Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How to Build a Snowman (If You Want To)


*trigger warning for fans of the movie Frozen

  1. Take photo of pajama-wearing tot sitting in window gazing at snow. Feel content that you have captured the feel of the day for posterity. If the photo is printed and shoved in a shoe box, know that the child will find it as an adult and gratefully realize that hers was a Norman Rockwell childhood. Hate yourself for not being dressed in snow gear after four hours of consciousness. 
  2. Upload to Facebook photo of child playing in the snow to prove you were organized enough to get child to the street for five minutes.  
  3. Freeze hands taking off gloves to manipulate teeny buttons on cell phone to grab above spontaneous snapshot. Tromp home.
  4. Curse at Mac and make joke on Facebook about the movie Frozen and Mac computers.
  5. Be pleased that other people hate Macs too and are also sticking their children in front of Youtube on a picturesque day worthy of Courier and Ives.
  6. Hate yourself. Central Park is a few blocks away, you lazy, spineless parent-person!
  7. Drag child up to roof of apartment building to frolic for ten more minutes. Don’t take photos when child cries because you forgot her mittens and now her hands are red and chapped.Tell yourself she wouldn't wear them, anyway. Listen as she convinces you she absolutely would have. Tromp home. 
  8. Find Youtube videos of ANY movie except Frozen, as Frozen is banned in your house. End up watching clips from Enchanted, because it’s a parody. Bless Amy Adams and her crew of singing cockroaches.
  9. Give in and let child watch clip from Frozen because you have never heard the damned song or seen the damned movie. Hate it more than you expected. Instruct child she may sing song only if she does so in a mocking tone that demonstrates her precocious recognition that Disney is increasingly mawkish and trite. Secretly prefer Cinderella and Peter Pan because the acting is so much better and their eyes are not bewilderingly huge and their movements don’t look like a lampoon of regional musical theatre performers. 
  10. Windex everything in house. It’s easier than getting a child into her mittens, so by comparison, it feels fun. This gets house clean.
  11. Upload another photo, because being on Facebook means you are out in the world.
  12. Keep hating Frozen, but try to let it go.

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Opening the Blinds

I shuttered the window on this tiny little room of a blog this past November. I took a look around, heaved a sigh, left some valuables behind so the room didn't feel completely abandoned, and locked up.

Last November was dark. My mother was sick, my beloved autumn held no radiance, the sun seemed to be vanishing at an alarming speed. Life itself was slipping away. My mind's pulse slowed and my heart gained ten pounds in sadness. There was little that seemed worth the effort, certainly not writing about my feelings, so trivial in the face of the world's larger sorrows and problems. Blogging seemed to be entirely an exercise in narcissism, and I felt deep shame as I read through all the old posts I had wasted time typing out whenever the mood struck me.

No one read the blog, which gave me the freedom to be sloppy, to meander, to write about esoteric, peculiar feelings. I had no gift for ingratiating myself with readers, for inviting people into my world, for extending my hand in friendship to my fellow mothers, parents or people in general. I had no talent for layout or design, and I felt it unfair to my growing child to share any photos of her growing up. (There is nothing as good for readership as adorable, inspiring photos of our children playing, skipping through the grass, sleeping, smiling.) Additionally, I felt depressed by the world of blogging. So many editors wanted lists. Lists! Everything had to be quickly digestible and served with a side of fries and a Coke.

I wrote some essays in private. I hope some will see the light of day. They belonged in their own world, not on a blog, I decided, so I put them in a drawer and waited for the pain which had inspired them to ease. Once that pain had lessened, I figured, I could decide if they had any merit. The blogging world moves so quickly: write, submit! Write, submit! Publish, publish, publish! I wanted off that treadmill; it felt pointless and silly and repetitive.

As a mother who isn't working, it is wonderful to have a sense of community, and to create, even if it is a silly essay for a web site or a blog post for your readership of three: you, your husband when he has the time to read, and the ghost of your pet dog. But swept into the vortex of submission, rejection and sometimes, ah--sweet dopamine fix--acceptance, I lost my way. I stumbled and fell.

Bleeding and dizzy, I stood up and looked at what a year had produced. I had written a few things I liked, I had written a lot of nonsense, and I had tried to create in a time of life that can be filled entirely with simply surviving.

And then I thought, what about it? Why don't I just try to survive? Maybe I would be far happier if I stopped trying to make something of my words, of myself, of my life right now. Maybe I should go back to curling into my child and falling asleep with her at night, cooking more stews and roast vegetables again, vacuuming the rug, reading plays that someday soon I might audition for. I am an actor, after all, not a writer.

I sat in the darkness for a while. I visited the place where the blog once stood. Cobwebs had formed, ghosts lurked in the shadows and I felt a chill pass through as its body grew cold.

This didn't feel entirely bad. I enjoyed the silence, I enjoyed the sense of control I had over my moments of quiet, so few with a young child. I had no urge to run to the computer and type, no need to scrawl notes on napkins or in notebooks. No ideas percolated.

But chemicals shift, mothers improve for a time, and the sun starts slowly making its way round the bend. Spring may be a few months off, but we have started spotting birds perching in the bare branches outside our living room windows. The light beckons once more.

So, what the hell? I have, with shaking hands, opened the blinds.

A little light filters into this dusty space. The ghosts have scurried to their corners, but they haven't vanished. I don't want them to. They write most of my words.

To write is to say, "I'm here." The world's problems are vast, the suffering of many others is more profound and consistent than mine, but denying my right to say "I'm here" is as pointless and destructive as shaking the flower where the Whos of Whoville live. A person's a person no matter how small. 

Blogs get a lot of grief for not being serious literary endeavors. But maybe that is neither their intent nor their purpose. They are simply a whole lot of voices singing in unison: "We are here!" and in doing so, letting all those other tiny voices be heard, through our collective singing. We don't have to be very good at writing or thinking up fresh ideas. We just have to show up and open the blinds.

So I'm here, opening the blinds and letting the gray winter light in. Are you out there, too? Because I don't think I can do it alone.

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