Thursday, October 22, 2009

Even the sun has a schedule!

"Is there anything more loyal than the sun?"

The poet Mary Oliver said that.

I felt like she was talking directly to me. Like I was the only member of the audience who really mattered to her. I'm sure I was the only one in the crowd to scribble these words onto the front cover of my program titled "An Evening With Mary Oliver."

And to think that I almost didn't go.

You know the routine - driving home, dreaming about doing nothing but shaking off the cobwebs of a day that slowly smothers the soul. Hoping that peeling off the 'work clothes' and climbing into those soft pj's could create enough space around the body to finally let it breathe again.

I googled my favorite Mary Oliver poem and printed out two copies. I read and reread the lines that had walked beside me through my divorce as I struggled to rebuild a new life with my sons: "...and you felt the old tug at your ankles. "Mend my life!" each voice cried..."

I had followed Mary's advice and just kept walking until I could hear my own voice rising above the chaos and clatter around me. I "strode deeper and deeper into the world," until I had saved "the only life I could save."

My sister had sent me that poem in an email - she said it reminded her of me. I recognized myself immediately and felt so much relief to know that I wasn't the only person in the world walking away to save my life. I felt a sense of community with a writer I had never met, until last week.

Mary refused to sign my copies of the poem, citing something about potential copyright issues. (I'd wanted to send my sister a signed copy for Christmas.) Mary happily signed an official collection of poems for me instead. As I watched her hand guide her pen across the page, it struck me how easy it was for a writer to create magic with words. How simple it is to construct sentences that can help people in ways the writer could never imagine.

I didn't tell her why I loved The Journey.

The sun waited about thirty minutes after I got up the next morning before rising over the Atlantic. I brewed the tea, packed my lunch and hurried back into my work schedule.

I was driving home as the sun set in my rear view mirror. I felt frustrated because I wanted to hurry home to write my novel, but I was teaching instead. I was helping others to birth their own novels. How ironic is that?

Since my last entry I've been unable to crawl back into my writing schedule. I could blame it on the pc virus that took me 14 hours to locate then destroy, but I write my novel on my iBook, so that's not a valid excuse. I could also try to blame it on the one year anniversary of the death of my neighbor, who was like my surrogate mother. This had sent me into my kitchen to roast a turkey and potatoes the exact same way my nieghbor and my mum had roasted them for me.

But there are no excuses for blowing off my writing schedule. There is just the plain fact that I have been wading though emotional molasses these last two weeks and it's time to haul my boots back onto solid ground.

If the sun can show up for her schedule every day, for thousands and thousands of years, then I think I can try to show up for mine.

Friday, October 9, 2009

No Elelphants Allowed

I'm not anti-elephant. In fact, I love them.

But whenever I think about sitting down to write my novel I feel a giant weight plop onto that already aching area at the back of my neck. This weight is HUGE!!! It presses down on my shoulders and pushes my whole body into the ground until I feel like I am stuck in mud. I try to shake it off, do a few neck rolls, take a deep breath or two, but once that enormous mass of guilt has settled its rump on my back it just won't budge.

So, I have a new policy when it comes to elephants.

They are no longer invited into my writing space. The lavender and blue room in the right hand corner of my little house is officially off-limits to the grumpy old elephant that has been following me around for years.

There's simply not enough room for me, my characters and a great big lump of "You shouldn't be wasting your time in here talking to people in your head when there are REALLY IMPORTANT JOBS to do!" Nope. That little writing room of mine is just too small for anyone but my novel and the writing candle I recently bought that signals the beginning and end of my writing sessions.

My writing room is gorgeous - it's my play room - filled with all the creative touch stones I learned to collect when I was teaching the Artist's Way. There is not one inch of that room that says "You shouldn't be in here - you should be doing...blah blah blah". My writing room is comfy, calm and safe for me to open up my lap top and just sink into the world that lives in my head every single waking hour.

Now that I've got used to closing the door I don't feel bad about leaving my elephant outside. It's always waiting for me. Silently, patiently waiting to remind me of all the things I have yet to do before I can even think about writing again.

Funny thing is, I don't worry about when I'm going to get the chance to write again. I have given myself the luxury of a writing schedule - something I have never been able to stick to before. I don't know why this time is different. But it is.

When my writing time arrives, which is six days a week, and twice on Tuesdays (!!) I stop whatever I am doing, head down the hall to my study, shut my door, light my candle and take a deep breath. The silence is wonderful. No impatient nudging at my shoulders, no bumping heads against my door, no annoyed stomping of feet - my elephant has learned to give it up - to let me have this sacred writing time all to myself,

Today is Friday, the only day on my weekly schedule that does NOT include a writing session.

I want to write today, but I don't know if I will. I don't know, yet, if my elephant will revolt if I don't follow my schedule, and if it does can I blame it? After a week of telling it to behave, to wait outside, to stop bugging me, this beast has stepped aside for 2-3 hours a day because it knows it will have plenty of time to chase me around my life as soon as my writing session is over. Perhaps I have to hold up my end of this bargain and stick to the schedule. Perhaps not.

I'll let you know tomorrow.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Time Travel

My eldest son turned 17 yesterday - I couldn't believe it! Memories of holding him in one hand kept creeping into my mind as I drove to the dentist, as I lay in the chair while he drilled, filled and pressed against my numb jaw, as I drove home again, wondering how long I'd have to wait before I could finally make myself a coffee, without burning my lips off. The distance between 1992 and 2009 had completely dissolved as I found myself back in Dallas, Texas, reliving every moment of that long, long, long day.

Of all the events that transpired, the most vivid memory to resurface was the one that was born a week after his delivery, when I was posing for a photograph with my new son lying in my right palm. I couldn't believe that I was holding a human being in my hand. He felt light and fragile and I was afraid. I remember the camera clicking its confirmation that this moment was now held in eternity and as I lay my son down in my lap I wondered who he would become. I wondered how the hell I was going to adjust to having this new person in my life and if, by some miracle, I would learn how to raise him.

I can still feel the soft, thin skin of his bowed legs. Still smell the baby powder I had dusted all over his belly. Still see the knowing gaze of a new soul that says "I chose you as my mother". Despite the 17 years between then and now, the mind's ability to flood the heart with memories that feel like current reality is astonishing to me. It is a gift that I reopen regularly, not just on birthdays. If only all the memories that resurface were as beautiful as this one.

There was another celebration yesterday - my friend became an author :-)

Another birth that I had the honor to witness. How cool is that?

As the memories of back labor subside into the growing list of things to do before I return home with 6, yes 6 teenage boys for what could be a long night tonight, I realize that the birth process is simply the period at the end of a sentence. It is the final letting go of the baby we have protected and nurtured for so long.

Our babies, whether they be human, or literary, are not ours to hang on to forever. They belong out there, alone and vulnerable, in the world we are working so hard to change.

I have been working my own novel, despite my silence here. I am fitting sentences in between the busy moments of my life. I printed everything out the other day and it felt good to hold it in my hands. It reminded me of the time I held my infant son; the time when I was so afraid I'd fail to be the mother he was hoping for.

My novel is now my baby and I have work to do.