post 364 of 365)

Mother-Writer

There is a thought that’s repeated in my head over the last year like a mantra: “I write because of and in spite of my daughter.”

At this time last year, her just-turned-two-year-old self was small enough to fit in the cradle of my legs folded indian-style, nursing while my hands typed. That was my method of buying time to write in the beginning. I know I felt touched-out and drained, and the recurring sentence fragment in my brain was, “To think a clear a thought.” But I can only see it now through a rose-haze, those little hands, the newness of language, the cure-all comfort of breastfeeding. In fact, at the start of this project, I had never spent an entire day away from my baby. Not until Day 32.

Shhhhh.

Do you hear that?

QUIET.

Not the temporary quiet of sleeping baby. Not the little old lady from Goodnight Moon whispering hush. I’m talking husband with toddler taking a day trip across state lines to visit grandparents quiet. Blue sky almost-spring sunshine fed cats asleep in windows quiet. Alone in the house for a good big stretch of day quiet.

Drink. That. In.

This has not happened since I’ve become a mother. A whole entire day alone. I couldn’t relinquish her to the world for the span of an entire day until today. I know how bonkers that sounds. But it’s the truth. It took so long for the miracle of her to arrive, my life’s sole mission became protectress. It was nothing I planned and everything I had to be.

I’m glad I trapped that moment on the page. That version of me, now gone. Are we like snakes molting minute-to-minute or Matryoshka dolls, former selves stacked within us to be cracked open again and again?

When I was pregnant, a friend told me, when a baby is born, a mother is born too. I heard “mother”–that part I understood–but I didn’t quite hear “born.” I couldn’t grasp the way an entirely new version of myself would be born. Or the mysterious way those former versions of me would show up. My daughter reignited my desire to write, to be true to myself. And at the same time, she made it so darn difficult for me to take up the task of writing. To think a clear thought. But for all the essays lamenting the incompatibility of motherhood and writing, I think they pair well, the push-pull, the toggle. Because of and in spite of. What better training is there for a creative pursuit than motherhood? Motherhood, that supremely creative act, that exhausting slog. What else could have taught me to dig so deep?

(Post 363 of 365)

 

Wrapping Up

Before we left for Bass Pro Shop this morning, the toddler asked, “Are we all going? Together as a family?”

“Yes, we’re all going together!” I told her. And her face lit up.

This is usually an excursion she goes on with her dad while I write. We played a lot of pass-of-the-toddler this year. With just three posts left, I realize I’m feeling ready to wrap it up, make space, see what comes next.

(Post 362 of 365)

Zen Friday

Two weeks of little writing time and no jogging have me feeling blue, but today was brightened by my sister, who took us to lunch at our favorite feminist, vegetarian restaurant and bookstore, Bloodroot. During my postpartum summer, my sister … Continue reading