A Hard Rain

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The wind is fierce tonight, but it’s cozy inside. Chris came downstairs after putting Isabella to bed and I told him, “I keep thinking about all the animals.” He said they’d been reading Owl Moon and he’d had the same thought.

Last night I received an email from an editor, a call for pitches. I skimmed it just before bed, and this morning I woke with an idea. The sentences started stacking in my brain and I hurried to get Isabella settled downstairs and then hid myself away for an hour to get a draft down in my notebook. I got almost three-quarters of the way through before the day took over, and then it was the toggle between toddler-wrangling and attempting to cohere the essay into something whole. By day’s end I’d done it. I finished the essay, wrote the email, and sent the pitch. I’m sure it could’ve used more polishing, but I stuck to “better done than perfect.”

In my post-election malaise, I lost track of my bullet journal. So I reclaimed it today and sorted out the rest of the month. There’s much to be done and I need a way to keep track of it all. It felt good get it all written out. I also went through the new wall calendar and wrote down January’s events. Here we are, on the cusp of a new year. In my bullet journal, I added “think about goals for 2017” to my task list. I realized I don’t have any writing events scheduled yet in 2017, no class or writers conference or even a lecture. I would like to have at least one thing scheduled that will keep me tethered. I also intend to make a list of publication goals and writers I’d like to work with. There is something very powerful about writing it down. The year I became pregnant with my daughter, I wrote “baby” on my New Year list for 2013. And many of the dreams and goals I’ve written here on the blog have manifested. It surprises me every time, as if maybe I’m some sort of sorceress [insert photo of Stevie Nicks]. So, I’m curious, do you make lists for the new year? Goals, dreams, wishes? Do you have any traditions or superstitions? My mother’s family tradition dictates we eat pickled herring on New Year’s day for good luck. Briny, coated in mayonnaise, and eaten straight from the jar.

Here I should come up with a better segue, but it’s 11:00 p.m. and my brain is tired. My friends, did you see Patti Smith’s performance of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” at the Nobel Prize ceremony? I watched it on Monday morning and tears poured down my cheeks. And did you read her equally beautiful piece “How Does It Feel,” describing her experience of the performance? It’s one of the most moving essays I’ve read all year. I love Patti Smith. Her poetic prose. Her honesty, the way she is so wholly herself. She is the embodiment of grace. I turned to her work before I began this project, and the name “One Blue Sail” is taken from this passage in M Train.

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.

Go and click the link to her essay. The video of her performance is there, too. Watch the performance and then read the essay. It’s a healing experience. A balm born of a stumble, an overwhelm of emotion that transformed the concert hall into a sacred space.

(Post 331 of 365)

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Talking Myself Into It: 1/365

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.