My focus/what I’m most interested in right now: the way Feminism speaks through stories of the body. The way thoughts, emotions, beliefs are transformed by what happens to the body. Stories of the body, stories of belief. Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Chronology of Water, Roxane Gay’s forthcoming Hunger, Pamela Erens’ Eleven Hours (which I requested as my Mother’s Day present).
Featured Image: a painting by one of my favorite artists, Alice Neel.
(Post 108 of 365)
This is my current workspace a.k.a. dining room table, which is actually located in the living room, the heart of the house. This afternoon when I snapped the photo, it was in a fairly tidy state, but it’s always in flux. Books, crayons, paint, dollhouse people, a tube of Neosporin, rubber stamps, my handwritten notes on whatever scrap of paper happens to be available. And of course we eat dinner here too. I’m not sure when the stuffed dino climbed atop The Chronology of Water – note: when I love a book very much, I keep it close for a long while even if I’m not actively rereading it – but I’ve loved having him peeking at me from behind the screen this week.
Coffee. Below zero February morning. The truth.
The truth is my last few posts have been a struggle. You can hear it, right? No wind in my sails. The truth is we were sick and sleepless for two weeks with racking coughs. I don’t go to the doctor unless it’s dire, like broken bones or stitches. It’s all lemon water homeopathic cough syrup tumeric cinnamon bone broth humidifier wet sock treatment herbal tea around here. Between the sick and the snow, I’m feeling housebound and a little stir-crazy. We make our little outings… Yale Peabody Museum to see the dinos on Thursday afternoons when admission is free. The library. The grocery store, always multiple trips as I can only ever seem to buy two days worth of food. We made it to the playground those few warm days before the temperature plunged to subzero. But Lordy, being home in the winter with a little one requires creativity and imagination. Play dough and books and dress-up and hide-and-seek and dining room table forts. Little 25 month old nursling commands, “Sit on the couch, mama. I need milky!” I give in, and while she nurses, she flings her toddler feet into my face and says, “My socks are orange!” and I say, “Yes, your socks are orange.” And she says, “My socks are orange. It’s like red. But it’s not yellow.” And I think, she’s a color genius! I go on a brief hunt for my watercolor paper, which has to be somewhere in this house, because if I can’t get my writing done, then I ought to add some painting to the heap of unfinished projects. My sneakers look like a dog chewed the heels out. (We don’t have a dog.) I don’t buy anything for myself. Minimalism is good for you. Deciphering between necessity and luxury is good for you. Not buying into our culture’s compulsive over-consumption is good for you. Last week I binge-read The Chronology of Water and had a reading hangover. The writing entrances while the content guts you. And how did she write a book of short stories and a novel during her child’s first year of life? C’mon Lidia, please tell me you had a nanny. Things like that make me feel hopelessly inadequate. Like how am I not getting more done? (If you’ve read that book, you’re thinking, seriously, that’s your takeaway?) But even this paragraph, I’ve been writing it in five minute spurts for four hours, and I ask myself, is it even worth it? That’s how things happen with a toddler, in five minute spurts. Nine minutes if you’re lucky. Sometimes I think I would like another baby. I wonder if my sweet girl is missing a companion. And then I think everything is perfect just as it is. I think about my body going through pregnancy and postpartum again and my brain shouts, NO WAY! And then I remember it’s not up to me anyway. The universe waves its magic wand. Or it doesn’t. I want to write a novel. I want to write and illustrate a children’s book. I want to finish one damn essay. I think about homeschooling and veer off into Waldorf curriculums. I want to raise backyard chickens. What else having I been meaning to say? That Anne Lamott talk from a few posts back. She quantifies writing time and it makes perfect sense. She says if you’ve got three hours, that’s two hours and ten minutes of writing time. Ah, so true! Little light bulb moment. I would like to quantify writing time + toddler. After I painted that Phoebe Wahl valentine I listened to an interview with her on the podcast While She Naps, and while the conversation is mostly around running a small creative business, it drifts into feminism and motherhood and miscarriage and homemaking. It struck a chord deep in my heart, the love of homemaking and childrearing and creative project making and being there for ordinary moments. And I was surprised to hear Phoebe, this young RISD grad, declare, “To say that domesticity is synonymous with submission is to dishonor the thousands of years worth of strong and independent women who have acted as homemaker, and the men and women who continue to passionately fill this role of their own volition.”
Now, instead of getting self-conscious and editing the heck out of this post, I’m going to hit publish and go look for that watercolor paper again.
Yesterday I used all my sporadic spare minutes to write, longhand in the last pages of my beat up green notebook. A Lidia Yuknavitch writing prompt. She’s generous enough to put a few prompts in the videos on her YouTube channel. I haven’t written from a prompt in years and years. Lidia’s are so different – they crack you open.
There are so many things I want to write about in this space that flew through my mind yesterday: the crushing weight and the letting go of perfection (those self and/or societal and/or familial-constructed ideals, which are really just myths), longterm/extended breastfeeding – or as I call it, breastfeeding, feeling like a counter-cultural freak sometimes (a lot of times), the happiness of having a local writer friend, the gift and privilege and sacrifice of being home with my daughter, never finding my footing in the corporate world, fear of not knowing what comes next, the way my thinking becomes blocked – until it finally occurs to me that summer will come again, green and warm and happy.
I put off yesterday’s post until 8pm, and after filling those notebook pages, I had nothing left in me but two sentences.
The more I write, the more I surprise myself. There’s what we think we want to write, and then there’s what actually spills out onto the page.