My two new best friends that shall accompany me on my journey to get the book proposal done by December 31.
September is here. For me, it’s always been the beginning of a new year, despite there being no symbolic cultural or physical turning of the calendar or changing of the year. I have spent so much of my life in school that it’s always seemed natural to me that the year begins in September and ends in August. I sometimes joke perhaps that is what drew me to Judaism as an adult; it was merely an extension of my pre-existing calendar bias.
Perhaps it’s simpler. I was born in September. I adore the crisp mornings warming into bright sunny afternoons. I adore autumn fruit: shiny red and green and yellow apples, firm and unyielding until baked, cut up and put into a pie or a cobbler, or simply eaten straight from the tree. Cranberries, pears, kumquats, pomegranate fruits. Autumnal vegetables thrill me. I love nothing more than scooping out a pumpkin and roasting the seeds with cinnamon, salt and sugar, or roasting a spaghetti squash and mixing the flesh with butter and salt and pepper for a yummy lunch. Acorn squash cry out to be hollowed out and filled with a turkey-cranberry-bread stuffing and roasted. During the autumn months, I try always to have my home smell of apple cider or wine simmering on the stove with mulling spices, even if the only way I can accomplish that is by lighting one of the Yankee Candle candles that are ubiquitous throughout my space.
Gretchen Rubin‘s “to-do” list for September tells me I should focus on the following items this month.
a) Write a novel.
I’m already working on this. Well, not a novel, but a book. At this stage, I’ve got only notes and the beginnings of a proposal, but it is in progress. See the “Writing the Memoir” tab for more details.
b) Make time.
Much to my eternal chagrin, I have only recently begun to realize – feel it in my bones and understand, realize – that my time with my little boy is glaringly short. With that dawning has come a covenant to spend as much time “in the moment” with him as possible. By “in the moment” I simply mean I try to let everything else go during that time. I try to forget about the dishes piling up in the kitchen sink, or piles of newspapers and old mail growing on the kitchen table and counter, the thousands of Lego blocks strewn about my house like invisible little IEDs waiting for my unsuspecting and not-yet-caffeinated foot to step down and then explode into a thousand points of shearing pain.
Instead, I focus on his obsession with cars – specifically, minivans and SUVs and me getting rid of my current car and substituting either model. My great concession to stop the never-ending and often loud debate was to agree that if I had triplet girls (never, ever, EVER going to happen), I would buy a minivan. Specifically, the Honda Odyssey minivan with a built-in vacuum depicted in a rather amusing commercial.
I focus on his questions about life and death, which are becoming more and more frequent, and less easily answered. I focus on his questions about the new school year and what it will hold, which belie his anxiety about the beginning of kindergarten and the addition of nine children to his tiny little group of eight classmates. I focus on his questions about me having another baby and his envy over the twins one of his friends is soon to have as siblings.
I focus on all these things because I know that someday soon he won’t ask questions of me and he won’t want to talk to me; he’ll ask questions of his friends and he’ll want to talk to his teachers. I know this is normal, and I know it’s healthy, and I know it’s the way the world works. Children are born and cling to their parents for a little while, but then they move on to their autonomous lives faster than anyone expects and can prepare for. But as I sit here writing this, tears snaking down my cheeks, I know I’m ill-prepared to face that. I cannot conceive of it, yet.
So I make time for all of the things that he wants to share with me, no matter how small, and I hope that by making that time and sharing those experiences, I can keep him close and ensure that he will always want to talk to me, to ask me the tough questions and that even though his friends and his non-mama world will get bigger as he does, he will always save a space and time for the woman who will always love him best.
c) Forget about results.
This one I’m going to have some trouble with as I’m an anal-retentive control freak. A lawyer by training and profession, albeit a happily retired one, I’m results oriented. I’ve had a difficult enough time adjusting my life philosophy to embrace the adage that life is about the journey, not the destination. My adult life has been about winning the case, beating the opponent, getting the settlement the client wants. Anything else just didn’t make sense.
I’ve always set goals for myself. I guess it’s been my way of marking off how close I am to achieving my dreams, but now that I’m actually living my dream of a life dedicated to writing, I wonder if I still should be keeping such a strict “to do” list, intent on ticking off items. My tendency to mark off life accomplishments like so many chores hadn’t made me happy, and since I haven’t really had so much time to put into my goals-oriented life plan, I have been happier, more in the moment. Hmmm…..something to ponder.
d) Master a new technology.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, technology is defined as: (1) the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area; (2) a capability given by the practical application of knowledge; (3) a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge; (4) the specialized aspects of a particular field of endeavor.
When I first read the fourth item on September’s “to-do” list, I scoffed a bit. My first thought was that I could skip it as I’m pretty computer savvy, and our home is filled with just about every new or newish technology available. Then I looked up the definition, and decided to approach this instruction from the angle of learning something new about a subject matter I enjoyed and about which I was already somewhat knowledgeable, namely cooking.
I enjoy cooking, and I know that I need to up my game as it relates to my family’s nutrition as both Ernie Hemingway and The Boy have the palate of a four-year old boy. I can cut The Boy some slack as he’s not too far removed from a four-year-old boy, but Ernie, not so much, as he turned sixty this year and should know better.
So my technology challenge for September shall not involve computer or other information machines or processes, but shall involve the bookcase filled with abandoned and lonely cookbooks, as well as my forlorn All-Clad slow-cooker, my much-loved Zojirushi rice cooker which gets not nearly enough attention from me, my Cuisinart food-processor and Breadman bread machine which haven’t seen me since the last century (and both of which were wedding gifts when I married my first husband in 1999), my much-loved and well-used Kitchen-Aid mixer (I do actually cook sometimes!), and any other kitchen implements and appliances I might come across in my kitchen.
I’ll keep you posted on my progress.
I started this blog with just a kernel of an idea: to get my writing out into the world, possibly find a connection with some like-minded people. Seven months later, I’m beginning to figure out why the monumental drive to write and publish a blog – and I hope someday more – lives within me.
I took a long detour in life and very nearly threw away everything that was dear to me because I couldn’t see that where I was for the last 15 or so years was neither who I was nor who I wanted to be. I’m finding my way back to me, day by day, and I hope you’ll be willing and interested to join me for the journey.
With that in mind, I’m making some changes to narrow my focus, to clean up the rough edges and, I hope, find the people who really want to connect with what I have to say. I know I’ve got a long way to go, but to anyone who has read any of my posts, and is reading this now … thank you.
Lately I’ve been reading some squirmingly honest blog posts and articles by some incredibly brave women. Posts and articles about drug addiction, weight issues, regret at having become a mother, past love affairs, and any number of other cringe-inducing “god, I wish I could erase that from my experience” moments. I’ve had my fair share of those moments, but not many of them are nearly interesting enough to provide me with enough material for a blog post or an article. For example, the time that I told my good friend I would never consider purchasing a particular house that had been for sale for some time because it was on a main cut-through street. A street on which she and her husband had just purchased a house. Ugh.
What reading those pieces has done for me, however, is given me the courage to look at my own life with honesty and try to discriminate between those little moments that are not worth obsessing over and the things that truly deserve my examination and analysis, the moments that have defined me. While most of them have been good moments, I’d be lying if I said that all of them have been.
There is the gut-wrenching divorce from my first husband that shattered my soul.
There is the relationship (or lack thereof) that I have with the man who provided half of my DNA (otherwise known as Sperm Donor) that reverberates through my being, affecting everything from my self-confidence to my willingness to be vulnerable in a relationship. I’d like to be blithe and say that Sperm Donor and how things went down between him and my mother, and between him and me, doesn’t affect me, that he doesn’t have that much power over me, but I’d be lying. The truth is that he was my father for the first five or so years of my life, and his abandonment has caused problems for me, lots of therapy notwithstanding.
There is the ending of my career, the career that I pursued for most of my life with a single-minded drive bordering on obsession.
There is my marriage and learning how to navigate a long term intimate relationship with another human being not related to me by blood.
There is the birth of my son, the most amazing and awe-inspiring gift I’ve ever received, that turned my world upside down and challenged my opinion of myself and my world view.
There is the decision I made to start this blog, to put myself out there for the world to see, flaws included. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, that decision set me up for my most recent defining moment.
Last week I received a mass e-mail from Danielle LaPorte, a lifestyle/career guru. She is starting a new magazine in September, and she’s seeking submissions for the inaugural issue. My heart leapt when I read through the submission guidelines, and instantly decided to submit something in each of the categories. Over the last week or so I’ve been revising and shaping up various pieces, and for most of that process I’ve been doubting myself, wondering if I’ve really got any business doing what I intend, wondering if the reviewers will be laughing their asses off reading the materials I’ve submitted. But still I’m going ahead. Heart pounding, mouth dry, hands shaking, I will be pushing the submit button and sending my babies out into the publishing world. I may get my head slapped, but at least I’m moving forward, taking chances, and building the life I want.
With any luck, someday soon I’ll be including a link to my published work. Wish me godspeed and good fortune.
March is the month to Aim Higher. Here is the checklist Gretchen Rubin’s book suggests I follow.
a) Launch a blog. Check. Make time for regular posting, figure out what posting schedule works best for me, find time to edit the thousands of words I’ve put down on paper so that they are understandable and pithy. Well, I can’t say I’m exactly hot on the trail of those items just yet. I’m working on the schedule, thinking that maybe once a week is good, but I know I’m far off from consistency at this point. Right now my most regular appointment is with the little notebook I carry around in my purse for moments when inspiration hits.
b) Enjoy the fun of failure. Is this kind of like laughing at yourself when learning to ice skate or ski and you fall hard on your butt? In the right mood, I’m quite good at that. Of course, the next day when I wake up with giant bruises and achy muscles, I’m not so happy, but I can laugh at the time. I think I’m going to have to work super hard on this goal. I’m going to take this task slowly and hope I can build up to it over time.
I’m really good at laughing at myself when I fail physically; I would never call myself an athlete, even though I do try to incorporate regular yoga practice into my life. But baseball, softball, foot ball, basketball and other team sports? I’m a miserable failure, and I have no choice but to laugh when I get out on the field or court or rink with friends or my son because otherwise I would simply cry. I’m okay with that, however. I’ve made it this far in life without being an athlete, and I know myself well enough to know that I’m not going to decide to run a marathon just because I think it sounds cool. I have no illusions about what training to run 26.2 miles and then actually doing it in one fell swoop will do to my beat up knees with one damaged ACL; I like walking much better.
So I laugh at myself regularly when engaging in sports or sports like conduct. I am aiming to do this in all areas of my life.
c) Ask for help. In this area I am a subscriber to the maxim, “do as I say, not as I do.” I am the first person to tell those around me to ask for help, yet I am the last to ask for help. For me, asking for help is like admitting defeat, admitting failure. It’s hard to do. I dislike it immensely. I get angry at myself; I get defensive and angry at the people around me who tell me they want to do the helping.
I’m not entirely sure why I have such difficulty asking for help, but I suspect it has something to do with not wanting to reveal weakness, not wanting to show that I am vulnerable. I’m sure a therapist would have something to say about it. Perhaps I’ll start asking for help by finding a good therapist and asking her. Or perhaps I’ll just remind myself regularly that my husband, my sister, my parents, and my friends love me and would help me as readily as I would help them.
d) Work smart. I know I need to do this. I need to set up a dedicated work space and set regular hours in which I occupy that space. I definitely need to stop work from invading all areas of my life at all hours. Ernie Hemingway and I discuss this regularly as we are both truly slaves to our “to do” lists. We allow our electronic devices to take away our attention and to interrupt our family time. As a result, we end up “working” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Recently, I made a suggestion that Ernie agreed to try. We both agreed to dump our mobile phones and our Blackberry devices at the door at 5pm (or whenever we get home), and not check them or answer them until the next morning. Of course, because Ernie’s older child hates me, she only calls on his mobile, so that throws a little monkey wrench into the plan, but overall, we’ve been doing okay with it. I don’t want to try to force Ernie into following my rules, but perhaps if I’m better about “working smarter,” Ernie will be also.
e) Enjoy now. This is another hard one for me. My entire life I was planning for the future: I’ve got to get good grades in high school so I can get into a good college; I’ve got to get good grades in college so I can get into a good graduate school; I’ve got to get good grades in law school so I can get a good job in a good firm and make good money; once I have the good job and the good income, I can focus on my life, then I can live my life. I’ve always looked forward, planning for the future – the next vacation, the next milestone, the next season.
Having a child has helped me live in the moment much more than I ever have, but I’ve still got that big list bouncing around in my head, the list that includes things like cleaning the garage and finishing up my latest knitting project when school starts up again in September, organizing my writing notebooks and assignments when summer camp starts, and other such sundry items.
March will be a tough month for me, challenging in its simplicity and pull. I hope I’m up to the challenge.