Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Small Accomplishments

It is hard to know what to reflect on lately. I am working a part time job at the university, and I’m working on a book project for a client. So far this has mostly involved reading background material, interviews, transcribing interviews, doing writing exercises with the client to get images, memories, reflection in her own words, and a lot of sleep-thinking about how the book will be organized, what topics I need to explore more deeply with the client, and how to honor her story, how to write it authentically, how to write in first person as if I am her. Sleep-thinking is so important to my writing process. 

I’m also being a mom.

That means laundry. A lot of laundry. Mine. Chris's. Desmond's. And bath towels and bed sheets and kitchen towels. Endless.

Groceries. How did I become a person who goes to the grocery store regularly? I’ve always hated the grocery store. Now I look forward to it just a little bit, because when I have Desmond in tow, he gets excited about the helium balloon that gets tied to the shopping cart. There is a small bit of magic that I feel, a little jolt in my heart, when I see him taking in the world, absorbing the existence of a helium balloon, a wonder to behold.

Playtime. Watching Desmond take apart Legos, try to walk, climb into the Radio Flyer and then struggle to figure out how to climb out. Reading books to him at night. 

Sometimes being a mother feels so easy and so natural that I feel stunned, like there is a stranger inside of my skin. I feel as if the real me, the person I used to know myself to be, has drifted away and is floating above watching the stranger who has entered my body. The real me is trying to figure out how to get back in that body. Most of the time I just feel like I'm two selves now instead of one. 

It has been just over a year. Ever so slowly, I am working to come back together as a unified person – someone who can do these things above, still find a way to work out (I really want to do another triathlon or try a half-marathon), still find the time and energy to write -- not just for a client, but to write fiction and revise it and submit it, and still have some semblance of a social life -- which means being able to listen to my friends when they are talking, to really listen; that is so hard right now. And it means being able to have fun in the company of others, maybe throwing a small dinner party, or going to a movie or to see a band play. The greatest challenges thus far, what I have yet to even attempt, are working out and writing. I’m inching toward them. Turtle that I am. 

Most of the time I still don’t feel capable of writing a coherent sentence, let alone a coherent paragraph that will be affecting and meaningful. I am very in the moment these days. A body swimming but not really able to focus on what's in the distance when I come up for air. Trying to be reflective while in the moment, those don’t go together, do they?

So I won’t reflect just now. I will just be thankful for small accomplishments, for moving through a day successfully. Most nights, we come home from work, have some time with Des, get him fed while we cheer on his eating habits, then once he is bathed and asleep we move on to cooking for ourselves, and end up doing dishes and finishing up late. Or we are too exhausted to do dishes and leave them for the morning.

But yesterday and today I worked a full day at the university. I drove home. I spent some time playing with Des before I set him down to play on his own. Tonight, he got a wooden spoon and big steel mixing bowl so he could cook while I cooked. I made dinner quickly. Set the table. Me, Chris, and Des all ate dinner together. Then we did his bath/play/book/bottle routine. After he was down, I did dishes. By 7:30 p.m. the day was done. Last night I got to watch the debate, then read a book. Tonight, here I am typing away on my keyboard. They are not the strongest words to emerge from my brain and on through my fingertips. But here they are.

Just wait a while. I might say something dangerous. Or true. Or both.