Two weeks ago I did a writing exercise that involved dreams, an exercise designed to draw on the subconscious in order to create emotionally resonant material. I drew a blank. I can recall childhood fears, but not childhood dreams. There … Continue reading
Every time I come to this space, I am forced to think: truth. What is the truth today? What am I willing to tell? And how do I capture it? Dickinson is always right here whispering, “Tell all the truth … Continue reading
I get pulled back into dreams. Wish I could rewrite the past. Get a do-over for certain years. Today I actually thought, time machine. And I have to keep going back to the Joy Castro quote I first saw here, “There is no way back. We can only dream our way forward.”
I think I’m pretty freaked out about turning forty.
I still want to get my MFA.
I was thirty one and studying for the GRE when I met my husband. I’d been looking at the MFA program at Brooklyn. I had a boring office job (albeit great co-workers) at a home accessories company on 34th Street and I was living in an apartment in SoHo I couldn’t afford.
The year before, I’d been accepted into a writing workshop at the 92nd St Y with Josh Henkin, an excellent teacher and incredibly kind human. Almost everyone else in the class was a professional writer (editor at Scholastic, writer for the Daily News, writer for the Financial Times). The class jelled, and when the workshop was over, we agreed to continue meeting on a monthly basis. Somehow I became the organizer and host, and every month Write Club met at my studio apartment. Tall french windows, original tin ceiling, exposed brick wall, a hot water pipe that spit and hissed during the winter. I had a futon for a couch that seated three; everyone else spread out on my bed and the floor, and we’d workshop two stories a month.
My (not yet) husband was from western Massachusetts. He called that lovely little studio, those precious 400 square feet in a coveted neighborhood that I’d luckily inherited at an almost rent-stabilized rate, “jail”. He interviewed for a few jobs in New York, but ultimately landed one in the Berkshires. I was hemorrhaging money in the city. The Berkshires seemed like a bucolic dreamscape. Not to mention cheap. I was wearing the rose-colored glasses of new love, a really thick pair with no peripheral vision.
And, just like that, I let go with both hands.
Now. Here I am. Thirty nine. Husband. Baby. Mortgage. Dreams…
I’ve wanted to do this for a long time, but I’ve always found a way to talk myself out of it. That’s what I do: I talk myself out of things. Rarely do I ever talk myself into things anymore. In my twenties, I was impulsive. I moved across the country on a whim. I flew halfway around the world with barely a plan. I’m still not much for planning, but I’ve become a second-guesser. I weigh and measure, deliberate and ruminate. Hesitate. Procrastinate.
This year is different. January 11th, my daughter’s birthday, marked two years of motherhood for me. And in five months, I will turn forty. These numbers feel significant. I feel an urgency, a desire to move forward – even if I don’t know where I’m going.
The year after I gave birth, I couldn’t read or write. I had to re-learn how to drive a car. New motherhood was all-consuming and self-annihilating. It still burns through my energy and time, and at night I’m left wondering where the long, long day went. Long days, quick years of wanting to drink in every drop of my daughter competing with my increasing desire for just a little autonomy, not letting my dreams escape me in the whir of playing, potty-training, singing, tantrums, breastfeeding, the discovery and wonder, the mundane, the minutiae, and the trying so hard to get every single thing right.
I’ve emerged from these first transformative years of motherhood like someone who’s gone abroad and been immersed in a new country, a new way of seeing and speaking and being, only to return home and find things strange, the strangeness that comes from a dramatic shift in perspective. I feel foreign to myself. I’m not always sure exactly who I am or what I believe. I fumble in conversation. I have notebooks full of scattered thoughts and unfinished essays. I feel untethered from myself, adrift.
This project is an attempt to capture who I am now. One true thing about me, every day for 365 days. A daily practice to stay connected to myself and to my writing. During those sleepless months of my daughter’s infancy, my mother would encourage naps, repeating my grandmother’s wisdom, “sleep begets sleep.” I believe the same is true for most things in life, especially writing. Writing begets writing.
I’ve tried talking myself out of it again and again, but signposts keep pointing me back to this project. Mostly the words of other writers and artists. My inner self-critic nips at my heels, but I run toward the words that amplify my spirit.
I’ve had a peripheral awareness of the 365 project trend, but wasn’t really interested until I read this. These small but daily projects yielded surprising results, like career shifts and opportunities, increased self-awareness, and connection to others. I knew my project would be writing, but I couldn’t decide on my subject until I stumbled onto the beautiful and inspiring Catching Days, where the writer Cynthia Newberry Martin has reached the end of 365 True Things. This project felt like just the right amount of scary-and-challenging-but-manageable. Then there was the live taping of Dear Sugar in Cambridge that I dreamed of attending but didn’t, and the amazing performance by Amanda Palmer, who also happened to be 8-weeks postpartum and breastfeeding her son on stage. And finally, this passage from Patti Smith’s M Train gave me the perfect image for the project and the blog title.
We seek to stay present, even as the ghosts attempt to draw us away. Our father manning the loom of eternal return. Our mother wandering toward paradise, releasing the thread. In my way of thinking, anything is possible. Life is at the bottom of things and belief at the top, while the creative impulse, dwelling in the center, informs all. We imagine a house, a rectangle of hope. A room with a single bed with a pale coverlet, a few precious books, a stamp album. Walls papered in faded floral fall away and burst as a newborn meadow speckled with sun and a stream emptying into a greater stream where a small boat awaits with two glowing oars and one blue sail.
I should mention it took me over a week to write this single post, and just as I was about to hit “publish” this morning, my daughter climbed into my lap to nurse and smacked her head against my coffee cup, which poured all over my keyboard and killed half the keys, so I’m finishing this up on my mom’s computer. Daily posting already presents an adventure. A messy beginning, but in the spirit of discovery and connection, I will float my words out into the world.