Interview in the kitchen

IMG_2746Chopped onions, mushrooms and garlic simmer in the pan with a little olive oil. I add a handful of spinach and push everything around with a wooden spoon.

“Here we are in the kitchen of the famous writer,” says my girl.

Wearing her soft white pajamas with gold snowflakes, she points a camera at me and talks in a tumble of quick words, her sweet voice trying to mimic the cadence of the reporters she hears on NPR.

“You may know her from her famous blog, but she is also writing two novels which are sure to be New York sellers.”

She walks closer and I turn, aware of my dirty apron and unwashed hair. The camera is on my face now.

“Can I ask you a few questions?”

“Sure.”

“When you’re famous, will you allow your books to be made into movies?”

“I guess.”

“I know you doubt your acting skills, but if given the chance, would you star in the movie?”

“No. I’d leave it to the professionals.”

“You could, you know.”

“Thanks, but it isn’t something I even want.”

I stare at her through the camera, my tone serious. Teachable moment.

“You do know I may never finish my book, and it may never be published. You know that, right?”

She sighs and smiles.

“You will mom, and you are already famous,” she says. “Because you’re awesome.”

She turns the camera on herself.

“Well, there you have it, folks. A short interview with the famous writer as she cooks dinner. Tune in tomorrow when we interview a leprechaun about the true secrets of the rainbow.”

She walks into the next room and I hear her playing the video back to herself. I wonder what she is thinking as she watches it.

Does she see the bags under my eyes or the way I cringed when she called me “famous writer”?

Does she know how much I fear I’ll never finish writing anything?

Can she possibly understand the enormous feelings her little interview exploded inside me as I cooked a frittata on a Monday night?

Thank goodness the answer is no. She is 10 years old, all she knows is she loves her mother and she believes I can do anything. I’m still a hero to her, someone to look up to, someone to admire.

Like all aspects of motherhood, it’s crushing, suffocating, messy, confusing and fucking wonderful all at once.

I don’t want to let her down.

I’ve always told her she could do whatever she wants in life.

“You are only limited by your own fears.”

I worry I will fail, and she will watch it, and all her hopes and dreams will crash along with mine. She won’t believe me anymore and I will have broken her.

I worry she will watch the video years down the road, when I am gone, sad her mother never finished those books she always talked about.

She is watching me.

She sees me trying, hears me reading sentences out loud to myself, watches me rush to scribble something on a piece of paper, listens as I tell her something new I figured out about one of my characters and hears me cry when I think I’m alone and everything feels too big.

She is watching me.

Fear and self-doubt, like Oden’s ravens, sit on my shoulders. They mock me, tell me how foolish, stupid and boring I am. Famous writer. Blah.

Yet I keep going.

I’m crafting stories and characters and worlds. It’s hours of tedious work, reworking the same sentences over and over until they read exactly as I want them to, mixed with a tiny moment where the magic sends a shiver through my entire body and I feel life pure and whole and without edit.

I don’t know how this story ends, but she is watching me.

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Can we talk?

Her bouncy blonde curls hang wildly down to a soft, mustard-colored sweatshirt. She is smiling, and her blue-green eyes, the light of her face, squint ever so slightly.

We lean close, trying hard to fill the space between us with all the things which have happened since we last sat here, our favorite table in the corner, drinking matching diet cokes and sharing popcorn from a red and white bag.

This is love.

The feeling is big, and yet so simple; connection, familiarity, safety.

Our friendship was forged years ago as young girls trying hard to be seen and heard in a sea of middle schoolers. Something drew us close then, but we seem to have forgotten it, or maybe it lay buried under all the things.

Nearly a year ago, while dodging post-hurricane waves in Florida, our hearts opened up and spilled out to one another. Forged in the powerful surf. Tougher than the wind. We remembered.

We used to borrow each other’s clothes, sing loudly in the car, skip arm and arm down the halls, stay up all night talking about everything and nothing.

I want more.

More of her. More of us. More of the space between women which is sacred and holy and fucking amazing. More time to see her fully, all her complexities and contradictions, hopes and fears, everything.

I want more.

A week ago, I left for a writing retreat to this hippie camp near the ocean and the redwoods. I wanted something to happen, sure, but I feared nothing would. Anxiety, like the proverbial devil on my shoulder, whispering all the ways I would fuck it up.

But I didn’t.

I couldn’t.

Magic became not only attainable, but real; with a fairy path leading to a yurt, a unicorn chef who cooked concoctions worthy of the Gods, and a bonfire where truth was spilled out and passed around from one to the other.

The whispers of the ancients, things I know to be true in my bones, rocked me as I stood every morning on the damp redwood deck in my wool socks, the cool wetness seeping in, a hot cup of coffee clutched tightly in my hands.

The breezes would carry bits of conversation from the women inside, voices of strength and of hope, gathered around a fireplace adorned with candles and trinkets from those who came before. A sense of divine connection filled my soul.

I want more.

Since my return, I’ve dealt with rotten jack-o-lanterns, sick kids spewing mucus and whining loudly, piles of laundry, seven million voices in the carpool van all talking at once; the layers of responsibility trying desperately to bury the ancient truth again under all the shit.

I’m terrified another five, ten, twenty years will pass in a blur before I have another moment of remembering.

I want more.

So, my friends, as I stare at you too long, hold you too tight, forgive me. I’m lost in the redwoods still.

I just want to talk.

 

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The Magical Place

 

Searching for something

Almost four years ago, I began this blog to address the feelings of being drowned out and erased by motherhood. It was purely a selfish stab in the darkness.

Hello? Hello? Anybody out there?

Depression’s seed had already sprouted inside, but it would take a year or so before I began to recognize it. By then, the twisting thorny pain had wound itself through every cell, infecting all functions and clouding my vision with inky black lies.

Devouring. Suffocating. Obliterating.

I could not see.

I could not breathe.

I could not move.

This blog became the home for the words I didn’t dare say out loud, my refuge in the darkness. I could type silently the pain and anger I wished would go away, release some of the pressure, and reach my quiet hand up for someone to see.

Some of you read the words and nodded in solidarity, my sisters and brothers of shadow.

Some of you read the words and tossed me tendrils of hope, which I desperately clung to with both hands.

With every word typed and every tear cried, I’ve been ripping and untangling the dense thicket of torment and suffering I’d surrendered to.

Now, with only a few coils still attached, I’m feeling exposed and naked.

Stripped down.

Bare.

I’m free, but lost.

Seen, but scared.

I have no idea what to do next.

Depression became my identity, filling the emptiness up with dark and giving me plenty of lies to ponder and pain to feel. It became my voice; it spoke through me, providing a plethora of excuses to hide behind and inside.

Hello darkness, my old friend/I’ve come to talk with you again

I want to shed the deceitful sense of purpose depression gave me and embrace something new. I long to find the true voice inside me, the one buried by all the layers of bullshit I’ve let define me for so long.

I feel wobbly in this new space and unsure how to proceed.

So, I come here again, to this space of words and ideas. I come with eyes wide open, my heart engaged and my mind clear.

Do you see me? Will you accept this version? Will I?

Our country is so filled with division, misinformation and lies right now. We have joined the rest of the world, in a global sense of unease and unrest. There are so many things happening, so fast, it would be easier to retreat back into my self-pitying hole of depression and hunker down.

But this is the time for action.

The time to declare a new purpose and to find a new voice.

A time to say, I’m still here.

We are still here.

Now what are we going to do?

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My attempt at painting this new feeling.

 

Oh, the messes we make

There is a pile of cut yarn outside my bedroom door, and five stuffed animals hang from the bannister having “flying lessons.” Every box from Christmas I put in the garage to break down, is back in the house in various stages of transformation, surrounded by tape, scissors and markers.

The dining room table is home to a puzzle on week three of progress, and a half-completed robot model. Stacks of books fill every flattish surface, teeny-tiny scraps of paper are cut up and have been thrown confetti-style down the halls, and two tiny plants appear to be in the process of being repotted by someone in the bathroom sink.

The state of my house is not good, folks. It is a cluttered mess of intentions and creation. We are a family who likes to do things, make things, get lost in the “thing,” and what we seem to hate the most is admitting the thing is over.

If the puzzle is put away, it means we didn’t finish it.

If the books are on a shelf, they may not get read.

If we clean up the boxes, the fort will never be completed.

We are a family of potential.

I have been fighting this for a long time.

I would walk around the house picking up all the messes, bitching as I do, and feeling the overwhelming sense of futility as I turn around to see several new “projects” erupting behind me.

It was driving me crazy. Ask my kids. I had become the Cleaning Dictator often yelling “take this shit to your room” and “what the hell is this mess?” and “are you kidding me?”

I’d march around in full martyr-mode, always feeling a sense of being overwhelmed or buried by ALL THE STUFF. I’d throw projects away because I’d get tired of seeing them or throw everything into a closet and slam the door to have ONE EMPTY SPACE.

Part of this battle was because my insides were in turmoil and I needed my space to not be. I needed everything organized, because I couldn’t categorize all the messy, dirty feelings which weighed me down and made it impossible for me to move.

Another part was embarrassment, of imaging what people would think if they stumbled into our “in progress” home on a day I didn’t frantically shove things into closets or drawers. They might think I am lazy or I don’t give a shit about my family.

I was losing my mind over it.

I was on the verge of completely squashing my kid’s creativity, because I could not contain it.

I could not stand it.

Then I started writing again.

My writing is a mess; the characters are unformed, stumbling along trying to become real and struggling with the half-story I’ve placed them in. I’m having to slowly uncover the pieces and letting it be a jumble for now, while I figure out how it all fits together.

It almost stopped me completely.

Twice.

I’m still writing.

I’m accepting this mess is part of the creative process, and I’m trying to explore it with patience and curiosity. It’s hard to ignore the unease it brings, but it is necessary. I am not going to just sit down and write a novel. It is a chaotic, disorganized and jumbled process which requires both ignoring my fears and embracing them.

It’s fucking hard guys.

But doing this, being in the trenches, has made me look at the mess of my house, and even my kids, in a different way.

I’ve always been supportive of open play and creativity, actively fighting to provide them the space and time for it; we drive 25 minutes so they can attend a Waldorf school which is in line with these ideals. But at the same time, I’ve been a nagging bitch about the messes which come along with it.

Contradictions are apparently my thing.

There is a big part of me which would love my house to look like Restoration Hardware; seriously, everything in that store is gleaming and beautiful and fucking rad.

But it never will.

People don’t live there.

Duh, right?

I can’t remove the mess, because WE are the mess. I’d be replacing all the little stories they create with their stuffed animals, all the pictures they draw, all the badges and houses and forts…for some idealistic version of a home I’d probably hate.

I want my kids being loud and crazy and wild.

I want them making shit out of everything.

I want my kids to know their ideas are worth exploring fully.

The dishes and laundry are done. There isn’t anything rotting or smelling bad in the house. It is just projects, crafts and imagination exploding out in all directions.

It is the chaos of a creative life.

There is an important lesson for us all to learn about finishing things, cleaning up after ourselves and respecting the space of others. I’m not throwing up my hands in defeat. There is plenty of work to do still, and I’m sure we can get there.

For now, though, I want to stop yelling and allow more space and time for the messy creativity to happen. I want to stop struggling so hard against it, and learn to give things the time they need.

Maybe I can even learn to love the mess as much as I love the kids who create it.

Probably not.

But I can stop how I react and realize how temporary this all is.

So, bring on the Styrofoam sinks:img_8435The random piles of coins:img_8437Whatever this is:img_8439Bring it on.

Because we live here and this is what we do.

From under my heating blanket

img_8394Three times in the past week, I saw the streetlight outside my front window turn off. Each time, as I sat tucked under the heating blanket in my oversized chair, it struck me as something remarkable.

I’ve lived in this house for over 15 years, and I’ve never seen it happen before this week. I want to say it’s because I’ve had some enormous shift in perspective. It would make my mom happy to hear I have taken her advice, I’m finally slowing down and appreciating everything around me.

The truth is, I’ve been trying to write my book again, and it involves me staring out the window thinking, fighting against fear, until I open my damn laptop and start writing. Then I stare out the window some more.

Sorry, mom.

I wish I could slow down, and in lots of ways I have, but it isn’t in my nature to ever be satisfied with doing the same thing over and over. I’m not restless, exactly, but more curious. I want to test my limits, figure things out and explore, all things I can’t do without discomfort.

The past few months have been filled up, and parts of me feel completely depleted. I have taken risks, driven hundreds of miles, pushed myself past exhaustion, learned to be friendly to people even as they are insulting me, and to trust in my own abilities to learn new skills.

I have gone from feeling an outsider in a room full of artists, to feeling as if I am an amateur who can learn and grow from being around them.

I am accepting my need to create, but also solid in the knowledge it comes with moments of complete panic. I know the perfectionist within me will scream with anxiety often, and I’m learning to be OK with embarrassment and rejection.

Shit.

These ARE sounding like big shifts.

I swear they aren’t.

It feels more like I’m uncovering something which has been there all along, like digging up the old Ewok figure we buried as kids in the backyard some 20 years later. It has been there, waiting, it just took a long time for us to find it.

I’m getting paid to help run a writing workshop, encouraging others to let go of all the bullshit lies we tell ourselves. I am writing with this group of highly-talented women; basically, getting paid to work on my book. It’s the push I need and I’m not wasting the opportunity.

My house is fully decorated for Christmas, and I feel overwhelmed by all the new things the kids acquired. My garage is impossible to walk in, and the recent rain has caused the weeds to grow in the front yard to a level I’ll have to address soon. I’m supporting a friend by eating a very restrictive diet, which forces me to cook a lot, so there are always so many dishes.

All this, and I’m still sitting in my chair staring out the window, watching the streetlamp go out and thinking about characters, unmapped futures, the meaning of true love and thousands of other strands of thoughts swirling within me. I’m battling within and holding sacred this space I’ve been given to create.

This is exactly where I am supposed to be.

Drink coffee and make shit up

computer

The alarm goes off at 4 a.m. every day. I make a cup of coffee and face the blank screen. I attempt to put words to the pictures inside my head.

It is hard.

The words don’t come quickly or easily and they are often edited by my fears. The layers of resistance I’ve built around me cling tight and bind my arms to my sides.

Nobody is asking me to write this blog.

Nobody is asking me to write my book.

Nobody is begging me to put in the time.

No, that isn’t entirely true. There is a little voice, sometimes barely heard over everything else, which is pushing me to do it in spite of all the reasons I tell myself no.

It’s this fierce little writing warrior nagging at me and reminding me how good it feels to sit and create.

It is me and I it.

It feels both noble and pointless.

It feels both powerful and depleting.

I’m learning I have to fight every day and it may never get easier.

Ever.

I may be fighting for the rest of my life against all the lies and crap I’ve clung to. I may always hide behind the obligations and distractions I use to give myself permission to not do the creative work my heart longs for.

I might never feel brave or bold or fierce.

Yet, I’m still here and my passion and love for writing is too. Every time I get to the moment when the words start to come or a character begins to talk to me, the magic of writing sucks me in and I again remember why I’m not tucked in my warm bed.

Writing my book makes me feel alive like nothing else, yet it is the hardest thing to make myself do.

Playing a game on my phone or folding laundry is so much easier and I get instant payoff, advanced to the next level and clean clothes in the closet.

There is no instant quantifiable payoff for drafting a good sentence. Nobody is reading over my shoulder and patting me on the back for creating a particularly vivid image or getting the tone of my character’s voice just right.

Yet, the feeling is something I crave. It is as if I momentarily tap into some hidden part inside me, usually dormant and buried deep down, but once ignited dances and rejoices openly like a kind of divine freedom.

I want more.

As a mother, I have seen how easily and freely children find this creative high. They draw, paint, sing, dance, sculpt and write with an abundance of carefree joy. They don’t want or need approval. They create because it is as natural as breathing and running.

Then someone comes along and tells them they are doing it wrong or they aren’t any good. Then they begin the painful act of comparing themselves to others.

This is when it becomes hard.

I see it with my daughter. She loves playing the keyboard. She sits at it for hours every day and she is starting to get pretty good. She enjoys creating new songs and learning new chords. There is a passion driving her completely separate from me and perhaps even from herself.

Yet the resistance is coming. I know it. The moment she meets someone better than her or starts comparing herself to the musicians on the radio, she will be confronted with it.

It will be hard.

She will look to me and I will tell her the truth. I’m still trying. I’m still pushing. Once you have a passion for something, it never fully leaves you. You have to keep going through the hard shit, through the tears and frustration and the horrible feeling you are never going to be good enough.

You keep going even if the payoff never comes.

We do it because it feeds our soul. We do it because once we stop moving forward, we allow in depression, loneliness and hopelessness.

She may have to feel all the bad things in order to believe me, but I’m going to be here. I’m going to hold out my hand and tell her to believe and to fight.

The passion driving us needs to be bigger than the forces against us.

We have to find a way to fight, even if the payoff is only a moment of joy.

My desire to create is my reason to get out of bed. Even as the words don’t come and I feel I will never finish this book or any other project, I am happier in the muck of trying than when I don’t try at all.

I’m writing these words because I need to read them and feel them.

I need to declare to myself the truth I know in my heart.

I am a writer.

I am dedicating myself to showing up and putting in the hard work.

I’m exposing all my weakness so I can get stronger.

I’m not allowing myself to succumb to distraction.

I’m acknowledging my fear, but not giving it the power to take me down.

I’m giving myself permission to write thousands of bad sentences in order to have the feeling of creating just one magical one.

I’m accepting it will never get easier, but asserting I will never quit.

I am a writer.

I drink coffee and I make shit up.

I’m here, in my pajamas, just living and stuff

His voice wakes me from a dream of floating in the ocean and I drift down the hall to him.

“What’s wrong?”

“Bad dream. Will you lay with me?”

I open my eyes all the way and see him. He is squeezing his panda bear tight with tears just threatening to fall from his daddy’s blue eyes.

Yesterday he turned 11, but right now he is my baby.

I crawl in and he squirms into my arms and fits perfectly. The warm smell of him fills me up and takes us both back to my ocean dream where we float and sway gently. Together.

The last month has been a big ball of life wrapped up in colorful paper, candy canes, pajamas, soft blankets, warm fires and twinkling lights.

Each moment is a story all its own.

I’m laughing with friends, being vulnerable and happy and full. I’m aware of how much they love me and I promise myself to never forget this feeling.

I’m crying alone in my room, covers over my head to muffle the sound. My body shaking and my breath completely gone, I wonder if I’ll ever feel true happiness.

I’m trying on clothes and everything is too tight, and the regret of losing myself to food floods me until I can barely stand to look at myself. I wrap a black cloak around me and try to disappear.

I’m holding my girl’s hand as the opening credits and sounds of “Star Wars” fills the air and I let the tears fall.

I watch my family open the gifts I made and I feel all at once proud and not enough.

I watch my children giggle and play together, both lost in a world of their own creation. The sound of them echoes through every space of our house long after they go to bed.

Each moment is a story all its own.

Yet I feel unworthy of telling stories anymore and scared the words just won’t come. I worry I am a broken record of contradictions and recycled emotions.

I was planning to quit writing this blog.

Quit writing all together.

I was going to give up my dream because fear is big and my blankets warm.

Yet, I can’t seem to do it.

I’m here.

Yesterday I received two powerful emails from readers telling me how much I have touched them in one way or another and I’m reminded of this space here.

My own little space to expose my heart, practice bravery and simply chronicle my struggle to find purpose and peace.

So I’m going to keep going. I’m going to write one word and then another.

I’m going to show up and be here.

Will you join me?