I thought about this post all day. This evening, was getting ready to wind my day down by writing my thoughts.
That was kyboshed when I discovered my grandmother had suddenly become ill.
My normal nighttime routine was quickly overtaken by rushed phone calls to family and emergency services, talks with the EMTs. Childcare was arranged so that I could follow the ambulance to the hospital, where I stayed with grandma and spoke to doctors and nurses, mostly on her behalf.
My grandmother is ill. Tonight she will stay in the hospital, and tomorrow I will find out more about what is making her that way. Until then, I have to try and get some sleep.
If you read this, keep my grandmother in your thoughts and best wishes.
December 6 – Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it? (Author: Gretchen Rubin)
On January 2nd, 2010, I wrote my very first blog post. (Go and marvel at the cheeks, even if you don't read the post. Trust me. It's worth it.)
It's made of HTML and, um, pictures and words. And time. I'm really proud of this little blog, and my commitment to it. It's been a massive source of inspiration for me.
In the past few years, I've let my writing slide, to the point where even I believed it was nothing more than a pastime. A lot of the posts in this blog would not have been written in my journal. I would have made excuses - not enough time, not enough energy, not enough to say. Nothing to write about. For some reason, this blog has kept me from making those excuses.
I've found community through this blog. I've found some amazing writers, and some amazing people. It's made me feel less lonely on my journey. It's given me a lot of ideas. It's helped me be a better parent. It's helping me become a better writer. It's even teaching me about that newfangled interweb the kids are always talking about.
Someday, I may even have a semblance of computer literacy. My god.
Heh. I just re-read my prompt. This blog is certainly not the last thing I made. Since then, I've made another baby. It's made of DNA and, um, love...
I have a giant pile of things I want to make. My sewing machine is lonesome for me, and I for it. But life is busy, and I am a tired, tired mama. Writing is my priority right now, and the rest will have to wait till life calms down.
December 5 – Let Go. What (or whom) didyou let go of this year? Why? (Author: Alice Bradley)
Dammit! I just popped over to Finslippy, Alice Bradley's amazing blog, and of course got caught up there for waay too long. Why does she have to have a link to Let's Panic! (about babies) right there? Now it's super late and I should be sleeping instead of just starting my post. Jeez. On the upside, I just laughed until I peed a little. And I started making a list of awesome kid's books for Chaos and Co.
*An aside. I was reading Let's Panic the night I had Cap'n Chaos. I'm pretty sure the hours I spent sitting in front of my computer, laughing till I cried and my sides hurt like hell, had something to do with inducing labor. Thank you, ladies. No, really. Thank you. Let's try again with baby #2.
Anyway. What (or whom) did I let go of this year, and why?
This has been one of the most transformative years of my life to date, and I have let go of many things. When it's all boiled down, though, what I have let go of this year is fear.
I've held onto many of my fears for years - my fear of sobriety, of leaving my childhood behind and fully embracing adulthood. My fear of success. My fear of failure.
Some are markedly more recent - my fear of being a single mother, for instance. Kind of had to take that bull by the horns.
I've had to take a long, hard, honest look at myself in the past year, and I certainly haven't liked all that I've seen. So, for the first time in my entire life, I've begun to work to change the things I don't like, rather than run from them or drown them in beer and smoke. I've begun to work towards goals that I've been shuffling off for years. It's goddamn hard work, and I've got a long road ahead, but it's worth it in the end.
I want my children to grow up unafraid. I want them to know what is possible if you trust yourself, if you are open to the sudden changes life brings. I want them to know what can be accomplished if you are singleminded in your pursuits and work hard toward your goals, in spite of what others may think or want you to do.
That's why I'm letting go of fear. For them. For me.
Children live in a world of wonder. Firsts abound. First smile, first solid foods, first birthday, first steps, first words. Every day brings a new discovery, new opportunities to learn and grow.
Our challenge is to let their wonder into our own lives. It becomes too easy to simply exist as caretaker and custodian, passively watching as our offspring soak up the amazingness that is the world.
Let the dishes go. Let the floor remain unvacuumed. Close the laptop. Spend a half hour stuffing your child into long johns, double socks, snowpants, two shirts, a sweater, a coat, mittens, toque, and scarf for a twenty minute sled ride. It's a lot more work than staying inside, but it's worth it's weight in wonder.
December 3 – Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). (Author: Ali Edwards)
This one was easy. I smiled when I opened up my prompt last night, thinking of this moment.
This summer, I took the little guy on a road trip. His father had just walked out on us. I was four months pregnant, hurting, angry, and scared for our future. It was some kind of serendipity that brought me a bunch of time off work at about the same time a couple of very dear friends invited me to Starbelly Jam, a music festival in Crawford Bay, BC.
This picture was taken the day that we arrived. Chaos was hot, tired, and cranky after two days on the road, and I wanted to thank him for being such an awesome road trip companion by taking him for a swim.
We met up with my friends on the road to the beach. It was quite an experience, seeing them in their truck, with their son strapped into the back, and me following in the first car I've ever owned, with my own little guy in tow.
You see, twelve or so years ago, we had been together in almost exactly the same spot, on the same road. We had met up for a weekend in the Kootenays then, too - my friends, who were still just dating at the time, in his '84 Charger, and myself (with yet another ill-advised boyfriend), who had hitchiked in from Jasper. We had no money and certainly no kids, but we did have a lot of beer.
My friends ended up getting engaged that weekend and were married a couple of years later. We live in different provinces now, and we've shared our ups and downs, but we've weathered the passing of time as friends do.
So, when we reached our destination that day and got out of our respective vehicles to greet one another, it was a very special moment. I had met their little guy once before, and they had never met Chaos. I remember the crunch of gravel beneath our feet as we hugged and introduced our children to one another. I remember the scent of cedar baking in the hot summer sun and the incredible view of the Kootenays that opened up to us as we made our way out of the woods and down to the pebble beach.
We spread blankets on the rocks and broke out water bottles, snack containers, sunscreen; all the accoutrements of parenting young children. I remember thinking how amazing it was that we were here, together, at this time in our lives, and how lucky I was to have had these people in my life for the past fifteen years.
My girlfriend's mother had come with them for the weekend, and she took Chaos while I swam in the lake. I remember the gratitude I felt towards her for allowing me that. It had been a long time since I had really swum anywhere, as opposed to simply splashing around with a squirmy water baby in my arms. It was wonderful.
We sat long into the late afternoon sun on that beautiful pebble beach on Kootenay Lake, eating oranges and blueberries, chasing our children in and out of the water, talking as old friends do. At some point we rounded up the kids and wrestled them into dry clothing, packed up our blankets and snacks and hats and bags, and headed to where we would be staying that night.
As we drove out into the soft evening light, I opened my windows wide and felt the breeze on my face, smelled the fresh mountain air. It had been an amazing afternoon for me. I had come to this place of healing brokenhearted, lonely, and found my friends again. I looked ahead at the tail lights of their truck, and behind me at my precious son sleeping in his carseat, and was happy, surrounded by love.
What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?
(Author: Leo Babauta)
Well, damn if I don't ask myself that same question, framed differently, on a regular basis.
Why am I not writing?
The answer to my question is always easy.
I'm exhausted. Cap'n Chaos kept me up all night with his incessant teething. I'm nine months pregnant. I've been busting my ass around here all day.
I'm too busy. Grandma has a doctor's appointment then it's playgroup time then I have to make lunch then it's naptime then I have laundry and dishes and cleaning to do then it's time to wrassle with Chaos for a bit before I have to make supper then it's bathtime and bedime for the little guy then I have to talk to gramma about her meds and make a shopping list and then I have laundry and dishes and cleaning to do...
And so on and so forth.
The answer to Leo's question was harder for me to find. But only because it caught me off guard.
What do I do each day that doesn’t contribute to my writing — and can I eliminate it?
A quick look at Twitter this morning confirmed my suspicion that I wasn't the only one who had been caught off guard by the question - and probably more specifically, the way it was framed. A lot of people seemed put off by the question. A lot of people seemed defensive.
I was too, at first.
Everything I do each day contributes to my writing. I can't "eliminate" any of it. That's a stupid question.
I write about my life and the people in it. It's just that they keep me so busy I don't have time to write, really.
I love that my prompts come first thing in the morning, because I've actually carved out a tiny bit of space at the end of my day for myself. For writing, mostly. I have all day to think about these questions, and believe you me, I do. It's awesome. Anyway, as I was rushing around today making breakfast for three people and cleaning the kitchen so grandma wouldn't have to and comforting a tired, cranky Chaos who wanted my undivided attention, please, and starting lunch for five people, it hit me.
I do too much for everyone else and not enough for me.Too much is what doesn't contribute to my writing. Too much, also known as procrastination.
Fahhk. I knew it!
I've been a procrastinator ever since high school. It's always taken on different forms. Alcohol and drugs, mostly. But this one, this taking care of everyone within arm's reach, has always been there too. It's much easier to take care of everyone else than to take care of me. It's a great excuse to put off working toward my goals.
Procrastination is insidious. Just when you thought you booted it out one door, it sneaks in another, wearing a different guise. I started this blog as a form of motivation to write, as a space for myself, after Chaos was born. I did it because I knew that if I didn't, I would spend all of my time and energy taking care of the people around me, and none of it taking care of me. And here I am, doing just that.
So, can I eliminate it?
I've committed myself to caring for my grandmother and my children. That is not negotiable.
What is negotiable, though, is how I go about it. I have a wonderful support group here in the form of family. I have aunts and uncles and parents who are willing to help shoulder the weight of this task. I may be a single parent, but I am definitely not alone.
So? How do I do it?
I recognize that writing is an integral part of my life and my well being. I make it as important to me as my family is. It is not simply recreation, it is not a waste of time. It is my goal in life to make a living and a difference with my words. There is nothing trivial about that.
When I need help being a good parent, I don't hesitate to ask. When I need support taking care of my grandmother, I get it right away. When I need a hand with my own goals? I will reach out.
From now on.
* PS I am due to give birthany day now (hear that, little guy? Anytime) so I may be out of commission for a couple of days. I don't really consider it procrastination, though.
This project has been, as a friend put it, keeping me up at night.
One of the most tumultuous years of my life so far is drawing to a close, and another, surely as chaotic exciting as the last, is dawning. In the midst of everything that's gone on, it hasn't occurred to me to sit down, take a breath, and reflect on what's passed, let alone manifest what's next.
But that's exactly what I am doing, every single day, on an unconscious level.
For my kids, for myself, I am becoming the person I've always wanted to be. It's hard work, to put it lightly. So difficult, in fact, that until I had children (okay, one and one on the way), I'd always given up. It was easier to party than to create meaningful work for myself, to wander than to put down roots, to kill time instead of manage it, to avoid the people I loved than to face myself in them.
Now everything is different.
Which is why my word for 2010 is simply change.
I want to keep on this path of positive change. I want to explore it. I want the opportunities that lie ahead to be realized. To make sure that this happens for me, I need to be mindful, to be grateful, to be open and strong. And I can be all of these things and more, as long as I keep at it, and don't lose sight of my goal.