I have voted in elections where the candidate I did not choose has won. I was disappointed, or annoyed, or frustrated. I gave a deep sigh, thought “Well, that’s how it is, then.” And I moved on.
Not this time.
This time, I’m scared. This time, I’m angry. This time I want to do something.
Over the last several years I have grown into someone who identifies as a feminist. I think and care about issues that don’t affect me personally, but which I know are so, so important. I have cared about the environment I think since I knew what the phrase “endangered species” meant. With this election, all of that is threatened.
Earlier this week, Austin Kleon wrote a post on one of my selfish worries, how being a parent will intersect with my being a writer.
In his post, “The Pram in the Hall”, he brings up his own point of view, along with the point of view of many other writers, that you don’t have to be a bad parent in order to be a bad writer, or that focusing on your parenting necessarily takes away your ability to write.Read More »
Oof, I haven’t written in a couple of months! But I do have an excuse. My husband and I are expecting our first baby in March, and as we crest the halfway point in the pregnancy, I keep finding things that take up a lot of thinking and researching time: day care, pediatricians, which cribs are actually safe…
But while I stress over all these things that are technically for future baby girl, I’m also stressing over things that are a little more selfish. Namely, the things that I’m going to lose, or that I’m worried I’ll lose. Most of these are just me overly panicking, because I have to think about something when heartburn keeps me up at night, but they’re there, all the same.Read More »
This year, having a back yard and all, we decided to start a vegetable garden. Peas, green beans, zucchinis, hey even some kale, why not?
I had high hopes for lots of these things. Mountains of zucchini bread, fresh peas every week. KALE SALADS. It was going to be great.
Some things turned out like I thought. We consistently get some zucchinis. I have more tomatoes than I know what to do with. But other things worked out badly. The kale never came up (I think I planted it on the only patch of bad soil in the whole garden), and I discovered that peas are apparently the least drought-resistant things I could have planted.
Then there are our pumpkins.
We started a few seeds, and I thought, They won’t all come up anyway, so make sure we plant a bunch! And then they all came up. Then I planted them alongside the other vegetables, thinking, This can’t get too much bigger than the zucchinis.
They got much, much bigger than the zucchinis.
That’s an old picture. The vines have since spread even further, overtaking the cucumbers and encroaching on the strawberries. They’re growing up the back fence, so that I wonder what, exactly, will happen once pumpkins start appearing. And, oh man, are the pumpkins appearing.
So, the moral here? Read more about pumpkins before you try to plant a bunch of them in your cramped garden. Also, sometimes things don’t work out like you thought. That can be bad (R.I.P. peas, you will be missed) or they can burn out, really, really well.
Work load wise, I didn’t get a lot done this weekend.
I did some editing/rewriting for myself, one day. But I didn’t write any blog posts, I didn’t do any critiquing.
Yesterday particularly, you can’t say I did anything towards bringing my story to completion.
So what did I do?
I ran for two miles.
I watched The Mindy Project while I sewed beanbags.
I ate leftover barbecue on a porch.
I sat on the beach for two hours, reading, running my feet through warm sand, taking pictures of speckled rocks, staring at the ocean while I ate an apple and listened to families shout at each other and dip their children in sea water for the first time.
It makes it hard to get out of bed, to set down at the computer and write even so much as a dumb little blog post. It makes it hard to leave the house, to get chores done. It’s even hard to just sit on the couch and read a book, because why, what’s the point, isn’t there something else you should be doing.
Anxiety makes it hard even when you manage to do these things. I edited for two hours, but what’s the point, there’s so much more to be done. It makes it hard to feel accomplished, and easy to feel frustrated as you fall into that awful spiral of comparing yourself. I look at my to-do list with all of its checked boxes, and I still feel like I haven’t done a thing. I might as well just stand in the shower, or lie on the floor, clutching my stomach.
I’m lucky, though. I have things that have to get done, and an anxiety that is just mild enough that I can do those things at least. I have to walk the dog. I have to buy groceries. I have to make dinner, fold laundry. I have to sit at the desk and pick up a pen, because even if I rip out every sheet of paper I mark, or write just two sentences and fill the rest of the page with swirls and doodles, because going just one day without doing that is worse pain than my anxiety knows how to inflict.
And as I move, my body calms. I can do one more thing, then another. I can go to one more store. I can clean the counter top. I can write one more page, edit one more chapter. It can take days to stop thinking so much on how much I’m failing, how little I’m doing. But I know that this feeling — this awful, bothersome, eternal feeling — isn’t forever, and if I keep pushing through it will fade until I almost (almost) can’t see it anymore. Then I can look back, to meals I’ve made, to piles of read books, to notebooks and journals full of words and ideas, to email chains between me and critique partners, and I can see that I have done something, despite everything inside of my getting in the way.
There’s a collection of locks on the chain link fence over a bridge in Boston. We passed by, on our way to the T, and even though we had a place to be, and people to call, I had to pause, just a moment, to appreciate the sight. Some of the locks are old ad rusted, some are new and shining. There are plain cold metal ones, and ones that are bright purple or green or heart shaped. Most of them are clumped together, so when looked at from the right angle and distance they look like rigid, shimmering fish scales, while others float to the side, or hang above, the old owners tall or clever enough to get them up above the rest.
I don’t know why these are here, if there’s a general purpose or if every single person just left a lock for different reasons. Out of boredom, because they were sad, because something had made them angry, or because the sight stunned them for a moment and they wanted to be a piece of it. Or maybe they wanted to ditch a lock they didn’t need, and this seemed like the place to do it.
All those little chunks of metal together, either forming garbage, or something beautiful, depending on your point of view.
I decided that as I packed my duffle bag for a short Cape Cod trip, taking up precious space with yoga pants and sports bras. And on Saturday, as everyone left the house, I ignored my unopened books and blank notebook pages as I tied up my sneakers, layered my tank tops, and ran out the front door.
I huffed up one main road, and then another, with an actual goal in mind —a beach, just over a mile away. There and back, that’s all I planned on doing. Not incredibly far, but farther than I had been doing on the treadmill. I expected to stop before I even smelled the ocean, taking deep breaths as I walked slow, hoping to get the energy back to jog the last few feet before I reached the sand.
I kept going. Music pumped in my ears, but I could still hear my breath heaving in and out as slow and even as I could manage, hear my sneakers pounding steadily on the road, the dirt, the sidewalk. I turned up the last road, I got to the beach, and then I finally slowed — I’d run the whole way there.
Everything smelled like seaweed and salt, and I walked up and down the sand, sucking in the smells, watching the ocean, letting the breeze cool a face that had pinkened to about the color of a watermelon Jolly Rancher.
Then I ran back.
Again, I thought I would stop, that I’d walk the last half mile, the last quarter mile, the last hundred yards. But I kept coming up with reasons. I’ll finish this song. Oh wait, “I Don’t Have a Favorite Pony” by Hank Green and the Perfect Strangers is on, I’ll finish that song. Now there’s a couple up ahead walking their elderly dogs, I’ll catch up to them first (why are they so hard to catch up to??).
I’d run out of excuses, and by then I’d reached the house again. Just over two miles, not terribly far, but a distance for me. And I’d run the whole way, except for a pair of minutes where I stared, heart pounding, at the sea.
I ran one last time on Monday, before we left. Legs tired, and rain misting outside, I went to another beach, not so far away as the first. But I went, my own feet carried me all the way there. The whole rest of the rainy cold day, packing bags and driving home, it felt pretty good.
This post is inspired by a comic by Debbie Tung. Check out her Tumblr, she’s really amazing!
“You’re bringing a book on a date?”
I looked up, startled. It was senior year of college, and I was in the common area shared with my three roommates, getting on my coat and packing up my purse before going out for dinner with my boyfriend. My last step — taking the paperback I’d been reading, and nestling it in beside my wallet in my old beat-up purse.
It’s never been unusual for me to have a book crammed into my bag whenever I leave the house. Dinner with the in-laws, party with friends, a half-day at work that doesn’t include a lunch break — there’s a mass market, or a full hardcover, or now a Nook or even something downloaded on my phone, ready for me to read at the first sign of five free minutes.
I’ve done this for as long as I can remember, back to Animorphs books in my backpack, back to Dr. Seuss on car trips. That paper brick right within reach is a comfort, a security blanket, ready to help me out at a moment’s notice, to pull me free from boredom, keep me company if loneliness surrounds me, to cheer me up or calm me down if depression or anxiety worm themselves into my brain.
While I don’t know too many people who insist on this practice (I was the one in my family curled up in the back corner of the minivan on road trips with nothing but a too-loud Disc-man and an R.A. Salvatore novel) but I’d never been made to feel weird about it. Until that day, in my dorm, with my friend. Though loads of my friends love to read, this friend was pretty close to last on the list of people I would have expected to question me. My fellow bookworm, the one who ALSO made time for pleasure reading during finals week, who rambled on about stories and characters with an enthusiasm so bright it blocked out the glazed expressions of everyone who was forced to listen. I looked at this person, expecting her to realize the logic behind carrying a book you would never crack open, just because you wanted it there.
And she looked back at me, confused, like I was an indecipherable nerd, like all the passages in my brain were turned around and broken.
“Uh, yeah,” I answered lamely. “Just in case.”
All my good reasons, rooted in emotion and vague-but-real feelings of comfort, became suddenly inexplicable, particularly in the face of a person who should have understood. It all seemed weird, and silly, and maybe a little bit messed up.
I’ve left home without a book before, because I was distracted or rushed, and managed to forget. But for the first time that I could think of, I consciously, purposely, removed the book from my bag, placed it on the table, and left without it.
I didn’t need the book that night. Really, it’s rarely necessary all those other times. But I’ve always liked having that backup plan, that comfort. “Because it feels like I’ve got a good friend by my side,” Debbie Tung writes in her comic. That’s exactly right, and it’s why I’ve never left a book behind since, if I can help it (it’s hard to fit a paperback in those tiny purses I use at weddings). I always keep a book in my bag, even if I wind up with a twenty-pound purse, even if someone gives me a weird look because they don’t understand.
It’s worth it, to feel secure, and to know my friends are close.